Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ding Dong...

The New Rulers of Babylon hanged the Old Ruler of Babylon. There are two things that disturb me about this. Before I get into that though, let me state that if anyone does deserve capital punishment, it would be this Dick...tator. His crimes were horrendous, and a far better excuse for the South Canadian Empire to invade than weapons of mass delusion. Few are higher on my list (except Celine Dion of course).

But what disturbs me? First, that the official state executioners, according to the single fastest intelligence service on the planet (See En En), decided to invoke the name of (name not changed to protect the guilty) Muqtada Al Sadr. That takes this firmly out of the range of state execution and into sectarian assassination. This will do nothing but make the Former Dick...tator a martyr to the Sunnis, both in Babylon and without. That will not bring stability to the region in any way.

Secondly, how See En En has decided to become Snuff News. See En En is showing execution video. I would expect that low level pseudo-journalism from Faux News (and got it by the way, since they proudly announced they were seeking such videos- the website featured one of the worst pics of Saddam ever with bright red capital letters proclaiming "HANGED!" Way to be fair and balanced assholes). I expect more from See En En though. This cheap sensationalism sickens me and shows the same disregard for human life that those who are dancing in celebration show- the same lack of regard for human life that made the Dick...tator the monster he was. Ending human life is sometimes necessary. Celebrating death is an affront to God and Man.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cheeseball factor nine!


This is completely fan-boy, but I just wanted to exclaim with geeky glee that my amateurish attempts at making custom action figures can be found at http://www.toymania.com/custom/ under the gallery "Weerd1." I think however I may have the only Mogo on the entire site (if you aren't familiar with Mogo, this will clear it all up for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mogo ). I was going to make him to scale with the other figures, but 1/18th of the world's population kept stepping on it....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

If this is about you, stay out of my theater.


Well, ring my chimes and hang my stockings, I look around and it is the holiday. As part of God’s temporal joke he has been playing on me, this year has flown by and I am hardly ready for Halloween, and it is already Christmas. I only hope He keeps the joke going when I hit Babylon and the year there goes by quickly as well.

Otherwise, there isn’t much else to report. I am completely enamored with the TV show “Heroes.” If you aren’t watching it, you are wrong. TV is my primary entertainment these days because I have decided to never go to the movie theater again. Why, do you ask? Because of the “Oh Shit” guy.

You know who he is- anytime something happens in a film that is daring, a surprise, this guy has to interject at the top of his lungs, “OH SHIT!” It’s not a quick interjection, it is a drawn out sing-song of an exclamation that pulls you completely out of the moment and grounds you back in the sticky-floored mass of humanity you paid 12 dollars to share a movie with. Case in point, the (spoilers ahead if you’ve not seen Superman Returns) in the best movie I saw this year, we learn that Lois’ young son is not the son of handsome go getter Richard White, but rather of a Kryptonian Demi-god who goes by Clark. The biggest moment of this reveal is the boy defending his mother from a violent psychotic thug by… well, hitting him with a piano. Singer gives us a moment of silence for realization purposes after the instrument plays its last chord against the thug. A moment to grasp all this moment means; the parentage, the fact that this boy’s first use of power has killed another (admittedly deserving) human being, the end of his mother’s reign of hypochondria. Instead for me, not once but twice, this moment was filled with the hearty peal of “Oh SHIT!” How this man managed to be seated within 10 feet of me twice, I cannot say. My assumption is the movie theater management was hoping I would kill him and spare other movie goers this man’s cries of wonder in the future.

My biggest fear is that there is more than one “Oh Shit” guy. That no matter what theater I go to, there will be a member of this secret cabal plotting to eviscerate my fantasy and unceremoniously drop me firmly back in reality regardless of the magic movie moment. A bullet bounces off Superman’s exposed eyeball- “Oh Shit!” Aliens blow up a famous building in Los Angeles as the first strike against humanity- “Oh SHIT!” Colossus appears to defend the vulnerable students at Xavier’s academy from Striker’s troops- “OH SHIT!”

You win, “Oh Shit” guy. I have not seen a myriad of interesting movies this year because of you. No James Bond, no Borat, no Tenacious D. You and your accomplices “Giggly Teenage Girl Group” and “Watch This, This is Great” guy have kept me out of theater and in front of my big screen. I may not see the movies quick, but when a fellow viewer turns out to be the “Oh Shit!” guy, I can send him to his room.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hey Democrats!


OK boys and girls, listen up. I am NOT a Democrat (of course, I am not a Republican either), but I did vote pretty Democrat this year. I also sent a letter to the incumbent Republican I voted against and told him why; the Military Commissions Act and the end of Habeas Corpus. Yeah, I was pretty unhappy about other things, but that alone drove me over the edge. Looks like I'm not the only one, because I have awakened in a world where the Democrats control the House and Senate, and a member of my chain of command isn't anymore. Holy Cold Sting of Reality, Batman!

So now the Democrats are in power- you Liberally types have a chance now to show you really can do it better. You know what though? I don't know that you can. I think you are going to trip all over each other trying not to be Republicans, and be just as bad for us, but for different reasons.

But I hope I am wrong. I hope you manage to fix inequities of the last six years, and work together with those goofy Republicans to make the country great again. Here's some hints; civil liberties are non negotiable, learn to understand the terrorists to defeat them, don't blame the rich for being rich, but hold the corporations accountable to fair capitalism. Oh, and keep your eye on China- better to beat them now with cash, than later with the Army that is already pretty exhausted.

