Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm dreading the eclipse but I'm still going to try and watch it.

I've decided that I'm heading to the zone of totality for the eclipse that's scheduled to pass over the United States on Monday, August 21st. So I'll be pausing my blog until Wednesday of next week. You may wonder why this wasn't a "set" thing, and it's because I've been dreading the eclipse the more and more I hear about it. Driving there is going to be a real conundrum.

My hometown is in the zone of totality, but it's a town of only 50,000 people. And they are expecting half a million to try and drive from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls this weekend. The local news has been saying that porta potties are going to be available on interstate 15 for the first time in history. Why? Because apparently the traffic jam is going to make Los Angeles traffic look heavenly in comparison. Reports are saying that people may run out of gas on the interstate (idling) as it were and that you should take food and extra gas tanks just in case. The trip to I.F. normally takes about three and a half hours. They are saying on the news to prepare (just in case) for something that takes twice as long.

Additionally, in my home town, the grocery stores sold out of food. Milk, groceries, bananas, you name it... Crowds hit the grocery store hard on Monday in a panic. Lines went around the block at every food outlet and gas station. All because of a solar eclipse and people questioning whether or not they will be able to get supplies.

This may be one of the worst decisions I've ever made. But I'd like to see the eclipse, and I already have glasses for it. I want to see the sun's corona live. I think it will leave me with a sense of awe. I hope it doesn't cloud out. If the weatherman says it will be obscured by cloud cover, I'm going to stay home. I bet there's a lot of pressure on the local weather people here to get the forecast for Monday just right.

Anyway, to anyone else out there that's trying to make the trip, I wish you good luck. See you on the far side of the shadow.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Five assorted musings regarding the Eastwatch episode of Game of Thrones

"Eastwatch" as envisioned by Ted Nasmith. It actually looked a lot like this in the episode last night.
This week's episode of Game of Thrones seems to have set up a pretty strong White Walker episode. And for what it's worth, it was a good episode in its own right. Here are my assorted musings that I took away from the episode (and feel like pointing out):

1) I thought for sure that Jaime Lannister had his goose cooked and drowned last week when he fell into that lake. How Bron saved him other than it being "plot armor" is beyond me. But I suppose that Bron has proven himself time and time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to the Lannisters. For what it's worth, I think that the showrunner of Game of Thrones understands George R.R. Martin very well. George typically cliffhangs something in the books, making you think that something important has happened (Arya being blind for instance). And then when the tale resumes, it's just a minor thing and resolved within a couple of minutes.

2) I was pleased to see that Drogon didn't die from a poisoned harpoon. I'm also not really sure why Tyrion and Varys are making such a big deal of Daenerys burning her enemies when they clearly chose that fate as opposed to bending the knee. I would have bent the knee immediately, but then again, I would find little honor in allowing myself to be burned alive by dragonfire. There's bravery and then there's just plain stupidity. I did like how Dickon stood with his father though. They held hands at the end. That was a nice touch.

3) I'm not sure what Jon Snow hopes to accomplish with his little band that are headed north of the wall to capture a wight and bring it down to a meeting between the queens. They may find that the magic that animates the wights doesn't work over a great distance from the Night King. I think that someone should have at least mentioned that possibility...that it might have some kind of range they don't know about. Also, it's strange that the maesters at the Citadel still have such a hard time swallowing Samwell's tale about the Night King and the army of the dead. Are learned men really that skeptical in a world where dragons are real?

4) Cersei has nothing to win by helping out Jon Snow to take on the Night King. I'm not sure why even trying to convince her that an invasion of walking dead men is real is even a strategy. If she admits that it's real, then she loses any support of locals in Westeros who will march north to fight the army of the dead with Daenerys. How does that at all solidify her position? It doesn't. It only weakens it, which means that even having a meeting with her is at best a waste of time and at worst, incredibly dangerous.

5) Littlefinger knows Arya is following him and manipulated her into finding that raven message. My guess is that it's from season one, when Sansa was forced to write to Robb to try and get him to bend the knee to King Joffrey. Splitting up Sansa and Arya (sowing doubt between them) is in Littlefinger's best interest as together, they are too strong for him.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Do you have any assorted musings you'd like to share in the comments below?

Friday, August 11, 2017

I shouldn't have to pay to see the new Star Trek series airing this fall and yes this is a rant.

I just want to say once and for all that cord cutters, greed, and the twisted idea that monopolies are somehow inherently bad are (in the very near future) going to nickel and dime the middle class to death. A man (or a woman) should be able to subscribe to cable and get all the channels. It should be easy. That's it. Done. One bill. Yes, all monopolies are not bad people. Sometimes monopolies can get things done efficiently and with government regulation, can make it so that they aren't too powerful.

But in this country of "greed is good" where everyone is punching each other's lights out to fleece the middle class, I am now faced with the following dilemma:

1) I need to subscribe to cable so that I can watch episodes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Legion, Better Call Saul, Shameless, and American Gods live (as they air).

2) I need to maintain an Amazon subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Man in the High Castle."

3) I need to maintain a Hulu subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Handmaid's Tale."

4) I need to maintain a Netflix subscription so that I can watch shows like "Luke Cage" and "Jessica Jones" and "The Defenders."

5) I will need to maintain a CBS All Access subscription in order to watch "Star Trek: Discovery" this fall. This is complete bullshit by the way. I should be able to get this from CBS for free.

6) I will need to maintain a Disney subscription because they just announced that they are going to have their own streaming service and are pulling all of their stuff off Netflix. Why the hell not? Everyone else is making money with their streaming service, I'm surprised it took Disney this long. So I guess for any new Star Wars series or Indiana Jones thing or Pixar or just plain old Disney movies, I'll need to have a streaming service for it.

Sigh.

Everything (AND I MEAN EVERYTHING) is going to this model of pay as you go. The problem is, this will keep you on a treadmill forever. You will never get ahead with pay as you go. Ever.

/End Rant

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Here are two burning questions I have about the Spoils of War episode of Game of Thrones

This last Sunday, the fourth episode of Game of Thrones' penultimate season aired called "The Spoils of War." As episodes go, it was a really good one with (spoiler alert) a battle that "set the Guinness Book of World Records" for most people set on fire at once. The last twenty minutes or so of the episode are thoroughly entertaining. But having watched those last twenty minutes over again, I have some questions (or maybe it would be better to say "observations" that are certainly open-ended and just waiting for some answers). So, I'll share them with you:

1) Why is the harpoon chucker that got Drogon in the shoulder called a "scorpion?" A scorpion has a poisoned tail as most people know. Was the ballista harpoon poisoned with one of Qyburn's deadly cocktails? He's already demonstrated quite the skill at manipulating and recreating poisons. I can't believe that the whole parade in front of the Dornish queen in the dungeons of King's Landing was simply to showboat how Cersei intended to kill one of the Sand snakes. So, are we about to see Drogon sicken and then die? I would hate that, but she does have two more dragons, and I suppose there's an irony to being wounded in the shoulder and then dying the same as his namesake, Khal Drogo.

2) Why did Arya end up with the Valyrian steel dagger? If she was going to kill more people, she hardly needs a Valyrian steel dagger to do that. Just about any dagger will do. The thing about Valyrian steel is that it's useful against White Walkers. Guys...I think this detail in the show is important. I think we've just seem some foreshadowing that Arya is going to kill the Night King and most likely take his place as the leader of the White Walkers--a "Night Queen" as it were. What do you think?

Anyway, those are my two questions/observations I had regarding the episode. I'll be interested to see what those of you (who watched it and care to respond) have to say. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Comic artist George Rottkamp gives us a snarky look at how the characters in Game of Thrones have changed in seven seasons.

