Friday, May 29, 2015

Seeing non-human cartoon characters depicted as human is an interesting social experiment with regard to race and culture

Over on a website called Dorkly, there's a series of pictures done by an artist who draws with a very "anime"-esque style of popular "non-human" cartoon characters depicted as humans. Other than the fact that this was very effective "click bait" as I started scrolling through them, I realized that not only were these not matching up with what I would envision these characters to look like but how many of them were caucasian/white (when I thought they might be otherwise). You can go and inspect the full slide show yourself by following this link. Some are drawn by the same artist and you can get the artist name from the website in a link under the picture to find out more about them.
This is artist Chacckco's vision of Lightning McQueen from "Cars"

Here's Wall-E and Eve from Pixar's "Wall-E"
A very "Christian Grey" Bugs Bunny. So weird.
Anyway, I'd be interested to see what you think. If you have the time, go check out the link and tell me if the characters depicted match up with what you envision these characters to look like in your head. If anything, it's an interesting social experiment with regards to race and culture.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Japanese Darth Maul is the action figure all of us Star Wars geeks have been waiting for.

I'm not going to even remotely suggest that I'm the only guy out there that thought Darth Maul with his blazing lightsaber was the coolest thing ever. Sure, the big reveal of the double-ended lightsaber happened more than 15 years ago and spawned hundreds of YouTube videos of people using double-bladed lightsabers in their own mini-movies. However, there's never been an action figure that I seriously wanted to own...not until now that is.

Square-Enix's Play Arts Kai line now includes the most awesome Darth Maul figure ever. Seriously, just check out these pictures. Also, note how even in a neutral pose, the flowing robes are just badass.

Cool? You can click to "Embiggen."

Friday, May 22, 2015

In a Flash-tacular season finale we got showered with Easter eggs from all of the CW's insane plans for their DC universe

Spoiler Alert: I'm going to be talking about the season finale of The Flash. If you haven't watched it, you probably don't want to read any further.

The first 80% of this week's season finale for The Flash had Barry hmm'ing and haww'ing over whether or not he should actually go back in time to save his mother or just let her die. I get that it was a big decision. However, it made for bad television. Thankfully, the last 20% of the show was FANTASTIC and the Speed Force scene (as Barry takes the plunge back into time)? It's full of Easter eggs for future stuff that's already been filmed or is in the works. In the video made by Youtuber Wild Jr, he slows down the frames so you can actually see what's going on in the whole tunneling effect of traveling back in time (eat your heart out Marty McFly).

First up on the left you see Barry moving in with the West family. This is nothing special in and of itself because we have already seen that happening. Then on the right appears Dr. Caitlyn Snow as Killer Frost. Here's what she looks like:
As you may or may not know, in September 2013 Killer Frost appeared on the cover of Forever Evil #1, and she was part of the storyline. In it, Dr. Caitlin Snow is a scientist sent to S.T.A.R. Labs Outpost #72 in the arctic to work on a thermodynamic engine whose creator committed suicide, and she soon discovers the place has been infiltrated by H.I.V.E. agents. When they tried to kill her inside the engine, she frantically rips off the coolant system merging her body with the ice. Transformed into a heat vampire, she continues to search for other sources of heat, which inevitably leads to her discovering that Ronnie (Firestorm) can blast her with heat (Ronnie is Caitlyn's husband) and temporarily heal her condition. I can only guess that Eddie Thawne killing himself has changed everything. S.T.A.R. Labs is probably operated by the real Harrison Wells now, and the Flash's entire history is going to change now. So it's going to be like this entire season never happened.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the Flash's storyline is pure insanity to follow.

Okay, more Easter eggs from the video. We got a look at "The Flash" museum, a look at Barry as a prisoner in Iron Heights with his father, Henry Allen, visiting him instead of the other way around, a portion from the Legends of Tomorrow trailer, the night Nora Allen died, and Jay Garrick's Flash helmet. Jay Garrick was the first Flash in the Golden Age & during World War 2. Jay is from the parallel universe of Earth 2 and has never existed in Barry's universe.

So if you made it this far, you probably watch the show. What did you think of season one?

I won't be blogging Monday as it's a holiday. Sorry I was absent Wednesday, but I just wasn't feeling good and wasn't up to blogging. Have a good long weekend.

Monday, May 18, 2015

On Game of Thrones no one remains unbowed, unbent, or unbroken specifically. However, I hope that Sansa Stark gets it together soon.

