Wednesday, November 2, 2022

In the November IWSG I contemplate why I have never participated in NaNo. And also Happy Holidays to you 2022.

Hello everyone, and happy NaNo. This is my last post for 2022, so I figured I'd make it for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I shall be back in the new year (2023) for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post in January. If I don't hear from any of you between now and then, have a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Here's a bit about the Insecure Writer's Support Group copied (and modified some) directly from the sign-up page, which you can find AT THIS LINK.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The IWSG Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and their hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the November 2nd posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton!

Every month, the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

November 2nd question - November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

I have never participated. When I first heard of NaNo WriMo I think I didn't participate, because I didn't have trouble writing a book, which is what I think its purpose is. If anything, my books ended up being too large. On many nights, I could write like 4,000 words easy, and it wasn't hard to come back to those words the very next day. In-between then and now, something has changed. I'm not sure that I'm a novel writer anymore. I don't feel the compulsion to write stories or to want to see things I've published being read or reviewed. Rather, I really enjoy reading what other people write. I don't know if it's just a phase, or if I've become more of a discerning audience for books to find homes with.

This isn't to say that I'm not a writer. I very much enjoy writing on my blog. And I do a lot of writing for work, but it's more the technical writing stuff. And I'm currently writing a module for Dungeons & Dragons to test out on my group (we play on most Saturdays at my house). D&D is kind of a "living" novel. You get instant "live" feedback on your ideas and can see how they land with people whose characters are part of the story. My current group has these characters: a rabbit person (think a kind of fey), a tortle (a tortoise that has many human traits), a devilish character with horns and a tail, someone playing a human male slut, a knight in shiny armor, and an assassin. It's all quite interesting, and they are very much enjoying playing these characters in the world I've created for them, and they do many funny and interesting things. A lot of it is completely unexpected.

Of course, I make no money at the above, and money is always nice. There's part of me that wonders if maybe I'm not one of those writers that embraces the monetization of something they enjoy. This clearly works out for some people, and I applaud those people wholeheartedly. But I think I may like crafting stories without the pressure of trying to market them. I feel like there's a lot more freedom there. Writing is also a pretty lonely experience. When you are at your computer, tapping at keys, you are just by yourself. Sure, your mind is very distracted with what you are doing, essentially immersing yourself in your imagination. But the real-world matters, and how we interact with the real world defines the minutes and hours of our lives. Even though I'm not making any money writing, I'm making lots of friends by running and participating in Dungeons & Dragons games. So, I get to scratch that itch and have people over for a fun time, and this oftentimes spills over to other days in which we get together for other things. Being social is fun, and having friends is fun, especially when they are your unique kind of weird.

Anyway, I hope that is a good answer to this month's question. As I said above, I will be skipping the December IWSG post, but I will be back for January's. See you all then.

P.S. Watch AMC's Interview with the Vampire. I need a 3rd season of this show like I need air to breathe. It's so good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Russia's war with Ukraine is a weird and unsettling mess to watch.

The war in Ukraine that Russia started has been a really strange one to watch as it plays out on the world stage, and through incredibly well-informed media that is able to throw light on things. Moves that Russia has made would have been seen as clever or brilliant in another era. Now, they just look comically stupid and the acts of a deranged madman.

The latest of these "acts" is a ploy by Moscow to create a pretext for escalating the war in Ukraine by detonating a dirty bomb within Ukraine's territory and then saying that Kyiv did it and not Russia. This is what the Secretary of State calls a "false flag" operation, meaning it is done to create a pretext for intervention. In case you don't know what a dirty bomb is, it's a phrase that describes a conventional explosive wrapped with radiological waste.

Other such "false flags" that Russia created involved Ukraine supposedly planning to use a chemical weapon. Want a second example? American Intelligence uncovered a plot by Russia to hire crisis actors to create a false pretext for invasion. Like seriously...Russia was going to hire actors to run through a script so that they could appear as heroes coming to the rescue. This would be laughable if it wasn't real. And it's real.

