Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Is suspension of disbelief the responsiblity of the creator or the responsibility of the audience?

Will it be your responsibility to believe anything that you see in this movie in order to enjoy it? Or will you
rage against the director because "stuff doesn't work that way."
The term "suspension of disbelief" according to Wikipedia, is a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal. It is to sacrifice realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. So with that definition out of the way, I want to ask all of you if you think it is the responsibility of the audience, or if it is the responsibility of the creator? In other words, is it on you to be entertained by say...a Star Wars movie...and if you are not (because it's too unbelievable) is there something wrong with you?

Many people think that once upon a time, it was the creator of the story who was supposed to suspend your disbelief. And these same people now think that audiences are expected to overlook massive plot holes for the purpose of spectacle. Just to be clear, this goes beyond fantasy and/or science fiction elements and into the territory of people performing actions that have credibility, or in the least, making decisions that have a reason behind them. And I suppose that the answer to this question is going to vary infinitely from person to person because no one is ever on the same page with anyone. This is a truth that I've learned to accept in life (maybe with a little hyperbole), but I'll explain further in the next paragraph.

We live in a functioning society, and it amazes me everyday of my life that I can say this given how many people have different views and opinions of what is true and what is acceptable. It ranges from me believing wholeheartedly in the evidence that expounds evolution through natural selection as a fact to the man sitting next to me that wants to show me images of hieroglyphics found within the Great Pyramid of Giza that depict submarines and helicopters (somehow made 4000 years ago) and who thinks "evolution is bullsh*t." For every gift of a bottle of plain water given at a work Christmas party (and the giver thought this was a fine gift when they received handmade soap or something else that clearly cost $10) to the person who is outraged that someone has used an incorrect pronoun in addressing them, I am convinced that by even having a functioning society with all of these disparate minds is a kind of miracle into and of itself. There are people who insist that the world is flat standing next to people who know it to be round, there are men who are wearing gold jewelry standing next to men who insist that they cannot wear gold because the metal poisons men but is harmless to women.

Anyway, a list of all of the things that people accept as facts (or the things that people believe in) is not what I'm getting at here in this post. Rather, it is an answer to the question of whose responsibility it is to suspend disbelief in a story. For me, it is clearly the responsibility of the audience, and here's why: how could we possibly expect a storyteller (given all the different minds and ways of seeing the world in just the above paragraph and that only scratches the surface) to suspend disbelief when what everyone believes in is different from one person to the next and so on and so forth? You can't "suspend disbelief" when you have no idea what a person even believes in. You can assume, but if you did this, you'd be completely wrong. If you made a space movie and showed the earth as round to a man that believed the earth was flat, well you've failed. Congratulations.

I guess I'd like to see what other people think of this question. Please answer in the comments below.

Monday, December 11, 2017

I think my Nest thermostat just saved me a bunch of money and inconvenience this weekend.

Last year when I bought my house, one of the smarter decisions I made at the time was to buy a Nest brand smart home thermostat. Not only did I get pretty much the entirety of the cost back from Rocky Mountain Power through a rebate program (which I diligently filled in and followed up on), but the thermostat probably saved me the price of a new furnace by telling me I had a clogged air filter. How cool is that?

Here's the situation: Last month I'd changed the air filter in my furnace with one that had a really high Merv rating, because I have lots of allergies and I assumed that this would keep the air super clean (which it did). I buy the 4-inch thick filters instead of the 1-inch ones so that they last about five months before I need to change them again. This was the first time I'd bought an "allergen" filter and stuck it in there.

Well Friday night, I got a message from Nest on my iPhone saying that my thermostat was detecting that the furnace was really struggling. It said that it could only stay on for six minutes at a time before overheating and shutting down. The suggestion was to replace the air filter. At first, I didn't believe it so I went to the thermostat and had it run a diagnostic test (which is a thing that the Nest thermostat can do). The reason I was in disbelief was because the filter was only a little over a month old. It wasn't time to change it out. The test came back that there was definitely a problem with the air flow and the furnace was shutting down/struggling to produce heat.

So, I had two of the old brand of filters that had never caused me any problems sitting in shrink wrap. I went and replaced the filter, threw the allergen one in the garbage, and then I reran the test. The Nest confirmed that everything was checking out perfect and that the furnace was no longer struggling.

This was the first time that I'd seen the power of one of these Smart Home devices, which I had just taken for granted up until now as being "kind of neat." From everything that I understand of furnaces, if I had been oblivious to the fact that my furnace was struggling and just allowed it to go on and on like it was, dealing with the allergen filter which was restricting air flow over the coils, I could have burned out my furnace costing me a lot of money and inconvenience down the road. 

So yeah, I was pretty impressed by it and thought I'd tell you all about it.

Friday, December 8, 2017

I dislike how frills are stripped out of things to make them streamlined for faster and arguably better consumption. We should all stop doing that.


The Japanese national sport of sumo wrestling highlights something that I've felt for a long time about how Americans seem to approach everything. Before I get to this point, I should probably point out a little of how sumo wrestling is viewed in Japan so I can better explain what I'm talking about.

In Japan, sumo wrestling has been practiced for centuries, and it is heavily steeped in traditional culture. In one of the country's founding myths, a god by the name of Take-Mikazuchi won a critical sumo match against his opponent. There are currently around twenty-six (give or take) very accomplished wrestlers in Japan. I think ten (or so) are non-Japanese (seven of which are Mongolian). And the last time a Japanese wrestler won one of the six annual grand sumo tournaments was 2006 (disclaimer: I haven't really followed up on anything in the last few years).

Dominance of foreigners aside, there has been some discussion over the rituals that are involved in Japan's national sport (many of which are surprising to people that watch sumo wrestling in America--and I'm going to touch on this a little bit later in this post). Aficionados of the sport really like the rituals. However, a lot of foreigners think that it just complicates a sport that needs to be streamlined and down to business. Here are a few of the things that take place when you watch a match in Japan:

1) Sumo is a religious ritual and the wrestlers throw salt before a match to purify the ring (due to Shinto tradition). Every newly promoted Yokozuna (the highest rank in sumo) performs his first ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. The ring is considered a holy place.

2) The wrestlers engage in psychic battles. The rules say that the match doesn't start until both wrestlers have placed both hands on the ground at the same time. Wrestler's purposely pretend to put their hands down and get back up again (on purpose) to screw with the other guy's head.

3) Sumo referees wear traditional clothing, and as they progress up the ranks, they earn honorific names. They are called "gyoji" and they carry a sword called a tanto. The significance of the sword is to show that the gyoji understands the seriousness of his decisions. In the past, he was expected to commit ritual suicide by disembowelment if he made a bad decision.

And this leads me to my point: when I watch sumo in America, it's all very business-like and boring because Americans have gotten rid of all the rituals and streamlined the sport (like they have with everything else). Why is our culture so obsessed with seeing something as its most basic truth? Let me shift the topic just a little bit so as to highlight this "paring down" to other areas of our lives.
My copy of "American Gods" has some fantastic illustrations (shown above)
I recently spent some extra money acquiring some gorgeous hard-bound books with fancy covers and illustrations. One of them was a copy of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which I reviewed in this post HERE some time ago. Back in 2011, I read it as an ebook. And you know...showing someone a book on an electronic reader is just not the same as having a physical copy. I love the idea of pulling a book down from a shelf and turning pages and showing someone this beautiful novel. The reason I purchased so many ebooks over the years was that I always needed to move to a new apartment, and I didn't want to haul around a bunch of weight or go to the trouble of finding a place to put all that stuff. It was just better to forego all that inconvenience for one tidy electronic file.

But now that I own a house, I look back on those decisions with a bit of regret. I think we've all gotten away from something in just about everything we do. The "It doesn't matter what it looks like, I just want the content," has a purpose I suppose, but a life with things that has no "frills" makes me feel empty. And as I talk with more and more people, I think there's a pervasive emptiness in our American culture that people are all aware of, yet no one can seem to put their finger on it. That is...I run into a lot of people that feel empty of something every day.

