Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Here are the three panels I'm excited to read about from San Diego Comic Con this week.

I probably won't ever go to San Diego Comic Con. I don't like crowds, and from what I've heard, SDCC takes the cake as far as that goes. However, this doesn't mean my "Google Fu" isn't top notch. I play a good game when it comes to following up on things that interest me. So in case you are one of those people that likes to know what I'm interested in hearing about this week from the many panels at SDCC, I'm posting about the three I'd attend if I were there.

The Expanse. It seems like forever since season 3 ended with all of the ring gates opening up, revealing entrances to 1300 individual systems spanning an entire galaxy (and each one with either something interesting or a habitable world to explore). I saw on social media last week that season 4 has now been all wrapped up and post-film production (and editing) has begun. People who follow the industry closely believe season 4 will hit Amazon Prime sometime in September or October, and I'm super excited. In the meantime, I want to read what the panel at SDCC dares to reveal! There is most certainly going to be a trailer, and I hope that the authors who are known collectively as James S.A. Corey reveal the title to the sequel of their book, Tiamat's Wrath. I simply must know where all of this is headed. Breadcrumbs are much appreciated. The panel takes place on Saturday, July 20th, from 1:00 to 1:50 in the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

The Witcher: A Netflix Original Series. Henry Cavill is Superman no more! Now his new role is to play the lead in The Witcher (called Geralt of Rivia). My friend James played the video game, and he really loved it. And Cavill's makeup job in The Witcher has got people buzzing that he looks a lot like Legolas did in The Lord of the Rings movies. I do plan on reading The Witcher books, which are a series of short stories and novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski going back to the 1990's when fantasy was just starting to explode on the market. The saga consists of the following books: Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of the Swallow, and The Lady of the Lake. The panel takes place on Friday, July 19th, from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. in Hall H (good luck to anyone trying to get access to Hall H).

Terminator: Dark Fate. I've seen every Terminator movie. I've only really loved Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Both of those movies were directed by James Cameron. But this doesn't mean that I'm not a sucker for everything Terminator. I kind of like the universe, because I kind of like apocalyptic tales. There's a lot of interesting things that could come out of this movie, like answers to the questions: 1) Did Judgment Day never happen? 2) Will Judgment Day still happen? 3) Why is Sarah looking for vengeance if she won in Terminator 2? That Terminator as a franchise has moved beyond the fears that my entire generation had of World War 3 has probably never occurred to studio execs. Which means that (from my point of view) the thing is doomed to tank at the box office. However, what do I know? I mean...the fears of the new generation are all centered around climate change. However, this doesn't mean Terminator won't get my money yet again. There's something fun about watching these machines take on people in action-packed sequences that makes me want to watch with my butt glued to the chair. And I like that Arnold and Linda Hamilton are back (we haven't seen her in a long time!) It'll be interesting to see how Linda's character has grown through the years. The panel for this movie takes place on Thursday, July 18th, from 11 a.m. to noon in Hall H.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Mysterio's magic act in Spider-Man Far From Home is totally believable to me.

There are some spoilers in this post for Spider-Man: Far From Home.

I've been surfing some of the discussion zones for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and some people are doubting that Mysterio could do all the things that he does, even with Stark technology. Here's one such comment:
"Need to re-watch again to see all the scenes of Mysterio pre-reveal, and see if it all lines up to the illusion tech. One scene that comes to mind is when he has his heart-to-heart with Parker on the roof--he goes from flying to sitting next to him; was that all illusion or was Beck actually there? Hidden by the drones and then seamlessly integrated, or all hologram? What if Peter had wanted a hug?"
Here's how I responded to the guy's question:
"I know that this comparison isn't quite the same thing, but I've seen David Copperfield's magic act live at the MGM Grand. Copperfield made me believe that he could teleport things, levitate cars, make things disappear, and the list goes on and on. Honestly, it looked like he'd sold his soul to the proverbial devil for real magic powers (if you believe in that kind of thing). With Mysterio using Iron Man's technology...I won't even try to figure it out. With that kind of support behind him, Beck should be able to do anything...craft any illusion. Because of my experience with Copperfield, I had no trouble believing that all of those illusions and their effects could be staged exactly as they appeared in the movie, with the end result being that everyone (including Spider-Man) is fooled."
And I'm speaking honestly and truthfully here. If you've never attended a real magic show by someone with a hell of a reputation, you should fix that in the near future. These people can craft illusions from the stage that are mind-blowing. I've seen David Copperfield and Criss Angel both in Vegas (Criss isn't quite as talented as Copperfield, but he has a different kind of show). I'm also a big fan of Penn & Teller, who seem to also be on that same level, if not at least in the same ballpark as Copperfield.

Also if none of those names are ringing a bell, then maybe check out last year's America's Got Talent winner, Shin Lim. This is one of the acts he did on America's Got Talent.

