Friday, May 18, 2018

If I'm interpreting Lando Calrissian's sexuality correctly then the term pansexual may be so broad that everyone on Earth is queer.

So in the news yesterday, among many things, was that Lando Calrissian is pansexual. You may not have noticed it, afterall, it is far less interesting than Stormy Daniels or North Korea. But it's important to the LGBT community because Star Wars has taken no strides at all in introducing queer characters. They simply don't exist within its universe. So back to Lando...this "revelation" (if that's what you want to call it) has been debated among Star Wars geeks for a long time, but he's supposedly attracted to some droids (or can be attracted to droids) even though gender in the Star Wars universe among droids is not discussed at all.

Pansexual as a term is defined as not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Fair enough. I thought it meant something entirely different than what I'm reading into with Lando Calrissian. If that is how people are going to define pansexuality, then the character of Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) in the science-fiction film Ex Machina was pansexual, even though Ava (played by Alicia Vikander) was clearly based on a female anatomy. Ava was (in the end) a robot, which makes Nathan pansexual.

So this gave me a double-take. For example, I happen to find Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon 2 as an attractive character. He's clearly based on a male, but at the end of the day he's a cartoon. So I am attracted to a cartoon. That makes me pansexual. If you've ever looked at a drawing and been turned on by it, then you are attracted to art. That makes you pansexual. If you've ever read a book and been turned on by the words in that book, then that makes you attracted to words. Hence, you are pansexual. Ever used a sex toy to get off with? If you have, it doesn't matter what you were thinking in your headspace. It means that the presence of a toy got you excited and that makes you pansexual.

It's a fascinating way to think of sexuality, but honestly, I think it's so broad at that point as to be meaningless. By this definition, no one on Earth is really straight or gay, but probably would qualify as being pansexual. Ever see a statue that was so lifelike it turned you on? Well welcome to pansexuality. Anyway, it's not that any of this means anything at all at the end of the day. But I'm starting to think that the entire term "pansexuality" is kind of bullshit.

Just sayin'. At least the reviews for "Solo" make the movie look like it's worth watching on opening night, even with its pansexuality confusion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In the Heart of the Sea is a page-turning account of a tragedy that I had no idea had even happened.

In the Heart of the Sea was a movie that came out in 2015 starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, and Cillian Murphy. I haven't watched it as (at the time) it honestly didn't seem that interesting. But I recently stumbled across the book by Nathaniel Philbrick, and I started reading it. I had no idea how compelling a read this book would end up being, and I wanted to talk about it a little without really delving into "review" territory.

As far as books go, it's a narrative, which is kind of like a gussied up encyclopedia entry. "This person did this and then this event happened, etc." But it's absolutely chock full of interesting details that I knew nothing about regarding the Essex and the port it sailed from called Nantucket (in 1820). For one, the culture of Nantucket was a kind of fascinating place. If young men were to find a wife to marry, they needed to have a pin that proved they had killed a whale at sea. The only way to get one of these pins was to sail as a "greenhand" on a ship like the Essex on an adventure that could last up to three mind-boggling years. This (of course) made it so that the local economy was run by women who even had a song that expressed how sad they were to see their men go away, but it also expressed how wonderful it was to be free of men for years to come.

And then there were other interesting tidbits too. Some of the women kept plaster sex toys to pleasure themselves while their men were at sea. Additionally, the local economy (though dependent on whale oil) was also one of the healthiest in the world because of the high demand and high price of whale oil. I guess the stuff was used in everything in the days and years before fossil fuels pulled from the ground emerged as a more long-lasting alternative to hunting whales to extinction.