Why are so many of us only concerned about what a thing is in its absolute truest form instead of how it is properly presented to the world?

Does no one know how to appreciate art anymore? Does no one understand the importance of nuance to soften hard edges...to let a thing be more than just its absolute basic truth in order to take into account how it is perceived from many different viewpoints?

I hear phrases every day that sound like this:

"I don't have time for all that. Just give me the highlights."

"Can you summarize it for me?"

"I don't care what it looks like. Just show me how to use it."

"This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality."

"I prefer texting because it gets rid of small talk."

"Why do I need to read the book when I can watch the movie? Bam...whole season of A Handmaid's Tale done in two days, and I get to share the experience with someone."

"Why does anyone care if I abbreviate it 'Xmas'? It's the same thing."

I'll be honest. Stripping things whether they are books, sports, political talking points, art, or holidays down to the exact nature of what they are really fatigues me. Yes, a book is just words so who cares how the words are downloaded into your brain, right? An audio book should be just as good as anything, right? But it's not the same thing. I'm not sure how I can even explain this point effectively to someone that just doesn't get it.

I dislike how rituals, traditions, or for lack of a better word, "frills," are stripped out of things to make them streamlined for faster (and arguably better) consumption. In fact, maybe all of us would benefit as a society if we took the time to slow things down. Lets fill all our conversations up with small talk again. Let's stop using abbreviations in text communication. Let's stop texting as much. And let's buy pretty things because they are pretty and not because of their functions.

Or maybe I'm just a little crazy and old-fashioned and seeing all the things wrong with the world.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Today's Insecure Writer post ponders what would you do differently in 2017?

Today is Wednesday, December 6th, and that means that it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. This monthly blog fest has a sign up sheet located HERE.

The December question is:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

I'm not sure I really had many successes or failures this year. Everything seemed to go pretty much as planned, and the plans I made certainly arose out of only one option (I know that sounds weird but my life has been very directional this year). It would be like asking, "if you are going up a path and there are no branches off the path...other than walk the path to get closer to your goal, what would you do differently?" Hmm. I guess nothing. I'd keep plodding along at the path I'm on. One step at a time, a little closer to the goal with each step, etc. Maybe I would have bought a new battery for my car a little sooner than having it just go dead in the grocery store parking lot. That would have been nice, but it would also preclude that I knew my battery was going to die (which I didn't). Maybe I'd have left a little sooner after the Eclipse in August to try and get ahead of the traffic instead of it taking nine hours to drive a trip that normally took 3.5 hours. Maybe I'd try harder to weed the old friendship garden (I got lots of weeds growing).

Eh...overall I'm satisfied with the choices I made. It's not like I have much influence on anything "Big" in this world, so while the rest of it goes to hell maybe I'll just exist in my comfy bubble of existence.

Monday, December 4, 2017

All the Star Wars stories can trace a thread back to the Skywalkers in one way or another.

I don't know why people don't understand that Star Wars is all about the Skywalkers. So if you are reading this post and thinking...wait a minute...there are other stories there. What about Rogue One? True, you can have an infinite amount of plots in this universe that George Lucas created. However, it's like that silly game "seven degrees of Kevin Bacon" that you may (or may not) have heard of. Everything can be traced back to the Skywalkers in some way. That's just the way it is. The latest outrage online is that Poe Dameron couldn't just be a kick ass pilot for the resistance.

I didn't know this of course until I started mining message boards for the upcoming Star Wars movie. But it makes sense to me that this is a thing: that Poe is connected to Luke thru his mother, who went adventuring with Luke to find a tree. So yeah, Poe Dameron's mom knows Luke Skywalker and spent considerable time around him.

So I guess I'm here to say that people who bitch about Star Wars being too much about the Skywalkers are whining in the same way as someone saying, "Why are all these Avenger movies only about the Avengers?" I haven't seen the upcoming film yet (of course) but I can make some guesses:

1) Rey's heritage will somehow intertwine with the Skywalkers.
2) Snoke will somehow be tied into the Skywalkers in some weird way.

Repeat after me: Out of all these worlds and all these billions of people, the only people who actually matter (and who actually create major change) come from the Skywalker family for whatever reason. If this upsets you, then may I suggest the Orville? It has nothing to do with the Skywalker family and takes place in space.

This public service message has been brought to you by the Force, which (I hope) is with you...always.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Crisis on Earth X was great but it really showed why non-powered superheroes playing alongside powered ones strains suspension of disbelief to uncomfortable levels.

There are spoilers in this post.

The CW's Crisis on Earth X is a fine example of a superhero team-up. However, Crisis on Earth X (all the CW show's crossing over) did showcase how useless people with no powers really are in a physical confrontation with people who can fly, move, faster than sound, freeze objects at a distance, turn to steel, and the list goes on and on. It was hilarious when Flash and Supergirl arrived and then had to wait for Oliver Queen (Arrow) to show up on his motorcycle. As he got off he said, "A reminder: Superspeed...I don't have it."

I've come to this conclusion: live action realization of non-powered heroes next to powered ones strains suspension of disbelief to uncomfortable levels. Oliver (Arrow) is no more help at holding up a building than the Batman is trying to fight non-human foes. Black Canary had to forget she had a superpowered cry so a Nazi Arrow could beat Team Arrow. Additionally, there should never be a situation in which Sara Lance (White Canary) could ever be in a fist fight with Supergirl for this reason: Supergirl punches her dead and moves on.

Marvel does it so much better when it comes to this kind of thing except when it comes to Black Widow and Hawkeye. Tony Stark has incredible technology (as does Falcon) which kind of gives them an edge. But Black Widow and Hawkeye should just be dead.

Don't get me wrong. I love these characters. I'm just really aware that I need to "suspend disbelief" when the non-powered superheroes are on screen. They need "plot armor" really bad, and I need to enjoy fiction for what it is.

I also loved Crisis on Earth X. Here are highlights:

1) Iris and Felicity kicked some Nazi asses.

2) The wedding fight was amazing.

3) Seeing Kara sing at the wedding was incredible. She has such a wonderful voice.

4) The story definitely passed the Bechdel test.

5) The death of Stein. This was devastating not just to the Legends and his family, but to all of Team Flash because they've been building toward this end for years with shared history and crossovers. His death was a perfect example of why Crisis on Earth X worked so well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I expect Altered Carbon on Netflix to be dark and shocking just like Richard K. Morgan's books.

I saw on super science fiction blog io9 yesterday that Richard K. Morgan's book, Altered Carbon, is being turned into a Blade Runner-esque ten episode season for Netflix. The above image comes from one that was shared on Reddit, and it looks awesome. From what all the experts are saying, Netflix appears to be spending a ton of money on it too.

When I saw the title, I was like...Richard Morgan...why does that sound familiar? And then I realized that I read a book about a year ago by him called The Steel Remains. It was a dark epic fantasy book with a gay main character that I was planning on exploring with the sequels. It turned out that I got distracted by another book series featuring characters who were more compelling. It doesn't mean that I won't return to the Steel Remains universe (or that subsequent books will flesh the character of Ringil out even better), because I definitely will, especially now that the author is becoming well-known. Fame does make me want to read an author's stuff even more than I do now. The reason? I know that others will too, and then we can have really awesome "water cooler" type conversations with each other at work or in a round of drinks at the restaurant or wherever social situations spring up.

So what did I take away from the one book written by Richard Morgan that I might expect from Altered Carbon (without having read any of its pages)? Well, his work is very violent, with humans being hacked apart, splattered, gutted, etc. It's also heavy on sex and sleaze and it's very graphic with that stuff (yes I liked it). In the age of blood and boobs on television, anything is possible. A fantasy is what it is, and Richard K. Morgan just tends to walk on the dark side of things with a lot of morally gray if not downright wrong stuff happening. Who knows, Altered Carbon may end up making GoT look like Sesame Street. I'm so excited.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Pixar's Coco is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen and makes me wish I had a larger family.

