Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DC's New 52…

For years upon years, I was an avid comic book consumer. I enjoyed… no loved my weekly trips to the comic book shop. In fact, it was a big part of my life from the time I turned 16, until two years after I got married.

What stopped my continual purchasing of comics was finances. When the Beautiful Wife and I first married, we weren't exactly well off. I worked at Walmart and was a full-time student, she had just graduated college. We managed, but it was one of those 'just barely' type of things (and to this day I still balk at the thought of eating Hamburger Helper).

Anyways, it was during this time of my life when I made the conscious decision to not purchase comics any longer. I mean, I was buying roughly 12 comics a month—which was dinner out with my wife (i.e. a night off from the Hamburger Helper!).

Over the years since, I have purchased various graphic novels and mangas, but it was not the nigh-religious weekly trip to the comic book store from that previous time. And of course, I've managed to buy nearly every comic-based movie out there. I still thought of myself as a COMIC BOOK FAN despite the lack of discretionary funds with which to purchase comic books.

And then news about DC's New 52 event started coming across. It was an interesting thought—a reboot of the entire universe. 52 titles, all starting over at issue #1, with absolutely zero continuity coming along for the ride.

"This would be a good time to get back into comics," I thought.

The best version of Starfire to date...And probably much to my Beloved's dismay, I also thought "This would be a good time to get the eldest boy really interested in monthly serials, in comic form." 

After all, the elder son grew up with the Teen Titans cartoon. He knew these DC characters even better than their Marvel counterparts. And better, I had enjoyed the DCU as it existed on TV (more than I ever had as a comic book buyer back in my hey-day).

Of course, as is so often the case in the high-pressure world of adulthood, the New 52 event started, roughly at the same time that it seems like two dozen projects jumped into high gear at work. That's not to say that I didn't have time to keep up with the news and reviews about it, I just lacked the time to bring my plans to fruition (the first step of which would be to actually find the closest comic book shop where I now live).

Regardless, the first week or two of the comics coming out, all seemed right, and I had actually thought about approaching my Beloved Wife with my newest thoughts on the best way to corrupt… err convert… uh… expand my child's cultural horizons.

Really?  This is all we have?But then two books were released which made me stop, and really start thinking "Hey, do I want to do this?" Those were the recent things concerning Starfire and Catwoman.

It was at this point, that I stopped, looked at the media blitz surrounding these issues, and realized something. I realized something so unnervingly shocking to the geek that dwells in my soul, that it was days before I was able to actually articulate it to myself.


I realized that I did not want my child reading these comics. 


It's unerringly that simple.  I did not want my child reading these comics, and with the way he reads, I know that all I would have to do is to effectively introduce him to comics, and his journey to comic book fan would be complete. Worse, this was enough to make me not want to get my son started in comics at all—because even if he starts with Archie or the new Darkwing Duck series, he'll sooner or later end up with DC and Marvel titles. It's an effect of aging in the comic scene.

The reasons for this are convoluted and complicated, but it boils down to is thus: I want my son to treat the fairer sex with respect.

That's how I was raised, and how I treat my wife.  I hold the door for her. I open her car door for her. Etc., etc. All those little gestures which growing up in the eighties tried their damnedest to stamp out of me (I still remember the time I got fussed at by a lady for holding the door for her). And the thing is that a lot of that I don't stop at just doing such for my Beloved Wife.  I'll hold doors for any female (and the elderly, and any guy with his hands full, and it's actually a somewhat convoluted scheme of when to hold doors, and when to pass off, but I'm digressing). The concept here is to protect, respect and honor women, while not dominating or repressing. It's a tight-walk, especially during courting rituals, but one whose entire basis is built on the concept of courtesy.

But, that somewhat antiquated concept of the Southern Gentleman is what I strive for. Additionally, it's the concept of honor and respect with which I wish to instill into my sons. 

Unfortunately, that's not what Catwoman #1 and Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 appear there to teach my son. The lesson that is to be found there, is that women are good merely for how they can please the males of the species. They are eye-candy in the truest sense of the word, as their characters are worn, in the same way their clothes are (i.e. nearly non-existent)—worse, they're characters without any flavor.  Empty meta-physical calories if you will.

These characters aren't there to be super heroes.  They're there to impart sex appeal to a books, whose primary demographic is still heterosexual males aged 12-18; and it's a sex appeal which is not designed to work with the story. It stands apart from the story in how they act.

Or in the words of the 7 year old daughter of fantasy writer Michelle Lee:

Well, she’s not fighting anyone. And not talking to anyone really. She’s just almost naked and posing.
These comics are nothing but blatant, unnecessary fan-service—of the worst kind possible. As I said earlier, it's eye-candy. And in reality there's nothing wrong with a little eye-candy. Like real candy, it's fine occasionally, and in small doses. But just like real candy, in massive amounts, it's horrible.
Fan service and eye-candy can be done right.  In fact, Warren Ellis' Empowered is entirely about this, and it's plots and characterizations are built around the concepts—and takes a very meta-textual stance in how super-hero comics overall treat female characters.  But that's not what's happening with DC's New 52.

Manga does this. Sailor Moon, Open Sesame, and even Bitter Virgin all have fan-service to some degree, but they also feature strong female characters. Probably more importantly, the fan service is typically a part of.. not the plot per se, but aimed at any protagonist or male supporting character, or an aspect of their setting (people wear bikini's at the beach/pool, etc). But that's not what's happening with DC's New 52.

screen-shot-2011-09-22-at-12.28.52-pmNo, as evidenced by the picture to the left there where Starfire is in a very unnatural… and uncomfortable position,  what these characters are doing is not done in service of good characterizations (or even bad characterizations) or the plot. As Laura Hudson points out over at Comics Alliance, it's not even done for the 'benefit' of the male characters on the screen.

