Monday, October 31, 2016

Check out the awesome Alex Ross preview prints for Universal movie studio's shared universe of monsters.

This weekend, website io9 showcased a bunch of Universal movie studio's monster prints commissioned by the amazing Alex Ross. I've been a fan of Alex Ross for decades now. Just about everything he's drawn has been "drool worthy" in my opinion. Anyway, these are just a preview of a bunch that are going to be released at next year's San Diego Comic Con to celebrate Universal's shared monster universe (you know, like Marvel's shared universe and the shared universe of CW's DC lineup). Check these out because they're awesome.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Okay it's time to weigh in on the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead


Along with seventeen million other people, I watched the premiere on Sunday night. I was shocked that we lost two main characters in the same night, and Glenn's death struck me much harder than Abraham's. The camera stayed on him so long...with that eye just bulging out...and saying, "Maggie, I will find you." As if somehow those two could be happy in an afterlife, because the world of The Walking Dead is so cruel.

Negan as a villain is a game-changer for the series. Nothing will ever be the same. Rick's a broken man, Maggie will be ruminating over the death of Glenn for the rest of her life, and the others will have PTSD at seeing their friends bludgeoned to death in front of them by a maniac with a barbed wire baseball bat.

However, I didn't like the way the showrunners handled the introduction of Negan. I think putting all of this into the last season would have been a much better storytelling play. The premiere just seemed to drag on and on and on. It's like The Walking Dead decided to heavily troll its very loyal (and powerful) audience, which smacks of a television show taking its viewers "for granted."

That being said, there are hundreds of articles already written about the season seven premiere. I want to point out that there's always a disconnect between when critics think a show is no longer conveying a meaningful message and when viewers grow tired of it. I consider myself a viewer and not a critic and yes, the show had me on the edge of my seat, frustrated that it was taking soooo long to figure out who Negan killed, and it will have absolutely no impact on whether or not I continue to watch as that is a given. I have to see the new characters, the leader of the Kingdom, and his tiger companion. That will be just too cool.

I have to believe after watching all of this brutality and seeing characters I get emotionally invested in get destroyed, that there is an endgame plan. I want it to be some kind of conclusion that offers a glimmer of hope, where humanity overcomes an insurmountable apocalyptic situation. I also know though that Kirkman (the creator of the comic book) has said this is a really long story. So whatever ends up happening, we won't know for many years to come. And if the premiere is any kind of foreshadowing, there is much more darkness to come before things start to improve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In Full Frontal Samantha Bee asks female heads of state around the world about misogyny.

If you have time, watch this six minute clip from Samantha Bee's Full Frontal. I found it interesting, because she goes around and asks female heads of state around the world about misogyny. If anything, it's a real eye-opener.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Works of fiction should not be edited to conform with political correctness because they aren't real and are only there to entertain.

I got into an interesting conversation this weekend with my friend Meg about The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Basically, she said she wasn't interested in it because the movie (playing at a local theater with live shadow acting) promotes "rape culture." It was an interesting comment because I came back with the opinion that it's a work of fiction. Dr. Frankenfurter is not a real character. I followed up with the question, "Does our fiction need to be edited so that it doesn't promote 'rape culture' or so that it becomes politically correct?" When I asked her this question, she indicated in not so many words that she didn't mean it that way. However my question did give her pause to think about the implications of being able to distinguish between reality and fiction.

We live in a very peculiar world right now. Facts and everyday realities, if they don't agree with what a person believes to be true, are now being dismissed as partisan opinion. There are many people who (because of this environment) are unable to tell truth from lie, fact from fiction, or fantasy from reality. I've never seen anything quite like it. You can actually present a video to some people, and if that actual video doesn't agree with what they believe, they'll dispute it saying it's faked. I'm troubled by the new realities that seem to be sweeping the nation, where facts no longer seem to matter, and conspiracy theories and untruths are things that people believe with all their heart.

That being said, I'm more thankful than I ever have been that the First Amendment exists. I never really expected the threat to actual fiction to come from the political left, but I see that there's a bunch of people out there who believe that works of fiction need to be "edited" so as not to portray anything that may be "triggers" for people. For example, there are people who believe that Game of Thrones and Westworld should be modified so that they don't portray so much sexual assault. I of course disagree with this. The programs should feature as much sexual assault as the writer wants. No one is forcing anyone to consume either the programs (or the books). If someone is against these things, then start a discourse as to why.