This Sunday, I saw Pixar's Coco. I've been in a mood for a movie like this, probably because this week is the one year anniversary of my mother's death. I think about my mom all the time. It comes in little snippets of things that remind me of her. The latest happened while I was watching "Boss Baby" with my friend Jake, and there's a scene in it in which the boy loses his training wheels and rides a bike for real. It reminded me of my mother, who taught me how to ride a bike, and convinced me (despite being afraid) that if she could do it, then I could do it too. That's the kind of person she was. And that's what I saw in Pixar's Coco.

I knew next to nothing about Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Holiday on which the movie centers itself. The story is about the importance of memory, and why it is important to remember people once they are gone. If anything, this is the nature of any true immortality that any of us can ever hope for. And it's remarkable how well Pixar puts down the emotional layers, slowly building the story of a boy who desperately wants to play music and eventually runs away from his family because he doesn't want them squashing his dreams any longer. In time, he comes to understand that all is not as it seems, and uncovers a powerful and very moving fact about his ancestor that had me shedding tears in the finale of the film. Pixar (if anything) knows how to put together a masterpiece that manages to be both joyful and sorrowful at the same time.

Coco is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. The sheer amount of colors found in the movie combined with gorgeous scenery, Mexican culture, and a terrific story, made Coco a movie that I will long remember. It had terrific spirit animals, fantastic music, a hairless dog that was really cute, and the movie was able to look at the darkest parts of humanity while keeping an eye for grace and justice. In the end, I just wished one thing: that I had a larger family. I suppose it's that sentiment that touched my heart the most.

From everything I've read about the film, it took six years to bring this project to the screen, because filmmakers were trying to find a story that felt worthy to be in the world. And I suppose that dedication paid off, because it's now the biggest film in Mexican history, and the number one film in the world. This kind of success is its due, for it couldn't have happened to a more deserving movie.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Watching Star Trek Discovery makes me think that Star Trek the Next Generation was ultimately bad for Star Trek as a whole

Star Trek: Discovery is currently on hiatus, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about what I love about the show. Perhaps it's strongest selling point for me is that it has a great bunch of characters. The morally bankrupt Captain Lorca is the most multi-layered Federation officer we've ever seen. Michael (Spock's half-sister that we've never heard about) is an incredible character who is beyond damaged and has a fascinating relationship with Sarek. Literally through her interactions with Sarek, we've come to understand that iconic character in a different light, i.e., Sarek was a complete asshole. More than all of these things, however, is the root of good storytelling: conflict. "Conflict within Star Fleet" was something that The Next Generation made impossible.

Any sequel to The Next Generation would have to have the "no conflict within Starfleet" rule in play. Deep Space Nine and Voyager worked around this by having half their characters originate from outside of Starfleet. Some of the most colorful episodes of Enterprise were because they could do conflict, being a prequel just like Discovery.

I guess my point is this: to be able to do the things like they are doing in Star Trek: Discovery, I feel like CBS was forced to make it a prequel show instead of setting it anytime after Star Trek: The Next Generation. And because it is a prequel, I'm having issues with continuity. Why have we never heard of Michael? Sure, it was well established that Spock didn't talk about his family ever. However, something like Discovery should be well known (including its FTL spore drive) unless it's a Section 31 ship, which means that all records might have been purged and Star Fleet denies all knowledge of this ship. This also means that the fate of this crew is probably super dark...as in horrifying. That's a distinct possibility considering the stuff that's going on with the plot and the morally compromised characters. I mean, we've basically got a human captain that thinks it's entirely okay to torture one of his crew members if it gets him something he wants.

A little background on Section 31: It was introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and it is in effect the black-ops division of Starfleet and derives its name from article 14, section 31 of the Starfleet Charter, which permits extreme measures to be taken in times of extraordinary threats. Virtually autonomous, with no oversight or accountability, the clandestine group is tasked with confronting dangers to the United Federation of Planets and may employ assassination, torture, and brainwashing in pursuit of its goals.

And yes, everything about Star Trek: Discovery suggests that it is a section 31 ship.

I won't be blogging again until Monday. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 20, 2017

A Wrinkle In Time is coming in March and the trailer features edgy music and explosions of magic. Let's just all hope it's good.

Despite the fact that the book, A Wrinkle in Time begins with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night," I am pretty jazzed to see the Disney adaptation of it. The second trailer for it just landed this weekend, adapted for the screen by Ava DuVernay of Madeleine L'Engle's beloved book of tesseracts and discovery. Personally, I'm a fan of the term "Einstein-Rosen bridge" but whatever....

And yes, I know. The book is from 1963 and back then, "It was a dark and stormy night" was not considered cliche.

Assorted musings regarding the trailer:

1) Why does every adaptation/trailer these days have to feature "edgy" remakes of music. It was the Eurythmics, and I loved it back in the eighties. Why remake it?

2) Did they move the setting from New England to Florida? Maybe they needed to move it to a place that has frequent powerful storms.

3) The book is only 232 pages. You could read it in an afternoon. Why bother to change anything that's so short?

4) Why is there epic explosions and over-the-top stuff in it?

If you haven't seen the trailer, I embedded it below. You should watch it.

Friday, November 17, 2017

This year's CW crossover is the superheroes from good Earth battling a whole Nazi universe.

I've talked about Crisis on the Infinite Earths a couple of times now. Once in 2015, it was because of the introduction of Iris's then secret brother, Wally West. And then back in 2012 I did a post celebrating how much I loved the artist George Perez, who did a lot of the artwork for Crisis on the Infinite Earths. And then there's this post I did on the Flash Pilot back in 2014. But, as much as I'd love a Crisis on Infinite Earths to explode in the DC universe across the CW's many DC franchises, what we're getting is different, but probably still very cool. Essentially, Barry and Iris's long awaited wedding pulls together all of their various friends from every universe that's been introduced and it also is crashed by evil Nazi versions of Supergirl, Arrow, and the Flash from Earth-X (because on Earth-X, the Nazi's won).

I just want to get this out of the way: Supergirl's outfit looks f'ing awesome. If Melissa Benoit can pull off wearing that much black, it will be epic.

Various Musings:

1) Maybe in the universe of Earth-X, Donald Trump is an egalitarian feminist anarchist fighting the system.

2) One of the highlights of Legends of Tomorrow was Brandon Routh who infiltrated a Nazi party and was physically unable to do a "heil Hitler" salute out of disgust and ultimately punched a Nazi general. They need to top that.

3) The CW poster is an homage to the following comic book covers that appeared over the years in Justice League of America:
4) There is no end in sight for the "Barry Allen's" that the CW can come up with. So far we have: Normal Barry, Evil Barry, Emo Barry, and Nerd Barry.

5) Grant Gustin Barry should meet/see Ezra Miller Barry (from the movies) in the Speed Force and high five each other.

6) The evil version of Oliver Queen should just be "Ollie" with hair dyed black and no discernable personality differences.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Is Amazon going to adapt the Silmarillion for television?

The City of Gondolin, which is in The Silmarillion. Could we see this in the Amazon series?
When The Hobbit movies started getting made by Peter Jackson, I was initially excited. Looking back on them, they aren't ones that I take the time to rewatch at all, whereas the Lord of the Rings movies are ones I do rewatch whenever I catch them on television (usually TBS). Still, I was disappointed when the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien said they were mad at New Line Cinema for their treatment of The Lord of the Rings films, and that they (let's be honest that we're talking Christopher Tolkien when I say "they") were never going to allow Jackson to get near the Silmarillion, which has a wealth of great stories in it, many of them potentially better than the actual War of the Ring.

And just so you know, I'm not a big Christopher Tolkien fan. He hates all the movies made of his dad's material, and he disowned his own son over the movies, even though they eventually reconciled. It just goes to show you that there's no end to legal red tape and bad feelings, etc. to bring these kinds of stories to a general audience. I truly feel for the great directors like Peter Jackson who deal with insufferable and egotistic people day in and day out in order to honor some work that the world appreciates.