Game of Thrones season 7 is on the downhill slide to its finale now. My friend, Meg Dolan, sent me a group of comics drawn for Dorkly by artist George Rottkamp. They feature everybody from Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen, and if you're a fan of the show, then you'll probably smile. It's odd to see just how the characters have changed in seven seasons, especially when taken in this kind of context.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Dark Tower was an excellent popcorn flick. Just keep your expectations in check when you watch it.

Last night, best friend Brad Habegger and myself decided to take a portal to mid-land in search of The Dark Tower. We both had low expectations. While at dinner, we talked over how Stephen King's movies (with a few rare exceptions) are pretty terrible. We also knew that The Dark Tower was getting panned by critics because (for the most part) people were expecting a direct adaptation of the books, and the director chose to tell the story from the point of view of Jake Chambers (which isn't how it is in the books). In adapting the story to film, they chose Jake because they felt he would be more relatable to an audience (having come from Earth). And inevitably, this decision ended up angering a bunch of die-hard fans. Both Brad and I were fans of the books (he's more of a die-hard one, and I merely think they are "good" reads), but we were both pleasantly surprised. Brad even said it was "excellent," which I definitely agree with. Maybe the key here was that we went in with such low expectations there was only one way to go (and that was up). Anyway, in my viewing of the movie, it may help you to appreciate it more if I point out some obvious "Easter Eggs" which end up serving as connections to Stephen King's other works:

1) There are the remains of Pennywise's Carnival in mid-world. Pennywise is the clown from IT, which has a movie adaptation coming out in September.

2) There is a framed photo of the "Overlook Hotel" that can be glimpsed inside Jake's psychiatrist's office. The Overlook Hotel was featured prominently in Stanley Kubrik's adaptation of The Shining, which Stephen King apparently hated. Honestly, I don't think Stephen King knows what he's talking about when it comes to film adaptations of his stories. He should just stick to writing.

3) Walter O'Dim/Walter Paddick/Randall Flagg (the man in black) has a group of psychic-powered kids working on his behalf. If you remember from The Shining, the kid, Danny, had "The Shine." This term is used explicitly in this manner to draw a connection to Stanley Kubrik's film.

4) There's a shot of Roland approaching a doorway covered with a poster that was also seen in The Shawshank Redemption, which is a good film by the way. Andy Dufresne used it to cover his escape route out of the prison.

5) There's a non-rabid Cujo in the film (a huge Saint Bernard) in a shot of a street in New York City.

6) There's a tiny model car that gets pushed around that's a dead ringer for the car in Christine.

And here's an additional fact that may help you to understand what's going on in the film if you choose to go and see it:

1) Who is the Crimson King? Though you never see him, the Crimson King is the guy for whom Walter works. He is the primary antagonist of King's eight-volume Dark Tower series and the archetypical embodiment of evil. His father was King Arthur, which essentially makes him a half uncle of Roland (the Gunslinger).

Overall, I'd advise you to lower your expectations for the film, and then it will be enjoyable for you. It's a fantasy that has a lot of fun with itself, borrowing heavily from all the books except for Wizard and Glass. In particular, The Wastelands plays prominently in this adaptation. So having enjoyed the film, I guess I'm now in "wait and see" mode, wondering just own on earth they are going to make a television series for it this fall (based on the movie). I mean, the movie did have a pretty complete story arc. I guess we'll all see when it happens.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The IWSG post for August 2017 is all about the pet peeves.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again. If you want to know more about this blog fest started by sci-fi author, Alex Cavanaugh, go HERE.

Here is the August 2nd Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

1) In reading, it's just having to read something that isn't interesting to me. And I'm not even sure if I can tell you what is interesting and what isn't. There's more (or less) a feeling that comes over me that "this is going to be good." If I don't get that feeling, I usually read to about page 75 or 100 to try and see if it develops. When it doesn't, I feel like I've wasted my time. So yeah, that's my pet peeve with reading.

2) In writing, my pet peeve is forgetting details about characters and plot. I should have a better memory. But then again, I forget how to spell words that I swore to myself (when I was in high school) that I'd never get wrong. Growing older is like having micro insults sneak up and pepper your ego by taking away small things that you used to take for granted. Over time, I'm sure they all add up to one big thing (but thankfully that's still a few decades down the road).

3) In editing, my pet peeve is getting bored with my own writing. At this stage, I've probably gone over the same words a dozen times, but I know that there's still more I can do. The tedium sets in and then I start looking for distractions. Eventually, I get the job done, but not without thorough procrastination. It's definitely a pet peeve. I applaud you writers who have the discipline of a Shao Lin monk. You are amazing, and you definitely deserve all the buckets of money that you make at your career.

Thanks for coming by, and I hope you liked my list of pet peeves :). 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dunkirk left me a little shell-shocked which is to say that it's an incredible film.

What to say about Dunkirk?

I really knew nothing about this part of history going into the movie. I decided to go and watch it in IMAX, because Christopher Nolan never half-asses anything and I knew that if this film was going to be released in IMAX, that it would be filmed for that particular screen in the highest definition film possible. That's just how Christopher Nolan does things. The effect was visceral, explosive, thrilling, and got me so emotionally invested in this film that I want to see it again.

And this movie...is it a movie?...was so different from anything else I have ever seen that it felt more like an experience to me. You know how you can go to Harry Potter world and get your own Harry Potter experience with magic wands that light things up? You know how you can go to Disney World now and visit Pandora? It felt a lot like that.

There are no main characters in Dunkirk. I actually don't recall anything except for one boy's name who was in a lot of the scenes, but he certainly didn't have any more dialogue than anyone else. I know Kenneth Branagh was there looking amazing in his English navy uniform. Harry Styles was there too (playing a French soldier) along with Cilian Murphy and Tom Hardy (Christopher Nolan regulars). The really weird thing is, I felt like I was there too. About the only thing that breaks the notion of me being there is the presence of the music...a masterful soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer. I realize that in real life, there's no soundtrack following me around adding tension or romance to scenes, but if that kind of thing did exist it wouldn't be a bad choice to go with Hans Zimmer. The man knows how to score a scene (even the really long ones).

I think Dunkirk is visual poetry. It's taking an event and presenting it with all of its chaos and inter-moving parts and characters, somehow throwing it all into a mixing bowl, and then laying it out again yet somehow it all works. Despite not knowing any of the characters backstory or their names, I found that I cared what happened to them. Nolan made me believe that the ships that kept getting sunk by the German planes were so real that I felt a little shell shock. As brave soldiers died by getting trapped in sinking hulls, I felt the same tension in my lungs (and the longing for a breath of air) if just for a moment. Somehow...Nolan was able to connect with me (and others in the theater) to form a strange empathy with all of us to the point that I don't think there was a single person present that had any other thoughts except the story.

Dunkirk (at least for me) captured 100% of my attention.

If you haven't seen it, you really should go. Pay for an IMAX ticket. It's worth the price.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dark Matter on SyFy is actually a really good science fiction space opera that you should be watching.

Dark Matter is actually a pretty good show. I've been a fan for some time now, but when I first watched, I admit that I was skeptical. How would six total strangers waking up with no memory of who they are even end up somewhere remotely fun? I guess my imagination just didn't see a future for it. It didn't see the "humanity in the future" potential that it currently is. So boy, was I wrong.