It's done solely as eye-candy for the reader.

And too much eye candy makes the reader mentally lazy. It stops being about the story and the character, and becomes more about what's the next pose that the artist can put a character in. And these poses don't even have to be anatomically possible—so long as the character's "assets" are shown to good use.

And that mental concept leaks. It's a very short step from reading comics solely to see the next pose, to thinking that that's what girls are there for. 

And that's a step I refuse to let my kids take. So, as a father, I cannot put them into the position where such a step is all but inevitable.

We're not talking about pornographic comics and manga here. Yes, those exist, and let's face it, if you know you're buying any book or periodical because of the T&A or the graphic depiction of sexualized content, that's one's right as an adult.  But, I'm talking about mainstream comics and manga here. They should be about the characters and the story--not just vehicles for sexual content.

What this boils down to is that I'm not going to be buying into DC's New 52.  Additionally, I'll not be bringing my sons into it either (though we'll continue watching Young Justice on TV).  DC comics lost me as a consumer, and the potential revenue which both my children and I represent—worse, they lost me when I was almost eager to become one.

And that makes me kind of sad, as I have fond memories of reading comics as a youngster. A type of memory, which I'd like my kids to have.

*To anyone who noticed the edit, that was just me being way too tired when I finished my first draft last night.  I had left placeholders in the manga bit, intending on going back and touching up on that, and hit publish rather than save.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Star Wars Blu-Ray changes

I almost didn't comment on this. In fact, I'm still trying to work up the pique that these changes so rightly deserve. And had it not been for the last one I read about earlier today, I wouldn't have even managed enough to bring up the ... well, whatever...for this post. All that I'll touch  on later, but for now, there's one specific instance of change that really... irks me.

Likewise, this is one of the few changes which LucasFilms has actually confirmed as a change.

Specifcally, the fact that now, as Vader is tossing the Emperor down that shaft in RotJ he's going to be letting out a RotS "Noooo!"




Now, the original version of this had Vader being a silent, almost mystical sacrifice of his own self. It was the ultimate climax of the film--the point where you knew, knew without any shadow of a doubt, that the Star Warriors would prevail.. You didn't know what Vader was thinking, and in fact, you were focused on the Emperor as he prepared to kill Luke.

Now? Now, he's as pathetic and simpering as he was at the end of RotS.

I'm personally, amused with Simon Pegg's take on it, in which he describes it as "Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin's ghost."

Despite all of that, despite all the issues and miscellaneous angst involved in these changes, I'm left utterly unconcerned. I've been so... blasted by the sheer inanity of Star Wars over the past decade that I'm finding myself... less than moved by these changes. 

Everything from the Death of Anakin Solo, to the death of Padme, all the way to the farce which is Anakin Skywalker's padawan. Worse, is the death throes which the Star Wars EU has been flinging about itself since the mid-point of the New Jedi Order.

Frankly, I'm left with the feeling that Star Wars died at that point--at least its heart and soul--and all that remains is the twitching of the various extremities of its bloated body, akin to a chicken with its head cut off.

With the lack of what one would consider a traditional Star Wars hero, I've grown to feel that Star Wars is just not the same. I find myself going through the motions of reading, just to appease the completist nature of my Otaku-ness rather than actually being concerned about the characters in question.

In fact, the most excited I've been about Star Wars was the thought that flickered across Twitter earlier today that  "The insane Jedi in FotJ are right, everyone's an imposter, and the EU is about to get Dallas'd."

Which is ultimately a sad state of affairs, for a Geek like me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Copyrighting Dreams

I've long felt that the copyright law in this country (USA) have been insane.  I mean, we have huge portions of our cultural heritage out of the hands of creators and hackers because the Disney corporation has lobbied Congress time and again to ensure they don't lose control of the Mouse.

When you consider all the thousands of books that are out-of-print, but no one can actually get because they are still under these insane copyright laws, and it is almost enough to make one cry.  Imagine what could be done if all those stories and movies were available for people to mash up and create new works from.

It's not like we're not seeing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--but could you imagine zombies embedded into Golding's Lord of the Flies? Instead it, and thousands of other books, movies and songs --our cultural heritage-- is contained under copyright until roughly 2050.

But it's not just that, but also things like MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. Which is pertinent with Irene hampering the opening of the MLK memorial.

Which I find it amusing that it was built using imported Chinese labor  who were not compensated for their work (which I read as SLAVE labor), and they actually had to pay the King family money (~$800,000) in order to use his likeness on the memorial.

Yes, one of the most important speech's in the last half of the twentieth century, and it's under copyright until late in the twenty-first century. And the King family is using those words and his likeness, not to push MLK's agenda of a color-blind society, but to make money.  The thing is that the King family sells copies of that speech on their website; and if you don't purchase one of their copies, or if you perform the speech, you're actually in violation of copyright law?

That's the joy of copyright right there.

It's the family of dead creators, and those corporations who had works "created for hire" who are the sole beneficiaries of these insane copyright laws. The King family routinely drag their father's name through the mud due to in-fighting over who gets to make money off of their dead father. And the same goes for hundreds of other families of dead artists. 

Copyright was designed to make creators money, so that they would create more. That's its whole purpose--to allow creators to create more. But by hiding everything under a copyright black-hole for a century, nothing is getting created. We can't create mashups of things that we grew up on, we can't reuse aspects of our culture.