The firehose of propaganda coming from Russia is a strange and unsettling phenomenon. In the past, it has worked really well. And we see it work really well in our own country as (apparently) it is easy to dupe people if they have a reason/grudge to buy into a false narrative anyway. For example, they've said that U.S. mercenaries were preparing biochemical weapons in Ukraine. A little bit later, the propogandists made up an explosion that supposedly happened in Donetsk in early February. And the list goes on and on. All of these things are designed to get Russian citizens and its allies on-board with the land grab that Putin is trying to complete. It's so weird, especially when you consider how big Russia is already.

One of the most unsettling things about all of this (for me) has been the realization that what we all know comes from either direct-hand observation or by believing other people. And by and large, the history of the world has been shaped by believing other people as direct-hand observation simply hasn't been possible until the modern era with cameras nearly everywhere. Cameras have been a godsend and being able to check the photographic record or the satellite imagery against what a person says has (time and again) exposed just how duplicitous, petty, and awful many people are. And history is always written by the victors, and it is clearly biased.

George R.R. Martin shows us this in HBO's spinoff of House of the Dragon. This is a story about the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. But more than that, Martin wrote it to show through a fictional lens what a historical civil war between two women might look like if it were written within the context of a patriarchy and the authors were men. And this is exactly what we are seeing in House of the Dragon. It's that last thing that really fascinates me about the series, and the two women (the two "Queens") devolve into petty hatreds and histrionics over their particular desires to rule the Iron Throne (or to install their heirs on it). Despite the comicality of imagining this as a fantastic tale, how is it any different than what we see in real life? It isn't...not one bit. And that is how wars start and hundreds (if not thousands or even millions) of people die as a result.

That is an incredible thing to observe and then realize about humanity. We are all living in the most interesting of times.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Dwayne Johnson is here to save the DC Universe with Black Adam

There are spoilers in this post for Black Adam. You have been warned.

It's taken quite a while for us to get a Black Adam movie. I honestly don't know if we needed one. After having watched it on Friday, I still don't know if we needed one. However, that's a uniquely short-sighted thought on my part as I don't "need" any comic book movie really. I enjoy them for entertainment. And viewed through that lens, Black Adam was a lot of fun. Also (disclaimer) I'm a fan of Dwayne Johnson. I follow him on Instagram, and I pretty much watch anything he does. So, this is a biased commentary.

Look...Dwayne Johnson is not a great actor. But I like watching him punch people as long as I know that he actually isn't really hurting anyone. He really could if he wanted to, because he's that strong. But it's so much funner to see him playing a character like Black Adam where he can do so with impunity, and we can just kind of enjoy him destroying things. The city that served as the location of the film took an absolute beating (for example). Personally, I'd hate that if I were living in this city in real life. But because it was obviously a movie set with CGI, it was really fun to watch statues topple, get hurled around, buildings explode, and mountains cave-in. Oh yeah...and bad guys were hurled miles to just go splat at the end. It was (overall) probably terrifying for anyone that was in Black Adam's way. The only thing I missed was Zack Snyder's touch. Snyder has a way of just making superheroes seem like they punch harder. I don't know what exactly Zack does, but you see it in the superhero movies he does direct. Superheroes just look awesome.

Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., "The Rock", is also a bit dour in this production. His effervescent charisma and sense of humor is toned down. I imagine that being an "origin story," we will see more of the Rock at his "Rockiest" in the future, which you should read as funny and likeable. Another thing I enjoyed about Black Adam was that we saw a whole fresh slate of superheroes, and we saw a new web of relationships develop. It was kind of fascinating that the Justice Society are bad guys for the first half of the film, trying to reign in Black Adam's murder-lust, even though all the people he was killing were really bad men. They even get called out for not caring about oppression until they get ordered there to take out a superpowered guy who is actually doing something about the criminal mercenaries occupying their country. For all that Hawkman talks about due process, he's also there to capture Black Adam and shove him into a dark site prison with no trial or due process (and get paid generously for it, judging by the size of his mansion estate).