And about that whale hunting...the Nantucket whalers started whaling by killing off whales that were in their immediate vicinity. They called them "right whales" as they were the "right whale to kill." But to this day, that particular kind of whale is still called a "right whale" so that's where the name comes from. Later on, when the first Nantucket whaler killed a much larger sperm whale, well that became the one that everyone wanted. It's oil burned cleaner, brighter, and the animals were so huge that they literally had a cavity in their head filled with 500 gallons of oil. According to the book, you could ladle it out into a bucket, and it was a viscous white color similar to human semen. They called it "spermaceti," which is also where the "sperm whale" got its name.

The Nantucket community was also deeply conservative, and they had no trust of outsiders whatsoever. What they learned about the world, they shared with each other. But knowledge from the outside was always distrusted with a kind of "fake news" mentality. For example, even though there were healthy colonies in places like Tahiti, the Nantucket sailors believed it was a dark and evil place where cannibals lived and homosexuality was rampant. It didn't matter if someone that was not from Nantucket told them the truth of things. If you weren't from Nantucket, you were an outsider, period, and anything you said could not be trusted.

Of course, the thing that most people have heard of regarding The Essex and its ill-fated voyage is that the ship was attacked by an 85-foot enraged bull sperm whale. That part is gloriously detailed in the book, and you are led to believe that it happened because the first mate was patching a smaller whaling boat and using a hammer, which (underwater) might have sounded like the mating click of a sperm whale cow that was ready to get busy. The account of the encounter is that the whale was confused when it first rammed the ship, as it must not have expected to plow into something so hard. It actually knocked itself out for a minute or two before it came to its senses. The men, fearful that by stabbing it, they would enrage it so that it would damage the tiller, did nothing. When it finally came to, it attacked the ship again, this time knocking a hole in it that quickly filled the ship with water. Then it swam away never to be seen again.

The men of the Essex salvaged what they could from their sinking vessel, built up the walls of their whale boats to try and keep the ocean out, and then set sail in three of these boats loaded to the brim with food, water, and live giant tortoises from the Gallapagos Islands (they stopped there to get bunches of them to eat on their journey). They purposely avoided a nearby Tahiti because of "cannibal" rumors and headed for South America in a tremendously long journey that saw most of them dead from starvation and dehydration and where the remainder became cannibals just to keep going. There's a deep irony in that the decision to stay away from lands where "rumored cannibals lived" because it turned them into actual cannibals.

Anyway, In the Heart of the Sea is filled with fascinating details and accounts from men who survived to tell the tale. I suppose there are a lot of lessons to be pulled from its pages, chief among them being poor decision-making and the Captain taking the advice of his men after they lost the Essex. He should have been an authoritarian in that instance and told his crew to make way for Tahiti. But because Pollard was a green captain, he took into consideration all the superstitions and fears of his men and made a bad decision that cost many people their lives.

Now, I'm excited to watch the movie, which came out in 2015. I just hope it's as good as the book, but it probably won't be. Such things rarely are, and Ron Howard (director) is really hit and miss with book adaptations and movies in general.

Monday, May 14, 2018

These Dark Knight prints by artist Mark Chilcott capture the essence of their subjects rather well.

I subscribe to Bottleneck Gallery's newsletter, and I've bought some art prints from them in the past. The prints are usually numbered, which makes them somewhat collectible, and they usually come in a 10" x 14" size, which makes them great for framing. They are also done in giclée, which is a format for fine art digital prints that's made on inkjet printers that have more than just the CMYK color palette (think CcMmYK and you've got the picture). And yeah, it's easy to burn through ink on printers like this. They really aren't affordable to use unless you've got a ton of money to be out buying ink. It's further aggravated by the fact that you need to print pretty regularly on your inkjet printer or your nozzles will plug up/dry out, so they really are only useful for businesses that do a lot of printing because they can charge enough money for the prints to easily replace the ink on an as needed basis.