Anyway, I guess my point is that illusionists are pretty incredible people, with talent and skill that goes beyond what us mere mortals can understand. Take that a notch up with Iron Man tech? Well let's just say that all the craziness on display in Far From Home looks perfectly believable to me.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Spider-Man Far From Home was an excellent movie that managed to keep its audience on its toes.

The latest Spiderman movie called Far From Home was an excellent film. I've seen it twice now, and I may be just a bit biased because I think Tom Holland is "the bees knees"--at least that's what my good friends are telling me. However, and even ignoring Tom's deliberate talent and enthusiasm to play this role, the show and the story does a lot to keep you on your toes.

Spoilers ahead....

Mysterio seems like the perfect bad guy to introduce at this juncture, post Thanos and post Iron Man. Most of us who went into this movie assumed that Mysterio was a bad guy, right? And we assumed that he was lying about something big, but it was "never" for sure until the M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist that pretty much nailed it halfway into the story. Why do you suppose that is?

It's because Marvel as a whole has done a great job in subverting the usual story-telling tropes and defying the comic material. For example, in Endgame (a movie I didn't really like, but I grant that it was still a solid film) they kill Thanos pretty much right off the bat, and it leaves you wondering what the hell the Avengers are going to do with the rest of the time in a three-hour slog of a movie.

Things that happened in Far From Home are just more echoes of this. Is M.J. "really" only interested in Spider-Man and Peter himself? Is Mysterio actually a visitor to Earth-616 (which is the official Marvel designation for the MCU for which Earth all these stories take place on)...like how would Mysterio know this? And even though Mysterio ends up being a pure con-job the entire time, it remains that a multi-verse probably does exist for the MCU. At least let me put it this way: I don't know why it wouldn't.

Ultimately, though, the movie does a great job of moving the story forward while acknowledging that half the people on Earth went away and came back, and that there are now dead Avengers. And it manages to do all that by telling Peter Parker's next story, which is probably the best person in the MCU through which to do this. Peter is young. He represents a hope and promise for a new generation of heroes. Whether or not he becomes a kind of Iron Man on his own...whatever happens in the next stage (and whatever villain Disney decides to go with) is going to have to keep us on our toes in order to ensure that Avengers: Endgame was not (in fact) peak Marvel. And that is the key, right? How do you top Avengers: Endgame? Well, you top it by not letting go of the ball and you keep playing. You keep going, and you give the audience things that are unpredictable. You keep the audience on their toes.

Far From Home did this, and I think it's a good sign that the next stage is gonna have some surprises that keep the whole thing fresh and exciting.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I really love this alternate Alien movie poster by the artist Gabz.

The website io9 recently talked about an art show that's happening at the Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, New York for the artist Gabz (real name Grzegorz Domaradzki), who created this piece below (and others for Star Wars) that have gathered fame for their ability to fool the eye into thinking it's a photograph. I think the term for this kind of art is "photo realism," and it's super hard to do.
What do I love about it? The details are great. Not only is the centerpiece instantly recognizable as belonging to Sigourney Weaver, but the font looks like an actual print job. The details of the xenomorphs on both sides of her face are clearly an homage to Giger in that they are rendered perfectly, just as he would have done with his famous airbrush. And there are swirls within swirls. Good Alien art has always been heavy on the details. That was a thing that Giger prided himself on: detailing even the smallest corner of a massive painting so that there were objects that caught the eye that were interesting and macabre. The only thing really missing from this piece is Jones the cat.

I also think there is some foreshadowing going on with this poster. There are four xenomorph heads that are directly in contact with Ripley's space suit, possibly hinting at Alien movies 1 through 4. Additionally, I love that she seems to be transforming into a xenomorph (or has xenomorph traits) as her long association with this franchise changes her physiology permanently by the movie Alien 4. You can see what I'm talking about with the appearance of the vein-like structures that touch both cheeks.

I wonder why Alien couldn't keep the train driving firmly on the rails after Aliens. It's so frustrating, as I've seen Bond movie after Bond movie come out, and most of them are entertaining. The same goes for the Fast & Furious movies. Why did those franchises work out so well, and Alien just bombed? Maybe it was the lack of anything new to do with the story, which forced writers to revisit horror after horror to try and provide more shock value with each telling. I mean, there's only so much a person can be shocked about, especially when the first movie pretty much gives the world a glimpse of a monster and a physical gestation cycle that was never seen before in books or in film.

So maybe the search for shock value is what ultimately made the Alien franchise movies fail beyond the first two. If that is true, at least there are artists who are continually inspired by the universe established by H.R. Giger to keep moving forward with works (such as the one above) inspired by one of the greatest fictional monsters ever imagined.

Monday, July 8, 2019

In July the Insecure Writer's Support Group wants to know what personal traits I've written into my own characters.

Because I'm a day late and a dollar short this month, I am also late for the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog post. This happens on the first Wednesday of every month. I think I got distracted by all the fireworks and the July 4th holiday (yeah that's it!) so I completely forgot about it. I apologize to those readers out there who visited my blog last Wednesday looking for today's belated post.