You have a chance- don't screw it up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Updates, updates, updates, shouted to an empty room.

Well, it doesn’t take long for several months to go by without updating your blog, now does it? Well, I guess it actually takes several months. Time flies when you are hellaciously busy. Lots going on in my firm as my little corner of it prepares for a return to Babylon. Oh yes, true believers, I am on the train back. The glimmer of hope that I got this last week though is that it seems various bits of leadership within my firm are beginning to realize the types of mistakes that have led to the current situation there. Little things like cultural knowledge and respect are beginning to matter! It only took four years… Now if only we could get that message across to the highest levels of Imperial management.

The British apparently have found a map made by Lawrence of Arabia in regard to how he proposed to establish boundaries and borders in that region; get this, it was based on religious and tribal locations. Hmm… I wonder if we can get a copy of that to our Imperial leadership?

In far less Earth-shattering, but much more entertaining matters, I just watched the digital re-mastering of the original Star Trek. The cleanliness of the picture was delightful, but I had actually expected more to be done with the special effects. I suppose they were a little gun-shy from Lucas and his molesting of his own intellectual property, but the problems I have there are more with changing story and character moments, and not making the original available. I think classic Trek would be well served by bringing some of its visuals in line with the newer series’. Seeing the 1701 do the stretchy warp and flash would make me drool. Of course, I am a big geek.

Speaking of being a big geek, I recently met Greg Rucka, book and comic author, and guy who got me reading comics again after a long absence with his work on the Batman character. As an aspiring (read that wanna be) comic book writer myself, it was very interesting to get his insights into writing and the industry in general, and get some scoopy gossip on other comic writers. His admiration for Grant Morrison is apparent, but then so is mine, and some of the comments made about “All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder” seemed to be along my thoughts on that incredibly lame book. Overall, Mr. Rucka was a very pleasant guy with a good sense of humor and a sharp wit. Glad he’s out there writing my comics for me.

And beyond that we approach ever closer to the best of all holidays- Halloween! I am likely to Batman again, as I have just purchased a rather pricey cape to fill out my outfit. My son, last year my World’s Finest companion of Superman, has instead purchased a man-sized chicken outfit. Yes indeed- a 6’2” chicken. Odd boy, that one. My daughter has moved beyond that Darth Vader fetish, and now will dress as herself as a Sith. Turning to the dark side, and likely never coming back. And the lovely lady Jennifer? As always, the lovely Lady Jennifer will be the lovely Lady Jennifer, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.

Well maybe with some pointed ears or a plaid skirt… Maybe.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My review of “Superman Returns” or “Did I see the same movie as you guys?”

Let me give fair warning right now, this is not a spoiler free review. There are lots of them. So what I’ll do is give my spoiler free review right now-
This movie is the most “real” superhero movie ever made. The emotions are adult and complex, and the layers of the various interrelationships and plots are so deep I had to just sit and think about this movie for about as long as I watched it. Then I watched it again. This is a movie that is more than worthy of a Best Picture nomination. Unfortunately, looking at the internet and box office response, this seems to have scared away people who just wanted to see Superman catch airplanes and beat up Lex Luthor. There’s plot and emotion, and apparently that’s a detriment to some people. Spoilers begin now…
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If the movie suffers in my book from anything it is that it should have been longer. I did walk out wanting to see some scenes between scenes, and luckily these are things that I understand were filmed and we should see on the DVD release. The film stands beautifully on its own however, provided you are willing to give the movie a little thought. This is no popcorn film. It is grown up. Very grown up. Once again- this is the spoiler part, so here’s your last chance. Superman goes to visit the remnants of Krypton resulting in a five year absence from the Earth, which learns to move on without him. Lois Lane in particular has moved on and has a child with her fiancé Richard. They live together in bliss in a lovely house. Lois has made herself a life, grown up and settled down. Yet deep within her she is hurt- hurt that Superman would leave without even saying goodbye. Her resentment manifests itself as an article entitled “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” This article has also earned Lois a Pulitzer Prize.

Then, He comes back.

I capitalize personal pronouns for Superman in this film, as He is painted as a deity. His five years away seem to be His forty days in the desert. He returns to His mission, and Lois’ resentment still holds.

I expected from this film for Richard White to be a jackass. I waited for the scene where Lois realizes she’s just settled for some jerk in lieu of Superman. Not here. Richard is a great guy, a great father, and a hero in his own right. When Luthor’s plot (which I will get to in a moment) endangers Lois and her son Jason, it is not Superman, but Richard who gets there first. And herein lies the complexity- you see, Jason is not actually Richard’s son; he is Superman’s. It is my suspicion that Lois doesn’t even know this. You may remember in Superman II Superman has erased her memory of their intimacy with a kiss- I don’t doubt that Lois thinks Jason is Richard’s, at least until an incredible feat on Jason’s part proves otherwise. The movie leaves us with this scenario- Mommy, Daddy, Kid, and kid’s real Daddy- the modern nuclear family, only this time with a cape. There is no easy solution, but as humans they are going to get by. It makes me consider the relationship between Joseph/Mary/Jesus/God- How does the surrogate father of God’s son look upon the boy he’s raising? In this film Richard gets it- gets Lois’ feelings for Superman, and moves forward. They are going to make it work no matter how difficult. It’s a mature, difficult relationship usually reserved for films about British servants at the turn of the century with lots of people named “Hopkins” and “Thompson” in them. Here, we get it bundled with Superman. Now, to react to naysayers who say Kate Bosworth doesn’t pull off the feisty Lois here I say- have a kid. Your hell brand days are over. Lois here is a mature woman who still carries the spark of her youth but has to pick the kid up from school- she doesn’t have the ability to sit in the Daily Planet all night. Is Bosworth a little young for this role? Maybe, but I think she pulls it off well enough, and I didn’t end up questioning her in the role- she still wouldn’t be my first pick, but her spark with Routh is good.