Every great house of Westeros has their own words. The Starks utter "Winter is Coming" on just about every occasion. The Greyjoys say, "We do not sow." House Martell in Dorne uses the words, "Unbowed, unbent, unbroken," which also just happens to be the title of the sixth episode for season five that aired last night.

The words mostly refer to their history: the Martell's were the only ones that resisted the Targaryens, making them pretty much unique. They used guerilla tactics against the Targaryens, avoiding castles where dragons could get at them easily, avoiding clumping together in huge armies that could just get blasted by dragons, and they used the desert terrain to their advantage to harass invading armies. Being a desert, there was very little in the way of support for a huge invading army anyway, which is a problem for a conqueror and not so much a problem for those who live there.
In Sunday's episode, I really felt for Sansa. This poor girl has had a miserable existence ever since she left King's Landing to be wed to Joffrey in the first season. She's seen her dad executed, has put up with insult after insult hurled into her face, has been betrothed about five times, has been married twice now, and each time her husband was someone that repulsed or horrified her. I kind of think that the words, "Unbowed, unbent, unbroken," maybe refer to her more than anyone in the sense that (despite all of the horrible things that happened to her including being raped by Ramsay Bolton on her wedding night) she may emerge to be "unbroken" and get a revenge on the people who have wronged her in some way.

I do love Game of Thrones, but I am disappointed in the fate of Loras Tyrell that is greatly different than was presented in the books. It seems the show has wanted to focus on Loras's sexuality, which is not how I remember the book in so much as he was the youngest Tyrell brother and had two older brothers who could step up and lead the house. In the television series, Loras is the only male heir to House Tyrell, which obviously increases the pressure because so much is bound to Loras's fate. Additionally, he attracts the eye of Jaime Lannister who becomes impressed with him, and he goes on to do some pretty great things before being maimed in a battle/seige at Dragonstone. As for Margaery, in the books she gets hauled before the faith because of issues having to do with being a virgin on her wedding night (there is doubt), but here she's just arrested because she's conspiring to deny charges of homosexuality leveled at her brother.

I think all of these deviations from the written material were necessary because 1) the volume of information that George R.R. Martin has written is simply too large for anything to handle (even a television series), and 2) the television series kind of "jumped the gun" and started filming while Martin was only halfway through the series. They really should have waited until the whole thing was commercially available for reading. That way they could prepare for all the different character arcs and make a proposal for more than seven seasons (allowing for deep exploration of the complex characters that inhabit Westeros).

Anyway, nothing's perfect I suppose, and as far as series go, "Game of Thrones" is one of the best fantasies I've ever had the pleasure to watch. So maybe I shouldn't be too critical. Just the whole "gay treatment" thing of a character as intriguing as Loras Tyrell kind of sticks in my craw.

But I do have a question for you writers out there. If a movie or television studio approached you to make your series into a show, would you consent if you were only halfway done? Or would you insist that they wait until the story is finalized? The answer is obvious for authors like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, but I'm interested if there are any of you out there that would play the "patience" card and insist that a film company wait until you were done. I look forward to your comments :).

Friday, May 15, 2015

The season finale of Arrow left me with a lot of questions but I am excited for the Legends of Tomorrow spinoff

In the season finale of Arrow, the Flash saves everyone. As he should.
The season finale of Arrow this week was action packed, and I've been digging through the events that transpired for clues as to what may happen in The Legends of Tomorrow spinoff. First we have Brandon Routh's character, Ray Palmer, getting into an accident with miniaturization at the end. This (obviously) explains how he becomes "The Atom" and can transform into a super miniaturized version of himself. It's the same kind of treatment that Barry got in a two-part introduction on the Arrow that occurred last season. Good thing Ray transferred all ownership of the company to Felicity, and good thing that the Atom and Felicity broke off their romance so that the Atom could head to his own show in its own time slot. Does anyone else notice that most superheroes seem to be getting their powers through explosions?

Next, Malcolm Merlyn is now the new Ra's al Ghul or "demon's head" in Nanda Parbat. This means that it's going to be through him how Sara gets resurrected in the life-giving waters of the Lazarus Pits. Everyone blames Malcolm Merlyn for Sara's death, and as world's greatest assassin, naturally he's going to make moves that will improve his relationship with his daughter (as he basically had Thea kill Sara in the season opener). I'd heard they'd cast the actress who played Sara as "The Black Canary" in The Legends of Tomorrow spinoff and wondered how she was going to come back. But what's going to happen with Laurel Lance's identity once Sara makes returns from the dead? Hmm. I have too many questions.