I do like that they cast Hawkman with a black man. This seems very much to be in line with his Egyptian origins. What I don't quite understand is why they turned this black man into the greatest maximum-aggressive AMURICAN-imperialist you can imagine. But...yeah, that's what they did. 

Dr. Fate is a superhero I've been wanting to see on-screen for decades. At first, I was dubious about Pierce Brosnan's casting. Even though it appears to be a one-off and the helmet will end up on a much younger person, Pierce Brosnan brought all the silver fox charm to the yard. As well, the effects they used to show Cyclone's powers was pure beauty. It was wonderfully made, like a church window turned alive, yet it didn't take away from her fierceness.

I would watch this movie again. It was big, dumb, fun. And there's a great cameo at the end with Henry Cavill's Superman returning for the role that I enjoyed a lot. I guess Dwayne Johnson is here to save the DC Universe. It's a good time for it too, because I'm getting Marvel fatigue if I'm being honest. She-Hulk was the worst in a downhill slope that started several years ago post "Endgame." I think the DC Universe has nowhere to go but up, up, up.

Friday, October 21, 2022

House of the Dragon is called adult epic fantasy because it dares to show humans with realistic behaviors.

The Targaryen Civil War coulda/shoulda ended here by burning the usurping cabal alive.

As House of the Dragon heads into its season finale, I want to say that although I don't think it is as great a series as Game of Thrones was, its been quite successful in blazing its own story. It would be simple to say that it's just a retread of "dynastic succession." I suppose you could say that this was (afterall) the crux of what Game of Thrones was all about: powerful people squabbling over who gets to be the one in charge and with unlimited power. We'd all like to think that someone with no checks on their power is benevolent. But more often than not, this isn't the case. They are a tyrant that rules with an iron fist, and people who are subjected to that power live horrible miserable lives.

The thing that I've enjoyed so much about House of the Dragon is that it's so real. Yes, there are dragons, which cannot and do not exist in our shared reality. And yes, there is magic too. But what is so real about the show is that it never shies away from how gross human beings really are. We are a miserable species, and the sanitized version that we used to get in the United States has convinced many of us otherwise through media filled with Disney musicals and to the lack of ever seeing a dead body unless it has been prepared by funeral homes for public viewing. In the United States, religion has forced and shamed sexuality into backrooms, public nudity including breastfeeding is shunned, and for the most part we pretend that certain "genitalia" simply do not exist. It's a thing we don't ever talk about. It's all clean, sanitized, tucked away, and there are messages on repeat saying, "no one wants to see your tuck them away." Shame, shame, shame.

House of the Dragon doesn't do any of this, and it owns its truth of just how gross, disgusting, and horrible people are not only to themselves but to one another. For much of the history of mankind, this is how humans have been (and they still are but no one wants to call people out on it for fear of being called hateful). And I've learned that a tiger does not change its stripes, even if it is plucked and trimmed and cleaned up like a Kardashian on parade. That's just a smoke and mirrors show, and one that psychologically convinces people to put others up on pedestals when we really shouldn't be doing that as much as humans do. Putting people onto pedestals makes them into something we look up to. It makes them into something to be admired.

However, our society could be far more enduring if we admired things that helped large groups of people to flourish instead of elevating undeserving people onto pedestals. What would the world be like if we could banish ideas that a person is "out of your league" and replaced them with "you should be grateful that someone likes you?" A lot of culture, particularly white culture, teaches that we need to find our best selves so that we can rise to the top. It's all about self empowerment. By contrast, indigenous people have a culture that emphasizes finding the best traits in yourself that will best serve your people and help your tribe flourish. It's an entirely different way of looking at things, and it explains a lot about why capitalism, particularly the brand we have in America, is so brutal. It also explains why people I know in real life really struggle with feeling gratitude toward anything. In my personal friend group, people don't like to thank others, because it makes them feel "lesser." It makes them feel like something has been done for them that they could not do themselves. That's a huge problem when your pride gets in the way of letting another person know you appreciate them. But that is America today.