Routh is Superman. From the moment you see Him, you know He is the Man of Steel. It is interesting that this incarnation has Superman bring a little of Clark into His life. In the scene of news montages chronicling Superman’s return, you see a building burning, which is blown out by Superman. Before He flies off, He gives a self conscious smile and wave- very similar to one given by Clark to throw Richard and Lois’ suspicions off in the Daily Planet office. I can’t wait to see Routh in this role again.

Lex Luthor. He is diabolical. I have seen a lot of bashing on his plan, and frankly I wonder if they saw the same movie I did. Luthor historically in the films has been a land obsessed megalomaniac who hates that Superman even exists. He sits waiting in jail, the events of Superman II in his mind, knowing there is Kryptonian technology just sitting there. And Superman is gone! Gone! Lex must get out. He does, he tracks his way back to the Fortress of Solitude, stepping on hearts and souls to do so. And in the Fortress he finds not only tech, but tech that can give him what he so loves- land. Sure, creating a new continent is going to do some damage, and billions will die, but it is what they deserve for not bowing to his genius in the first place (is it a coincidence that Metropolis will be the first city wiped out by New Krypton? I think not…). More than that, he achieves his goal by besmirching the memory of the missing Superman, by bastardizing everything Superman stood for, and using Superman’s own home technology to do it. It is a perfect plan.

Then He comes back.

Lex is not to be outdone however. He will still create his continent, but this time he will not only use the Kryptonian technology to defend himself from human retaliation, he will lace the entire thing with Kryptonite, making him invulnerable to Superman- at least he believes. And indeed, when Superman arrives he is brutalized by Luthor and his minions (think Jesus beaten by the Romans, the imagery is there). Lex proves what a thug he really is as he violently shivs Superman with a chunk of His homeworld. Even more brutal though is the simple fact that Luthor has created a bizarro version of Krypton. The place Superman so desperately wanted to see that he went to visit “a graveyard” and was missing for five years is now recreated right here on Earth in Lex Luthor’s twisted way. It is Satan reinterpreting the Kingdom of Heaven, and Heaven’s Son must stop it.

But on Superman’s trip to Golgotha, he is first helped by Veronica wiping his face in the form of Lois pulling him from the ocean (finally, after sixty years she gets to save Him). We see a moment of Superman ascending to absorb power from the sun and then he descends, cutting the cancer that is New Krypton away from the Earth, and despite the hardship, despite the agony he conquers the Kryptonite laden rock and casts it out into space, throwing Hades into the bottomless pit. You can almost hear him whisper “It is finished” before He spreads his arms in the shape of the cross and plummets into the Earth.

Here, as Superman is rushed into an emergency room that can do almost nothing for Him we see the shortest heart-rending scene in movie history. Martha Kent stand in the throng of people waiting to see what happens to their hero, and she can do nothing. She must sit at the foot of the cross like Mary as her son does not belong to her anymore but to the world.

Then comes my one true complaint with the movie. Lois Lane brings Jason to see Superman who is now in a hospital bed. She doesn’t recognize him as Clark. Let’s face it; the disguise has never been the glasses. It’s how Clark moves and acts versus the confidence of Superman. Yet here, vulnerable and weak like Clark, Lois cannot see him in Superman. That is my one minor complaint (indeed, counter to this is a scene earlier where Jason immediately recognizes that Clark and Superman are one in the same, and I love that a child who does not bear the prejudices of an adult would see right through Superman’s role playing).

Soon after, a nurse comes into the room to find the bed empty and the window open- the tomb is empty, the stone’s been rolled away and now His body isn’t there. Then Superman gets a chance to speak to His son as His son… quoting Jor-El in a moment that shows that he understands the irony of the fact that he spent five years searching the cosmos to find a true connection to another living thing- when that connection was waiting for Him on Earth all along. Beautiful.

There are a million wonderful little moments in this film, several of which come from simple reaction- Jimmy eating a Burrito as Clark looks on with tortilla stuck on his face; the image of Superman with the world on his shoulders as he catches the Daily Planet’s globe, and Perry’s response; a bathrobed Lex Luthor finding Lois Lane on his boat, and soon noticing her young son’s reaction to Kryptonite. There are moments for the fanboys- Glenn Ford’s picture on the mantle at the Kent’s; the iconic Action Comics number one pose captured by a 12 year old with a cell phone; the opening credits taken directly from the original movies; Marlon Brando; the quick mention of Gotham City; guest cameos by the fifty’s TV show’s Jimmy and Lois. Good stuff.

And yet, we see slow box office, and people on line calling the movie slow or so-so. I know everyone has a right to an opinion, but it is such a shame to see this movie perform in a mediocre fashion. There is love in this movie for the source material from the makers, and it is obvious in every scene. There are a couple of specific nit picks I’ve seen I want to address:

Lex’s plan has him controlling barren rock on an island—He isn’t done yet, that’s why the map in the boat is incremental, and he still has six more crystals. Once he applies the rest of the crystals it will be more than a rocky island, but indeed a Superman proof version of Kryptonian Utopia. Oh, on a side note, isn’t it great that at the end, that though it isn’t Australia or New Krypton, Lex gets his island…?