Remember, that until the 1978 change in the law, at least 85% of the works created before 1982 would now be in the public domain.  And most of that 85% of all works since 1982 (and everything before 1955) are considered orphan works.  These are things that no one is trying to make money off of.  Books, movies, etc that are commercially unavailable and yet culturally off-limits. 

These are works of art that are not doing any good for the copyright holders, and they're not doing any good for us as a culture.  Instead, we are forced to buy the latest and "greatest" she-bangs which the so-called entertainment industry wants us to purchase and consume.  Forget the fact that most of it is rubbish, and very little of it will be worth the effort to attempt to consume a hundred years from now.

But, we can continue paying for MLK's Deam speech. We can continue shoving our culture into a dusty-bin just so the Walt Disney company can keep control of a cartoon character that should have become a part of our culture heritage as much as it has become an aspect of our cultural baggage. We can continue to do this, until our children don't even know some of these stories exist.  Rear Window, Seven Samurai, Dial M for Murder, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Creature from the Black Lagoon are just a handful of movies which my son will never get to see because they did not enter the public domain this year. They make no one money, and by the time they enter the public domain in 2050, my children won't care about them at all.

Which is a shame, and a travesty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I was planning on writing a post

But when I sat down to do so, all coherent thought fled my brain, happy running from me in an effort to I guess escape.

This is doubly obvious from the somewhat rambling nature of that previous sentence.  Thus, to distract you, here's some Jedi kitties (thanks Club Jade)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The RetroSexual Code....

Ah, I have found what I am. I'm not one of those pansy MetroSexuals who get their nails done and have perfectly coiffed hair. Though my hair does look awesome, it does not need any extreme measures of maintenance. I wash it, comb it, and then blow dry it. Once every 6 weeks or so, I have some of it cut off. See, it's simple.

Anyways, as in all things, there is a CODE to being what I am, and that is a Retrosexual!

  1. A Retrosexual, no matter what the women insists, PAYS FOR THE DATE.

  2. A Retrosexual opens doors for a lady. Even for the ones that fit that term only because they are female.

  3. A Retrosexual DEALS with IT, be it a flat tire, break-in into your home, or a natural disaster, you DEAL WITH IT.

  4. A Retrosexual not only eats red meat, he often kills it himself.

  5. A Retrosexual doesn't worry about living to be 90. It's not how long you live, but how well. If you're  90 years old and still smoking cigars and drinking, I salute you. 

  6. A Retrosexual does not use more hair or skin products than a woman. Women have several supermarket aisles of stuff. Retrosexuals need an endcap (possibly 2 endcaps if you include shaving goods). 

  7. A Retrosexual does not dress in clothes from Hot Topic when he's 30 years old. 

  8. A Retrosexual should know how to properly kill stuff (or people) if need be. 

  9. This falls under the "Dealing with IT" portion of The Code. 

  10. A Retrosexual watches no TV show with "Queer" in the title. 

  11. A Retrosexual does not let neighbors screw up rooms in his house on national TV. 

  12. A Retrosexual should not give up excessive amounts of manliness for women.

  13. Some is inevitable, but major reinvention of yourself will only lead to you becoming a frou-frou little puss, and in the long run, she ain't worth it. 

  14. A Retrosexual is allowed to seek professional help for major mental stress such as drug/alcohol addiction, death of your entire family in a freak tree chipper accident, favorite sports team being moved to a different city, favorite bird dog expiring, etc. You are NOT allowed to see a shrink because Daddy didn't pay you enough attention. Daddy was busy DEALING WITH IT. When you screwed up, he DEALT with you. 

  15. A Retrosexual will have at least one outfit in his wardrobe designed to conceal himself from prey. 

  16. A Retrosexual knows how to tie a Windsor knot when wearing a tie - and ONLY a Windsor knot. 

  17. A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting. 

  18. A Retrosexual knows how to use a basic set of tools. If you can't hammer a nail, or drill a straight hole, practice in secret until you can - or be rightfully ridiculed for the wuss you be. 

  19. A Retrosexual knows that owning a gun is not a sign that your are riddled with fear, guns are TOOLS and are often essential to DEAL WITH IT. Plus it's just plain fun to shoot. 

  20. Crying. There are very few reason that a Retrosexual may cry, and none of them have to do with TV commercials, movies, or soap operas. Sports teams are sometimes a reason to cry, but the preferred method of release is swearing or throwing the remote control. Some reasons a Retrosexual can cry include (but are not limited to) death of a loved one, death of a pet (fish do NOT count as pets in this case), loss of a major body part. 

  21. A Retrosexual man's favorite movie isn't "Maid in Manhattan" (unless that refers to some foxy French maid sitting in a huge tub of brandy or whiskey), or "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Acceptable ones may include any of the Dirty Harry or Nameless Drifter movies (Clint in his better days), Rambo I or II, the Dirty Dozen, The Godfather trilogy, Scarface, The Road Warrior, The Die Hard series, Caddyshack, Rocky I, II, or III, Full Metal Jacket, any James Bond Movie, Raging Bull, Bullitt, any Bruce Lee movie, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, Fight Club, etc.etc. 

  22. When a Retrosexual is on a crowded bus and or a commuter train, and a pregnant woman, hell, any woman gets on, that Retrosexual stands up and offers his seat to that woman, then looks around at the other so-called men still in their seats with a disgusted "you punks" look on his face. 