Anyway, Bottleneck Gallery's newsletter this last Friday was all about The Batman and some new prints that artist Mark Chilcott licensed for reproduction. I used to love the Batman so much. I still love his stories, but I've gotten to appreciate the Marvel stuff a lot more than I used to thanks to Marvel movies that have made me a huge fan. However, below are some of my favorite prints that they now have for sale. The rain is perfect for the Batman and always has been (to be honest). I don't know how many Detective Comics I've read that had art that took place in the rain. It seems like all the good ones did. The Batman was made for the rain, and lightning. It is a testament of Frank Miller's genius to realize this when he reinvented The Batman decades ago for The Dark Knight Returns, forever putting an end to the silly campiness of the character that extended forward from Adam West's Batman television series.
This is the Batman at his dreariest, staring down at an urban landscape that is devoid of any of the things that indicate wealth or happiness. It is the home of humanity's garbage, where people struggle to squeeze out a living under the dreariness of a sky devoid of color. It also sets the tone and mood of the character, who lost both his parents in an alleyway framed by buildings while it was raining. The fact that evil events and rain seem to go hand in hand is no coincidence in Batman stories.
I love this picture because it's a fun park that isn't quite so fun right now because it's obviously been abandoned. It also may be a place where the Batman comes across his old foe, the Joker. But it just as well could be a funhouse mannequin of some kind. It's difficult to tell, but the art manages to broadcast this sinister feelings from this encounter rather well.
I love the bold use of green and yellow in this Poison Ivy tribute. It seems appropriate to have the Batman villain posing in the woods that (to the naked eye) look very inviting. The fact that she's mostly a silhouette is a hint that not all is as it seems and that what we don't see can actually be deadly.
Penguin is a peculiar villain, and I like that Mark Chilcott drew him in a snowy setting. Penguins are birds that like the cold and the ice, so the symbolism is appropriate. One thing I love about this particular picture is the positioning of the streetlamps in the background. Every single one is lit except for the one directly above the Penguin.

There are other prints that Bottleneck Gallery posted for Mark's offering on the Dark Knight. If you have time, you should head over there and check them out.

Do you have a favorite of the ones I've shown you here today?

Friday, May 11, 2018

I love this Mondo poster for A Wrinkle in Time.

I don't remember much of my reading of A Wrinkle in Time that I performed when I was a kid. I remember it was a weird book, and that it started out with "It was a dark and stormy night." It's had a resurgence thanks to the movie, and I've felt like buying a hardcover edition from Barnes and Noble that features the trilogy in one nicely bound volume. Another thing that's come along recently is this poster that I found over on Mondo's website (I occasionally check this space for new posters). It's $65.00, but there's something about the colors that make me really kind of want it. A lot. Anyway, for Friday's post, I'm sharing it with you. See you on the far side of Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Let's talk about Tony Stark for a moment.

I know that everyone is talking about Avengers: Infinity War everywhere, but I honestly just wanted to talk about one more thing before I lay it to rest. And there is a spoiler warning here for those of you who have not seen it because it would ruin the movie for you if you read further. So please avoid this post if this is the case.

I have deep empathy and sorrowful feelings for Tony Stark. Yes, I know he's a fictional character, but this guy is one of the most beat up heroes that I have ever seen. In Civil War, he learned that his parents were murdered by the Winter Soldier and that his close friend knew about it and kept it from him on purpose. Then, he goes and starts this amazing friendship with a kid and then he starts talking to Pepper Potts about them having children only to have this kid, Peter Parker, killed in front of him. If that isn't a perfect reminder that he should never have kids, I don't know what is. And then (of course) there's the whole, "I failed to stop Thanos and now half the universe is dead because of it" thing that you just damn well know he's going to internalize all on his own. He's going to blame himself for the entirety of the Snapture, because that's what his character would do.

If HBO's The Leftovers taught any of us anything, it's that having a huge event like the Snapture suddenly "happen" will cause those who survive to have a "Guilty Remnant" kind of complex. They'll stand around and ask the eternal question: why was I spared? And why did this happen? Tony (for sure) is going to have these feelings, and I think it's going to go beyond any PTSD definition. I actually have no idea what happens with his character next. Right now he's broken, but pushed beyond that? Is there a classification for that? Insanity maybe.