Anyway, I thought the story with Tolkien adaptations was going to end with the release of The Hobbit. However, NPR reported this morning that the Tolkien estate and Trust are now entering a collaboration deal to bring all those Middle-Earth stories from the Silmarillion to television via Amazon subscription service. Okay, I'm in. I just hope they do a good job with it, because the Peter Jackson stuff had really solid production values and the battles looked "epic" with a capital "e." In my opinion, to properly do many Silmarillion stories, you'd need a budget that makes the latest season of Game of Thrones look small. Is Amazon willing to pony up that kind of cash? I hope the stories we get aren't just Xena: Warrior Princess types. This is what I'd call "filler" material that is essentially pointless if you don't have incredible high points in the story to make it all worth while.

So imagine the histories of Gondor, Khazad-Dum, and Rohan being told. Maybe one story could be the forging of the rings of power or perhaps Durin's attempt at taking back Moria. Maybe we'd see the other Istari wizards that went south and disappeared into the world of men. Perhaps we see Ungoliante...that would be very cool.

I gotta be honest though...I kinda wish Netflix had took this on instead of Amazon. Just sayin'....

Monday, November 13, 2017

A huge budget Justice League movie comes out this week so let's talk about why DC movies need to be funny.

I pay attention to early reviews. With Thor: Ragnarok, everyone was saying it was the best Marvel movie yet, and I think they were right. I'm a common consensus kinda guy, a sheep, or a follower if you will. Whatever word you use for "average person" I am it, and I own it proudly. Thus, what most people like I tend to like. So what's the early buzz been like for Justice League (which opens this week by the way)? Well they aren't OMG Wonder Woman, but they aren't terrible either.

However, an educated film viewer (also me) will take into account that half the early buzz is from Collider. Collider writers are on the enthusiast end of the press spectrum. Also present are folks who write for IGN, Slashfilm, and io9. So take what you read up to this week's opening with a grain of salt. Also, I want to point out that lots of people freely criticize DC as needing to be as funny (or funnier if possible) than Marvel. In fact, that's probably the number one criticism: DC takes itself too seriously. But does it really?

I suppose there's a part of me that wants to ask this question: Why do people want DC to be funny? It's a simple question, and it has a lot of complexity to it. I think that DC is oftentimes funny. Take The Flash for example. In the animated show he, oftentimes, has jokes. And the Batman has a wry sense of humor. Then again, there are plenty of DC comics that aren't funny. Take Batman: Arkham Asylum. The main villain is the Joker and despite this "comedic" villain, it isn't funny. It's deadly serious.

So, why do people want DC to be funny? Let's brainstorm a bit, shall we? Well, you're selling a property based on a comic that may or may not have an animated series. The comic has a circulation close to 50,000 readers at $2.99. That equals a steady income of $145,000 give or take some decimal points. The animated movies have a gross around the $6 million mark, so 40 times what comics bring in (they tend to be light and humorous too). So the answer to the question of why DC needs to be funny is because: money.

The average person (me) likes to watch escapist fiction that is joyful and delightful rather than grim and dark. That's just the truth. And big budget movies need to cater to the general audience, and not fifty thousand readers.

Look, it's a comic book movie, and I watch a lot of comic book movies. I suppose I just hope that it a) makes sense, b) does not have half the damn movie shot at night while illuminated by a sole Maglite, c) avoids any major missteps in characterization, and d) has lots of special effects. As far as not simply being a Marvel film in a DC costume, I think they've always had their own compass where this is concerned.

Are you seeing it this week? Comment below please :)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why does no one point out that there can be some spectacular and horrifying consequences to saying no?

Before I get to the point of my post, I would like to say that I believe all people have a right to say no. They have a right to draw boundaries, and they should be encouraged to do so with abandon. Children should be taught the power of saying "no" to this and "no" to that. Women and men should say "no" all the time to all kinds of advances, questions, opportunities. However, I feel that all of these "the power of no" conversations are lost teaching opportunities. People are overlooking the uncomfortable other side of standing up for yourself and drawing boundaries, which are done solely for selfish reasons: to secure what makes you happy (or what is healthy for you). This "uncomfortable other thing" is the elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring: that there can be unforeseen and even unpleasant consequences to saying no. Think of all the things that qualify for "no" in this world.

Saying no to someone who wants a relationship with you.
Saying no to an applicant that desperately wants a job.
Saying no to someone who is demanding equality.
Saying no to a person who is demanding to be respected.
Saying no to someone who asks for your help.
Saying no to someone who wants compassion.
Saying no to someone who just wants to be listened to.
Saying no to someone who wants to be included.
Saying no to someone who wants monogamy.
Saying no to someone who wants your money.
Saying no to someone who wants drugs.
Saying no to someone who wants a book deal.

The list is endless, but our society teaches that it is OKAY TO SAY NO. Fine. I'm all for that. Every single one of us should always get what we want and never have to do anything that even remotely makes us uncomfortable or could possibly damage us in any way.

In a perfect world, there should be no consequences to saying "no," and I for one will line up for this perfect world so fast I might get whiplash. But here's the rub: we don't live in a perfect world. We don't live in a world where a person can freely slam the door in someone else's face and expect them to be "right as rain" about it. Sure...we can try to educate them...we can try to condition behavior to the point that, if someone rejects you...if someone says no to something you want badly...then you just need to smile, say thank you, and walk away. Yes, we can try to achieve this utopia. But the pessimist in me thinks that people should all be aware that sometimes this isn't the case. And on very rare occasions, it can backfire spectacularly (and in horrible terrifying ways). When I watch the news and see instances of these backfires...when I see horrible crimes that have been committed because someone was so angry because they had a door to something (that they desired deeply) slammed in their face so many times...I am stunned by how many people come forth and say, "We were so surprised. I can't believe that this man did _____. We never saw it coming." Are we really this naive?

I'm not a criminal psychologist. But I don't think it takes a criminal psychologist to see some horrible shootings that have occurred as a result of repeated "no's" (or their equivalent) heaping on top of unrequited desires for (insert blank). And again, I'm not saying that any of this is right. People should feel free to say "no" as much as they want with absolutely no consequences. But I don't ever hear someone saying to a child, "I want you to know that it's okay to say 'no.' But be aware, that if you do say 'no' to someone...that if you make them feel disrespected in any way...there's a very rare possibility that this someone will not take it well and either hurt you or a bunch of other people. That's just how life works, and you need to be prepared for that consequence. And be aware that the consequence need not be immediate. It could take years of 'no's to eventually break a person. Yours could be the first or last in a long line of them. It's all just Russian roulette and sometimes, in life, ya just gotta take a spin and see how it turns out." Nope...no one says that. Instead the last half of that sentiment gets chopped off and all that's said to the child is, "I want you to know that it's okay to say no."

I think that this is wrong to do. It raises a person to believe that "no" is empowering and that you can throw it in another person's face and they just gotta take it. But it completely ignores or outright disrespects the potential and power of violence. I don't know how many times I've heard people say, "violence doesn't solve anything." It's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. I usually am swift to correct them by saying, "Actually, violence solves a lot of things. Depending on the level of violence, it has a potential to bring a swift end to any disagreement. It has the potential for finality, unlike any other thing. It just depends on how committed to the violence someone is." I have actually been asked to leave a home because I said this to someone. They were so "shaken" by my ability to point this out. However, in my defense there were others in the room that immediately agreed with me, making this person who kicked me out of their home very cross that I could possibly bring up such a sentiment around their children.