I love every episode that involves time travel, groundhog day, and being in the past. The Yoshida as emperor arc was really interesting. They've even got a character now that has lost her corporeal body and exists entirely within the matrix of the ship's computer database. Oh and "The Blink Drive" is really cool. And let's not forget that the crew of the Raza has duplicates now from another dimension. The list goes on and on for the wonderful things that the show's creators are bringing to SyFy on a regular basis. If I had to describe it to a roleplayer from the eighties and nineties, I'd say, "It's like 'Shadowrun' in space, but without magic."

If you haven't gotten into the show yet, most of the early episodes rotate around the afore-mentioned self-discovery theme, which can get kind of boring. The real magic started to happen when the show's characters learned about who they were, and then we get to watch as they like less and less of themselves or their ship mates (as a result).

Another thing that I continue to like about the show is that the Raza set looks amazing. And, it's not an "aliens of the week" kind of show that Star Trek oftentimes found itself in. Sure, there are a few stereotypes...the Asian swordmaster comes to mind. But the writing is really solid and the actors are some of the best I've seen in years. It kind of reminds me of the way I felt about Battlestar Galactica about a decade ago.

I think the whole first season is on Netflix, and if you are looking for a great show to watch I highly recommend that you set aside time and just binge. Also, this is not a "people in a bottle" series, which you can easily get confused into thinking that it is. Stick with it, and you shall be rewarded.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The new Spider-Man cartoon on Disney XD has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe to it.

I think I'm gonna have to start watching the new Spider-Man cartoon that's coming to Disney XD on August 19th. Below is one of the shorts they've released. It's engineered at getting his origin story out of the way so that they can just go straight to adventuring (a splendid idea since most everyone that even likes Spider-man knows how he got his powers).

Given Disney's deep pockets, I am a little bit dismayed that this animation looks only marginally better than the Avengers and Hulk cartoons...meaning that it looks like it has a budget to rival the cost of a Wendy's value meal. But, I guess I could always give it one or two episodes and if the writing matches the animation, then stop watching. One criticism that I have with the animation is that there's little to no shading. That's something any artist learns pretty quickly in art school (of any kind). For some it just comes naturally. Shading in animation must be hard. However, there is one thing I kinda do like about the animation: it has a vaguely modernized 1980's vibe that reminds me of old Dungeons and Dragons cartoons.

But maybe that's a bad thing.... Oh nostalgia, thou art so powerful.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Was Brandon Stark in control of Nymeria in Game of Thrones' Stormborn?

In "Stormborn," the second episode of Game of Thrones seventh season, the most interesting occurrence might have happened in the woods with no one around but Arya. The scene unfolded like thus: Arya was by a campfire, her horse tethered to a tree or bush slightly behind her, when it became clear that the horse was becoming more and more agitated. Wolves started to show up, and they circled her as if guided by something that had commanded them into some kind of formation.

Before too long, a giant dire wolf showed up. All of us jumped to the conclusion that this was Nymeria, Arya's long lost wolf from season one episode 2, when she was forced to chase it into the woods to avoid a killing by order of the Queen (for having bit Joffrey). Sansa's wolf (still a pup) was put down and suffered the fate that was intended for Nymeria. I'd long wondered if that wolf had some part to play, and I suppose with its introduction, the writers are saying that it definitely does.

Arya of course, tried to talk to the wolf to get it to recognize her. She said, "Nymeria, it's me, Arya." And the wolf seemed to recognize her because it left along with its pack of much smaller wolves. Arya wanted Nymeria to follow her to the north, and there was disappointment at first as the dire wolf left. However, then there was something that I didn't quite understand that happened. I had to watch it twice to be sure. Arya says, "That wasn't you." Then she has this look of understanding that crosses her face.

I think what happened is that Arya has spent so much time in the presence of followers of the Many-Faced God that she believes she saw something in Nymeria's eyes. I think that person was Brandon Stark, who is now south of the wall, probably feeling safe, and exploring the world through his warging/three-eyed raven powers. I think Bran saw Arya through the wolf's eyes, and she recognized him. Maybe not enough to put a name to it, but it certainly would explain the wolf formation and the absolute command that the dire wolf seemed to have over its pack.

Anyway, this is just a theory (one of my own that's not from the internet). But it's just possible that we saw how Brandon expects to use his power to help out his family.

What do you guys think?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

People who I would consider marginalized by society love Cersei Lannister and I find that horrifying.

I've been noticing a strange phenomenon since the season 7 premiere of HBO's Game of Thrones this weekend: people whom I would consider "marginalized" are professing love for Cersei Lannister. Before I get into that, let me define "marginalized" and what it means for me. They are people who harbor bitter attitudes just beneath the surface (regarding their poverty, sexual currency, or overall lot in life). In my experience, marginalized people blame everything BUT themselves for any of their failures. Just to be clear...I'm not saying that society hasn't put its foot on the backs of these people. But in my life's wisdom, there's usually a combination of things that lead a person into a downward spiral of "bottoming out," and one of them certainly can be racism, prejudice, or other ills created and spread by society. But that is also (rarely) the only thing that's going on. But why the bitterness? Well...when you grow up being told that you are a special unique snowflake, and it doesn't turn out that way (rather, maybe the opposite ends up being true) then it's easy to see why some people might be bitter about that. The rub is that (as adults) we can't show our bitterness unless we want to have no friends at all. So people learn coping skills to hide all that bitterness and rage beneath a shallow smile so that (to most onlookers) they appear like a normal human being.

Anyway, all of the above is old news to anyone that has gotten to know a decent sample size of the human race. The adult lot is full of "disappointed dreamers" who feel emotionally (and perhaps socially) castrated and unappreciated for their greatness. What I find interesting though, is how many of them identify with the character of Cersei Lannister, perhaps one of the most notorious psychopaths in fiction. Not only that, but they admire her for her strength and dedication. When I found this out through several conversations, I was horrified and fascinated at the same time. Their reaction to my horror was priceless, because many of them didn't think it was bad to have admiration for a mass murderer. Another interesting fact: all of my samples are liberals. Yeah. These are people who want free health care for all, universal basic income for all, feel that the world would be a better place if love was everywhere and everyone had multiple sex partners and could stay stoned/high all the time so that there was only pleasure and no pain. Yes...these same people profess admiration for a woman that burned all of her enemies alive in wildfire and destroyed the entire Sept of Balor (the Westerosi equivalent of Vatican city). I was floored.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cersei Lannister, she's a Machiavellian ruler who has stopped at nothing when it comes to seizing her throne. Her last living child even committed suicide because of the horrors that Cersei inflicted, and she hardly batted an eyelash. She even twisted his actions saying, "He betrayed me," as if in those three words it was completely okay that your son committed suicide by throwing himself to his death. If the murdering wasn't bad enough, she's tortured people to death or given them over as rewards to undead monsters to rape and enjoy, and she's had an incestuous relationship with her brother her entire life (while married to the king whom she cuckolded gladly). The list of her horrible traits is a mile long, and I thought for sure that there was nothing to admire there. Yet, it seems, if you are feeling "oppressed" in any way, she's probably the character you like most.

It makes me wonder why. The answer may be simple: oppressed people like Cersei because they wish that they could do what Cersei did to her enemies. And that single thought terrifies me. It's made me look at these liberal "friends" in a different light and made me realize, "Hey...I have different values than these people. There's no way I could do the things that Cersei Lannister has done. I'm just not that kind of person."

There's so much anger and hatred in this country that it feels like it's oozing through the polite cracks everywhere. I saw it on the political right first, but now I'm seeing it on the political left as well. It's been a real wake-up call, and it makes me worried for the future. I suppose a television series like Game of Thrones really does have something for everyone, and it should be a reminder to us all that evil makes a flower bed of anger and grows quite nicely if it is ignored.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Here are my thoughts on the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones.