  23. A Retrosexual knows how to say the Pledge properly, and with the correct emphasis and pronunciation. He also knows the words to the Star Spangled Banner. 

  24. A Retrosexual will have hobbies and habits his wife and mother do not understand, but that are essential to his manliness, in that they offset the acceptable manliness decline he suffers when married/engaged in a serious healthy relationship - i.e., hunting, boxing, shot putting, shooting, cigars, car maintenance. 

  25. A Retrosexual knows how to sharpen his own knives and kitchen utensils. 

  26. A Retrosexual man can drive in snow (hell, a blizzard) without sliding all over or driving under 20 mph, without anxiety, and without high-centering his ride on a plow berm. 

  27. A Retrosexual man can chop down a tree and make it land where he wants. 

  28. Wherever it lands is where he damn well wanted it to land. 

  29. A Retrosexual will give up his seat on a bus to not only any women but any elderly person or person in military dress (except officers above 2nd Lt)  

  30. NOTE: The person in military dress may turn down the offer but the Retrosexual man will ALWAYS make the offer to them and thank them for serving their country. 

  31. A Retrosexual man doesn't need a contract -- a handshake is good enough. He will always stand by his word even if circumstances change or the other person deceived him. 

  32. A Retrosexual man doesn't immediately look to sue someone when he does something stupid and hurts himself. We understand that sometimes in the process of doing things we get hurt and we just DEAL WITH IT.

VIDEO: Copyright Explained

A great video



Thanks to CGPGrey's YouTube channel making this and ClubJade for pointing out the way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NPR Top 100 SF/F (and the 42 that I've read)


Apparently, the current book-based meme for geeks like me, is to mark off those books on NPR's top 100 SF&F novels that one has read. At this point, I do need to provide a hat-tip to Robb over at Sharp as a Marble for bringing this up. So, without further ado....


The NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy novels with the ones I have read in bold:

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks *(but only the 1st one)
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
 I feel almost bad about marking number 83 there. After all, I've only read the first in that series (Consider Pheblas). That said, I always find it amusing on these lists of NOVELS when they include series as a single entity.  While I can almost understand in something like The Thrawn Trilogy or The Space Trilogy where all 3 novels make up a story element as a whole, I see less point in that regards in such things as The Culture Series (or even Asmiov's Foundation trilogy) since each novel there stands alone on its own (and in point of fact, Foundation itself is actually made up of a couple of independent short stories/novellas); and that's not even counting that SOME entries just give individual books, ignoring the series as a whole (i.e. Ringworld, Dragonflight and Old Man's War).

Anyways, my count there is 42 of those 100 which I've read. Almost half!  This is especially interesting, since I've been considering purchasing, a number of those books... in fact those which are italicized. To think, if I'd had already given in to my more... impulsive purchases in regard to those books, I would've topped gotten over 50 read.



Freaky Scary Webcomic

This is roaming the intertubes today, and it's a Korean web-comic that is really, freaky.  To the point that some folks are literaly screaming in the process.

Anyways, one would go to this link, and just scroll down. 

That's basically all that's involved.

If you're actually interested in what the comic reads, then one can find a transcript here or here.

Oh, the joy of the intertubes...


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Slave Leia PSA

Quite amusingly funny.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Well, I took the lovely wife out to see the new Transformers movie the other night, and I have to say that overall I found it a great, and fun ride. Now, because this is a movie that is fundamentally about a bunch of toys, one should not expect great plotting along the lines of Citizen Kane or say... Barberella, yet within those confines, it performs that which it is trying to do well.

The Good:
As I side, this movie was a fun ride. It knew exactly what type of movie it wanted to be, and that happened to be the type of movie which Micheal Bay excels at. For those of you wondering, I'm talking about big-action, explosion-based summer popcorn eye-candy.  Of most importance, is that you can easily see where the lack of a writer's strike failed to hamper this movie the way the strike did for Transformers 2. Additionally, I loved having Leonard Nimoy for the role of Sentinel Prime.

The Bad:
Probably, most disappointing is the somewhat gratuitous way that Mr. Bay used the 3D which the film was shot in, and his lead-actress to add some rather overt sex into the system. Of course, that's been the case with this series of film (with the exception of the 3D) since Megan Fox's lifting of Bumblebee's hood.  Outside of that, the only thing that I really kind of cringed over was the ham-fisted use of a Wrath of Khan quote during the build-up to the final fight.

The Ugly:
 The little bug-bots that swarmed over Megatron.


Overall, I was quite happy with going to see this movie. And amusingly enough so was my closet-geek of a wife. Though that may have something to do with the fact that the Sprint Cup 48 car was featured in this movie...



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Once Upon a Time Preview

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this particular post, I need to speak to a couple things about this. First, this is a PREVIEW as opposed to a REVIEW. That little 'P' makes a world of difference, as this is my thoughts about this series based on two things: a press release/synopsis of the particular series and then a "First Look" video, which is basically what amounts to a trailer. This is NOT a review, as I've not seen so much as a single entire episode yet.  Second, I was sent the opportunity to discuss this via Technorati-Media's Blogger Outreach program. I was actually sent two series to do this for, the other of which held exactly 0 interest for me.

Now, for the nuts and bolts of what's happening in this series. To start, I'll just provide the press release I was given:

ONCE UPON A TIME

Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (Lost, Tron: Legacy) invite you to a bold new vision of the world where fairytales and the modern day are about to collide.