July 3 question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)? 

Hmmm. I think a number of things wiggle their way into my characters. The music I love tends to be the music that my characters also love. The books I read inevitably get mentioned in fictional conversations. I suppose I'd even say that my curiosity makes its way into characters in unexpected ways. I tend to be very curious about things that most people overlook. Just the other day while at the grocery store, I saw a plastic pipe lying by the road that had an interesting valve on it, and it intrigued me enough to walk over and look at it. I can't imagine that this kind of behavior happens a lot. Most people who go and shop for groceries are in and out as quickly as possible, and only a rare few would notice or take time to investigate a valve on a sprinkler pipe that didn't belong to them. It's that kind of weirdness that (I think) emerges in my characters.

Anyway, that's all I got for this month's post. Next month is my birthday month, so I think I'll be more on point. There's lots of things I'm balancing this month, trying to suss out how the rest of my summer (and year) is supposed to play out is interesting. I hope that all of you had an outstanding Fourth of July weekend.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

In looking for a new vehicle to drive I've questioned whether or not owning a vehicle even makes economic sense anymore.

I've started looking at car options to replace a vehicle I lost when I totaled my 20 year old Toyota Rav 4 earlier this year in a medical emergency that I suffered behind the wheel. It was a weird and surreal experience, losing consciousness briefly due to an extreme coughing fit. When I came to, there was air bag dust, a shattered windshield, and the car was on its side. No one else was hurt, and again, this was many months ago. There's this kind of strange path that all of us (I think) go on when a car is completely ruined once all medical things are taken care of. Here's a little bit of how my path has played out thus far:

1) What do you do with a car that is basically a pile of junk? The tow truck driver needed to take it somewhere, and everywhere you take it to is going to charge a daily fee to store it. There is no free land in America folks, so towing it to your house and having this pile of junk sit in your driveway to avoid storage fees is about the cheapest option you have until you can find a buyer for said pile of junk. And yes...there are buyers of said piles of junk, but you have to find them and woo them to your cause.

2) After deciding to tow the car to said free parking lot, that's where it sat for a while, attracting curious onlookers and comments on all the destruction porn that it offered to the world with its bent frame, its blown tires, and its shattered windshield and deflated airbags. It was an old-fashioned eyesore, that by virtue of its ugliness, invited all kinds of whispers and speculations.

3) I eventually got a place called Tear-A-Part here in Salt Lake City to buy the car from me for $150.00 in cash sight unseen. The hitch? It needed to have four wheels (not tires), an engine, and a transmission. That was all they cared about. Oh and I needed to have the title that I could sign over to them immediately. I told them it indeed had all of those things, and they came by with a tow truck and hauled it away and handed me the cash in an envelope. Needless to say, it cost $200 to have it towed in the first place so I was still $50 in the hole. What was interesting in talking to this place is they could care less about any story or conversation about the car. Does it have four wheels? Yes. Does it have a transmission? Me: "Do you care if it works?" Them (ignoring my question and restating their question): Sir, does it have a transmission? Yes. Does it have an engine? Yes. Them: "We'll buy it for $150. Bye." So I guess those things are all that counts. Good thing to know in the future if I ever need to scrap a car.

4) Now down to one car (I owned two), and my second car is not one I can drive in winter snow storms and it itself is 20 years old...I embarked on seeing about getting a second car for Utah winters. I of course needed to change my automobile policy to reflect only one car. That was easy and pretty much a simple phone call. Then I started examining car models and decided I wanted an SUV of some type. That's when I learned that cars are expensive. No really...they are really expensive. I haven't been paying that much attention, but it got me to wonder...how does anyone afford these things? There is a robust used market, which is a lot more affordable. But cars that are in the used market were once new. Are people really making that kind of cash that they can afford to drop $40,000 on new cars only to toss them a couple years later so they are used for people like me to pick over for half that price (only I think $20,000 is still expensive). Or is this just the newest form of income inequality that I'm becoming aware of. In other words, there are people all over the place making six figures, and then there is everyone else. In just 1999 to 2000 (yes 20 years ago), spending $40,000 on a car would be unheard of, folks. That was like the best car...like what you'd expect to pay for a Jaguar or something fancy. Nowadays, the very bottom rung of Toyota's smallest SUV (the Rav4) sets you back $40,000 once taxes and other fees are paid. In other words, I'm saying that "everyday cars" are running darn close to the halfway mark of a hundred grand when they are new. Holy crap. Wages have not increased to coincide with this in that same time period. At least not any wages I know of.

5) And then there's the question of whether a car is really useful to someone living in a city anyway. How many Uber rides could I take for say $25000? If I spent $20 a day on Uber being shuttled to and from work, it would take 1250 days for me to spend up to $25000. So that's roughly 3.5 years, and that's only if I worked every day. It'd (in all actuality) take me 7 years to recoup that cost in just taking Uber rides. And I'm not even factoring in the cost of gas, maintenance, and interest that might be accrued for a loan, not to mention the storage space it takes up. So is buying a car really something that I want anymore? Is it something that actually improves my life? I have no idea.