I loved the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones last night on HBO. But there are a few things that bug me with the gap in time between seasons. I mean obviously...there has to have been some time (a month maybe) for Daenerys to sail to Dragonstone with her fleet. If I'm being generous...perhaps three months at sea? So in that time I'm expected to swallow a few of the following (which I did...but I'm kind of complaining about the time compression here):

1) Euron Greyjoy built a thousand ships. Yara and Theon stole all of Euron's good ships, so he had his men go about building more. It seems to me that a thousand ships would be a tall order. They sure as hell slapped those suckers together fast. I mean...the Iron Folk are experts at sailing, but it just makes me wonder how they could put together so many ships in so little time.

2) How did Jorah get all the way to Old Town? I suppose he left Daenerys in the desert so there was enough time that passed. But why did he go to Old Town? I thought for sure he'd go back to the woman that wore the veil in front of her face that we met in season two that said she knew of a cure for greyscale (Jorah's disease). It's disturbing how much of it has progressed, by the way.

3) Why is Jaime Lannister not furious with Cersei? I didn't expect the banter between them to go with such civility. I mean she's a psychopathic murderer whose directly responsible for one of his son's deaths. I don't know why he didn't just strangle the life out of her in last night's episode.

Now onto some assorted musings about the premiere:

1) The White Walkers have undead giants. I wasn't expecting that, and it was a nice touch. Mark my word...before it is all over, Lady Mormont will kill one of those single-handedly.

2) Euron had the balls to mock Jaime Lannister in the throne room in front of Cersei. "I have two good hands." That was hilarious.

3) The Hound has really won me over as someone that has a good heart. I never expected that of him. He has a tremendous amount of empathy for the small folk, and he's swiftly becoming a favorite character.

What about you? Any assorted musings you'd care to share from your watching of the "most-watched television series of all time?"

Friday, July 14, 2017

These are the four shows I'm most interested in watching during Shark Week 2017.

On July 23rd, Shark Week 2017 takes off, and I've already got the schedule of the shows I'm going to watch. There are 18 programs in total that will air on Discovery channel. Below are the details of the four I'm most interested in (and they air early in the week):

Sunday, July 23rd
Great White Shark Serial Killer Lives: Shark experts Ralph Collier and Cal Lutheran, using satellite tags and DNA technology, think that the same great white returns again and again to a certain beach in California to attack people. This interests me simply because I've long suspected that great white sharks are diabolically intelligent.

Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White: Michael Phelps with 23 Olympic gold medals under his belt takes on a great white shark in a race that he's probably going to lose, but it will still be entertaining as hell.

Shark-Croc Showdown: Of course this is happening in Australia...land of the 14-foot crocodiles. Anyway, this promises to show what happens when 14-foot crocodiles move into shark infested waters.


Monday, July 24th
Return to the Isle of Jaws: Divers and scientists seek to unlock the mysteries of the new great white hot spot just south of Western Australia. The episode promises a discovery that's 1) startling and 2) will make everyone rethink everything we thought we knew about great whites.

There are a few others peppered here and there that sound kind of interesting. I most likely will be checking them out simply because there aren't a whole lot of options available on television in the summer. Anyway, are any of you planning on watching "Shark Week 2017?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Here are my six predictions for season seven of Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones resumes its march toward oblivion with the season 7 premiere this Sunday. To say that I'm excited is to understate things quite a bit. I've waited years for this story to finish, and I'm finally going to begin to see who are the best players to win the throne and how on earth are the survivors going to deal with the White Walkers and the Night's King. Here are my predictions:

1) Cersei will die by Jaime Lannister's hands. Part of this is simply because George R.R. Martin (if anything) is unpredictable. But he's so unpredictable that he's kind of become predictable. There's lots of foreshadowing that Tyrion is probably going to kill Cersei. I don't think that's how things will shake out, because that would be predictable. With that in mind, I think Jaime will strangle Cersei to death (remember the prophecy of the fortune teller in season five?), mostly because in the books he's clearly appalled at the monster Cersei has become, and I think that will carry forth into the show as well. He already viewed her with disgust after returning to King's Landing and seeing what she had done to destroy the Sept of Balor. Additionally, it's well within his right to say that Cersei's actions to destroy the Sept of Balor directly resulted in Tommen's death (Jaime's son). Honestly, it's not much of a stretch to go from "Kingslayer" to "Kinslayer." After all, Tyrion did it first.

2) Sansa will turn against Jon probably because of Littlefinger. Sansa is an unpopular main character. I for one will freely admit that I've found her chapters in George's books to be tedious. She's only become interesting in the last couple of seasons. I also think that she's a little bit resentful that she saved Jon's life by soliciting the Knights of the Vale to come to his aid in order to take Winterfell. Without them, Ramsay would have won and everyone would have been dead. Instead they all called Jon, "The King in the North." In her own words, Sophie Turner (the actress that plays Sansa) has said, "Sansa looks at Littlefinger knowing that he would have put her as Queen in the North and given her the credit she deserved." That's kind of a powerful motivation to turn against Jon Snow if ever I heard of one.

3)  Samwell Tarley will discover the key to defeating the Night's King. I predict it will be in the Oldtown library that he reached last season.

4)  The Wall will come down. I think that Samwell Tarley is carrying the Horn of Joramun around and doesn't know it, and that Euron Greyjoy will sack Oldtown and take it from Samwell to use it as a bargaining chip with the Night's King. The Night's King (of course) then uses it to destroy the Wall.

5)  Arya will kill Littlefinger. She's a face-shifting assassin these days. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to pull this feat off.

6) The Hound kills his undead brother The Mountain. They call this the "Cleganebowl." But seriously...why else would we keep the Hound alive if it wasn't for this?

That's it for my predictions. Do you have any?

Monday, July 10, 2017

I tried to spot Easter Eggs for you in Spider-man Homecoming which is a great film by the way.

As movies go, Spiderman: Homecoming was one of the best I'd seen in a while. It certainly is up there with the first Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier or Captain America: Civil War. One of the things that really worked for me was the absence of Peter Parker's origin story. I think that's been done to death, and obviously the makers of the movie agreed that it shouldn't be told again on film.

Another thing that I love about these movies are the (SPOILER ALERT) Easter Eggs. So I'll go over a few of these that I managed to remember (and spot) from the film when I went and viewed it with my best bud, Brad Habegger.

First off, when the Marvel logo thing starts spinning, you hear the usual musical refrain associated with Marvel replaced with the "Spiderman...spiderman" theme from decades ago. That was really fun. Then you also get to see "Damage Control" in action, which is a corporation in the comics that cleans up sites of alien invasion (because all that strange tech needs to be cataloged and kept out of the hands of bad people like Hydra). Of course, you know it never works out that way or else there'd be no more good stories.

Then there's the reveal that a character named "Michelle" actually goes by M.J. Hmm? Coincidence? These kind of things rarely are. You only find out about "M.J." right before the credits roll. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this character, it is one of the many love interests in Peter Parker's storied history (a pretty significant one). Of course there's always Black Cat and Gwen Stacey to name a few others, but it seems like the creative team with Marvel will be incorporating M.J. over those two.

We also get to see Shocker in the movie, but he gets disintegrated by the Vulture. However, you'll notice that the yellow shirt he's wearing has a diamond pattern on it. This is obviously an homage of sorts to the comic book character. I doubt Shocker will ever make an appearance in the Disney/Marvel outings because he was used to bad effect in the second Amazing Spider-man movie.