Anna [sic] Swan (Jennifer Morrison) knows how to take care of herself.  She's a 28-year old bail bonds collector who's been on her own ever since she was abandoned as a baby.  But when the son she gave up years ago finds her, everything will change.  Henry (Jared Gilmore) is 10 years old now and in desperate need of Anna's help.  Henry believes that Anna actually comes from an alternate world... and is Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and Snow White's (Ginnifer Goodwin) missing daughter.  According to his book of fairytales, they sent her away to protect her from the Evil Queen's (Lana Parilla) curse, which trapped the fairytale world forever, frozen in time.  Of course Anna doesn't believe a word, but when she brings Henry back to Storybrooke, she finds herself drawn to this unusual boy and his strange New England town.  Concerned for Henry, she decides to stay for a while, but she soon suspects that Storybrooke is more than it seems.  It's a place where magic has been forgotten, but is still powerfully close... where fairytale characters are alive, even though they don't remember who they once were--including the Evil Queen who is now Henry's foster mother.  The epic battle for the future of all worlds is beginning, but for good to win, Anna will have to accept her destiny and fight like hell.

Brace yourself for a modern fable with thrilling twists and hints of darkness.  Brimming with wonder, and filled with the magic of our most beloved fairytales, Once Upon A Time is a fitting follow up to Lost from two master storytellers.

 

SHORT:

Welcome to a world where fairytales are real.  Anna Swan is like any other 28 year old, until she discovers she's a lost princess destined to save her world from darkness.  Experience the passion project of executive producers/creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (Lost, Tron).  Once Upon A Time is a thrilling twist of our most beloved stories.

CAST

  • Robert Carlyle – Rumplestiltskin
  • Josh Dallas - Prince Charming/John Doe
  • James Dornan - Sheriff Graham
  • Jared Gilmore – Henry
  • Ginnifer Goodwin - Snow White/Sister Mary Margret Blanchard
  • Jennifer Morrison - Emma Swan
  • Lana Parilla - Evil Queen/Regina
  • Raphael Sbarge - Archie/Jiminy Cricket

CREDITS

  • Production Company - ABC Studios
  • Executive Producer - Edward Kitsis
  • Executive Producer - Adam Horowitz
  • Executive Producer - Steve Pearlman
  • Executive Producer/Director - Mark Mylod

There. That's out of the way.

Now, my first, instinctual reaction is: BOOYAH! I CAN'T WAIT!

I mean, I am a dedicated geek in regards to all things SF/F related. It's part an parcel of who I am. And this show plucks at a lot of those particular points of interest for me.  I'm excited about this television show.

Which, honestly is something that scares me. Let's consider the other TV shows that I've been excited over for the past few years:

  • V
  • No Ordinary Family
  • Stargate Universe
  • BSG: Caprica
  • The Middle Man
  • Dollhouse
  • Harper's Island

Yes, notice something interesting about that list. It's all of genre TV shows, and then Harper's Island. Notice something else about said list: they were all cancelled; again, with the exception of Harper's Island. Of course, Harper's Island really doesn't count since it was a murder-mystery with a pre-defined plot, and static length for the series. One KNEW before starting, how long it was going on, which made it more along the lines of a season of an anime from Japan than a standard American series.

That's what makes me scared, because I'm not sure that I can trust ABC to do the series justice. As that would require a few things: 1) give it at least a season to gain steam before tinkering with timeslots and/or cancelling and 2) actually end it when the story is wrapped up.

Now, with that digression aside, let's look at this intellectually and with a dab of some pseudo-post-modernism.

Once Upon a Time is, at its fundamental, both a standard good-v-evil fairy tale, as well as a sequel of sorts to Snow White. We're being provided a glimpse of what happened after Snow White's wedding night, as seen through the a mash-up of the comic-book series Fables and Disney's Enchanted.

That said, this looks like it will be a fun ride with the skeptical Emma Swan having to come to terms with who she is in this series' mythology—and what that will mean for her life. Part of me hopes that the press releases haven't given up all the secrets for this series. I'm hoping for some set-backs in regards to Emma Swan's status as a fairy tale princess, at the least.

All that said, this series will definitely get added to my DVR—and I may actually take the time to watch it in real-time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

[C] - Thoughts Almost Right...

Well, I had gotten things almost right in my thoughts the other day regarding [C] episode 3.

Yes, the Financial District does impact the real world by making folks disappear, but it's not tied into the amount of Midas Dollars in the Real World the way I had assumed. Instead, it's based around the concept of people's futures.

Which, as a parent is incredibly terrifying. One is left with the option of ignoble suicide or the disappearance of your children. That's deep, harsh and just plain evil.

What's interesting is the fact that they came right out and smacked folks with this concept. No bush-beating, no hiding, they let the audience and the protagonist know that these are the options for those that go bankrupt in the Financial District.

 I for one can't wait to see how they go about getting this storyline hashed out....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sick Wives & "Baby Mine"…

The Beloved Wife has been a bit under the weather these past few days, and as is the case with mother's everywhere, she pushed herself a bit hard, insisting that she was well and that I should head off to work while she went about her routine. Of course this meant that she was in bed, asleep, by 7pm tonight.

Which sadly meant that she was unable to participate in the usual rituals which are associated with bed time in our household. Surprisingly the little monsters were actually understanding about this. I read the littlest one his story, then took them both into our bedroom to kiss the Beloved Wife, and then it was time for the elder's story. There was no crying or whining about needing mommy which has often accompanied bed time rituals when the Beloved Wife is on one of her rare "Girl's Night Out" shin-digs.