The argument (of course) is that some people are being encouraged by what they see in film and in fiction books and even (by extension) video games. And that's where I think society needs to really think about what's going on here: people are losing their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Why is this happening? Do we blame education and belief systems? Or do we look at ourselves and realize that there are conversations taking place every day meant to break down trust and faith that once existed between people only to shift that trust and faith to someone else who has a singular objective: to make money. I suppose this is one of the real downsides of capitalism. Anyone care to weigh in?

Friday, October 21, 2016

This over the top Halloween display makes me thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this.

I think I'm thankful that I don't live in a community that would tolerate this mess of a light show. Sure, it's a fun video, but can you imagine this going for hours every single night until Halloween? Ugh. Why do people get so wrapped up in Halloween anyway? I blame Peter-Pan syndrome

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

While you were distracted by the looming November election scientists in Tennessee discovered how to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol with great efficiency.

While everyone was busy being disgusted at their fellow citizen's behavior as a result of the looming November election, something wonderful in the science world happened. And by wonderful, I mean it was one of the rare "happy accidents" that resulted in something that I think could be "game-changing" and give a lot of hope to a human race struggling with the inevitability of climate change.

According to the journal ChemistrySelect, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee discovered a chemical reaction that turns carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process can happen at room temperature (so doesn't require hardly any energy), and it can be started and stopped easily and with little cost. When combined with the electricity grid, it could take advantage of times when there is abundant electricity by using it to create ethanol for long-term energy storage (during times when there isn't enough electricity).

Then there's the whole fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so this process could potentially take some of the CO2 out of the air and turn it into energy to power all kinds of things. No matter where you stand on climate change (or if you believe it's a conspiracy invented by democrats), I think everyone can agree that turning carbon dioxide into ethanol is a win win for the entire human race.

Don't you think that's exciting? I'm excited. Science! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I don't like westerns and I think it's because there's something I don't get about them.

I think I've given up on Westworld, but not because it wasn't high quality. It is exactly that. It's a high quality series that's well-written and showcases some of the best talent in Hollywood today. And it has an important message, not only about how we view the Turing test but about the dark depths of humanity's inner cravings. But every time it's on, I almost fall asleep on the couch. I just don't like Westerns. Living out here in Utah, I'm a standout. Out here, lots of people love Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Unforgiven." They love TV series like "Lonesome Dove" and they decorate their homes with antlers and guns. I think I'd just rather watch something that didn't have guns and horses in it. I like cowboy boots, but it's not enough to want to watch a Western just like it's not enough to listen to country music.

Westerns...I don't like the look of them. They're not colorful movies, are usually poorly lit, and are filmed on grimy sets. There always seems to be a holiness and heroism aspect to westerns with one guy standing out that has far superior skills to everyone else. And "the guy" is the epitome of western white ideals of masculinity that seek to walk a fine line between being unemotional and restrained with the ever present threat of gun violence. Of course, every western has to have some kind of storm. It wouldn't be complete without one (with the horses running scared, everyone getting wet, and ominous flashes of lightning). And there's the inevitable bromance that develops, and when it's interrupted when "the guy's" bro gets killed, it becomes a story of vengeance and justice (maybe with a woman crying her eyes out thrown somewhere in the mix). In a sentence, maybe it's because it glorifies redneck culture.

When I start watching Western movies, inevitably I look at the clock. It blows my mind that westerns used to be so popular. It says volumes about Michael Crichton that he wrote Westworld when I couldn't even contemplate positioning any kind of story in the Old West. Maybe they were so popular because in the early days of Hollywood, endless dull retellings of the great American frontier were easy to shoot.

Anyway, there's clearly something that I don't get about westerns.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The final trailer for Rogue One has sent chills down my spine and December 16th can't get here soon enough.