So House of the Dragon is unapologetically grotesque, and I love it. But it isn't off-the-deep-end grotesque. Nope, it just shows people as how they really are. There's a scene in the penultimate episode where Queen Alicent, in order to get information she needs from Larys (the spymaster), must allow him to jerk off while he stares at her naked feet. It's so gross and so undignified. Surely, foot fetishes are uncommon, and this couldn't be a real world scenario. Think again. This kind of fetish is wildly common, and there are all sorts of people you interact with everyday who see sweaty, even stinky feet as a sexual object. Did you know that part of ancient wine-making involved people mashing grapes in vats with their bare feet? What made the wine ferment was the yeast between the toes, which is probably the grossest fact I know from reading articles about wine-making.

What about the multiple scenes of women dying in childbirth? Yep, we've just sanitized it all and thanks to advances in medicine, we've managed to make it possible for women to increasingly survive childbirth. But sex, childbirth, and bodies have always been grotesque, no matter how you size them up and clean them up and try to tighten this and prune off that. And incest is more common than many people want to admit (surely this doesn't happen in my neighborhood!), and people hating and plotting against other family members, and backstabbing at jobs and the list goes on and on. Ask any lawyer about how families tear apart when parents die and siblings argue over money. What about parents that end up having children that abuse them? This happens a lot too. 

People are awful, and they are gross, and it's wonderful. And it's not just poor ugly people. The good looking ones are awful and gross and mean too. They are amoral. I think that's the real beauty of George R.R. Martin. He knows all of this, and he crafts his stories around humans with whom we all can relate. It's anti-Instagram and anti-Tik-Tok. House of the Dragon throws mud and other body fluids on all carefully curated media posts to make cute girls and cute boys look like they are perfect dolls who don't fart, go to the bathroom, or have grotesque desires. It's like George's baseline is a garbage heap, which is how it should be. For example, a man that abuses his daughter with "benign neglect" rather than the other kinds of things at his disposal is actually a good person. Murder is the most horrific crime someone can commit by law. Yet, I'm beginning to think that everyone is capable of it given the right conditions and circumstances. Some will always be better at it than others, just like any other skill. And there will always be "those people" who actually enjoy it. Why? Because humans are terrible, and somehow we've tried to convince ourselves that we aren't.

In the penultimate episode of House of the Dragon we saw Princess Rhaenys (The Queen that Never Was) sneak below the Dragonpit which is filled with people to celebrate Aegon's coronation. Aegon is Alicent's son, and he's a weasel of a person, immature, undeserving, and he will be a terrible king. He'll basically be a tyrant. He's also not the heir. But his mother and the other backstabbing usurpers want the throne for themselves, so they hastily crown him basically ensuring that the country will be plunged into a violent civil war. At Aegon's moment of triumph, she breaks through the concrete floor, scattering small folk and shocking the Greens (Alicent's faction) on the back of her enormous dragon Meleys. Meleys is a swift, ferocious dragon, and with one word, she could end the entire cabal before her and burn them all alive. I would have done this without a second thought. But Rhaenys doesn't for whatever reason, and I think she will live to regret that decision A LOT. Her decision to not do it is very human too. She's in the moment of her power, and chooses to take the high road, forgetting that her opponents will always take the low road, because that's what people do. She chooses not to be a cold-blooded killer, not to be a kingslayer and a kinslayer, and to not have the blood of her nephews and niece on her hands. I know from the story that what awaits Rhaenys is not the same courtesy. But whatever. High road versus low road. I will remember that Rhaenys (in the end) was a decent person, and there are a few of those around. Not everyone can be vile. But it's finding out which ones are vile and which ones are not that makes for a good story.