Lois has been lying about Jason to Richard—she had her memory erased, she doesn’t know she slept with Superman.

Superman is gay—I’ve seen this in several places, and I can only say… what? He spends the whole movie regretting what he did to Lois and hoping to see her, even watching to make sure her life is good. Can someone tell me the gay part?

It’s too long—I wanted more, I want to see Superman on the remains of Krypton, I wanted to see more of Singer’s version of Clark’s childhood. I wanted to see more of Clark back in Smallville. I wanted more Daily Planet scenes. The movie stands alone fine, but I am sure ready to watch Superman Returns 2.

Please, if you saw this movie and didn’t like it, reconsider. Give it another look and peel away some of the layers that are waiting below the surface. I’m four pages in, and frankly I could go on for more about all the things I’ve seen in this film in just two viewings, and I know there’s more. This is a superhero movie, and a great film, and deserves recognition. I only hope we the fans don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by wanting to bash this movie and sound smart. Sell this movie to adults- it is grown up; sell this movie to kids- it is spectacular; sell this movie to geeks- it is Superman.

He has returned.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Star Trek

EDIT: When done reading what I had to say in 2006, please also read this where I basically tell myself I might be full of it. Thank you.  Now, back to the past:

I’ve been doing this blog for quite a while now, despite the intermittent regularity of my postings, and oddly enough, I have never indulged in any real rant about one of my very favorite subjects:
Star Trek.

It should be no big surprise that as a big geek I am into Star Trek. I am one of those people who attend conventions (at least when they are close), buy the season set DVDs, and yes, I have not one but two different Star Trek uniforms hanging in my closet (I have never worn them to jury duty however, and never to work without a very good reason). I don’t have any Star Trek tattoos however, and I do watch and enjoy other shows. I am also quite willing to point out Star Trek’s errors- we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m just gonna talk about Trek for a while here; what I like and don’t like, why I’m into it, and why I consider myself a Trekker rather than a Trekkie.

I am not quite old enough to have watched Classic Trek during its first run. My first memories of the Starship Enterprise bounce between the animated series, the Gold Key comic books, and the occasional rerun. My Dad did like Trek though, and when I was about six gave me a battered copy (which I still own) of James Blish’s first “Star Trek Reader.” These collected a series of short story adaptations of the Classic show and induced me to run around with my disc firing phaser toy and a red sweatshirt.

For a while though, while I liked my Trek, my consciousness was overwhelmed by that other Star thing, the one George Lucas made. I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture with interest though, and got a real kick out of Star Trek II when it came out.

Then, my Dad bought me a Dungeons and Dragons set for Christmas, much to my mom’s chagrin. She felt it was evil and all, and I dove right into the idea of role playing (being a child of overactive imagination anyway) but was looking for something a bit more space oriented (always looking to the stars I was, never my mind on where I was…). At the local hobby and game shop, I saw on the shelf the Fasa “Star Trek: The Role-Playing Game.” My mom bought it for me to lure me away from spells and demons, and it worked. My little dice were rolling now to see if I made a successful transition from normal space to warp space rather than to see if my sword of ogre decapitation was working.

After this I plummeted headlong into the world of Trek. We rented videodiscs (not laserdiscs mind you, but the vinyl videodisc!) of classic episodes. I read the photonovels. I contacted other geeky fanboys through the mail (we had no internet boys and girls). As I grew I made up tales of my own origins in the 23rd century and a desperate mission back to the 20th century to save it from marauding Romulans. I watched the new movies, and finally got to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation when it debuted.

I was a fanboy, a Trekker, an A1 geekboy known in some circles as James T Spock Superstar. I was DM-ing a Trek RPG session the night Roddenberry died. I flirted with making my firstborn’s middle name Tiberius.

And then came post Roddenberry Trek. Here now, are my reviews of all the series under the name Star Trek.

Star Trek—Where it all began, a show that revolutionized Science Fiction and TV, and how a redneck raised boy in a backward community saw his world. Racism was an everyday thing for me until I got the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” And I don’t mean “got” as in “came into my possession, but as in “hit me in my understanding.” Arguing over skin color was stupid! Thank you Trek for helping me out with that.

I still watch and love my classic Trek. It’s an old friend whose every move I know, but I love those moves so much there’s not getting tired of it. If you can’t get over the effects or the very 60’s acting, examine the themes of these episodes. That’s what makes them great.
(Best Episode: “Where No Man Has Gone Before”)

Star Trek: The Animated Series—Hey- I dig it, and I really wish Paramount would quit screwing around and get this thing out on DVD. Sure, it was kiddie-fied, but with writers like DC Fontana, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, and even Walter Koenig- there are some jewels here. (Best Episode: “Albatross”)

Star Trek: The Next Generation—Didn’t think they could do it, but this also became a classic show, and did a fine job giving its own spin-offs. No, Jean-Luc Picard was no Jim Kirk, but he had his own verve, and it was big crowd that gathered at my house to watch “All Good Things” air. There were some bummers, but TNG is still great Trek and started a whole mess of good stuff.

Worf! Who doesn’t love Worf? He’s great, and brought his bad ass Klingon self to DS9 as well which gave a very nice feeling of continuity between the shows beyond the occasional guest appearance.
(Best Episode: “The Inner Light”)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—A slow first season with a lot of potential gave way to six successive season that made this the best television show ever. Ever- not just the best Trek, the best TV show ever. The cast was superb, the drama without equal, and despite claims of being a “grittier” show than its predecessors, it did what Trek does best; examine the Human Condition in the most adverse of circumstances. Yes, it showed war in the future, but it also showed human determination going against the odds to make that war end, and build a relationship with those we fought. Beyond that “The Visitor” is the most emotionally heart wrenching hour ever televised. What an incredible show.