There's also the guy that plays in "Better Call Saul" as the character "Nacho." In Spiderman: Homecoming, he plays a fairly insignificant role, but he shows up in the stinger with a scorpion tattoo on his neck. I think this means that he's going to be "The Scorpion" in a future Spider-man movie (which is also the significance of the stinger if you must know). He's probably going to become some part of the Sinister Six (a group of Spider-Man villains that are pretty destructive because they are all working together).

That's all the Easter Eggs I managed to spot.

Individual musings: I read somewhere that the film team destroyed fifteen Lego Death Stars to get the right shot. It makes my inner nerd weep. I also wonder what the iron suit that Iron Man made for Peter Parker does that the other one in the film doesn't. Bonus, the skin-tight look of the suit on Tom Holland's body is over the top great. The second stinger at the end of the long credits isn't really worth waiting for. It's just a public service message from Captain America. It's kinda/sorta funny but not really.

Things that are cool about Tom Holland, the actor that plays Spiderman. Check out this video below (which premiered on MTV's lip sync battles by L.L. Cool J.). It starts at about 1:47 with "Singing in the Rain," and he frickin' crushes it.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What would Walt Disney think of Pixar?

When I was in junior high (I guess they call that middle school these days), we were asked to write a book report on a biography of someone famous. Most people chose presidents. I chose Walt Disney. There might be some people today that don't know that he was an actual person and just think that's the name of the corporation. But Walter "Elias" Disney was one of America's business tycoons that created theme parks and among many animated things, Mickey Mouse. And if there's anything that I remember from writing that report it's this: Walt Disney was most definitely not perfect. Sure he was innovative and successful, but he was the subject of many controversies (not the least of which was that he might have been anti-Semitic and even racist). The debate on those claims (I don't think) was never settled. So yeah...the man was a flawed human just like everyone else.

At the same time though, I ask myself (sometimes) when I think about the man who created the machine that now owns the biggest studios in Hollywood, "What would Walt Disney think of ____?" and then fill in the blank. Because Cars 3 was recently on my mind, naturally that question turned to Pixar, which is a studio I wholeheartedly love. I like Pixar more than Dreamworks and Illumination (Despicable Me franchise), although there may be singular movies in those studios (like the How to Train Your Dragon ones) that I consider masterpieces.

In an interview that his daughter, Diane Disney, gave, she was asked this question: What do you think he'd [Walt] think of all the best animated movies today that are computer animated? She responded that "He'd love that."

Without even having met the guy and only having watched Pixar films, I would agree. Pixar films are designed to transport us not just out of our lives, but out of the theater itself. They remind us of simpler times, the memories and emotions that make us who we are. Pixar takes all of us on trips to our childhoods, our happiest moments, our saddest moments...for some reason this animated studio can tap into all of that through their stories.

Or maybe that reason is simply that the ones who work at Pixar understand that the most important stories resonate with people because they appeal to a core truth of being alive? What do you think (if you, dear reader, are also a fan of Pixar films--to be honest, if you're not we really shouldn't be friends). They also tend to deal with something that might be considered darker in tone in a way that many of us find readily accessible.

Or maybe Pixar movies are great because of the influence of one creative genius. In particular, I'm thinking of Brad Bird, who is someone that (I think) Walt would have championed. Brad Bird's IMDB profile gives him eight Pixar credits (all very influential from senior creative team to director) that include: Inside Out, Monsters University, Brave, Toy Story 3, Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles 2 (due out in 2018). Brad Bird is a great technical director but more importantly his films always have that touch of a tender heart which separates the pedestrian animated films from those which will last and resonate emotionally for years to come.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comments.

I will be taking next week off from blogging as I have a friend coming into town and all sorts of things planned.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You seriously should be reading the Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley.

I'm having a lot of fun reading a book by a new author (new to me) called Brian Staveley. The book in question is the novel, The Emperor's Blades, and I'm a little over halfway through. But the book is something I haven't been able to put down since I started reading it in earnest since Friday. Every spare moment, I find myself grabbing it, and then immersing myself in the story which seems to plug every button in the "things I love about epic fantasy" box. Just so you know, there are lots of spoilers for the plot of this book in my post, but I can't help myself. The details are just too good not to want to chat about them. Brian Staveley is a brilliant man...best storyteller I've read since George R.R. Martin. Seriously. And I don't think that comparison cheapens him at all, because Staveley is not a Martin knock-off. Not one bit. He just has that greatness to his storytelling that is OMG so good. Also, this is not a review post. I haven't finished the book. This is a "OMG this book is so exciting" post, if that's even a thing.

The story is told from the perspective of three characters who are children of the Emperor. There's Kaden who lives with a bunch of monks in the most inhospitable and remote region on the planet. The monks of course are complete bastards that beat up their charges and practice monkish philosophy in the sense that they are trying to completely empty themselves of all emotions. There's Valyn who's out in the middle of this god-forsaken ocean on some remote islands training to be a Kettral warrior (the Kettral make navy seal training pale in comparison). And then there's Adare who's the lone daughter who lives in the capital city. Pretty much at the start of the book the Emperor dies, and pretty quickly, it's concluded that he was murdered. As the book unravels, mysteries in all three storylines are cleverly spun and the super intelligent and athletic characters uncover the clues along with the reader in excellent real-time, so you are there for all of the surprises and the "Eureka" moments, figuring things out pretty much at the same time as the point of view character does. It's that clever. Really, I never found myself ahead of a character, unraveling something before it was revealed (and I consider myself a pretty astute reader). And Brian Staveley's prose is so good.

In Valyn's storyline, he's a cadet in training to become a Kettral warrior. This is named after the great birds that these cadets fly (also called Kettrals) with a wingspan of some 70 feet. One person rides on the back, and then four others (part of the Wing or squad) hang onto the claws using straps and performing various duties. One person is a sniper, another is a leach (which is a human with magical powers that are drawn from a source and can do all kinds of things), a third is the flyer, the fourth is the wing leader/commander, and there's a fifth person that kind of has a jack-of-all trades skillset.

Because Valyn is a prince, he gets all kinds of crap from the other cadets and some even go as far as hating him. About the same time as the emperor gets assassinated, he almost gets killed when an inn/tavern he's inside of tumbles into the sea. Later, he and his best friend (a female cadet called Ha Lin) conclude (correctly) that it was someone trying to assassinate him. This leads them to follow clues that lead to a grisly murder scene and where they've gathered enough information to conclude that one of the Kettral cadets must be trying to murder him.

The training Valyn has to go through is brutal. When he finally takes the Trial of Hull, he's essentially been through five days of sheer torture where he and the other cadets have been pushed to the literal brink of physical and emotional exhaustion. They are dropped off on this island that none of them have ever seen and taken to the entrance of a gigantic labyrinth of caves. Suspended above this massive entrance (a hole if you will) is a cage containing a pair of monsters called slarn. Each of the cadets has to let the slarn bite them, and their poison is so virulent that if they don't get the cure, it essentially cripples them physically for the rest of their lives. The poison makes it to the heart in about 24 hours. They are then sent into the labyrinth of caves with two swords and a torch that will burn 10-hours and told to find a white egg in a nest of these slarn and eat it. That's the cure.