It's weird to me that all of the things I've talked about above make House of the Dragon "adult" epic fantasy. This is why Game of Thrones is "adult epic fantasy" as well. When we talk about J.R.R. Tolkien's work, the term "Children's Epic Fantasy" comes into play a lot. So that's how I recognize the differences between the two. One is written for adults and one is written for children. And then it gets doubly weird when you meet adults who are obsessed with Tolkien, and you realize that they're arguing over "children's books." However, I wish that the above stuff I've described, i.e., foot fetish scenes, people being gross, murder, incest, and all the things that humans actually do, wasn't considered "adult." Rather, I'd like them to be rebranded. I would say that this story has "real humans" in them, and the other story you are reading has "idealized fantasy humans who are as real as pink unicorns with sparkles." It could come from a desire to interact with adults who truly embrace adulthood, instead of meeting forty-year-olds who act like children and who are married and do crossfit and complain that "adulting is so haaarrrddd." Anyway, I'm looking forward to the season finale, and I'm glad that it's been renewed for a season two. The civil war is going to be awful to watch, but I will thoroughly enjoy watching all these characters perish in horrible ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Generation X and every generation to follow was lied to from the beginning: Scarcity is real in everything.

When my friend Meg couldn't find an eighteen pack of eggs in the grocery store on Sunday evening, I realized the truth of that moment: scarcity is very real. And it's in everything. It just wasn't that real in America until 2020. There was an illusion machine here, made from twigs of propaganda, and by a profit-driven healthcare industry that makes money when Americans are happy.

But 2022 scarcity is more than just an uncomfortable truth. It's more than just, "Mike can't find a pack of 18 eggs and must settle for something else." It was also a moment of personal empowerment, because I had an epiphany. It was a moment of validation, because it provided an answer to A LOT of troubling questions I've had about life when things happened to me (and others) that didn't make sense. So, this particular post is dedicated toward pointing out all of this scarcity and making a mockery of the many gaslighty idioms that fall from the lips of people who lack self awareness of their own privilege.

Let's start with Alaska. If you didn't know, Alaska called off (for the first time in history) the snow crab fishing season that such shows as Deadliest Catch have highlighted for cable viewers. Why did they do this? Because the snow crab population has absolutely cratered. It's down like 90%, and they are so panicked by it that they want to conserve what's left and take measures to help the population recover. And that means that fishermen are out of business. So why is this happening? Scarcity...that's why. There aren't enough snow crabs. Who knows? They may go extinct. But the capitalist idiom that could be useful in this situation would be for some smug a-hole to walk around and tell those fishermen, "You just need to work harder." It's the most tone deaf attitude, but hey...I've heard that stuff all my life.

The Mississippi River too is drying up really badly in places. It's so low that barges are having difficulty operating on the "Mighty Mississippi." Below are some pictures, and they aren't from "Chy-NA!" Imagine Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer playing in those puddles near the Memphis bridge. Why is this happening? Because fresh water is scarce, and now people are finally seeing that this scarcity is real and it's everywhere. Is it in Utah? Yep! The Great Salt Lake is now half its size, and you can physically walk to the islands that are in it without getting your feet wet. Is it in California? You betcha. Every year another portion of it burns up. As a result, good clean air from the outdoors is getting scarce too. But maybe some smug a-hole should suggest that we all rake the forest or take shorter showers. That'll fix it! It's not the world that is terrible, silly! It is you! You need to pull on those bootstraps!

There's a loneliness epidemic in the United States. I'm not making this up. Seriously. There are tons and tons of people that no one wants to be around, and I can't blame them. I bet if I asked them, "Would you like attention?" They'd say, "Yes, I would." And then I could reply, "Sorry, there's an attention scarcity right now in the United States." Have you heard that young men are in crisis mode? Have you heard that a lot of angry and disaffected men are becoming violent, because they cannot find consenting partners? I'm gonna take a stab and say there's a love scarcity too. But how is this possible when I've been told on more than one occasion by smug a-holes that "there is someone for everyone."