And now onto the big question: is Oliver really going to retire and live happily ever after with Felicity? This came out of nowhere, and I'm not really sure it works. I'd love to see Felicity and Oliver in a great relationship, but what about the main star of the show? Is Diggle going to be the new Arrow? I'm kind of thinking on the lines of what Patrick Dilloway said to me months ago: Barry needs to go back in time and change the past so that this whole mess of a season can be redone. Honestly, I kind of suspect that something like this may just happen because the Arrow season finale and the Flash season finale are one week apart. Why not have them take place in the same week? Well if Barry goes back in time to save his mom, everything has a potential to change in this joined universe, which may be a reason as to why the CW is keeping the finale's off kilter to each other.

I love the Flash and Grant Gustin who plays Barry, but have I ever mentioned how broken his powers are? When I was watching the season finale of Arrow, I wondered how Felicity and crew were going to break out of the dungeon of Nanda Parbat when suddenly the Flash showed up. Of course. The Flash single-handedly tied everyone alive up in the citadel and then just used his vibration powers to destroy the dungeon. At any one time, he could have grabbed Ra's al Ghul and just put him in the prison on Lian Yu or in a deep dark hole somewhere and then just ran out before Ra's could even blink.

The Flash's powers don't seem that "broken" in his own show but once he starts hanging with Oliver and company, you can just see that none of those other people are even on the same level as Barry despite the fact the writers like to close the distance between the "power gap" with creative toys like nanites that take away speedster powers.

Anyway, I'm glad that the Ra's al Ghul storyline is over. It was starting to drag on and on and on. I'm excited for the Arrow's return next season and hope that we get a new story arc with some villains that perhaps have some super powers. That'd be fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended up turning in a fantastic season two finale

Last night's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had an action packed season finale. First off, I had no idea it was a two hour season finale at that. I think I just kept thinking, "Is this episode going to end?" Second off, I was surprised that Skye's father ended up begin Mr. Hyde. I thought that was a rather interesting development. Third, Coulson is forming a new superpowered team with Skye at the center. I like it. Maybe there's been pressure from The Flash to showcase more superheroes in the show. It's a major shift away from the season one pitch, which was a show about normal people dealing with a world where superheroes are real. Marvel/Disney probably wants to invigorate ratings on the show because they know it works well to launch ideas and to promote their movies.

I thought for sure that the writers would redeem Ward. Nope, he's still evil. And the road that the character has traveled looked like it may have run out of steam, but he's going to become the head of Hydra.

As for Raina, I never much liked her character and kind of wonder if all that makeup she was wearing was a pain to get into. Having her character die was probably a mercy killing really. That way she can seek out another role that doesn't require her to probably wear really painful contact lenses.

There's also the matter of the Terrigen Mist, which is now being mass distributed as fish oil and will probably cause a change in the entire Marvel universe in general. And of course they couldn't leave well enough alone. Fitz asked Simmons to go on a date and left the room only to have her get attacked by the rock in the hold and get sucked into it. That's gotta suck. I wonder what happened to her?

Overall, this was a very satisfying end to a really good season. Agree? Disagree? I hate the fact I'm going to have to wait 8 months to get some answers. Sigh.

Monday, May 11, 2015

We got our first look at ancient Valyria on last night's Game of Thrones and the sight of Drogon flying over the ruins of the old city sent chills down my spine.

Dragons once again are alive in Old Valyria. This scene gave me goosebumps.
The Game of Thrones episode, "Kill the Boy" marks the halfway point for season five, and I love that we got our first look at Old Valyria, the civilization that marked the highest point of human endeavor for everything in the series A Song of Ice and Fire.