So here's my ultimate point: it's my observation that we are increasingly becoming a society where no one wants to deal with the garbage. And yes, I'm using "garbage" as a metaphor. "Mommy, I don't want to put my hands on the garbage because my hands are dirty and I smell." Yes, yes that is a reasonable thing. However, if there is no one that wants to put their hands on the garbage, the garbage starts to rot and fester and it does start to pile up. There's more and more garbage every day. No one wants to date the garbage. No one wants to live with the garbage. No one wants to have sex with the garbage and get that horrible mess all over us. We are raised to expect better, and (for lack of a better metaphor) to avoid the garbage because we are better than the garbage. Do you get what I'm saying? But I think that the garbage gets tired of being treated like garbage. And sometimes (very rarely) it has a very strong opinion about its perceived "garbage status." Yes, we could just brush it off as mental illness, but I think there's more to this than PTSD, "aspies," and any other flavor of the psychological universe. I think people need to become more aware of the power of anger, and they need to be more aware of spotting signs of anger and treating anger like a disease. If people thought of anger as a disease, they would learn the causes, and learn how to cure it no matter how unpleasant the cure happens to be. But we don't like "unpleasant" conversations as a society, so we'll probably just stick our heads in the sand.

Yes, there can be some spectacular and horrifying consequences to saying "no" to the garbage. If we don't want to deal with these consequences, fine by me. But we should all be prepared for them in any case. We should also, maybe, have a societal conversation between all of us that we should try to say as many "Yesses" as we possibly can stomach before throwing up. Maybe if we all dirty ourselves just a little bit, then no one has to suffer too much.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum of Star Trek Discovery was a low point of the season but it still had some things to offer

Star Trek: Discovery ran a pretty weak episode last night when you compare it to how the earlier episodes went. However, it was still leagues above anything in the first seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was also the penultimate episode right before it airs the fall finale, after which I can cancel my subscription for a few months. Was it worth the $5.99 a month to see the episodes? Yeah. But if you haven't signed up yet, it'd be worth it to just binge watch using the one week free option that they offer for CBS: All Access. I kind of wonder (amusingly), if there's going to be a raft of cancellations right after the fall finale airs next week. I think I would LOL if there is.

Last night's episode was called Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, and there's going to be a few spoilers as I discuss what happened. First off, what didn't work? They really developed the "Kelpian" race in this one. The Kelpian crew member is Saru, and he's a prey species. Pretty early on Michael Burnham rattles off some statistics about Kelpians (as they are investigating a new planet called Pahvo), and she says that Kelpians can run really fast (in the neighborhood of 80 km/hour). We can assume that this makes them pretty strong too as strength definitely factors into speed. So what does a viewer with any intelligence make of these carefully packaged facts? Probably that the Kelpian is going to turn on everyone in the landing crew and use his super powers to take them down. And that's pretty much what happens. It was a kind of clumsy way to do foreshadowing. Add to this the fact that the animation of the Kelpian running through the forest looked terrible, and the crystals that surrounded this antennae that rose from the ground into space looked plastic...and it all adds up to a kind of blase episode at best. Don't get me wrong...the effects still look good overall, and I'm still not tired of seeing the black alert spore drive animation, but some of the other effects were borderline bad.

We also got to see the Klingons again, and we got the pleasure of reading lots of subtitles. Look, I respect the fact that someone at some time got really creative with Klingon and gave them their own language. Cool beans. I just fatigue easily when it comes to reading subtitles, and it always makes my brain hurt when I have to read the Klingon ones for minutes at a time. There was some development on the Klingon side, however, that was a little unexpected. Thus far, they've been the Federation adversaries lurking as specters in the background, basically raising the tension of everything that the Discovery does because they are beating the Federation so badly. So the development came in the form of L'Rell, who confessed to Admiral Cornwell (who is a prisoner) that she wishes to defect and proposes that she and Cornwell escape. Of course, this all goes tits up when they are seen and L'Rell murders Cornwell to dispel suspicion.

We also got some concrete information from Stamets (the engineer) who says the spore drive is essentially killing him, and that he's keeping the information from Culber, who's his partner and the ship's medic. This essentially means that the spore drive is probably going to fail at a crucial point in the fall season finale, otherwise there isn't going to be an effective cliff hanger to bring us back in the spring. So yeah...there's that happening.

One of the things I did like that this episode did effectively was give us a view into Saru's mind. As a prey species, he's born afraid and lives with fear every moment of his life. The alien planet Pahvo had some amorphous aliens which took that away from him, and for the first moment in his life he knew peace and comfort. I thought that was a really neat touch, because I could empathize somewhat with how awful it must be to live in fear all the time. To have that suddenly gone...man...that must have felt amazing. That was one of the more profound touch points of the episode and in the series thus far.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Without any spoilers I can say that Thor Ragnarok was just as good as Spiderman Homecoming.

You probably already know this, but Thor: Ragnarok is a really good movie. I saw it last night with my buddy Brad, and it is helpful to know a few things before going to see it, so I'll tell you what those things are.

1) At the end of the last Thor movie, called Thor: Dark World, Loki was in charge of Asgard. The fact that the god of mischief is sitting on the throne of Odin leads to a lot of laughs. I think I'm going to miss Tom Hiddleston, who may never again reprise his role as the famous trickster. However, Disney does have the ability to back up a truck load of cash....

2) "Ragnarok" is a term that's used in the Marvel comics to signify a reset of Asgard. In the comic books, it's happened a few times already. Each time the Asgardians get reborn and everything goes back to normal. This movie is a bit different, because it mashes two storylines together: Planet Hulk and Ragnarok. It ends up being a fantastic mashup because it's fun seeing Hulk and Thor together. And let's face it...Hulk is only good when he has amazing things to tear into and smash. Him being in a solo movie by himself is kinda boring because he needs a villain powerful enough to stand up to his fists.

Okay, so here are my assorted musings (and I don't think any of these are spoilers):

1) Cate Blanchett as Hela, the goddess of death, is a huge win. I want more Hela.

2) Loki and Thor have incredible chemistry. You can tell their characters love each other, and when they fight together it's kinda magical. It's a shame that Loki's always going to stab Thor in the back when he least expects it.

3) The script writing is smart smart smart. Every moment is either a laugh out loud moment or just witty banter.

4) It sets up the Avengers: Infinity War really well. You should stay for both stingers. The last one with Jeff Goldblum is hilarious (much like the rest of the film).

Go see Thor: Ragnarok guys! Seriously.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

As Nano kicks off the IWSG ponders a deep and meaningful publishing question for all the writers out there

Today is November 1st. There's a lot of things that happen in November. For one, we've officially entered the holiday season. This year is the first one in which I'm putting up my own tree and decorating (a little bit) for Christmas. For Halloween, I just put a bunch of pumpkins on my porch, so it'll be a little more effort than that to dress the house up for the holidays. Second, it's the start of Nanowrimo for many people out there, and this event also has to do with the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly question which is talked about below. Third, it's the first full month in which the iPhone X is going to be available. It's been a few years since I upgraded, so I think it's the one I'm going to jump to once its widely available (there's currently a production bottleneck). My current iPhone is barely useable. It's battery lasts about an hour if I don't use it at all and fifteen minutes otherwise. And the lag it experiences is significant. When I type a text message, there's usually a one second delay now before the letters appear on the screen. Yeah...it's pretty awful.

So this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is: "Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?"

I actually have never participated in the NaNo project, so I guess that's easy. However, if you dig into what the question is really asking it's this: have you ever just binge typed a novel into completion in thirty days. The answer is still no, although I did type out one novel in about sixty days once. And no, that book was never published.

Right now, I'm collaborating on a fun project with my friend Jake. It's been really interesting, as he's come up with a fascinating story and loaded it into google docs, and I take on the persona of one or two characters that he doesn't want to deal with and respond in character to situations that he's put them into. The fun thing is, he can actually see my words appear on the screen in the google docs program as I type them. I never realized writing could be a shared experience, and it's a lot of fun. As for the story it's kinda meh. It currently has no plot really, but we are certainly getting to know the characters rather well. I guess that's something. I imagine we are cranking out enough words to qualify for NaNo. But I've got enough publishing experience under my belt to know that this is a thing that should never be published because it's kinda bad lol. Bad can still be fun though. It's true. And in the least, it's showing me that it's actually quite easy for two people to work on a project at the same time (and weave together their writing styles). I think it'd be fun to take this experience and apply it to a more serious context in the future.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I wish I could be this enthusiastic about Halloween but I just can't.