What about good paying jobs? Surely, there isn't a scarcity of good-paying jobs! Oh...but there is, and there's data to prove it. Not everyone can have a good-paying job. There is always going to be someone who is stuck with the low-paying terrible job. That's how capitalism works. So why don't we teach this? Why don't we tell kids, " is terrible and hard. I don't know how yours is going to go, but you could seriously die alone, broke as a joke, and with no food and water. Everything is scarce, and you need to be grateful for every win and to not crap on people, because life is about survival." But this isn't what we say. Instead I hear, "Oh baby, you deserve anything, and you can do anything. You're so smart. Don't worry about anything. It will all work out." But no it won't! That's a lie. There are plenty of examples of things "not working out!"

Surely there isn't scarcity in food. Oh wait. Yes, there is! There are people in our country who don't have enough food. But wait a minute...this is least there's no scarcity in housing! Oh ding! Wrong again! In my own state, 76% of people can no longer afford a home. Why? Because the people who own homes don't want to sell them unless they pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the official reason (because no one wants to call their neighbor a greedy S.O.B. is that there is "more demand than supply," and "high interest rates" and blah blah blah). Scarcity in money, and scarcity in places for people to live.

I don't know how many times I was told growing up, and then in my twenties, and then in my thirties, and so on and so forth, "Mike...stop making excuses! You just need to work harder. People that work harder get the rewards!" This is a lie. It simply isn't true. Working harder only increases a random chance that something "good" might come of all that labor. But unless you are lucky, it will not overcome scarcity. Period. And living in denial that there is scarcity in literally EVERYTHING and that somehow all the things you failed at are YOUR FAULT BECAUSE...YOU LAZY is just a recipe for mental illness. Ironically, there is no scarcity in mental illness. We now have an abundance of that to go around in the United States.

Is there scarcity in quality medical care? You betcha. Is there scarcity in justice? Yup. Is there scarcity in people who can actually do quality work? Yes. Is there scarcity in good looks? Yes, otherwise a plastic surgery industry would not exist. Is there scarcity in intelligence? Yes, there is., I thought "all men were created equal". Uh...I hate to tell you...but that is just a nice saying to make people feel better. There is scarcity. In. Everything.

It frustrates me that more people don't live in the present and live in the truth of what's really happening. Gaslighting people is a hideous thing to do, and it makes it harder for our society to address scarcity in all of its forms. But in the least, I'm getting a certain kind of validation from the calamities of the world, because I realize that most of the things I failed at were out of my control. I just didn't have the luck and privilege of making those things a reality. It would be so nice if those who do have the luck and privilege (to overcome various scarcities in all of their forms) expressed a little gratitude for just once, instead of being a smug jerk.

How amazing would that be for someone to say, "I'm truly blessed, and I was born with a thing that I take for granted that you literally can never have?" They could finish with, "I am so thankful for this, and I feel so sorry for you. It isn't fair, and life sucks." But I've literally never heard these words from anyone in my life.

That kind of self-awareness (it appears) must be pretty scarce too.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Rings of Power was a real treat and I'm a fan of hot and thirsty Sauron.

I feel like I'm in the minority based upon online conversations regarding The Rings of Power. But my close friends who watched it with me had as much fun with it by the end as I did. There was some small validation in knowing that we were right about Halbrand being Sauron, although the mystery of who that "other wizard" is, and for that matter who those three white-robed ascetics were who came for him thinking he was Sauron, is another matter. I had previously thought that the kind of power they wielded was reserved for other Istari or "Maia." They most certainly were not at that level, and I got the impression that they'd fought with Gandalf's kind before.

As for the one they referred to as an "Istar," most people think that the "follow your nose" comment means it was Gandalf. If so, I'm okay with that. But other online people who don't outright hate the show think he may be one of the blue wizards whom we know nothing of other than their names in notes from Tolkien: Alatar and Pallando. I think it unlikely that we would get any kind of story about those two, because their names don't appear in The Lord of the Rings or in The Hobbit to my knowledge. And since Amazon has the rights to the footnotes and endnotes of The Return of the King and the names aren't there, it may be that we can't get stories of them for that simple reason. It's also why Gandalf in the movies says of the two blue wizards, "I've quite forgotten their names." They didn't have the rights to them, so they can't say them on screen. It seems like a slight "missed opportunity" when it comes to storytelling. However, I can forgive them given that Sauron makes me thirsty. I think they were like, "Yeah...Sauron needs to be prettier than Aragorn was in those Jackson films." Mission accomplished. Hot Sauron it is.