Out of all the superhero survivors in the Avengers, I think Tony is the most beaten down, and the most likely to end up losing his mind. I just wonder what the implications of all that are going to be. For the record books and to any writer out there who is watching all of this play out, this is a perfect example of "torture your darlings" in action. But this particular story arc is extremely painful to watch.

Monday, May 7, 2018

I'm not really on board with the time travel element featured in SyFy's Krypton series.

There may be a few spoilers ahead in this discussion of SyFy's Krypton series.

I've been watching SyFy's Krypton for a little while now, and I think it's pretty good. It has a pretty solid storyline, good acting, and (visually) it looks quite good for a television series. It has the same production values that go into say, an episode of Game of Thrones, The Expanse, or Lost in Space (on Netflix). The only thing I quite don't like about it is the time travel element. I'm just wondering why they needed a time travel element to begin with. The whole, "We need to tie this to Superman" seems unnecessary, and I wonder if it was a prerequisite for getting this thing "greenlit" in the first place. Thus far, the Superman cloak has been used to some effect as an hourglass of all things. But it's not like the writers haven't tried to cram other things heavily associated with the Superman mythos into the early episodes of this series. For example, they've featured everything from a "Fortress of Solitude" to the crest of the House of El and the House of Zod in just about every scene that they could crush them into (which I really don't mind), and even going so far as to superimpose them together on the front of a door that conceals the ultimate weapon of mass destruction: a frozen (and presumed hibernating) Doomsday.

But if there is one thing that bugs me about the series, it's the time travel element (as mentioned before). It's not so much that I don't like Adam Strange popping up with said cloak to warn the citizens of Krypton and the ancestor of Superman (specifically), but it is that Krypton seems to now have had a choice in its terrible fate that sealed its doom. I don't like that everything (now) in Superman's entire history seems to come down to choices. There's something to be said in favor of serendipity or for just plain bad luck. There's something to be said in defense of absolute chaos just becoming a wrecking ball for a titanic civilization and sending it scattering among the stars, the last son of Krypton being the most famous among them.

If you aren't following the series, the premise is simple: Krypton blew up because Brainiac scooped up the City of Kandor (this is how it becomes the Bottle City of Kandor), which is a move that ultimately destabilized the core of the world and resulted in it going "kaboom" about two hundred years later (the start of the Superman story). That's a great setting for a television series, and I like it quite a bit. Why oh why did they feel it necessary to have time travelers insert themselves into this timeline to give warning to key individuals so that now it is a choice? "You know Krypton's fate now, and if we do something about it, not only will your famous great grandson somehow not make it to Earth, but Krypton may not be doomed!" My point is (I think) pretty simple: the writers had a rich history that they could have explored. But this whole thing with knowing Krypton's fate and being able to do something about it just kind of rubs me wrong. Of course, it's going to go badly, and that's what the story is obviously about or it wouldn't be true to decades worth of Superman comics. But did us Superman fans really need to know that it was a choice?

Maybe I'm just ranting at this point because I don't like the implication of a huge history coming down to choices. People (including superhuman fictional people) shouldn't be able to choose the most important forces that shape their lives. It isn't realistic. Chaos finds a way, and it's in this chaotic element of story-making that we find the most inspirational stories. Structuring and controlling everything just seems to suck all the fun out of things.

Friday, May 4, 2018

My friend Tony Hale is a Marvel fanatic and all around fun guy and he's got some keen observations about the Infinity War aftermath which I'm sharing with you.

Okay, Avengers: Infinity War is now over. As for spoiler warnings, you should have seen it by now. If not, well you probably shouldn't read this post, because it's talking about the aftermath of said Infinity War.