Owning cars is ubiquitous in our society, and I don't know if I could ever convince my brain otherwise. I'm from that generation who always "owned" a vehicle. So I most likely will just take more time and find a replacement vehicle that I can drive on snowy roads. I've got my eye on my dad's old 1997 Ford F-150 that he no longer drives, and it's likely that I'll be getting that and tooling around town in it just fine with its old gas guzzling, carbon emitting engine. However, I think that the gig economy and the sky high prices of cars has created a strange scenario wherein every transportation solution is going to be different for every single person.

I will be taking Friday off from blogging. I'll see you Monday.








Monday, July 1, 2019

Riding a wave of eighties nostalgia New Coke returns along with Stranger Things.

New Coke is back! My memories of the summer of 1985 were all about Back to the Future and how Coke felt so threatened by Pepsi that they changed their formula to one that tasted exactly like Pepsi. It bombed big time, and to compensate, they released Coca-Cola Classic, which if memory serves, basically became Coca-Cola again while New Coke slowly retreated into invisibility.

What brought it back? Supposedly it is the release of the new (third season) of Stranger Things. I've enjoyed both seasons of this weird and nostalgic throwback to the eighties. One reason: each season is a self-contained story that begins and ends like one long book that's doled out chapter by chapter as you watch each episode. If it were on cable television instead of Netflix, there'd be a chance that it wouldn't play out this way. Rather, each episode might tell a story in and of itself. Sound familiar? Think of Supernatural where each episode is a monster of the week with a few "key" episodes peppered within kinda like the "Smoking Man" episodes in the X-Files (that hinted at a much larger story line). Either that or season 1 would tease a story that (by season 3) grows into a monstrosity with half-assed explanations because writers forgot important details and don't care anymore.

From the season 3 trailer, is it fair to call this season Jaws meets An American Werewolf in London meets The Thing and The Fly? Lots of John Carpenter influences are in Stranger Things. I'm going with yes. :)

Friday, June 28, 2019

I wonder if the Dark Crystal series on Netflix will give us more soul-searching and depth on behalf of its protagonists.

With the Dark Crystal series coming to Netflix in August, I wanted to revisit my feelings regarding this particular film. There's no doubt that nostalgia for a simpler time and for the eighties plays well into my wanting to watch this series. I was barely a teenager when the original movie was released, and the summer of 1982 had a lot of hits with 48 Hours, Blade Runner, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, and Tootsie. The feelings I had as a kid were that life would always be something like parents taking care of all the difficult stuff of life, and me sitting in a chair in a cold movie theater, drinking soda and eating popcorn while watching fantastical movies.

When I recently rewatched it, I felt that the movie still had some of that magic, but it was definitely colored through the lens of having grown up and not seen a thing in many decades. By today's standards, I think it might even be boring, because there are no human characters (just puppets), and there's no CGI. It's pacing is at times slow and unapologetic while it doles out what it needs the audience to know through its imagery.

And that, I think, is where I'm looking forward to seeing the series on Netlix the most...the imagery. There's something about using all of those puppets and creating everything in actual reality that makes the world come fully alive...it's a thing I don't take note of (as much) from the modern movies of today. I wonder if they'll be able to capture some of that magic in the Netflix series, which is a prequel from what I understand.

The fact that it's a prequel doesn't bother me at all. For one, the story of the Dark Crystal would be generic by today's standards, and there really wasn't too much depth of character going on in the movie. It never leaves you not know what's going on and why, and each character's personality derives completely from what its doing. There is no exploration of who the person actually is...no soul searching or anything like that. However, I think there's plenty of that to do in a prequel series with all new characters and adventures that take place in a world that has seen the crystal sundered (and been changed significantly because of that fact).

Anyone else looking forward to watching the series?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

People in prison should be allowed to vote because the invisible garbage of our society is voting right now.

In Utah, I've debated with some people who are appalled that Bernie Sanders wants people in prison to be able to vote. I think that Bernie is absolutely correct, but not for the reason that most people think. I have what I call a realistic view of the people I interact with everyday, and it's this: a lot of them should be in jail but they haven't been caught. The only difference between them and people who are in prison is exactly that. The people in prison were unlucky enough to be apprehended and serve as a lesson to the rest of us to try and toe the line.

If you point at a church full of people, a school full of people, or a business full of people, I will assume that there's a big percentage of those in that actual building who are thieves, serial abusers, pedophiles, rapists, grifters, tax-evaders, and drug-dealers. Whatever thought processes that lead them to make the decisions that they do are the same thought processes that led people before them to do those things who are in prison. However, the people in jail--the unfortunate few who got caught and punished--don't get to vote.