The setting was kind of perfect (very surreal), which you can do with the kind of budget that HBO now has for Game of Thrones. We had these two men who might have been friends under different circumstances: Tyrion on board a small boat being guided by Jorah Mormont (who's sailing through The Smoking Sea to avoid pirates who are afraid of Valyria for good reason).
As superstition goes, there is no place that is more haunted and more dangerous than Valyria. In the particular scene, everything is so quiet and Tyrion and Jorah recite this poem that tells of the "doom that befell Valyria." They're looking around at these ruins that can only be described as grand and recalling that the world has lost an incredibly great civilization. But then out of the mist of The Smoking Sea explodes Drogon flying over the city like a ghost. Daenerys's black dragon is huge and seeing it so big in the sky is this completely arresting moment hinting that there are wonders still that remain in this ancient place...wonders that manage to be frightening and awe-inspiring at the same time.
Look at this gif of gorgeous exquisite ruins.
I read once that George R.R. Martin was unsure as to whether he would include dragons in his stories. I'm glad that he made the decision to do so, because he's treating them with a delicate touch. He's made them legends, allowing his story to unfold not through mythical monsters, but through the daily squabbles and betrayals of ancient families. When one of the mythical creatures does make an appearance (like one of these dragons) it's like you're looking at something incredible. A lot of writers of fantasy could take a page from this writer's playbook, and use things sparingly so that they don't seem commonplace.
The Fourteen Flames, as depicted by Ted Nasmith. "The Fourteen Flames" are an immense
chain of volcanoes extending across the neck of the Valyrian peninsula. The ancient Valyrians
discovered dragons lairing in the Fourteen Flames. They tamed them and used them as
basically super weapons to conquer the world.
I have a feeling now that we are on the downside of season five, we will see the white walkers once more in an attack on the village of Heart Home when Jon Snow sails forth to get the remaining Wildlings hiding north of the wall.

Stannis will get bogged down in winter snows assaulting Winterfell. Somehow Sansa will get rescued, and I hope that Ramsay Bolton gets killed along with Theon because I really don't like these two characters.

Jorah Mormont is marked for death now because he let one of the stone men touch him and now has greyscale: a disease that's highly contagious and that toughens skin and presumably spreads inward to harden the victim's insides. So he'll save Daenerys in the fighting pits that's been advertised on one of the promos for the season and get killed (thus sacrificing himself for his queen and dying a redeemed man). Who knows, maybe he'll infect a few people with greyscale in the meantime.

And because the episode is called "Kill the Boy" I think that the revelation that Ramsay's father is expecting a child with his wife (and that it's going to be a boy that could potentially replace him in every way in his father's eyes) will urge Ramsay to kill the child in some way. Call it foreshadowing, or just another way in which Game of Thrones continuously shocks its audience with the cruelty of its characters.

I gotta say, season five is really knocking it out of the park.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Game of Thrones is eating through A Dance With Dragons and A Feast for Crows like termites gnaw on wood

I think Sons of the Harpy on Sunday night confirmed a theory that I've long had about the Targaryens and whether or not Jon Snow is one of them. It happened in a scene where Melisandre approaches Jon Snow to seduce him with all her women parts. The scene was remarkable in two ways: first it isn't in the books unless my memory has flown completely out the window (which is possible) and two, she was sniffing about him the same as she does Stannis and alluding to "power" being in his veins. Well what power is that exactly? I'm betting on it being dragon's blood, a.k.a. the Targaryens.

In fact, Sons of the Harpy was all about Jon Snow. Remember the exchange under Winterfell between Littlefinger and Sansa? Littlefinger told Sansa about the tournament in which Rhaegar Targaryen rode off with Lyanna Stark. Of course, Sansa replied with the whole "rape" story that's been spoon fed to her by the Baratheons but is that really what happened? Littlefinger seemed to know more but held back from setting the record straight. And that's when we cut to Daenerys Targaryen talking with Barriston Selmy. Hmm? Barriston also waxed poetic on Rhaegar who seemed like a gentle soul. He hated swords and loved to sing, and he gave the money he made to charity or to just get drunk and have a good time with his best friend. That doesn't sound like a rapist to me. It sounds like the kind of guy that's beloved.
I'm thinking more and more that Ned Stark participated in the biggest coverup in history. Jon Snow is a Targaryen. Yup. So how does that change things? I'm not sure dammit.

So now that that's settled, the other remarkable thing that I'm seeing develop in this season is how swiftly the show writers are eating up material in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons simultaneously. I know that Martin said the material in both books runs concurrently, but it's hard to separate that in my mind because there was an eight year gap between books. Tyrion took forever in crossing the vast expanses of Essos to Mereen, and it looks like that by the end of the season, we're going to have a showdown at Winterfell between Stannis and his men and the Bolton boy (will Sansa get rescued?), we'll have Tyrion in Mereen, and we'll have all of Cersei's scheming with the High Septon get thrown back in her face when Margaery and Olenna figure out how to outmatch her at her own game.