Valyn spends hours fumbling around in the dark, and it's really tense, before he lights his torch. He comes across nest after nest where the eggs are already destroyed. Eventually, he has to throw himself into an underground river when he's attacked by a dozen slarn and ends up deep in the earth on some beach where he's able to eventually get his torch going again. There's this enormous nest near him and he wanders over to it and finds a black egg. With no time remaining he basically slurps it down, and it does cure him, and then he flees like the biggest slarn ever and makes it to the surface. There near the top he finds his best friend murdered, and he emerges and scares the bejeesus out of everyone because his eyes have turned completely black. That's essentially where I am with Valyn's storyline...and I really can't wait to read more. Oh and the eggs give the Kettral powers. Valyn's egg (of course) bestows even more powers than a white egg would.

In Kaden's storyline, he's been in monk training for the last eight years (like Valyn) and can't seem to understand why the monks are trying to pursue emptiness. Like why is that even a thing? So...and because he isn't making much progress...he gets taken before the abbot who finally explains why they've been trying to get him to reach this hallowed state of emptiness. They explain that humans essentially come from these gods called clestrium (I know I'm mispelling this word). Something happened long ago that made these immortals start to bare mortal children who had emotions (the clestrium didn't have those kinds of emotions) and the immortals viewed these kids as abominations and tried to kill them. Well they didn't succeed and humans soon outbred the clestrium and a war started and the immortals lost and were driven through magical gates that they used to travel all over the planet instantaneously. The emperor is supposed to be the keeper of the gates. The monks are descendants of people who figured out that the gates actually lead to another plane ruled over by the blank god, who doesn't allow anyone to use his gates or trespass in his kingdom that manifests emotions. In other words, you have to be completely empty to use the gates. So basically, the monk training is all toward this goal of producing an Emperor that can command the power of the gates that these ancient beings left behind. It's really kind of cool.

Finally, Adare's storyline has the least content, but is still fascinating. In her part of the world, she's piecing together who might have murdered her father (or have motive to do so). One particular priest (who is probably a leach) out politics her in a Game of Thrones-inspired maneuver that definitely left me invested and wanting more of that storyline.

So anyway, if you are looking for characters with strong moral compasses, amazing storytelling, and prose that will sing off the page you should check Brian Staveley out. I'm so glad I found these books. It's just what I needed in my life.

Monday, June 26, 2017

It's time to start humming the Game of Thrones theme song because it's just three weeks away.

Game of Thrones returns July 16th. Until then, you should check out this three minute mashup trailer that shows just how far we've come in cinematic quality of a television series. I'm so excited. Did I mention that the finale is going to be 81 minutes long? Wow.

Friday, June 23, 2017

47 Meters Down is terrifying.

Why oh why do I watch shark movies? I don't think there is anything I am more afraid of...anything that strikes within me the same chords of terror...as a great white shark. Yet, I can't take my eyes off of them. I watch shark week, print out trivia questions, and put myself through movies like "47 Meters Down."

To prepare for 47 Meters Down, I asked my friend Brad lots of shark trivia questions over dinner. He, after all, needed to be ready for the movie too. Did you know that great white sharks have deep blue eyes? Yeah, the movie Jaws would have you believe that sharks have black eyes...like those of a doll that has emotionless buttons for eyes. I think it was Quinn that described it that way. And yeah, I can rattle off names like "Quinn" the crazy captain of the ill-fated boat in Jaws because I watch it all the time. Jaws is kind of timeless.

More things to know about great whites: they are warm-blooded. Their skin is comprised of extremely tiny teeth instead of scales and in the olden days, people would use the shark skin as sandpaper. More facts: no one knows how great white sharks mate or where they give birth. It's never been observed in the wild. Additionally, great white sharks possess seven senses (two more than humans). They have tiny receptors that allow them to sense electrical impulses within living things. The other sense is a pressure gauge, giving them specific knowledge of how much pressure they are experiencing in their environment.

Going through all of these facts with my best friend was a lot of fun over dinner, but the actual movie 47 Meters Down was terrifying. The premise was pretty simple, and you actually get all of the plot from watching the trailer. Two girls on vacation go for a shark dive in a cage, the cage breaks, and they wind up 47 meters down on the bottom of the ocean surrounded by hungry great white sharks. That's pretty much when the terror starts and doesn't let up until the last minute of the movie. Let's just put it this way, I don't think I will ever put my toe even so much as an inch in the ocean.

If you like a stressful edge of your seat thriller, you owe it to yourself to see this latest shark movie. It's pretty darn good.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm going against popular opinion here and saying that M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender is actually not terrible.

My friend Meg has a teenaged daughter that loves a Nickelodeon series called Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'd seen the movie, which mother and daughter both despised with vitriol that is seldom-seen unless talking about the atrocities of concentration camps in World War 2. Nevertheless, she and her mom convinced me that my life just wasn't complete until I saw the series (which is way better than the movie "The Last Airbender"). So I've been slowly making my way through it via Amazon, and to be honest, although it is enjoyable it's also really childish. And when I say childish...I mean it's really not all that good. Is it still watchable? Yes. But every episode clearly has a moral of the story to it, and because its Japanese animation the eyes and exaggerated emotions get kind of silly after a while.

So out of curiosity, I watched The Last Airbender again on television. This movie by M. Night Shyamalan almost killed his career. It is not a great movie by any means...but a career killer? I fail to see why people were so outraged that they literally spit on it. Sure, they cast a bunch of white people as Asian characters. However, this happens all of the time and has been happening for years. And for what the movie disregards in the form of silliness (for me) seems to streamline the story to make it more interesting...so that more things are happening faster. In the cartoon, it takes forever for Aang to reach the water bending people. In the movie, it happens within the breadth of a couple of episodes.

I think if people could get past the liberal outrage of having white people play Asian characters, they could actually see that the effects and the work that went into the film qualify it to be an average film. Sure, it had aspirations to be this amazing blockbuster, but it made too many mistakes to ever qualify for that. This, I gladly caveat to the eviscerating critics of the movie.

I'm a little disappointed that we'll never get to see sequels to the movie. There were supposedly three that had been planned, and perhaps there would have been opportunities to include more of the things that people loved about the cartoon into those movies. But there's a part of me that wonders if anyone even understood why people went nutso over Avatar: The Last Airbender. Again, it's plot doesn't strike me as all that original in the vein of fantasy, and the incessant "smacking one over the head" with a moral was kind of annoying. Maybe kids just liked the cartoon because 1) kung fu has always been "cool," and 2) anything Japanese like "Hello Kitty" is also cool, and 3) combining kung fu with magic is somehow the most amazing thing ever.

Or maybe I'm just too jaded to see the sorcery at work here. Yeah, maybe that's it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Here are five assorted musings that I have regarding Cars 3 which is excellent by the way.

Last night's Cars 3 was a good movie in the Pixar line, easily on par with the original Cars and much better than Cars 2. I came away from the movie with several observations, and this review (of sorts) has spoilers in it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Assorted Musings:

1) The Pixar short (which is called "Lou") that runs in front of the movie is totally worth getting there early to see.

2) Cars somehow brought back Paul Newman's ghost for new lines in this movie. If you remember, Paul Newman had a HUGE role in the first movie as he was Doc Hudson, Lightning McQueen's teacher. If you haven't watched Cars in a while, I recommend watching it before you go to Cars 3, because it relies heavily on that source material. I also need to research how Pixar got the lines it used from Paul Newman (who died in 2008). So there is that mystery to solve.

3) The animation is the most spectacular I've ever seen come out of Pixar, and that's including even Finding Dory (which looked spectacular). If it weren't for the fact that the characters had a cartoony look, everything would be absolutely real down to the individual leaves on the trees.