All those criminals who haven't been caught who are sitting next to you in church DO get to vote and they are changing society to reflect perfect conditions in which they can thrive and exploit others for their personal gain. For example, take the pedophile. I would not be surprised if the closeted pedo that no one sees goes and votes to make the burden on single moms even more extreme than it is now. Having low wages and no support means an adult guardian is going to be overwhelmed. This means they'll be less vigilant in protecting their children, making the "kids" available for kind entreaties of "I can watch the kids while you do this and that...." It's all so subtle and insidious, but yeah, that's how that works.

To think that people who are somehow "not incarcerated" are ideologically pure and have a strong moral compass and are smart and good is asinine. It's delusional in the same way that believing magnets in your shoes will cure cancer. I know that this viewpoint is going to clash with some out there who want to believe in a narcissistic way that those who do wrong always get punished. I say "narcissistic" because a lot of the time, the people who believe this actual thing are criminals, but they would never label themselves as such. It's the same cognitive dissonance that makes a "job creator" not think of himself as a "wage slave owner," and for them to consequently declare that they are morally good and should be voting.

I'm under no such delusions. I'm not Anne Frank. I don't believe people are good at heart. I believe people get away with murder, kidnapping, rape, and other horrific crimes ALL of the time. I also believe that you don't have to be smart to get away with things. Our society is so bad at ferreting out wrong-doers that you can be stupid as a sack of cement and get away with something. It happens all the time. But in our country, these people get the privilege of voting. It's time to even the odds.

In a perfect world, where only people with strong moral compasses and compassion were somehow selected to vote and all others were denied, then maybe (just maybe) not allowing prisoners to vote would actually make sense to me. But we don't live in this world. We live in a world awash with the invisible garbage of humanity--invisible because we haven't flagged it for law enforcement. It's floating everywhere. So, it makes sense to me that if we let "invisible garbage" vote, we should let the "visible garbage" vote too.

Anyway, it's a good idea. Bernie Sanders has a lot of good ideas. I'm just surprised I never thought of the whole, "Let those in prison vote." It makes so much sense. I hope it comes true someday. We could learn a lot from our brothers and sisters who have had their lives ruined for doing things that people get away with every day. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

I think being a clever writer has been clever-clevered to the point of it being cliche.

I'm not sure why, but I'm getting tired of writers being "clever clever." The condition of "clever clever" is one in which a person has taken an existing story that blazed its own path with its own characters, and they've now taken the challenge to go through and thread this character with new made up ridiculous things...but somehow it all makes sense because you've never thought of it in that way. This trope is a huge deal in practically all urban fantasy that I've ever read or watched. The "clever clever" writer takes characters common in mythologies of the world, and somehow makes these magical creatures seem to fit into the modern world. As if somehow, with all the scientific observations humans are capable of, that somehow we just missed noticing a secret vampire society, werewolves who serve as scout leaders, and magicians attending our P.T.A. meetings.

Right now, I'm reading a religious allegory, because a good friend recommended it. I felt a little obligated to read it, and to be honest, it's a clever book. I'm not going to name it or the writer here in this blog, because I don't want to write a negative review because this is something (as far as I can tell) that is happening to me uniquely. This book, threading characters of Jesus and calling him Joseph and giving him a best friend named Biff is very clever. It's sooo clever. But I know its clever...it's annoyingly clever...and yes...the things make sense. I think "how did I never think of that?" "Oh boy is this writer clever..." and things like that. But I'm not enjoying the book. It's annoying me. I'm going to finish it because I feel a sense of obligation about it. However, I'd really like it if I never read another "clever" novel again for a really long time.

Here's the thing. Jesus HAS a story, and it's written about already in the New Testament. That story is done, and it's there for all to read and interpret and think about. Cinderella has one too. So does Snow White, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Lord of the Rings has a story. I don't need to read Bored of the Rings so that someone can show me how clever they are at taking a story and altering it with clever nuances and observations to make it funny. I just don't need that in my life at this time. It serves no purpose. Yes, the writer is clever. So please take the door that exits out onto "Clever Avenue" and stop bothering me. There are throngs of people who want to shower adulation upon you that say, "You are so clever!" Why do you need it from me?

I also want to be clear that I do still appreciate more subtle versions of clever. I appreciate when there are clever characters doing clever things. I appreciate smart stories that aren't so blatantly trying to give new spins to historical characters. You want to reinvent King Arthur? That sounds great. You want to Monty Python King Arthur again? I'll take a hard pass, although I'm sure others will think its great.

I guess what I'm complaining about really is that I'm kind of fed up with writers who quite obviously are wanting you to look up from the page and exclaim, "Boy, isn't this writer smart to have thought of that?" I've been doing it quite a bit lately, and I don't like it. I want a story to take hold of me and carry me away and leave me breathless, saying, "Wow, what a good story!" The story should be what I'm talking about...not how clever the writer is.