Introduction (by me):
First off, Infinity War happened even if we want to say it didn't happen because of all the bad feels. Sometimes evil just wins, and Thanos owned the Avengers in a way that was more than just defeat. He broke the Avengers, probably summed up best with Captain America's last line in the movie as he realized what Thanos had just done and uttered, "Oh God." And we are all (every one of us that reads this blog) aware that Marvel and Disney are not just going to close the books on this one, because if they did, there would be worldwide outrage. As it stands there are support groups forming (I've been invited to one) where people are openly discussing and talking about the trauma caused by Infinity War. We know this isn't the end of the story though, even if it is breaking the fourth wall (like Deadpool). There is no way that cash cows like Spider-Man and Black Panther are staying dead. So accepting this fact, let's move forward and discuss not when or if it should indeed happen, but why it should happen.

Observations by Tony Hale:
Why should the events of Infinity War be reversible? This is an excellent question.

Look, Thanos won each infinity stone through force or sacrifice...all except the time stone, which he bargained for with Doctor Strange. The time stone was also in a protective bubble when he gained it, whereas all the other stones were touched to stone per se. This was peculiar, and I doubt it was a random lens flare. Observe: earlier in the movie, Vision makes an off hand comment about the "entity" or "being" in the mind stone warning him. Could this imply that the stones have some intelligence to them? If we can agree that "yes" the stones do have an intelligence to them, then this is a big deal. Allow me to explain.

I think that this means the stones "choose" their wielders to some degree. If that's the case, then I think that it's possible that by not vanquishing the owner--Doctor Strange--that Thanos failed to truly gain power over the stone.

And while we are at it, let us consider Doctor Strange himself. The enigmatic Sorcerer Supreme said early on in the movie (inside the doughnut-shaped spaceship that channeled Prometheus in a big way) that he would, "not hesitate to sacrifice either Tony Stark or Peter Parker for the time stone." This seemed very harsh, and Doctor Strange said it with brutal conviction. I don't think he said it because he wanted to be an asshole to either Stark or Peter, but because he meant it in the bottom of his gut.  The time stone was far too valuable, and Doctor Strange was a good enough guy that he wanted them both to realize he didn't (ultimately) have their back.

However, all of this somehow goes out the window when Stark gets stabbed by Thanos and Thanos is just about to kill Stark. Strange stops him by offering up the time stone for Tony Stark's life. Thanos, always a man of his word, accepts the exchange and then disappears. When Stark asks Doctor Strange why he did that...Doctor Strange replies, "We are entering the end game now" and even later, "Tony, you must trust me, because this was the only way."

These are all fascinating events that I have pondered about all weekend. For one, it makes me think that it's possible that Doctor Strange still has control, to some degree, over the time stone, even though his body is "gone." Remember, Doctor Strange can project himself into the astral plane. If I'm right, then this could be the key to Thanos's downfall. I seems logical that Doctor Strange knows exactly what is happening, and that out of the fourteen million plus possibilities he saw using the time stone's power, that he has made a choice that put them on the correct path to being able to beat Thanos.

My observations regarding the Hulk in Infinity War

In our conversation, my friend Tony was disappointed by only one thing with Infinity War, and it was this: "Not enough Hulk."

So what was going on with that? I think the directors were doing two things. First off, they wanted to show how terrifying Thanos was by making the (arguably) most terrifying Avenger afraid to fight Thanos after he opens an ass-kicking clinic on him before the opening credits of the movie. But could there be another side to this?

Here's a theory that is less obvious that I came up with on my own: the Hulk has respect issues with Banner. See, Hulk just came from a place where he was loved and wanted. This taught Hulk an important lesson: that he isn't loved and wanted with the Avengers. Instead of showing him appreciation, they use him for his strength and then immediately try to send him away. Personally, I think that Banner needs to apologize to Hulk and tell him that he needs him before it's ever going to get better. I expect this to happen in the Avengers 4 next May.

So there you have it. Have any of you come up with observations about the movie that you'd care to share in the comments below?