4) I only spotted three Pixar easter eggs. The first was A113, which is on the door of the CEO of RustEze, Lightning McQueen's sponsor for the races. The second is a still for the Pixar movie CoCo which has been seen in the commercials for it (it's Pixar's next movie). Of course Dinoco was there, but Dinoco has been pretty prominent in the franchise, so I don't really count that as an Easter Egg since their CEO has plenty of speaking parts. The third easter egg that I spotted was "Lightyear," the brand name emblazoned on Lightning McQueen's tires. It's obviously a nod to "Buzz Lightyear" from Toy Story.

5) After much deliberation by my friend Brad Habegger, he has said that the homonculus theory of Cars doesn't hold up if we consider that there are no insects in this world. Rather, there are little flying cars with wings. I talked about the homonculus theory on this post. He also pointed out that the theory (if it were correct) actually makes the world less horrific. His point was that the way it stands now...that these cars are sentient beings...means that when they are getting their tires removed and other things replaced it's literally like stripping the skin and appendages off of a living thing. So I guess I agree with him. So maybe Cars (even with the Easter eggs) takes place in a universe that is separate from Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

There are many days when I wish the trope of good versus evil was a real thing.

This is called "Chess Good vs Evil" and is by the artist WhySoSerious91 on DeviantART.
 Click HERE to see MORE.
I think that good versus evil makes for the best story lines because it gives meaning to everyone's existence. It's why video games work, it's why religions work, and it's why so many people in the world grapple with a lack of meaning in their lives. The real world doesn't provide clear cut villains. In reality, there's no cackling lich living inside a tomb of horrors ready to conquer the world, devoid of any redeeming virtues, and surrounded by magical minions. Human motivations are much more complex, nuanced, and speckled with all kinds of emotions.

It's tragic really that good versus evil is a construction of man. The tale is spun over and over again from Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader, from Superman to Lex Luthor, and from the Horde to the Alliance. In a world that has no evidence of any of these things, many of us (left to our own devices) start asking the question: why am I here? And for those that don't find a soothing thought in expressions like, "to love," or "to help others," or "to bear children," might soon become prone to depression and anxieties formulated over a hot greasy grill. The person might ask themselves, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Living without the hope of something better is a pretty awful thing, and most of us are better served not even contemplating that question.

Good versus evil doesn't actually exist, but we all want it to exist. Most of us want to think of having this greater purpose that allows us to become heroes in the face of atrocious villainy that is evil for evil's sake. We want to believe in situations where evil appears skull-faced and with tentacles dripping slime, where the horrific appearance of the monster exactly matches that of the hideous things the monster will do, and that it will be apparent to everyone that the one that is evil is in fact wearing black and has the moniker, "Dr. Evil." Life would be so much simpler if we had these things as a society to unite behind, and if it was clear cut to all what was right and what was wrong. Heroes (after all) would be strong with perfect physiques, and they would always get the girl. We want to live in a world where there are no Bill Cosby's...where no man has done many great things but has done equally bad things too. Bill Cosby isn't supposed to happen. We aren't supposed to laugh at the comedic genius of the rapist. What cruel joke is this?

If there are too many people who can't figure out a purpose in life, it's bad for society. People without purpose, who are unable to ascribe meaning to their day-to-day lives are lost. Some of them end up seeking out drugs to numb the emotional pain. This in turn fuels crime to get money for drugs, and you can see where this goes. People can end up hurting other people emotionally because they want to feel something...anything...as it is all better than feeling nothing. Or people can just "give up," and that's bad too for obvious reasons, the least of which might be an invitation for mental illness to set in.

I have few friends, but among the males I'm noticing growing despair, and I'm not quite sure what I can do about it. They are in their thirties and forties (no names will be given here), but I think my small slice of life may be indicative to something that's growing in this country. In other words, I'm saying that there are a lot of embittered, lonely, and poor (having failed to reach certain monetary goals at certain stages of life) men who are staring at a future that's looking bleaker every day. A lot of them drown themselves in video games, because they'd rather live in that alternate world where work equates instant accomplishment than face down the demons in this world (which are much harder to spot and slay). Others hang out on "Red Pill" reddit or post angry messages on Facebook.

If only good versus evil was real. Then maybe some of these men would snap out of it and start contributing to society. Maybe some of them would find value in themselves.

If only.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's not Easter but that isn't going to stop me from loading up on all the Easter eggs for Cars 3.

I'm seeing Cars 3 on Thursday. That's a given. To make it even more fun, I'm going to be hunting for all the Easter eggs that I know to look for that are famously peppered in Pixar movies. An Easter egg (if you don't know) as an intentional inside visual joke slipped into the background by the animators. The term was first used to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game "Adventure." I'm betting a few of these will be visible:

A113: This pays homage to a classroom at CalArts, the alma mater of Pixar/Disney executive John Lasseter and director Brad Bird. You can bet it will be on a license plate or somewhere else in the film at some point. I've actually heard that it is on a press sticker this time around for a "Shannon Spokes."

Pizza Planet: This is a fictional pizza restaurant that appears in Toy Story.

Dinoco: This is a fictional oil company that first appeared in Toy Story. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see a not to The Good Dinosaur or Arlo.

Plays on words like "Buzz Lightyear" or other such characters: In Cars, the tires of all the Piston Cup racers are Lightyear Buzzard tires. I expect Pixar to make some kind of reference to its other films through a play on words.

Buy N Large (BnL): This is a mega corporation that first appeared in WALL-E that controlled all economic and government services on Earth.

Friday, June 9, 2017

I'm totally buying the homonculus theory about the Cars universe.

I rewatched Cars on Thursday night with my buddy Brad. We did that after I cooked dinner, which consisted of lamb chops in an anchovy and caper sauce and paired with saffron-infused carrots and potatoes (whipped together) with butter and cream. The sauce made an excellent gravy by the way. We also had corn on the cob and the wine was a red Berringer. I didn't take any pictures but trust me, it looked awesome.

The reason we watched Cars is because Cars 3 is coming out next week and Brad said he hadn't seen Cars, so it was hard to get excited about it. Cars really piqued my curiosity when I came across a guy online that was obsessed with figuring out what exactly is going on in the Cars world. To be honest, I've kind of gotten to be a believer of the whole "homonculus theory," which you can read about HERE.

I'll just summarize it for you quickly. Basically, everything about the Cars world can be explained by one thing: the humans in this human-less world are actually installed inside the Cars, kinda similar to a H.R. Giger Biomechanics nightmare.
See, something happened to all the humans. Otherwise there's no logical explanation as to why everything is designed for humans to use them. Why have handles, doors, mirrors? Why have languages that match up to human languages? It's all because the cars actually have people inside of them. Even the windshields that are eyes make sense because it would be a visor projecting the human eyes onto the glass.

Creepy, right?

There's plenty of evidence online (and Pixar has even admitted) that all of their movies share the same universe. Cars has to take place at some point in a strange future when all of the humans have achieved a kind of immortality by being bio-engineered into machines. Anyway, knowing and accepting the theory proposed on Jalopnik in no way lessens my enjoyment of the shows. But it does give a new perspective for me to consider when talking with parents about the movie. After all, I don't think many people realize that Cars is a post-apocalyptic dystopia where humans are forced to live inside machines forever.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The June question for the Insecure Writer's Support Group is all about quitting.

Well, another month has passed, and it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. If you've never heard of it, you can go HERE to sign-up.

This month's question is:

"Did you ever say 'I quit'? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?"

At first I was going to answer "no" to this question, but I realized it wouldn't be true. In high school, I wrote a novella for a creative writing class on a typewriter of all things, and it was a pretty draining project. It also ended up being pretty poor. I pressed what few friends I had (back in the day I was not a popular kid) to read it, and I could tell it wasn't good from their reactions (although they tried to find positive things to say about it). Anyway, it was an exhausting thing to produce, and I was glad it was done. I pretty much quit after that for many years.