I think being a clever writer has been clever-clevered to the point of it being cliche.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Friday, June 21, 2019

I don't understand why a lot of people think that minorities achieving equality is a zero sum game.

My Facebook is probably just like yours, only smaller scale. It fills up with all kinds of posts, and some of them are upsetting, while others miss the mark, and some are actually helpful. Go figure, right? One that I saw recently was of the "upsetting" variety. It had to do with an acquaintance of mine, and his younger brother who lives in Idaho.

My acquaintance put up a feminist post showing a woman being called to by some rednecks in a roofless Jeep. These three men had a unanimous piece of advice for this young woman: "You'd be more attractive if you smiled more." And the woman actually reacted to it in a way that is very antagonistic. Something akin to, "I'm not interested in being attractive to you. How would you like it if strange men whistled at you and made suggestions to help you be more attractive to them?"

Anyway, the point of the thing was this: if you are a man, stop behaving like this toward women. They don't enjoy it, and it makes them feel harassed. Well the younger brother who lives in Idaho (I want to add that he is a U.S. Army veteran, so he may have some issues regarding toxic masculinity and PTSD) had strong things to say about "snowflakes" and "pc culture." The brothers got into a full-blown argument, neither one meeting on any common ground. In the end, they just stopped talking and moved onto "Agree to disagree," and that kind of thing.

I actually hate "agree to disagree." It isn't helpful, and it means that both parties dismiss the other in favor of keeping the peace. No viewpoints are changed, no minds are settled. It's the ultimate stubborn "dig in your heels" move, and it makes compromise and communication completely impossible with regard to this one thing. The more of those things you "agree to disagree" with that happen within the context of a relationship, the more the relationship deteriorates as a whole.

However, what's troubling about the whole exchange I witnessed second-hand, is that the younger brother clearly thought that feminism had gone too far. It was infringing on a man's right to compliment someone...infringing on a man's right to make suggestions on what would make a person more amiable and approachable. For him, it meant that it was no longer safe for men to be men. The very idea of being a man in the United States was under attack, and he was going to have none of it. "If someone is offended, that's on them," he said. "Being offended is a choice. Make the choice not to be offended, but don't cut off anyone's right to say anything. We have Freedom of Speech fought for by brave men and women." And on and on and on he would go.

I don't understand why he though that this woman being treated as an equal, instead of being a punching bag for a man's words, was somehow taking rights away from a man. And this is just one example. In Kearns, Utah here recently (it's just a few miles from where I live) some high school students burned a Gay Pride flag on a Snapchat video and declared that all gays should just die. As a gay man, seeing this is disturbing. Seeing that no one really cares (other than to take the high school students who were behind the event and kicking them off the football team) is also disturbing. But it's a comfortable cloth that gets draped on our gay shoulders...this idea that someone needs to be the punching bag for someone else. "How dare you stand up for yourself! If we can't pick on you, then who's it gonna be!" Those are the words that I hear when I see acts like the video I've described.

Why is America so uniquely cruel? Why is our society based on punching down on someone? Why do people think that minorities achieving equality is somehow going to rob a person with privilege of some of that privilege? We live in a country that others see as rich, yet we have millions of citizens that have to crowd fund to take care of medical bills. Our students medicate themselves for depression and anxiety. Public shootings are so commonplace now, that the news barely reports them anymore unless the death count is really high. Why are people so angry that gays are finally getting rights? Why are men so angry that women want equal pay for equal work? Why do people think having healthcare for all somehow means that your healthcare will now suck? Getting rights, respect, and living a good life should be available for everyone. But it's clearly not, and I think it's because not enough people actually desire equality.

I guess what I'm saying is that a majority of people actually desire inequality, and I don't get that. If this is true, why are we this way?

Do any of you have thoughts on this topic you'd be willing to share? I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

I think I'd like to give Man Eater a whirl even though I'm afraid of sharks.

Man Eater, a shark video game coming out that echoes the shenanigans of Grand Theft Auto, allows you to play the role of a shark going about eating people and doing "shark things." I've got to admit that I'm intrigued. I've been afraid of sharks all of my life, but there's something mesmerizing about watching  this shark just chomping people and things pretty much 24/7. Check out the trailer below from the E3 2019 gameplay.

The shark is huge too, like probably the size of a school bus. I think that just makes it that much more fun to want to play. At about the two minute mark, this shark just jumps onto a boat with no hesitation, tail whips a person into the shadow realm, then jumps onto another boat 20 feet away like it was Batman... the realism in this game is amazing and terrifying.

Also, as an open world RPG, I think you could choose to be a good shark or a bad one. Always killing people (for example) has its negatives in that people start to hunt you (not that you can just take them out in huge numbers), but I'm sure they'd eventually get you. I also love that there's a meter that measures how much you are actually terrifying the local population. Yet, even at its highest setting, I bet there are people that still go for a swim.

It just wouldn't be fun otherwise.

How about any of you reading this post? Ever have a desire to be a shark?