I have no idea where this house is, but if I had to guess, it'd be Utah. This state, which is home to large Mormon families, and 35-year-old kiddults (the 35-year-old man that thinks he's still fifteen) go crazy for Halloween. I think I just lived through too much trauma in my life to let the mental barriers down long enough to cut loose and be fancy free. Maybe that's what the definition of adult happens to be. Definition, "adult: a kid who physically has a body past its prime and who has experienced enough psychological trauma to have the fun beaten out of them." Sounds about right. For what it's worth, "adults" as I define them may not be able to be "fun," but we sure are good at paying mortgages, showing up on time, handling commitments, and cleaning up garbage. I guess someone has to do it.

So this YouTube user is named BetGeorge, and as you can see he not only has thousands of lights, which were probably hard to hang, but they're all animated and perfectly synced to the song "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I also (perhaps erroneously) thought that Halloween decorations are about making things spooky and gory. However, the guitar and keyboard are pretty impressive.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Netflix is getting Godzilla: Monster Planet soon and that's exciting.

The remnants of humanity leave Earth, because Godzilla. Then they come back because the new planet is horrible, but their tech hasn't improved and they have even fewer resources. "We got this folks!" This is the new plot for Godzilla: Monster Planet!

I was excited when the announcement hit that it was coming to Netflix in the international release (following the release of it in Japan in November of this year). It's animated, but the animation looks as good as Cowboy Bepop so it should be fun. Of course the music will be terrible, but I rarely like music in Japanese animated movies.

For what it's worth, I do like how the directors of the movie seem to be taking some design cues from both the Legendary pictures and "Shin" versions of the King of Monsters.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The morally bankrupt captain Lorca threw his admiral bff under the bus in the latest episode of Discovery

I really don't like Captain Lorca. He's just an awful person, and that trend definitely continues in this week's episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Spoilers are ahead for those of you who haven't watched the episode yet.

Lorca (if you don't recognize his name) is the captain of the most technologically advanced ship in the fleet. Unfortunately, this means that he just can't go off and indulge every whim...or at least that's what he's told by Admiral Cornwell, who shows up long enough for them to squabble, have some sex, and for her to threaten his command when he freaks out and points a phaser (that he apparently sleeps with) at her head. She declares him mentally unfit and leaves, only to get captured by some Klingons. Naturally, Captain Lorca (who embraces the unconventional) is now shrugging this one off. "I'll go if I'm ordered to, but if not we'll just...I dunno...see if she ends up dead." That's not a direct quote, but it's pretty much how this captain's personality is. And I'm kind of disturbed at Burnham's devotion to Lorca, and appreciation to serving him. Ugh. It just makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Additionally, this episode really put Sarek under a microscope, and I'm not sure I like how it went about this. We've known since old Trek that Sarek was a stubborn Vulcan. He also disliked Spock's decision to join Starfleet (this is a matter of canon and has been canon for about fifty years). But to think Sarek is the kind of person who would make his own adopted child believe her own inadequacies and failures as a person were responsible for not making it on Vulcan--instead of it being his own emotional decision to choose his own blood--essentially turns him into an asshole.

But things weren't all bad with the episode, and I'm not saying I don't enjoy Discovery...rather, I'm saying I don't enjoy Captain Lorca. Some of the other things I really liked was the idea that "smarts don't count" when it comes to getting a command rank in Starfleet. Burnham points out that everyone who rises to that level is smart. You have to have something extra.

I also liked the idea of Vulcan terrorists. It develops the Vulcans a bit more than the run of the mill logic-obsessed ones that we've seen in the majority of the series. I suppose Kim Katrall could have been considered a kind of terrorist in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But really, she was more of a rogue person operating on her own than under any real movement essential to Vulcan culture.

I'm not sure if Ash Tyler is entirely human either (he's the guy that was rescued last week from the Klingon prison). He appears to be completely loyal to Lorca because he lives on the edge and shares some of the captain's personality flaws. The fact that he has similar traits to Lorca though, makes me think that it's just a bad idea having him around. But what if he's a Klingon plant? This seems more likely. I mean, they could have surgery to make a Klingon look human, right?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Before viewing the Lego Ninjago movie it'd be best to know what Ninjago is

Lego Ninjago hit theaters in September. 

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm going to correct that tonight with companion, Brad Habegger. We are both not ten years old anymore. So for the benefit of anyone else out there who also finds themselves in the uncomfortable zone of admitting that one is no longer ten, I guess I should probably extend my adult brain into explaining what exactly a ninjago is (because you're in luck).

Ninjago is a portmanteau of "ninja" and "Lego." Think of "Bennifer" or "Brangelina" only in this case it is a world and not a power couple (did I use power couple correctly in a sentence?). "Ninjago" is a fictional place invented as both a theme for Lego sets and a setting for the show Ninjago: Master of Spin. This show started in 2011 and lots of kids like it. The first "Spinjitzu Master" (not to be confused with the defunct Bill O'Reilly who was "Master of the No Spin Zone") used some powerful weapons called the Four Elemental Weapons of Spinjitzu to create it. He had two sons: Lord Garmadon (evil) and Sensei Wu (good). Pretty basic right?

Garmadon (as is the case of evil creatures) was eventually banished to an underworld while Wu protected the powerful weapons. But Garmadon came back, so Wu trained four young ninjas and designated them "keeper of the weapons." They both have goals. Garmadon wants to conquer Ninjago. Wu wants to protect it.

In the movie, there are supposedly six ninjas. They are: 1) Cole (earth ninja), 2) Jay (lightning ninja), 3) Kai (fire ninja), 4) Nya (water ninja), 5) Zane (ice ninja), and 6) Lloyd (green ninja). There's a running gag where he doesn't know what "green" ninja is supposed to mean, just like the clueless audience. Lloyd is the son of Lord Garmadon, which he doesn't like, because his dad keeps attacking the city with his army. Garmadon is also an absentee father.

So that's it. Those are things I know (and from what I've read in reviews) is helpful to know before going into this movie to avoid getting lost.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Here are five things I expect from Solo: A Star Wars story

With the announcement by Ron Howard that the Han Solo movie would simply be called "Solo," it got me to thinking about what I actually expect from a movie about the most famous space smuggler there is.

1) I think that we should see some kind of Heist. I mean...what kind of movie would it be if good ole Chewy and Han weren't making money pulling the wool over someone's eyes?

2) Han should be arrogant. He was pretty full of himself in the original Star Wars (as well as a womanizer) so we should see some of this on display.

3) Lando Calrissian. If we don't see a young Lando and Han playing a game of sabaac, I will be incredibly disappointed.

4) We need to see whatever the Kessel Run is, and it needs to be run in twelve parsecs. This needs to be clearly explained as "impossible" in the movie to do (as well).

5) We'll get a meeting between Han and young Jabba. We already caught a glimpse of him in the Star Wars prequels, but this will be better done because technology and C.G.I. has advanced so much since the early 2000's.

Anyone else caring to take a stab at what we'll see when it hits theaters in December of 2018?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Star Trek Discovery is a dark science fiction take on traditional Trek only with actual cussing and gay characters.

Spoilers Ahead. Please be aware :). Season 1, Episode 5 called "Choose your Pain" was one of the best episodes aired yet, which is to say a lot since this series has got extremely high production values and solid actors. Last night I was caught off guard twice in one episode. For one, the characters dropped the "F" bomb twice. I had to check myself and then realize, hey this is online and a paid subscription at that, so they must feel they can get away with more, and I really like it. Then at the end of the episode, we learned that the doctor and the engineer are a gay couple. I mean...that's just awesome. It's never been a real thing in a Trek show until now. On top of all that, the gay character saved the ship, so yeah he's brilliant and a hero.