I know I've written before that The Winds of Winter is supposed to be out this fall. I've been checking Martin's website and now I'm not so sure. It may get published as early as next spring, but I hope it does before the start of the next season. I'd like to see how things go in the books before getting too many spoilers. It's a given that HBO is going to finish this thing in seven seasons, but I'd like one more book under my belt (I think) before then. I wonder if (knowing the ending when it happens) I'll even feel like buying a Whisper of Spring. Maybe? Maybe not?

It must be so weird being George. That being said, we are headed for one hell of a season finale.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

This month's insecurity questions whether insecurity itself does indeed breed arrogance.

I found this little gem in my travels on the internets. It's a quote from someone named Daniel Saint (I'm not sure who this is) but it got me thinking. Does insecurity breed arrogance? I know insecurity can be the root of a lot of unpleasant things, but arrogance? Really? My dad used to work with someone that he said had an "inferiority complex." At the time, I didn't know what he meant but maybe I do now (having worked with a profound narcissist several times in my life). I wonder if any of our insecurities with writing work themselves out in such a profound way. Are there any arrogant writers out there that can answer this question?

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I flew to Portland Oregon for a mini vacation and ate some of the best things that have ever passed my lips.

Last week I flew to Portland, Oregon for the first time on a mini-vacation to visit my friend James Salmonsen, and I thought I'd tell you about the trip. I flew first class, and I don't think I'll ever fly anywhere again that's not first class. Seriously. The service is excellent, the seats are much wider and there's a ton more leg room, and there's even this arm rest between the seats that's wide enough to hold beverages. It also has a plug in to charge my phone. How cool is that? Oh and I got to check three bags for free. I actually didn't have three bags; I had one. However, I've now got that stored in my head as "things to know when traveling."
Portland was REALLY green. I live in Salt Lake City, so I'm used to the desert. Portland has trees everywhere. So many trees in fact, that you think there are people living behind them (as in lots of people) but you can't see any of them. Oh, and everyone is super friendly. I went to the Avengers: Age of Ultron on Thursday night and made like three friends in line. One guy was super excited about Jason Momoa being cast as Aquaman in the up and coming Batman Vs. Superman, another just wanted to chat about the Avengers, and a third told me about this strange video I needed to watch on Netflix. But the friendliness didn't end there. At Pine State Biscuits (a breakfast restaurant) a mixed racial couple totally started talking with me, and I think our topics went from Voodoo Donuts to restaurant recommendations to talking about podcasts to Charles M. Blow (who writes for the New York Times). And then as I was walking around downtown, one couple tried to bum some donuts off of us (we had a box) and another guy just started talking to us about the best steak in town. I have seriously lived in Salt Lake City for seven years people, and no one here ever talks to me. They all just look down their noses at me and whisper to whatever partner they are with. It's so strange and very unfriendly.

The highlight of the trip though was visiting with Stephen Hayes who blogs over at the Chubby Chatterbox. Stephen lives in a fabulous condominium with doors tall enough that Shaquille O'Neal wouldn't have to duck. Inside this nice dwelling, Stephen regaled me with tales of his trip to India, how the streets there are paved in twenty year old trash because no one wants to clean up, and how he saw the most beautiful thing in his life (the Taj Mahal) and the most ugly thing in his life (a beggar with a grotesquely deformed foot). I also took a look at his artwork (Stephen is quite the accomplished artist) and we went to a really nice restaurant called Decarli where I ate the best mussels and the best salmon I've ever had (thank you again, Stephen). Later we went back to his place and had a shot of chocolate tequila, and I also got to meet his very smart wife (as she was back from book club). Portland (by the way) has some people that can do southern cooking living there. I went to the Screen Door on Thursday night and I'm tellin' you...I had the best mac and cheese I've ever had followed up with the best fried chicken I've ever had. Everything was so tasty that my arteries have to be twice as hard as they were before the trip.

Anyway, I had an incredible time in Portland. However, I also looked up land values there and the houses start at probably $100,000 more than they do here in Utah. Here you can spend $350,000 on a three bedroom house, and it's a dump (read fixer upper). Over in Portland, the fixer uppers start at $450,000. That means I'd need to make $140,000 a year to be able to afford one. Wow. That's a lotta money. Looks like I'll be staying put for the near future. :(

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