Of course, the 4 year old being who he is, and having been threated with dire punishments if he woke his mother, about twenty minutes after they were both tucked into bed, he came wandering into the living room.  His mission, was to find someone who would sing him Baby Mine.

Now over the past 8+ years of having children I must have heard this song thousands of times. It's long been a part of the evening ritual that a child will call for the Beloved Wife and request an evening serenade. I think it nigh upon broke her heart when the eldest decided he was too old for it, and though she grumbles at times, it will do the same when the youngest finally makes that decision.

Of course none of that mattered at the moment when I had a four year-old, crawling onto my lap wanting an evening song.

After all, there were two very real issues with this.

The first is that I'm not my Beloved Wife. I do not have a good singing voice. While (with the appropriate amplification hardware) I can speak somewhat eloquently (sadly, that's a skill that's a bit rusty the last time I tried pulling it out for use), the truth is, that I can't sing.  There's no rhythm in me. I can't stay on key. And the closest I ever got to harmony was this girl I met in the mountains on a business trip with my parents when I was in the seventh grade. The thing is, that I'm not talking about I can't sing in the slightly funny way that normal people can't sing. I'm talking about the American Idol outtakes version of "I can't sing." I'm talking FRIDAY-level catastrophe when I sing. I'm talking that I can get dirty looks at church level of "I can't sing." The only thing going for me in that department, is the fact that I know it.

The second is that despite hearing Baby Mine thousands upon thousands of times, I'd never really LISTENED to Baby Mine. I love listening to my wife sing. It could be the grocery list for all I care, so long as she was singing it. Quite often the words don't matter so much as the sound of her voice. So, having never really listened to the words for Baby Mine, I quickly realized that I only knew the first two lines of the song.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do in this situation.

I asked the four year old if he knew what the words were.

The Look My 4yo Gave MeI think he wanted to smack me. At least that's the vibe I was getting when he looked at me.  I'm not sure though. I mean, if he had been a teenager, I would have known instantly, as I'm certain I would have been met with a roll of the eyes, and a half-snarled, "really, Dad?"

Finally, I cajoled some of the verses from him. And attempted to sing.

At which point he interrupted me with the fact that I was supposed to be singing this.

Then at the second attempt, he quickly informed me that the third stanza did not begin with the phrase "Baby mine" the way the first two did.

So, I did what any reasonable person did. I suggested a different song. After all, Baby Mine was the special song that Mommy sings.

When I stumbled across another realization.

I didn't know any lullabies.

I mean, it's not like the things are exactly in my repertoire of things I do daily. Need, I remind you about my chronic case of no musical capabilities?

The first suggestion I came up with was Jesus Loves Me. I thought this would be a perfect thing, and at least it wasn't the ABC song or Baa Baa Black Sheep (fun useless fact: ABC, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star all have the same tune). Well, there was going to be zero of the hymnals going on. Apparently, they weren't bed-time enough for the 4 year old.

I racked my brain a bit, and then came up with the brilliant idea of suggesting Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I could see his four-year-old brain working, trying to come up with a good reason why that wasn't an acceptable song, and I realized that he was just milking this to stay out of his bed.

His response was that TTLS had to be sung where one could see the stars. This was despite the fact that he's been singing this song inside during daylight hours for most of his life. But, dear old Dad was one step ahead of that. I plucked him up, and we stepped outside so that we could see the stars.  Not as clearly as during the winter, but still good enough for this purpose.

And I proceeded to sing to him.

Once that was done, we returned inside, and I checked to make sure his ears weren't bleeding (one can never be too careful when I sing), and then sent him off back to bed.

Where he stayed for like ten minutes before he was back in the living room concerned about a missing toy (that was hiding under his pillow).

Ahhh…. the joys of parentage.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

[C] (Episode 3) Thoughts

I can admit that when I first read the synopsis for this series, I was very hesitant about it. It sounded like an insane riff on the magical beast battle thing. Fundamentally, that's true, though there are other aspects that actually make it interesting.

But that's not what I'm left considering here.

Now, there's going to be spoilers in here for episode 3, and this isn't really a review, so much as a drop area for thoughts on the episode, and some things that happened within it.

Now, this episode was narrated by Jennifer Satou. Her character is an entre that also works for an "Organization" which is investigating the Financial Districts. It's a somewhat over-bearing way for us to get details about how the Financial District (and the related concepts) works in this world.

Anyways, Jennifer Satou is investigating the flow of MIDAS MONEY from the Financial District into the real world because her organization is worried about the impact of MIDAS MONEY on the various economies of the world.

[C] Episode 3 Oddity #1Yet, while I watched this episode, I had to wonder if there wasn't something else going on as well. If the Financial District wasn't tinkering with the real world on an even larger aspect than just shifting its money into the world of the real.

The first hint of something being off happened around the five minute mark of this episode, and is encompassed by the three screenshots to the right there.

This set is basically broken down into three distinct actions.

  1. Jennifer Satou gets into a line at a DONUT shop
  2. The screen does this weird digitizing effect
  3. Random NPC disappears into the digitizing effect
  4. Jennifer is now in line at a TAIYAKI shop

What's more interesting is that Jennifer seems to EXPECT these shifts in reality.

She seems to realize that something has changed. She is able to observe (and additionally is unaffected by) whatever is the root cause of the digitizing effect. This is evidenced by her comment on the fact that the donut shop has turned into a TAIYAKI shop (see the subtitle in that third screen cap).

Now, exactly what's happening here, I'm not 100% certain, as the characters haven't seen fit to tell me yet.

Of course, I wouldn't be writing this today if I didn't have a random possibility to consider here.