And for the first time in SF history we were presented with a character who was a person of faith, and was not presented as ignorant or backward. Col. Kira followed the Prophets, and we got honest portrayals of how our faith can conflict with our knowledge, and how we work through that.

The cast of dozens gave a rich tapestry that one didn’t find on the other shows. Casey Biggs showed up and was initially billed as “Cardassian Bridge Officer.” Finally later he became “Damar.” He was Dukat’s right hand man. Then a drunken bureaucrat, then a traitor to Dukat, then Dukat’s puppet replacement, then a man devastated by his personal decisions, then a freedom fighter, liberator of the Cardassian people, and martyr. That’s a lot of character development for someone who wasn’t even a regular character!
(Best Episode: “The Visitor”)

Star Trek: Voyager— This is the show Trekkies like, while Trekkers look on in disdain. The less said the better, but: There are seven good episodes of Voyager, but I sometimes have a tough time remembering all of them. They emasculated the Borg, made inconsistent writing the norm, and ignored all technical continuity. They also managed to show that the some total of human evolution will not be the God-like entities other Trek showed us, but rather giant salamanders rutting in the mud. Mr. Braga, I will never forgive you for “Threshold.” Even the stars bagged on this shows writing. The producers also proved that they could improve ratings not by improving script quality, but rather by adding cheesecake. This will continue into the next show as well. Ugh, what a stinker. This is the only series I refuse to buy.

There were characters here to like- in one episode, Tuvok and Paris are teamed up and play off each other like a young Kirk and Spock- then, having struck relationship gold, the writers never put them together again. Robert Picardo was always entertaining as the Doctor. The rest of the cast just left me cold. Robert Beltrane at least admits to phoning in his performance due to lackluster scripts.

I ask this- why were so many stories resolved off screen? You have a crisis up to the last five minutes of the show, fade out, fade in, and everything’s all better. It’s funny that the best episodes were the ones that weren’t really about the crew…(Living Witness, Equinox, the one with the planet that spins really fast.)
(Best Episode: “Living Witness,” one of the seven good ones…)

Star Trek: Enterprise—I should hate this show. I should revile it as I do Voyager. It was created by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who just never got Trek. It had a character who was used as eye candy at every opportunity. For three years it showed a flagrant disregard for the continuity of the other shows. And yet… I loved this show. The characters were genuine and likable. The actors were fun, the effects were great, and once the fourth season put them back on the continuity track, this became really good Trek. Of course, B&B got spiteful when they realized other writers were doing what they never could (making good entertaining episodes that completely fit continuity), and whined until UPN cancelled the show, and then B&B wrote Enterprise’s last, and worst, episode. Still, this show died before its prime, and I really wish I could see this gang together again.

Jolene Blalock was obviously not chosen for her acting skills. She was obviously going to be B&B’s new Seven of Nine. She was the only Vulcan on the show who wore a catsuit, despite seeing dozens of other Vulcans. She was there to look good. Yet… the girl pulled of this character wonderfully. During the first three seasons when we saw Vulcan Battlecruisers and commando teams (despite TNG saying Vulcans hadn’t built a weapon in 2000 years) Jolene played T’Pol as the quintessential Vulcan. Even when B&B tried to screw her up with episodes like The Seventh, Jolene made me believe in T’Pol. She was funny like Spock, yet pulled off a powerful undercurrent that showed the passions that flow beneath the Vulcan exterior. The poor girl was stripped naked at every opportunity, and still managed to keep the character’s dignity.*

Maybe a TV reunion movie? Huh Paramount? Please? One that erases the last episode from continuity?
(Best Episode: The fourth season’s Vulcan Story-Arc which gave a reasonable explanation for all of B&B’s Vulcan crap)

I didn’t get into the movies here, though I really like all of them except two: Generations, and Nemesis. Each of them had plot holes I could hide the Kobayashi Maru in. I am intrigued to see what JJ Abrams Trek will be like- but I hope they keep it in line with continuity, while examining the human condition. Oh, and there better be cool Starships…



*Let me not play too coy- a nude Jolene Blalock is a joy to behold, but I firmly believe that such things could have been done in a good Trek way. As an example I point out the oft maligned decon scene from the pilot episode. There’s important dialog between two major characters going on here, yet the focus is on two hot actors rubbing massage gel on each other in soft light. The camera follows Trip's hands over T’Pol’s curves like a porn film. Yet I contend the scene could have been identical with a single camera wideshot and full lighting, showing that these are professionals in the future where we have put hang-ups like gender in military service behind us. That would have made it Trek rather than exploitation.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Relocated

Whew! Times goes fast when you're in a move, yet in other ways drags on like a non-anesthetized tooth pulling. Time in a hotel room; interminable. Time in an airport; preternaturally slow. Living in a house waiting for you furniture to arrive; see above. Oddly though, it is suddenly the end of June, and I didn't even see it coming. I and my clan are successfully moved into the GFNWSGF (Great and Free North Western States of Greatness and Freedom). Some culture shock coming from Europe. First of all, we Americans are fat. I include myself, but as I look around me I now see what Europeans see when we are over there. It's not just having weight- there's lots of reasons for that. We don't take care of ourselves. I saw overweight Germans- and they dressed in such a way as to enhance their appearance. Today I saw a woman who couldn't have been under 220 wearing a halfshirt and hiphuggers. People go out in clothes that should be reserved for lounging around the house. The Europeans don't do that. Sure they don't shower that often either, but at least they are appealing to the eye. They never appear unkempt.