One thing I learned about yesterday that I thought was impressive is that this show can't get canceled. Apparently, the Tolkien estate insisted as a part of the rights being turned over to Amazon that the show have a run of five seasons consisting of eight episodes each. That makes me happy, because I know I will get an end to this story, or at least one that meshes with the stuff of which I'm way more familiar. As for Galadriel and (almost-certainly-Gandalf), there will be a lack of tension in those two stories. They will spend the next four seasons walking around with invincible plot armor. And unfortunately, almost-certainly-Gandalf will have every nanosecond of his performance compared to Ian McKellan's.

I do have questions though, and they may go unanswered. One big one is: what the hell was Sauron doing in the ocean with those people, in the very first episode? There's no way he could have actually been looking for Galadriel, could he have? It seems like such a huge event to occur out of complete happenstance. I mean...a massive ocean and the one wayward Maia is able to find the one elf who decides at the last minute that she doesn't want to go to Valinor? Right place, right time? Those are some astronomical odds, and "Fate" just isn't enough to explain it. So, I'm thinking, maybe the others on the boat were more of the devoted "Ascetics" and they were trying to help Sauron sneak into Valinor and subvert the Ban of the Valar somehow? Or maybe Sauron was on his way to repent before the Valar, but Galadriel came along and changed his mind and plans?

Another question I have is that almost-certainly-Gandalf uses a lot of power without the need of a staff. And once he gets a staff from one of the Ascetics, he then becomes unbeatable. I'm just wondering why he was able to use the powers that he did before he got his staff, because I remember something about wizards being quite diminished without their staves.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to season two. Anyone else in that boat?

Friday, October 14, 2022

Why do we need fourth wall breaks? Is this a fad that can please go away now?

Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were the peak. It's been all downhill ever since. Although I've been entertained by what came after, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (by and large) is not really all that good anymore (look...I liked the Hellraiser movie on Hulu, and it was not I have a low bar). The multiverse introduction, all the different Spidermen, and the fourth-wall breaking that we always get in every She-Hulk episode is (I think) not all that exciting. I also do understand that breaking the fourth wall is something that happens a lot in She-Hulk comics. I don't read She-Hulk, so maybe I'm lacking that experience on seeing how cool it is. But I actually do like suspension of disbelief, and it's kinda impossible to hit that amazing escapism you can get from a movie if your character goes into the writer's room, which is what happened in She-Hulk's finale.

Like, in the episode, Jen argues to Marvel that She-Hulk is at first a lawyer comedy and a Marvel series second. And then she gets to make changes to her own narrative. I mean...she used the Disney+ menu to enter another show. Like, really? She argues with the very writers of her show, who are actually writing this scene anyways, from the first scene of the show to the last scene. For what it's worth, I don't like the "it was all a dream" trope that writers sometimes use either. I think it's just a matter of taste, and my taste leans that way.

And to be clear, I'm all for watching something fun and goofy. Not everything has to fit neatly into the MCU puzzle. I'm also not clear on what Emil's whole purpose was in this show. Is he just doing self-help seminars now? I do get that he's part of the Thunderbolts, but the whole way of getting him there seems a bit sloppy with his character arc in She-Hulk.

It's got to be hard to follow up a huge story arc that ended with Thanos, a snap that removed half the life in the universe, and time travel that was necessary to reverse all of that wherein we still lost two great heroes. So, I appreciate that they are throwing so much at the wall to see what sticks. I really liked the show as a whole, but this ending fell flat for me. I guess maybe my expectations were out of wonk. Or something. I feel like I should be saying to Marvel, "It's not you, it's me." And leave it at that. Honestly...why do we need fourth wall breaks? Is this a fad that can please go away now?

I suppose that the next thing I need to watch is Werewolf by Night. I hope that ends up being more satisfying.