And that random possibility is that the there is a correlation between the amount of MIDAS money in the real world and the underlying structure of the real world.

Consider, X amount of MIDAS DOLLARS were shifted from the Financial District to the real world, and that was the cause of the random NPC disappearing.

And of course, Entres are not affected by it, and worse, they remember the world prior to the change.

Cop Encounter with JenniferThis can be concluded from when the police officer approaches Jennifer's van, and Jennifer doesn't recognize the officer, while the officer doesn't recognize the name of the person Jennifer expected to be patrolling this area.

These are both subtle disconnects which present a darker point behind the already dark aspects of the Financial District. Additionally, it's one which the characters don't even seem to realize or consider.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Containment

containmentThis review is for Containment, a SF novel by Christian Cantrell. This is one of a number of $0.99 (as of 04/30/2011) novels by this author, and they are all self-published by the Cantrell Media Company. Personally, I'm fine with self-publishing of novels like this. I mean I'm all for authors receiving 70% of the cut of a sale that Amazon provides on sales of Kindle books. Especially when one considers some of the… well I can't think of a good enough word to imply bad karma… things that publishers do to authors concerning digital books (basics are that they list them as 'licenses' when they sell to the end user, so that the end user loses the rights of ownership, and lists them as sales to the authors, because by contract an author gets a higher percentage of licenses than sales).

The product description for this book reads as thus:

As Earth's ability to support human life begins to diminish at an alarming rate, the Global Space Agency is formed with a single mandate: protect humanity from extinction by colonizing the solar system as quickly as possible. Venus, being almost the same mass as Earth, is chosen over Mars as humanity’s first permanent steppingstone into the universe.

Arik Ockley is part of the first generation to be born and raised off-Earth. After a puzzling accident, Arik wakes up to find that his wife is almost three months pregnant. Since the colony’s environmental systems cannot safely support any increases in population, Arik immediately resumes his work on AP, or artificial photosynthesis, in order to save the life of his unborn child. Arik’s new and frantic research uncovers startling truths about the planet, and about the distorted reality the founders of the colony have constructed for Arik’s entire generation. Everything Arik has ever known is called into question, and he must figure out the right path for himself, his wife, and his unborn daughter.

As for characters, we only get a single POV character in this book, and that's of Arik Ockley. Who, though well defined, and with a distinct voice, has a subtle character flaw in that he's a super-genius. Now, I know that the how's and why's of such things are touched upon in the novel, but it would've been a bit better if there had been some flaw to his character above and beyond just not being that athletic. But, even with that, Arik's character is believable, and has 'voice' remains the same throughout the novel—which is something that not everyone accomplishes.

The plot is a standard conspiracy-theory motif, just set on a Venusian colony rather than the corridors of power in Washington or the Vatican. It has the potential for fun, without adding anything new to the concept.

In truth, there are two things that really bothered me about this novel. The first, is that the author seems to be in love with his research, and wants us all to know all the finite details involved in it. He has certain things that he wants to say in this book, and rather than have the concepts explored by the setting, he has the protagonist tell you how wonderful those things are. One gets pages upon pages of what is in effect, whitepapers about future technology that exists solely as filler. Frankly, I could have skipped roughly 75-100 pages of this type of content and not have lost anything plot wise

The second (and personally more aggravating) issue I had with this novel is the way that it jumped back and forth in time without warning.  I would be reading, and it just changed the time-setting. This made it a very disjointed read, and would often force me to go back a few pages trying to find the cue that I  missed where time shifted. This is a grave error since the whole point of my reading the book is to not be shifted out of the story.

IMO, it would have helped immensely if the author had bothered just including LINES in the text indicating that a section had changed.

Ultimately, a standardized Gary Stu main character, uninspired plot, and two major issues in the fundamental structure of the book hinders what is otherwise a decent read. I'll probably not bother reading it again, which in an of itself says a lot, but I'm not exactly sad that I only spent $0.99 on it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday's Rambling….

It's been a while since I've ranted and raved on this thing on a Monday, but I'm trying to get back into the habit of blogging.

Sadly, there's not much going on in the geek-world at the moment.

There's the usual set of books available for reading (I just finished my first Culture novel, and am now working on something called Containment). Then there's the Spring 2011 anime season.

Of the anime that are out there this season, the following are those that I'm really enjoying (so far at least):

  • Tiger & Bunny
  • Deadman Wonderland
  • C – Money of Soul and Possibility Control
  • Ao No Exorcist
  • Hidan no Aria
  • Denpa Onna to Siesshun Otoko
  • Hoshizora e Kakaru Hoshi
  • Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namea

Which is a somewhat large list for me. It's been a while since I've actually wanted to watch this many shows in a single season. Of course, I'm still not certain on the last 3 or so, and I may end up dropping them.

As usual, the American TV fare is horribly lacking in geek-apropos material. Especially with SyFy's insane decision to drop Stargate Universe. Yet, there's good news on the horizon in that regard. There's Falling Skys and Terra Nova, both of which promise to be good, clean geek fun. Now, if only they can live up to the hype…

Now, it's time to head off…

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Series Review: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

MadokaAh, another series review, rounding out two of the three shows that I really enjoyed for the Winter 2011 anime season. This time, it's concerning Puella Magi Madoka Magica (aka Magical Girl Madoka of the Mage), and I enjoyed it immensely. Even more than Yumekui Merry.

For the first few episodes, I thought this was going to be your run-of-the-mill, typical Magical Girl anime. Helped along this way by the sheer fact that that's what they called the show.