I have also noticed (connected to this) that the portions served in American resturants would feed a family in Iraq for a week. Yet I pay for it so I am inclined to eat it.

And we drive really damn slow on the highways. When there are three lanes of road, 60 MPH is just silly.

But- on the other hand I can go to stores on Sunday and after 5PM. I can read the newspaper. The selection on the shelves is a delicious result of free enterprise. Things I had to special order in Germany I can now just go buy. My inner consumer is very happy.

So here I am- back in the USA. It is good to be back, but can I ask you all to run a comb through your hair before you go out? Thanks.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Returning to the Dark Knight

As anyone (if there is anyone) who reads this blog regularly knows, I am a great fan of The Bat-Man. As anyone who is a great fan of The Bat-Man knows, one of the great works in the Dark Knight’s history is Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Now, I won’t dignify Miller’s new All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder with a mention, because, well, it sucks, but DKR was not only what revitalized Batman in the 80’s, but comics as well.

If you aren’t familiar with this work, it’s about a 55 year old Bruce Wayne, ten-years retired in a world that has outlawed superheroes and gone to pot. Only Superman still operates, but that is in exchange for having sold out and become and agent of the US Government. Written in the 80’s, the story takes place in front of a backdrop of a growing threat of nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, and features street gangs in Gotham that would make Alex and his Droogs at the Korova Milkbar cringe. Able to take no more, Wayne again assumes the mantle of the Dark Knight starting a social and political maelstrom that culminates in a fight to the death between Batman and Superman.

Recently, the director Robert Rodriguez made a picture perfect adaptation of Miller’s other great work Sin City. Fan boys have been spreading their fan boy fantasies around about the idea of these two getting together to do DKR- let’s face it; Hollywood and Warner Brothers will never be cool enough to let that happen, there’s a really good Batman franchise running right now, and if Hollywood and Warner Brothers did let it happen, they would stick fingers in the pie and screw it all up. BUT… if they did let it happen, here’s who I would see in my dream project, and this is of course considered with no accounting for budget, schedule, or reality (which I typically try to keep from plaguing me anyway.

Commissioner James Gordon-
The seventy year old Gordon is a man of principle, but still representative of a moral age long past. He is grizzled, yet fair, and offers advice about Batman to the incoming commissioner. I would give this role to the man many would pick to be Batman himself, Clint Eastwood- a hero from days past being put out to pasture.

Harvey Dent-
Formerly Two-Face, this ex district attorney is released from Arkham Asylum his face repaired. But which of his two personalities was excised? Let’s stick Mickey Rourke, who already has experience as a psycho in Rodriguez films, in this role of a man faking his repentance.

Commissioner Ellen Yindel-
Progressive, tough, and completely intolerant of masked vigilantes, she cannot understand how a man she has admired, Jim Gordon, could allow this criminal to operate. She’ll learn. A big gun and glasses on Ellen Barkin would cover this role nicely.

Dr. Bartholomew Wolper-
The doctor who declares both Two-Face and the Joker cured, and then blames Batman for the existence of crime in Gotham, he represents everything wrong with a blameless society. I’d like to say Vincent Schiavelli here, bt he passed on in December, so perhaps Donald Sutherland?

The Joker-
A mass murderer with more than 600 to his credit, the Joker went into a coma when Batman retired, and mutters not a word until the Dark Knight appears on the nightly news. His response? “B-b-b-Batman. Darling…” Call me crazy, but as an older Joker here I want to see David Bowie match his age with some Man Who Fell to Earth/Ziggy Stardust/Goblin King from Labyrinth nuttiness. Alternatively- give me Mark Hamill, who has voiced the Joker to perfection since the debut of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992.

Oliver Queen-
Always the bleeding heart of the Justice League, the Green Arrow has lost his arm to a fight with Superman, but returns for a small but crucial role in the battle between Batman and Superman. He’s an old bald hippy with a mean sense of humor and a radical’s ethic. Ed Harris, start your goatee now.

Robin-
13 year old Carrie Kelly is living in the hell her apathetic parents’ generation have allowed to exist. When she hears of the Batman returning, she literally buys a Robin costume from a rental agency, saves the Dark Knight’s life, and becomes the Girl Wonder. I really want to see this role cast age appropriate, so I won’t put a name here, since by the time scripting and preproduction is done, you’ll have to cast an eleven year old now, or find a very young looking teen girl. She should be solid, smart, but not too pretty. She’s a crimefighter, not a supermodel.

Superman-
He has compromised everything he ever stood for so he could continue in some small way to fight his never ending battle. He tries to talk Bruce down, but when Batman becomes too much a of a political liability (Batman keeps order in Gotham City in the wake of a Soviet Electro-Magnetic Pulse while the rest of the country falls into chaos) it comes down to the Dark Knight versus the Last Son of Krypton. Good luck, Supes- you’re gonna need it. There’s two ways you can go here. In the comic, Kent looks mature, but not older like the rest of them- perhaps the new Superman, Brandon Routh, should just continue this role along (or do we give Tom Welling his chance to don tights here?). Or, if we do want to mature the Man of Steel, give Kurt Russel a haircut and a cape.