Monday, June 17, 2019

I finished watching Titans and I gotta say that I'm excited for season two whenever it comes.

There are Titans spoilers in this post, in case you are planning on watching it.

I finished Titans first season, and I actually liked the whole thing. To explain just a wee bit, I'm a pretty big Titans fan, having owned the original run of comic books written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez (who was the Michaelangelo of comic book art). I was there for the first visitation of Trigon the Terrible, and I was there for the second coming as it were when the comics were released in all new format and they dropped "Teen" from the title to just become The New Titans. They've made a bunch of changes from the books. For one, Trigon never needed a bunch of cultists trying to help him to cross over into our world. Raven, a being trained in Azarath and taken under her wing by the goddess Azar herself, used all of her willpower to keep Trigon from stepping into the world through her soul. She ended up finally losing to him, and when Trigon stepped through, he was as tall as a mountain, turned Titan tower to stone, and sat on it like a throne. Then he took over the entire world and all of its heroes with his mind. Not a single hero...even Superman and Wonder Woman...could resist him.

Needless to say, the show doesn't do that, and it probably never had the budget to do that. But I still think it turned out okay. Maybe in Titans's second season, we could get more of Trigon the Terrible and a bigger budget to make the truly spectacular things that are in the best issues of The New Teen Titans and by extension The New Titans. But it does make me worry just a bit that the whole DC Universe is going to implode upon itself with the cancellation of Swamp Thing (while its still airing its first season) and talks of another streaming platform being released because Warner Brothers (and Time Warner) have now merged with AT&T. As new owners go, they have a different vision for where all of these things should go, which is their right. Capitalism ruins so many good things folks, but don't get me started on any of that.

For what its worth, the cast of Titans is spectacular. They are all good actors and actresses, and I even like Raven, though her representation in the show is vastly different to the one that you see in the comic books. But maybe they will get there? Here's to hoping. 

I did like that the season finale exclusively focused on Trigon the Terrible using his mind powers to completely take over Nightwing. I was wondering how they were going to show Trigon's mind control, as it seems like a difficult thing to do. And it made perfect sense to kind of play on Dick's fear of the Batman going off the deep end and going full-on psychopath murderer (which is what happened in Dick's personal universe that Trigon trapped him in until his will to resist him crumbled). There will no doubt be more of these, as the Titans one by one are succumbed to Trigon's will in the first season, and then I imagine somehow they will free themselves to battle him in the second season finale.

I wonder if they will be able to work out any cameos from Warner Brothers' larger DC universe franchises. An appearance by Jason Momoa with Aqualad might be cool, as would an appearance of Gal Gadot with Wonder Woman. And then maybe they could use Titans as a launching point to introduce Pattinson's new Batman and possibly do the same thing with whomever they cast to play Superman.

Anyway, there's lots of potential here. I'm just hoping it doesn't get squandered.


Friday, June 14, 2019

This 3D zoetrope of jumping frogs blew my mind.

The title says it all. Click on the video and watch it come to life. It's seriously awesome, and I imagine it works similar to the way that motion pictures work. When it finally reaches the correct speed, all sorts of magic happens. Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Into the Badlands was a martial arts extravaganza and that's all that really mattered.

Recently, I finished watching the series "Into the Badlands," and overall, I found it pretty satisfying, because the kung-fu and wirework remained top notch until the end. When it first started back in 2015, "Into the Badlands" was one of those shows that struggled with what it wanted to be. You had this setting of "the Badlands," which was ruled over by barons who held onto territory via the might of their armies of kung-fu trained warriors called clippers. The main character in all of this seemed to be Sunny, but it pretty quickly introduced a character called M.K. who had a supernatural power that made his eyes go black and made him pretty much unbeatable by everyone. I thought this guy was going to be the main character. I was wrong.

Over the course of several seasons, who was in the lead kind of shifted about. M.K. started to become a villain, and in true Game of Thrones style, characters just got killed. Sunny's baron who I thought was going to be the big bad was basically a speed bump and got killed relatively early in the series. His widow rose to prominence and was going to be gifted all of the Badlands but she got killed too. Okay then. Soon it was just Sunny running around trying to save his baby son's life and in doing so, he got introduced to a long lost brother who had evil powers (named Pilgrim) and who had a powerful witch as a partner. He ended up being the big Bad, but didn't really show up until the last two seasons. I thought that was an odd choice. It gets even weirder: Pilgrim ended up using his powers to save Sunny's child, but Sunny then betrayed Pilgrim and ultimately defeated him in the season finale with the help of his friends Bajie and the Widow (who was basically the second-best badass in the series).

M.K. with his supernatural dark power that switched on super kick-ass kung-fu ended up being one of hundreds of warriors (so it really wasn't all that special) who had this talent, and they all joined Pilgrim to basically murder everyone else on earth. That didn't entirely make much sense either. However, it was fun to watch them fight. And I guess that's what I came to watch this series for in the end anyway. Naturally, the Widow, Sunny, and Bajie (a fat martial artist that was fun to watch in that role) had some people they could call on that trained their whole lives to defeat those who relied upon supernatural powers to juice their kung-fu. With these guys, they were able to take Pilgrim down and kind of/sort of save the world.