To me, Magical Girl anime are something of a mixed blessing. Basically, despite the oft cringe-inducing theories on how the power of love, hope and friendship will stop all the bad guys, this is tempered with the sheer exuberance which the shows are often drawn with. Sailor Moon and Lyrical Nanoha both often faced things which could destroy the world, and they rose to the challenge and whooped upon it. Most often, by turning the enemy from the first half of the season into a friend.

But I digress. The reason this show worked so well is the fact that they played with the normal dynamic which one expects out of these shows. And they did it in such a way that the shifting of the sands, so to speak, of the entire foundation upon which a magical girl show are built, actually helped the plot.

Basically, what I'm saying is that this show rocked because it had a great story

Of course, the characters played a huge part in that. After all, each character had to be enough of a well-defined model that they were able to play their part in the story. More importantly, the characters had to make us care enough about them, that as each soul-shattering aspect of just what being a Magical Girl in this particular universe means hit them, then we would cringe with them. Because we could feel the emotions behind what was happening, because we could understand the joys and the griefs, then we rooted for the girls and believed in them and the story.

It made the plot matter.

Of course, this all works so well because of the familiar. In most Magical Girl shows, the girls have a familiar. Someone or something which helps guide them through the steps of the wider universe the girls are stepping into. And while most of the time these familiars are mysterious agents, they typically have the girl's best interest at heart.

Kyubey - Pyscho of PsychosAh, but this little psychopathic familiar was not that way. Despite being much… cuter than Luna for Sailor Moon, Kyubey was anything but. He pushed the girls into being Magical Girls for his own purposes, with the fore-knowledge of the pain that this leads too.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the shifts to reality when the Magical Girls fought either each other or a Witch. The chaotic patterns of designs and colors, which always had an overarching theme that hinted at a pattern beneath the chaos.

When used in conjunction with the 'real world' which Madoka inhabited, a world of glass and steel, and clean places, these witch realms were shocking and a mixture of insanity and a vibrancy which the clean vistas of Madoka's real world seemed to lack.

Like I said earlier, I really liked this show. Both for its great story/plot and for the way it tinkered with the foundations of magical girl genre. Even if it decided to hit the cosmic reset button on the way it had tinkered with those foundations. Truth be told, I'm fine with that. I don't want every magical girl out there to become some depressing anti-hero. I get enough of that from my Star Wars EU literature since Anakin Solo's death.

Was there plot holes? Were there moments when the animation wasn't perfect or the music somewhat disconcerting? Were there times when one has to wonder why Kyubey's mouth just didn't move? Yes to all of those things. 

But even if there are unanswered questions, or things not explained perfectly, I'm okay with that. I still thought the series worked, and more importantly worked well.

Madoka & friends

Friday, April 22, 2011

Series Review: Yumekui Merry

Yumekui Merry-Most watched belly button of winter 2011Yumekui Merry (aka Dream Eater Merry) ended up being a fun ride of a anime series.

Which actually surprised me a bit.

Here's a confession, I almost dropped this series after the first episode.

You see, I wasn't that enthralled with the concept as described in the previews for the season. I mean, the summary describes this show as thus:

Huju-wara-kun is your ordinary adolescent boy , but 10 years ago he noticed he had a power to see multicolored auras surrounding the persons body which he looks upon through his fingers. Every so often Huju-wara has dreams about a war with cats , but one day a girl fell on top of him …. what will happen now with his incoming feline enemies?

Not a whole lot going on according to that blurb. I was truly unimpressed, and downloaded the first two episodes, as that's standard behavior.

Even still, the first episode wasn't that great of a thing, and it was a few weeks before I watched the second. At which point I realized that, yes, they had actually bothered with a story here.

Now, was this a perfect outing?

Sadly, and despite how much I enjoyed it overall, I'm going to have to say no.

Mainly, because we're left with a few gaping holes for plot lines. Which one can  hope that will be resolved with (at least) a second season or OVA. But that's in and of itself is not a bad thing. The real problems with this series were some issues with consistency. Every episode was paced and toned wildly differently from one another. And even the fights would leave one with a feeling of "huh?" on occasion.

Which really isn't the thing one hopes to feel in the midst of the climactic battle of the entire season.

Now, what makes this such a fun ride is the characters. A lesson that Hollywood really, really needs to learn (yes, I'm looking at you, Skyline).

Especially in regards to the main characters (Merry and Yumeji).

Merry, for all the animators obsession which drawing her stomach, is a great character. She's funny and strong, while at the same time shows hesitance, a longing for home and a need for acceptance (which is part an parcel of that longing for home). 

Yumeji though, is a standout character just for the fact that he's not the typical indecisive, non-masculine, non-descript male leads that are often show cased in anime. I'm not sure if it's just a difference of my Western POV of man-hood, versus what's expected in Japan, but sometimes the…. indecisiveness of male leads irks me to no end.

But, it gets really notched up a level when the two of them are working together. Think of Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth from Bones or even (and possibly even a better example of this) Maddie Hayes and David Addison from Moonlighting (at least prior to episode 314 of that series).

Did they mine old '80s dramady's for inspiration?

Of course, now I'm wondering if I should lead in the Moonlighting reference. That does seem to show my age a bit, but I digress.

Anyways, as I stated at the start, I liked this show as a whole, a lot. One can hope that they'll give the underlying manga a year (or three) to create some more plot, and then give this a second season to finish some things and answer those questions they left around for us.

And if they do, I'll be waiting and willing to watch. Which is more than some shows have gotten from me.

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