And finally…
The Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the Batman-
He thought he was done- nothing left to fight with, but the world needs a Batman, and he must cast aside the life of the playboy (no longer just a façade) and retake the mantle of the Bat. Tell me how cool it would be to see the now older, wiser, and still well cast Michael Keaton step back into the role. I mean no disrespect to Christian Bale, and I always had problems with Tim Burton’s Batman films, but Keaton was dead on as Bruce Wayne, and based a lot of his performance on the DKR comic anyway. His only challenge will be pulling off Batman without the benefit of a big rubber suit. While Ed Harris grows his goatee, Mike, start working out.

For what it’s worth- those are my picks. Now, Warners- will it kill you to let it happen right? Don’t touch a thing, let Miller and Rodriguez handle it, and just collect the residuals. Please?? Pretty please???

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Death Penalty

Sowing what you reap. Seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? You kill someone, you get killed. One of the fundamentals of our society; the eye for an eye concept. I was behind it for a long time. The equation seems clear, you break the social contract and present a threat to that society, we no longer have the obligation to care for you, so you must be removed.

Then, one of the rottenest sons of bitches in American history, a fine example of why we have the death penalty in the first place, didn’t get a fair trial. That bastard Timothy McVeigh was sitting on death row and the Federal Court that tried him admitted that they withheld evidence about a possible second bomber (John Doe Number 2) from McVeigh’s defense. Look, no one thinks any of that would exonerate this monster, but in the interest of fairness, let us delay that execution until the defense team can analyze these 3000 withheld pages, and then we’ll burn him at the stake. We’ll do this because we are interested in making up for our mistakes- we are not the oppressive government people like McVeigh claim.

Only we didn’t. We went ahead and executed Timothy McVeigh, delaying not an hour, despite the fact we the State were wrong. We did not allow a fair assessment of the evidence under our own laws.

That steps out of the range of execution, and becomes murder. Worse yet, it help validate people like McVeigh who claim our government is out of control. The Bastard didn’t argue, because he knew this would make him a martyr to his like minded ilk. It sickens me that we gave him such ammunition, we gave him validation, and I can only hope we didn’t create a dozen more such monsters. It would seem, the Federal Government has lost its moral superiority, and therefore is not longer justified in issuing the death penalty.

Furthermore, let’s take a look at the quality of juries these days. Our same responsibility-shirking citizenry sleeps in the juror box, and falls to the same legal chicanery one sees on television. Look at your neighbors- how many of them are you willing to trust with your life?

As forensic science progresses, we find more and more people on death row (or already off death row if you know what I mean) who are proven innocent after years of imprisonment. I find myself coming to a certain conclusion. The system is no longer competent enough to wield the power of life and death.

At the very least, it is incumbent upon us as the citizenry and the Government to place the highest standards of evidence upon cases that may result in the death penalty, perhaps reserving this punishment only for those cases where there is confession. There must also be a strict adherence to whatever rules we decide to apply here- we cannot be arbitrary with life. The system must work, or when it does not, those who are responsible for the failure must be held accountable. There will never be a perfect system, but this can only be ameliorated by taking responsibility when mistakes are made and working as a body to set the consequences in balance.

If we can claim we are responsible enough to kill as a State, then we must wield that power with the utmost caution; remember, the same Bible that we like to quote Eye for and Eye from also states that any court that sentences more than one man in 7 years to death is bloodthirsty.

And I really don’t want us to validate the monsters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why I think all Americans should have firearms, and why I think no one should.

It’s kind of funny that this debate seems to have cooled down over the last few years following the beginning of what is popularly known as the War on Terror. Certain firearms bans are part of the Patriot Act, and no one wants to talk bad about that by golly, but on the other hand, when hordes of Islamic warriors came tearing out of the sky, who doesn’t want an old faithful shotgun at their side to introduce some of those fanatics to Allah?

My argument however has nothing to do with the chosen enemy of the decade—instead I wish to discuss the right to bear arms in general, in the context of the American Republic; the intent of the Constitutional writers (in my opinion), why they are right, and why they are wrong. Please keep in mind that I am writing this while my current firm has me out in what we call “The Field.” This involves a certain degree of isolation (though luckily electricity and my laptop have followed me here). This isolation equates to me having virtually no access to fact checking mediums, aside from a copy of the Bill of Rights and Constitution I keep on my computer along with some copies of the Federalist Papers. My statistics are quoted to the best of my memory from previous reading, and this makes me officially “Full of Shit.”

Our beloved Bill of Rights, written by visionary men more than two centuries ago, states:

“A well−regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”


The argument here usually falls in the area of “well-regulated militia.” Is this an armed populace, or is it a State run organization like the National Guard? There are two reasons this does not equate to the National Guard to me. First, the National Guard did not exist when the Bill of Rights was written. At that time, the militia was the Minutemen who were normal farmers and the like who heard people like Paul Revere screaming like bloody murder about Redcoats, went to their closets and pulled out their hunting rifles. These men later made up the Continental Army, but most of them just went home and put their rifles back in the closet. Later, individual states began to organize the National Guard.

The second reason? You may have noticed in recent years, the National Guard has been federalized. Often, the NG has been looked upon as a second Reserve force, and deployed to War for the United States. In the War on Terror, the National Guard has been called in to defend airports, sea ports, and borders. If the Federal government can call on the National Guard for federal purposes, it is no longer just a well-regulated Militia; it then becomes a Federal Force.