I'm not sure what brought me back to writing, or if it was any one thing. I remember the night I started tapping away at keys. I'd bought a new computer, and I'd been playing a lot of World of Warcraft on it. It was a warm summer night and I was sipping a cool drink by an open screen door. And I just wanted to write about something. I wanted to use this computer I'd bought for something more than video games. It doesn't sound very glamorous at all. There really wasn't any big revelation or anything like that. It was just more of a "want" to use some equipment that I'd invested a thousand bucks in for more than just entertainment.

I suppose that once a writer always a writer. We probably all share that bug in us, some obviously more than others.

Monday, June 5, 2017

These are my favorite poster posse tributes to Wonder Woman which slayed at the box office this weekend.

Poster Posse celebrated the Princess of Themyscira by releasing a bunch of really cool posters that were all about Wonder Woman. Below are my favorite, but you should totally peruse the collection.
This one's done by Chris Malbon, and it just looks awesome.
This one is done by artist Daniel Nash. I love how the ruins of war spell out the Wonder Woman logo.

Not bad for the 9th largest opening weekend for a movie that isn't a sequel or a spin-off, right? For those of you who've seen the movie and now want to get into reading Wonder Woman comics, may I recommend:
Wonder Woman by George Perez volume 1 (This is Diana's post-Crisis reboot and from which the movie borrowed quite a lot). 
The Legend of Wonder Woman (a retelling of her origin set during World War II).
Wonder Woman Rebirth Volume 1: The Lies and Volume 2: Year One.
All of these can be found on Amazon :) See you Wednesday for Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman was the best comic book movie I've seen since the original Avengers

Spoiler Alert: I'm going to talk about the movie, which I saw last night with best friend Brad Habegger.

First off, if you are going to see Wonder Woman, you really should shell out the extra bucks for IMAX 3D. It's worth every penny. There's lots of zinging bullets, arrows, and incredible shows of strength that 3D is meant to carry.

Second, it was hard to pick any one scene that was good, as they were all incredibly high quality. The story by Zach Snyder was tight, and the director, Patty Jenkins, did an amazing job putting the story arc down and giving us a reason for Gal Gadot's superhero to have a bitter taste about mankind.

The story begins on the island of Themyscira, which is showcased beautifully by an island location that looks straight out of a Mediterranean paradise. Hidden from the world by magic, we are introduced slowly to the character of Diana, who (like her Roman namesake) is a goddess in her own right. But we all kind of knew that, because how else could you ever explain Wonder Woman's powers and not make her a goddess? She (rightfully) is as powerful as you'd expect any immortal being to be.

However, the origin story is not without its faults. One of the things that Brad pointed out to me was that (for DC) the Greek mythology and the gods are now canon, the same as the Norse mythology did for Marvel in Thor. This bugs him because it puts that particular religion on a pedestal and makes it more "correct." Begrudgingly, I agree with him. But, if it weren't for the strong mythological background, I'd argue that Wonder Woman wouldn't be nearly as famous as she is. People like it when superheroes have powers that can be "explained" within the framework of human knowledge. They also like it when the costume has meaning, instead of just some red spandex. With Wonder Woman, her braces are an echo of enslavement, her headband is a nod to their greatest warrior, and her belt is a nod to the belt of Hercules.

All of these things have meaning, which just serve to make her more of an icon.

ASSORTED MUSINGS:

1) I missed seeing Wonder Woman flying around in her invisible jet. I've heard that they are already planning a sequel that will take place as another "period" film (probably this time against nazi's in WWII). Maybe we'll see it then.

2) I loved that they showed Wonder Woman flying. In the comics, she's always flown around (sometimes with great magical golden wings). It's about time that they embraced that dynamic instead of just showing her jumping really far.

3) I like that they established she was a goddess. In the comics, Wonder Woman becomes the new god of war. So this seemed to be a great fit with the written material.

4) I never get tired of the lasso of truth. I love how it glows gold and seems to respond to her thoughts.

5) I was disappointed that the "god slayer" sword was just a sword, albeit a well crafted one capable of sundering pillars. I was kind of hoping for some awesome magical sword that she could cut Superman with in Justice League.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wonder Woman is finally here and I'm so excited.

This Friday, the only female superhero that has survived all the way from the golden age of comics in the 40's to the present-day gets a movie with all the Hollywood trimmings. It's the first in decades. The early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes stand at 97%, which has REALLY got me excited. But to say that Wonder Woman is a hero for the ages understates her icon status, which managed to succeed in a primary audience of young boys. That's a feat of which DC comics should be proud.

Wonder Woman as a character was designed from the beginning to not just be a powerful woman, but a symbol of feminine power. It also helped that her origins were tied so closely to Greek mythology, which every kid in elementary school grows up learning to appreciate alongside works of fantasy. I love how Marv Wolfman and George Perez reinvented Wonder Woman in the eighties, and her more recent reinventions/reboots are equally impressive. Also, it can kinda be said that on the Marvel side of comics there really is no equivalent. Captain Marvel falls far short. Even 75+ years on, Wonder Woman stands alone.

Wonder Woman may (in fact) be the most famous heroine of all time. Readers please correct me, but is there someone else? No offense to the Lara Crofts, Buffy's, or Princess Leia's out there, but no one else has graced everything from lunch boxes, to wall murals, to t-shirts. I'm seriously challenging you to come up with another name that's as well known/famous as Wonder Woman.

Early reviews for the movie peg it as the best film since The Dark Knight (directed by the genius Christopher Nolan). That's high praise. And what we get in this film is not the relentlessly grim, cynical take of iconic characters that have sprinkled DC movies for the last few years, but a character played to Diana's strength. One reviewer said that she comes across as "vulnerable, optimistic," while having a "moral core." I think that's super cool.

I think the long drought of poor DC movies is over guys.




Friday, May 26, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales was fantastic.

I am a Johnny Depp fan. That being said, last night I ate sushi and then went to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, all with my best friend in tow. "Arr matey...fish and pirates seemed like the right thing to do." You might be wondering, "How was Dead Men Tell No Tales?" So here's your spoiler alert (read no further if you want to be surprised by this amazing film). I truly loved it.

I'm actually not sure which part was the best part since it was all good. Brad pointed out that the bank robbery scene was clearly an homage to one of our favorite movies: Fast Five. The fifth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise ended with a car chase through Rio wherein Paul Walker and Vin Diesel were driving super revved up cars pulling a bank vault down the streets like a wrecking ball. It was f'ing awesome, and one of the outstanding highlights to the entire franchise.

And then there were the zombie sharks. I'm in kind of a love/terrified relationship with sharks, and these were done really well and even scared the bejeezus out of me in one scene. After watching the show, I was pretty much convinced that zombie sharks should have been a part of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise since the very beginning. The villain was very well done too (the keeper of the zombie sharks).

I also liked how they wove the disparate story lines together. When last we saw the Black Pearl, Blackbeard had put it inside a bottle and kept it among a collection of ships on his magical vessel. Getting the Pearl out of the bottle was a key plot point, followed then by the appearance of the monkey which had been trapped inside the bottle.

The show had lots of running gags, and it has excellent pacing and special effects. The story is really tight too (trimmed down to about two hours whereas some of the others were pushing three). If you are looking for a movie to go to this weekend, I don't think you could go wrong by seeing the latest installment, which (like the others) will probably go on to make a billion dollars. Disney pretty much mints money these days, but it's not like they don't deserve it.