But pushing past those two barriers to examine the episode, there was lots to be proud of in the vein of those who like Trek. Roger Carmel's portrayal of Mudd (who we met in the original series) seems to work pretty good. I never really liked the character of Mudd, as he was pretty much an asshole. This new actor carries that role pretty well, reprising the smug trader with no scruples. He says, "I sure as hell understand why the Klingons pushed back, Starfleet arrogance." This probably means that there's more to him than just being a trader in goods. He also has dark political motivations. A possible villain, maybe?

We also learn that Captain Lorca (as if we didn't suspect this already with his commitment to do whatever it takes) is essentially a terrible person. He confesses that he blew up his last command ship so that he could save his crew from the hands of the Klingons. What a way to justify mass murder. The guy's got no moral center whatsoever.

And I also love the spinning ship effect. It's just really cool when they make the jump using the tardigrade and the spore drive. However, what's not cool is that they kept using the tardigrade, even when Burnham kept telling Saru that the spore drive was killing a sentient creature.

Star Trek: Discovery is just a different kind of show. It's dark and gritty with an over-arching storyline and a kind of Babylon 5 or J.J. Abrams reboot kinda feel to it. I wonder where it's going with all this. Maybe the mirror universe? I kinda got that hint from the episode's last scene. Thing is, the last time we saw the mirror universe, everyone had mustaches and strange goatees. That should still be a thing. It really should.


Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm in love with Riverdale's beautiful darkness and suffering. Let me tell you all about it.

There are spoilers in this post!

Riverdale is back. I love this show because everyone has a motive for murder. And even if they don't eventually end up dead, it's just enough of a fantasy to buy into. I mean...could there be a whole small town of sex-crazed young (exceptionally gorgeous) people bleeding all over the place as they damage and traumatize one another, while listening to great music and leaving a good looking corpse? Maybe not, but who knows? IT COULD HAPPEN IN EDGY-VILLE.

This year's mystery (last year was Jason Blossom's death) is apparently "Who shot Archie's dad?" Played by Luke Perry, I was legitimately thinking a couple of times that they might just bump him off while watching last night. But they didn't, and I think the series is stronger for making this decision. The bit near the end though where Archie stands vigil over their house with a baseball bat to attack any intruder makes me think that they should have just invested in a home security system. It wouldn't have had the same impact though. And although that scene was very dumb, I got an earlier one where Veronica joins Archie in the shower. In that scene, he's watching blood swirl between his toes and thence down the drain. That scene was as hot and steamy as it was intended to be. But...Veronica did get into the shower while Archie was trying to wash his dad's blood from off his skin so yeah...a little dark but I still liked it. Eh...Veronica is not in the series for her ability to comfort people.

You would be mistaken too if you thought that a simple request for help from the local gang wouldn't produce some good helpings of trauma too. Jughead asks the Serpents to help uncover some information they might have about the possible masked shooter, and it results in a bloodied man being delivered to his trailer. They wanted to make sure their effort did not go unnoticed by Jughead. Makes sense, I suppose, in a psychopathic kinda mindset kinda way. I mean, there'd always be that nagging doubt: did they actually look into it?

Finally, Cheryl was a big winner in the premiere. She puts her mother (who's in the hospital with third degree burns) in her place, even squeezing the oxygen tube so that she's gasping, and then telling her that she's in charge now. Wow, go psychopathic teen. She also had the best line of the night in Fred Andrews' room at the hospital: "You gave me the kiss of life Archie Andrews, now I've given it to your dad."

Oh and Jughead ate a burger in the premiere. It's about time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The porgs are here! The porgs are here! Here's ten questionable facts about porgs that I could have made up.





PORGS ARE HERE! So you might as well know the facts (via io9 and then stuff I made up about them because I is funny):

1) Porgs are residents of Ahch-To, which is the mysterious planet where Rey finds Luke Skywalker. They are here for a reason, and it is not to sell merchandise. Or maybe it is to sell merchandise, but please realize that this is in no way "selling out." It's just fleshing out a universe so that it feels more realistic.

2) Luke Skywalker must be a fan of porgs.

3) They build nests.

4) They can fly short distances.

5) Their babies are called "porglets."

6) They are sea birds. Their coloring varies. Males are slightly larger than females. They're also inquisitive.

7) They're based off puffins, which are eaten in Iceland. So they may be better smoked to balance out the oil. However, because this is a fictional universe, a porg may in fact taste like chicken.

8) They may be low in saturated fat and high in midichlorian content. The reason why Han Solo was on Tattoine in the first place was because he was dropping off a shipment of porgs, which is the food of choice for slave labor on that planet.

9) Gordon Ramsey thinks they're delicious.

10) I suspect that Chewie will work through his grief over losing his lifelong friend by collecting porgs the way an elderly widow collects cats.

Now you are prepared to truly appreciate the porgs. You are welcome. And in case you haven't seen the theatrical trailer, it's below :).


Friday, October 6, 2017

I seriously would like a pair of these free posters being given away at New York Comic Con.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anything "Free" that's as cool as this.

Bottleneck Gallery has teamed up with Warner Brothers to give out some frickin' awesome Blade Runner 2049 posters at New York Comic Con. Man oh man, I wish I was going. These are gonna fetch some serious cash on Ebay. Check them out:

Sigh. I need more high quality free stuff in my life. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

No I have not slipped any personal information into my characters either accidental or otherwise.

Today is the first Wednesday in October, not to be confused with the first Monday in October (a designation reserved for the new term of the SCOTUS). This means that it's time for a new Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The website for the IWSG is located HERE, and it's a great way to start making friends in the writer community. In fact, I can't really recommend beginning anywhere else so yeah...if you write...start there first.

This month's question from the desk of the IWSG is as follows:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Unfortunately no. I can say that 100% of everything I've written about, scene-wise and action-wise, is completely made-up. I wish that I led an interesting enough life (even in small snippets) to include in my stories but the fact is that it's just not true (for me at least).

And maybe there's a lesson in this question: in order for you to be a great writer, you should strive to live an interesting life because it will improve your writing. Makes sense, right? Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I, a bull runner, and a heavy drinker all of his life. He married four different women, was almost killed in two plane crashes, and went on safaris in Africa.

Oscar Wilde dared to be a promiscuous homosexual in the puritanical Victorian era. He was in and out of courts on scandalous accusations, sentenced to hard labor, and was publicly humiliated. And of course he drank absinthe. All the great writers did.

Mark Twain was a gold prospector, steamboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, served in the American Civil War and was friends with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. He died one day after Halley's Comet came closest to Earth, as he had predicted.

Anyway, history is replete with examples of great writers living vibrant, fulfilling lives. It doesn't wax poetic about the schmuck that is middle class and works a 9-5.

So maybe the IWSG is trying to tell us all something this month: live a life that makes you want to slip personal information into your characters. I suppose you can take that to the bank.

Monday, October 2, 2017

This week Blade Runner 2049 comes out and its gonna be talked about for years to come.

This week the world get to see a sequel to Blade Runner that has been promised, withdrawn, promised again, and teased for several decades. The original film has had many cuts: director's cut, the "we found footage cut," the "this isn't quite it but we're getting close" cut, the "superior" cut, etc. In all of them, it is a slow-burning noire detective story swirled together in a science-fiction dystopian vision of the future (which essentially describes the entire cyberpunk genre). It's also (supposedly) pretentious as hell, because "pretension" just means artsy. There are those of us out here who welcome pretension in Ridley Scott movies. For lack of a better explanation, a dumb viewer needs to be self-aware that it's their stupidity that holds them back. After all, it's not the responsibility of every art object to make itself understandable to halfwits. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 promises to be all this and more.

Say what you will about Blade Runner, but it was a movie that accomplished many things. For its star, Harrison Ford, it broke the typecasting he might have fallen victim to (Mark Hamill was never able to escape this bear trap). And the sequel may also be significant in one way: Ryan Gosling might have to change his facial expression at least once. I kid I kid! I love Ryan Gosling, but you have to admit that he does have a remarkably unchanging facial expression at all times. And even in "stoic face" gosling is a pleasure to look at (I know the ladies will at least agree).