The final trailer for Rogue One recently hit the interwebs, and it gives me chills I tell ya. I think my favorite scene is this one, where Vader is totally marching (with menace) towards the dude in the white cloak. It gives me shivers, and it reminds me a lot of why Vader is so legitimately terrifying.
Still, the dialogue for this scene could very well go like this (putting on screen writer cap):

Vader: "I understand that you just had lunch...a BLT with that correct?

Poor Bastard: "Y-Yes L-Lord V-V-ader."

Vader: "I see. Now when you picked up this BLT with mayo...did you perchance bother to check for a name, written in large black letters on the bag?"

Poor Bastard: "L-Let me explain! It was a miss.... Gah!" (Vader raises his hand and points. Poor Bastard starts choking to death).

Vader: "This is a yes or no question...."

Hmm. So many feels about this trailer. How to sum them all up.

First: it looks and feels like Star Wars and yet also looks and feels like no Star Wars that's ever been. Anyone else getting that vibe?

Second: Is it just me, or is the most beautiful looking Star Wars movie yet? Maybe I just like all the summertime jungle shots or the Star Destroyers hovering against the sky or the Death Star coming up on the horizon of a planet looking like an awfully strange moon. It just tweaks all of my science fiction coolness buttons.

Third: The rock statue that looks like a fallen jedi reminds me of the ancient rock statues we saw all over the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember Peter Jackson saying, "We wanted the viewer to get a sense that there was this ancient civilization by showcasing its remains." It kinda has that "feel" to it, and I likes it...a lot.

Fourth: Does the trailer seem kind of dark to you? I could feel the oppression in the movie, and it may be a divisive film to Star Wars fans. I love darkness in films, so I think I'll be in the camp of those who feel it's just right. 

Five: It's possible that this film is more about the creator/engineer of the Death Star's super laser than of the vessel itself. That being said, I hope we get to see a rear view of the Death Star. I've long suspected that there are huge engines back there allowing it to go into hyperspace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Six things I absolutely loved from the premier of Supergirl on the CW.

Supergirl premiered on the CW for its second season Monday night, and of course I loved it. They didn't hold back on anything either. Right off the bat, Clark Kent (as Superman) showed up, and it was refreshing to see a more light-hearted version of the Supes (instead of the brooding dark one that we've seen in the movies destroying cities in practically every scene). Maybe we should all just admit that this series (and Benoist) are a national treasure. After all, her bursts of silliness are what all of us need this month leading up to the election.
So here are six things I loved: 1) the Flash cameo in the opening credits (because I can never get enough Grant Gustin), 2) the fact that even with Superman around the show managed to stay central to Kara Zor El, 3) Cat Grant was back (I heard a rumor that the actress that played her was thinking of moving on from the series, and I'm so glad that didn't happen),  4) Cat Grant yelling, "Miss Tescmacher!" was awesome (for those of you who don't know...Miss Tescmacher was Luthor's love interest/henchwoman from the 1978 Superman film, and she comes and goes in comics canon), 5) the idea of Cat Grant sending Clark Kent drunken sexts was the absolute best, and 6) an actor and writer got both Supers right. They managed to capture what makes Superman and Supergirl dynamic heroes. Case in point: after they save the rocket and are confronted by innocent bystanders, Kara says, "This is where I usually say hi," and he says the same. It's moments like these that build character.

All in all, this premiere episode felt like a reboot (or a pilot for a brand new series). It's got me excited, and I think Supergirl has found its home alongside all the rest of the DC lineup on the CW.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Great Wall movie by Zhang Yimou promises to be the valentine's gift I totally deserve.

I want to see The Great Wall movie that's coming out in February even though it's a Chinese spectacle that's somehow found it reasonable to cast American Matt Damon as its star. Just to be clear, I like Matt Damon, but I kind of think that it's a little strange to have an American in a title role for a Chinese film. Not too weird...but it gives me pause in the same way as Tilda Swinson's casting as the Ancient One in the upcoming movie, Doctor Strange. But...whatever.

Or maybe I'm just noticing Matt Damon being so important in the movie, because the movie is being marketed to American audiences. Gotta admit that this is probably the more likely explanation. In that case, never mind my above comments. We do have assurances from Matt Damon that him being cast is "not whitewashing."