And that is the problem- the Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to bear arms for hunting. The Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to bear arms for home defense from criminals. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right because it is necessary to “the security of a free state.” In other words, the people have guns to keep the Federal government in check, to secure the concept of a free state. Remember kids, this was written in the late 18th century. The idea of an imposed monarchy was common, and the idea of a government by the people, of the people, for the people was in its infancy. No one knew how this whole Republic thing would really work, and a lot of the Anti-Federalists were afraid that the President would seize control on the near future (indeed there is evidence that many of the Federalists thought that was a good idea). Allowing the Federal Government to take control over the agency that is supposed to keep them honest defies the intent of the Constitution.

The next logical step here, is that the people’s right to bear arms in defense of a free state means that the people must have the firepower to stop the government if it goes bad. Surely, no Constitutional author foresaw the F-117 and the MOAB, but conceptually speaking the people should be able to handle something like that.

Sure, that sounds ridiculous; I don’t think my neighbor needs an MX missile in his garage, but if we begin to chip away at the concept, it leaves the rest of the Bill of Rights open to interpretation. The founders didn’t foresee Gangsta Rap or Hate Speech either, so let’s tweak the First Amendment. The founders never conceived as insidious an enemy as Al-Qaeda, so let’s change that silly fourth amendment about probable cause searches (oh wait- we’ve done that).

Honest citizens with guns are not a problem. They aren’t committing crimes or terror acts. Indeed, some FBI crime studies show that a gun is used illegally in the US every three minutes- and one is used to halt a crime by a responsible citizen every 15 seconds. In a responsible republic with a mature citizenry, there should be no restriction on what they are allowed to own.

And therein is the rub. Are we a responsible republic with a mature citizenry? The answer may be no. In fact, it would seem that we are doing everything we can to avoid responsibility, and begging our government to take care of us. We are scared enough to ask them to wiretap “the right people” and ignore the Bill of Rights to search the homes of “the right people.” We learned nothing apparently from WWII and our treatment of Japanese Americans. In short we (and I am including myself as an American citizen) are dumb, irresponsible, and need to be told what to do. We are incapable of defending ourselves against criminals, against terrorists, against our own foibles. When we own guns, we don’t pay enough attention to our kids to notice them taking them to school. We don’t make sure our kids learn and take responsibility to solve issues without resorting to deadly force. We are no longer competent as a people to be allowed firearms, anymore than a toddler should be allowed matches, despite the good they can do.

So the choice is ours America- we can give up our guns, let the Government tell us how frightened to be each day, and blame things like video games, movies, and the terrorists for our problems. Or, we can retake responsibility for our actions, spank our kids when they do wrong, and punish the guilty rather than oppressing the innocent, and step back up to our half of the social contract.

Please, take responsibility for yourself, your family, your community, before we have to beg Big Brother to do it for us. Or don’t- that is still one of our freedoms; the freedom to be allowed to choose oppression.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Good Old Days

Remember when we had a grievous attack on American Soil and the president said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Can you imagine FDR putting together a color coded system to tell us how scared we should be of the Axis?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Earth-Pig Born

As any visitor to this too-seldom updated site can tell you, I am a huge comic book fan. Sure, my focus is superheroes, but the medium supports a lot more than just capes and costumes. A few years ago, my friendly neighborhood comic retailer gave me a money back guarantee on the purchase of a collection of 25 issues of the comic Cerebus.

If you haven't heard of it, it will be hard to describe. A Canadian gentleman named Dave Sim started self publishing a Conan parody in about 1977 starring a warrior Aardvark. Yes, Aardvark. Again, Cerebus began as a parody, but as most of our self started projects do, it took on a life of its own, and Sim promised he would do 300 issues. You may say that's a lot of Conan-parody.

Well you're right- Early on Sim shifts the book to become an examination of electoral process in a 25 issue story arc that chronicles Cerebus the Aardvark's rise to political power in the fantasy city-state of Iest. Then, Sim takes the next 50 issues or so to examine Cerebus' reign as... Pope.

Unlike my self starter projects that have a tendency to die out after taking on a life of their own (serves them right for leaving), Cerebus made it to issue 300; 6000 pages and the longest continuing narrative in literary history.

Make no mistake- this is literature. Any graphically presented storyline with guest characters like Oscar Wilde and F. Scott Fitzgerald (cunningly disguised as "F-Stop Kennedy) has an edge toward the literary anyway. Sim however, outside of redefining usage of graphic and panels to tell his comic story, often abandons the pictures altogether and just starts writing.

The views Sim presents get pretty controversial later in the series (keep in mind, the series is collected into 16 "phone book" sized volumes- I had the first five until this last Christmas when the darling Jennifer slipped 6-16 under the tree). Sim and Cerebus are unabashed in their beliefs and will challenge your ideas on Feminism, Religion, Drinking, and Libertarianism. At one point Sim goes for about 100 pages into Cerebus giving his commentary on the Torah to Woody Allen (trust me- makes sense in context).

I don't agree with him 100%, but even so this is a brilliant work that has had an effect on comics forever, and deserves to be considered in the annuls of Western Literature. I would actually recommend starting as I did with volume 2, "High Society," and then going back to read the first volume second. I know it sounds backward, but volume two gives the true taste of the series, and it won't hurt to get some of the characters'' origins in the simpler stories afterward.

I raise a glass of Apricot Brandy to Dave Sim for taking 27 years to publish this brilliant work, and for choosing an oft overlooked medium for that work. I do hope that if you were to write page 6001, Cerebus looks into the Light and sees it is good. I'll miss the spiteful little grey bastard.