And there are Blade Runner purists out there a plenty, but early reviews have basically pegged the sequel as being a masterpiece, so I expect criticism to be few and far between. There will always be those that insist that Blade Runner should have been laid to rest, allowed to bask in its enduring glory forever, untainted by sequel, prequel, sidequel, upquel, downquel, or diagonalquel. But those people need to shut up now. The original was a film that continues to infect the thoughts of many long after the final credits rolled. This means it was good enough to warrant caring about what happened, but complex enough to require some actual thought to fully understand what we all saw.

So that you can be prepared for Blade Runner 2049, here is a run down via Comic-Con San Diego that was posted back in July (that details the events that occurred between the original Blade Runner and the monster sequel due out this week).

2019: Blade Runner Rick Deckard flees Los Angeles with a replicant named Rachael (obviously there's going to be questions answered like, "what has Deckard been doing with Rachael all this time?" I doubt it has been doing origami).

2020: The Tyrell Corporation introduces a new replicant model, the Nexus 8S, which has extended lifespans.

2022: An EMP detonation causes a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world.

2023: A Replicant prohibition is put into effect.

2025: A new company, Wallace Corp., solves the global food shortage and becomes a massive super power.

2030: Replicant prohibition is repealed.

2049: Life on Earth has reached its limit and society divides between Replicant and Human.

I gotta admit. This has got me excited guys! Anyone else planning on seeing it?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Here are five things that I absolutely loved about the Star Trek Discovery premiere.

My friend Kevin Long asked me on Wednesday (via a comment) how I liked Star Trek: Discovery. I suppose I thought the implication that I liked it a lot was in there somewhere, as I went to a lot of trouble to get it to show on my LG television. But since my viewing, I've thought about exactly what I liked about it, and I'm going to tell you. Oh and Kevin, if you're reading this, you should send me an email because I lost your contact info in my last move. WARNING: There are spoilers for the first two episodes in this post.

1) Powerful female characters and strong diversity. The captain was Chinese, the first officer a black woman, and both roles predictably dominated over everything else. I liked that these Starfleet officers operated (essentially) without any reference to their sex whatsoever. There was no hint of fear of the Klingons, they did not get distressed or histrionic, there was no "standing down" unless it was done by threat of being shot, and the threats on their existence were taken very seriously and intelligently. The two women in the pilot (at the center of everything) are Captain Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green).

2) It's definitely Trek. I think the feel of it lies as a mix between Deep Space Nine and Voyager with punched up graphics, Aaron Sorkin-esque rapid fire dialogue, and combat/space battle front and center. It feels darker, grittier, and very serious. The best of Trek was always in the space battles and wars. The makers of this show know this and they threw it in the pilot episode. Fantastic.

3) Michelle Yeoh blew my socks off. I loved hearing her accent, and it felt refreshing for some reason. Maybe it's the fact that in the real world, we are almost on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea and that our only hope to reign them in peacefully seems to be through the actions that China may or may not take. Michelle Yeoh spoke her lines with every fiber of her being. It was great hearing such conviction and it is disappointing that she died in episode two.

4) The show is taking big risks. The first two episodes introduced us to a captain that was at the center of tremendous conflict (that was at times an edge of your seat thriller). Then it killed off that captain in a deadly battle that proved how big the stakes were. Multiple ships, including the Shenzou were essentially destroyed. A federation admiral was killed. A war with the Klingon empire was started. And the other main character, Michael Burnham, was sent to prison on charges of treason, conspiracy, and mutiny (essentially for the rest of her natural life). Where the hell do we go from here? If we continue with Michael's story, we will be rooting for a criminal.

5) The finishing touches are incredible. There's an alien on the bridge of the Shenzou that has amazingly detailed skin, to the point that it looks almost iridescent. Whoever is doing the makeup is a maestro at their job. The bridge looks super polished and awe-inspiring. The computer generated graphics are (at times) rather mind-blowing. And the vistas of alien worlds and the shots of the universe out through the main projector screen are stunning. In practically every screen there's an opportunity to say, "wow."

So there you have it. If you watched the show, please share any thoughts you may have in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Star Trek Discovery was obviously worth the trouble for me to watch but its a big pain in the ass.

I have technology fatigue. I work in technology, and I live in a smart home. Getting all of that set up took time and money, and it works beautifully. Everything should be seamless, but Star Trek Discovery gave me the huge middle finger last night. Like a lot of people who enjoy Trek, I recorded the first episode. I have an X1 Xfinity DVR with voice control, I have a 4K LG television set mounted above the fireplace, I have all of the HDMI and optical cables routed through the wall, a pioneer surround sound system for great sound, and I have fast Wi-Fi speeds. My 4K television and my X1 DVR both have apps. On X1 I can switch over to the Netflix app seamlessly, although I rarely do this because the broadcast isn't in 4K. Usually when I want to watch Netflix, I use the apps on my 4K television from LG, which is essentially like having a tv with a built-in Roku. I bought it for this reason. I didn't want to have more and more devices. I wanted technology minimalism, as it were.

On my LG television I can watch Amazon, Hulu, Crackle, and countless other apps. However, there is no CBS All Access app. Trust me, I looked. I went online and looked it up, and it turns out that CBS declined to make an app for the LG television. Okay fine. I have Xfinity too. So I went onto Xfinity's app store that has apps like Netflix on it, and nope...there's no CBS All Access. Xfinity on their forums even went so far as to say that this will never happen, as this streaming service by CBS is viewed as direct competition.

Okay, so I went to my small devices, i.e., my iPad and my iPhone. On the support page of CBS All Access, they proudly tout that you can watch these shows on the small devices. Keep in mind that I don't want to watch the show on a small device unless I'm traveling, and that it actually pisses me off that a company uses "This show is made for viewing on a small device" as one of its selling points. Those should be available, yes, but they shouldn't be the main goal. I guess CBS All Access didn't get this memo.

So when I view things like YouTube on my small device, an icon pops up that I can tap that will throw the show onto my television set so everyone can watch it. It's because my Apple and LG are compatible to each other and they are both set up through my Wi-Fi. This was not a coincidence by the way. I selected this compatibility through research when I purchased my electronics. However, the CBS All Access app doesn't produce the icon. It's not encoded on it, so you can't actually transfer any CBS broadcast through the small device onto the LG television. Needless to say, my patience is wearing thin here.

I decide to view the CBS All Access through a web browser built into my LG television set. I type in the web page, enter my sign-in information, and click play on the Star Trek episode. A beautiful commercial for Verizon plays (after which Star Trek will start) and the sound/everything is working as intended. Once the commercial ends, Star Trek starts and plays for two seconds and then stops. It errors out saying that the video is not compatible with this web browser. ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? I can watch commercials but I can't watch the program?!?

What finally worked was a mockery of everything that I went to the trouble to avoid. I broke out my laptop, connected it to the side of the LG television with an ugly black HDMI cord that dangles down on the side with the fan of the laptop clearly humming, and then used the laptop to view the next episode of Star Trek Discovery, which was now visible on my big television via a hardwired connection of the HDMI cord to input 2. After all this trouble, I will be paying $5.99 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery in this frustrating manner AND it will be filled with commercial breaks. It really was a big middle finger to all of the trouble I have gone to (and all of the expense) to make my house a beautiful zone of peace. It was a big "Oh...this is nice...too bad YOUR SH*T A'IN'T GONNA WORK WITH THIS HERE PROGRAM! HA!" **spits on my face** "YEAH YOU GONNA EAT THAT SH*T UP, BOY!" Those were the words playing in my mind as I looked at the ham-fisted way I solved my Star Trek Discovery problems.

There's part of me that's incredibly angry with CBS. It's like they made no attempt to make life easier for anyone. They didn't make deals with other companies, they didn't design apps well, and it was all because "zero f*cks were given." It must be nice to live in a world of "zero f*cks."