I know most of you probably haven't even heard of this movie, so I'll embed the trailer below. And to tell you a little about it, the movie is from director Zhang Yimou (who made Hero), and it's a complete fantasy about giant monsters attacking the Great Wall of China in some ancient, alternate history. Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal are mercenaries fighting alongside the Chinese armies. And as usual, Zhang uses color really well.

If you get around to watching the clip, I do have a question for you: Did anyone else find it odd that Damon is playing a man from the West but has an American accent? Meanwhile Pedro gets to do a Spanish accent even though his real accent is decidedly American. That just seems odd and is probably something that not too many audiences will notice. But yeah, I noticed it so I'm pointing it out :)

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Insecure Writer's Support Group wants to know when a writer acknowledges that their story is ready.

I'm a few days late for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post, but at least I'm in the same week. I guess October snuck up on me, so I apologize to those who participate in the Insecure Writer's Support Group that came here on Wednesday looking for my answer to the question of the month.

So October's question was, "When do you know your story is ready?" I think I'm reading this question in two ways. It's either asking me when I know I'm done with the first draft or when do I know I'm ready to publish. So, I think I'll go ahead and answer both questions.

Q1: When do I know when I'm done with the first draft? I am a fairly traditional writer so I do a detailed outline that picks off the events that I want to accomplish and these all lead toward a climax. Once the climax is over, then it's usually just one chapter after that in which I finish. Fairly boring, right?

Q2: When do I know when I'm ready to publish? It's basically a feeling in that I'm sick of working on it, and I know I've taken it as far as I want to and I just want it done. I want it that I can get on with my life.

I may be different than some authors when I say that the most fun comes in writing the first draft. Revising and editing and formatting is tedium ad nauseum. There hasn't been a piece of writing I've finished yet in which I don't groan when a beta reader suggests a major change to a story plot piece that will entail hours of work.

To check out other bloggers participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, go HERE and read their stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Contemplating the hollowness of his own existence the Flash changes timeline after timeline looking for the perfect reality.

There may be some spoilers ahead.

There are times when watching the Flash seems like it's actually a tale of one young man's descent into madness. After all, when you get too deep into the weeds of time travel, I would think that any specific timeline would have just as much validity as the one you left. So how could you justify changing one thing (or everything) when in the end it's all rendered irrelevant by the simple fact that time travel exists? Being a time traveler then is the ultimate self indulgence because you would in fact be choosing which reality was (in fact) the reality for everyone else.

I was expecting more of Flashpoint--the season three premiere, which happened last night on the CW. But I wasn't necessarily disappointed? I just thought it would go on for longer than it did. That's (I think) when it hit me: the idea that this series (and everything connected to it) is just Barry Allen's emotional journey in determining which reality is the one that viewers consume. Maybe the entire DC universe is actually just Barry Allen's version of events because he alters one thing here and there through time and doesn't seem to be able to control himself.

As for the death and life of his mom, I'm not sure why Barry caved so easily in letting his ultimate enemy go back into time and kill his mother after he worked so hard to save her. He apparently was losing memories of an irrelevant timeline and would eventually even forget that he was the Flash. However, why was any of that important? Barry's relationship with his parents has been a really strong point of the show. It's full of richness and depth, and it spins the coin on the all-but-worn-out plot of a hero being an orphan with no parents.

Barry Allen being played by a millennial is kind of perfect. He wants everything, but when things aren't the perfect story that he feels he deserves, he's left to contemplate the hollowness of his own existence and then must strive to change it.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Netflix channels a very honorable superhero in Luke Cage who slugs it out with the thugs of Harlem

A lot of care went into filming Luke Cage. The acting is superb, the story is riveting, and the hip-hop soundtrack is awesome. In watching the first two episodes, I loved how the music is so thoughtfully used to complement the visuals and the story. Another thing I'm really taken with is Luke Cage's character. He's a very honorable super hero, and he probably has more integrity than even Captain America. I mean, Cap was used by the government and compromised some of his ideals from time to time. That doesn't seem to be happening at all with Cage. Or maybe it's just that Luke Cage's ideals align better with normal people. Perhaps that's what I'm picking up on.

Anyone else take a turn at binge-watching Luke Cage on Netflix?