The last scene of "Into the Badlands" had a former disciple of Pilgrim finding an old west pistol buried in the sand and miraculously, it's loaded and he shoots it, and he kind of marvels at how powerful the weapon is. It makes me wonder where they might go with it. But, if it's a western in the next series, I'll pass. I've never been all that into westerns.

I did appreciate the lore that "Into the Badlands" created. They had lots of supernatural things that stemmed from whatever it was that made some warriors into complete badasses by turning their eyes black. Some of these people could use that power to heal their own flesh or even resurrect the newly dead. It was called "The Gift" and it never went to any length to explain just how some people got it, and others did not. It also explained that Pilgrim stole his "Gift," but I don't think I ever understood just why his stolen gift was so incredibly powerful (he could basically dust anyone that stood against him). Honestly, it felt a lot like plot armor.

Another thing I appreciated about "Into the Badlands" was that even with the interjection of things that could be seen as sorcery and magic, that to create anything good required a lot of elbow grease. People who went looking for the mythical city of Azra (for example) learned the truth about the place during the story. When it was found to be destroyed, Pilgrim decided he would create a new one and proclaim himself a god. Okay then. Additionally, people just didn't fall in and create a utopia, they had to be made to do so. Everything felt like it was earned through hard work for better or for worse. I feel like this kind of thing is missing from the real world a lot. For example, I know a lot of people who go to work for others and expect to be guided into a career, and they end up disappointed and depressed when it doesn't happen. For me, that just makes perfect sense. It's been my experience that in order to get anywhere in life, you have to make it happen because it's never just going to pop into existence all on its own.

"Into the Badlands" was all about people making things happen, and the entire storyline was driven by these people for good or for ill in trying to make whatever it is they cared about happen.

Was "Into the Badlands" worth watching? Yeah. I mean...it wasn't great, but if you like watching wire work and people kicking others while wielding swords, it's great. Plus the Widow fights all her antagonists wearing stiletto high heels. That right there should just tell you how truly awesome at fighting she was.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Would a world where kaiju are worshiped by humans ever run out of fun plotlines?

I was talking with a friend this weekend about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and we ended up talking about the surprise inclusion/revelation of a previously unknown and undiscovered civilization that obviously worshiped Godzilla as a deity. In Kong: Skull Island, there was another group of individuals still actively worshiping Kong as a kind of god, and there were some strong hints that Mothra may also be worshiped by twin priestesses (which is a tradition in kaiju movies that include Mothra in them). And as we know from previous kaiju movies, the priestesses preside over a small gathering of prehistoric worshipers who live on "Infant Island," and may be able to draw upon the equivalent of mystic powers.

So thinking about all of this, the Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie may be the third installment (in a movie franchise beginning with the Godzilla reboot in 2014 by Gareth Edwards), but it is the first movie in the trilogy to firmly establish an entire world wherein humans have learned to live with "Titans" or "Kaiju." And it was Ken Watanabe's character's shtick the entire time in the movie, with him saying (essentially) that humans would need to learn to be the pets of Godzilla (and not the other way around).

It's apparent to me that these previous civilizations did exactly that by worshiping the Titans as deities, which (let's face it) they basically are. Conventional weapons which humans take for granted not only seem to be ineffective, but actually strengthen the kaiju. Sure, there was that oxygen destroyer thing which seemed to only really harm the one kaiju that was on our side, but it potentially might be effective against others. But the cost of using it was really bad. That being said, I don't really see a way you could deal with these creatures very well without risking your own life and the lives of thousands if not actually millions of people. King Ghidorah was so powerful, it created hurricanes in the atmosphere just by flying around. And Rodan was so incredibly strong in flight that conventional fighter jets stood no chance against him. If you can't beat them, join them, right?

It makes me wonder what this kind of world is going to look like. If humans choose to go about worshiping the Titans as gods in order to gain their protection against other kaiju, civilization is going to be very different (by its very nature). I'm eager to see what new developments happen in a world where big creatures could, at any moment, appear and start destroying huge cities. It honestly sounds like the kind of world which would be fun to explore in a story, or even a tabletop roleplaying game. How fun would it be to be a scientist having to take shelter in an underground bunker, because a gigantic kaiju rose out of the ocean and started laying waste to the city? I just wonder if this kind of thing will make a good string of movies, or whether it will run out of ideas.








Friday, June 7, 2019

I'm five episodes deep into Titans and I think it's actually pretty good.

I finally broke down and subscribed to DC Universe so I could watch Titans, Doom Patrol, the third season of Young Justice, and Swamp Thing. I did get a seven day free trial, and I've been rapidly consuming Titans (I'm on episode five of thirteen as of this writing). I know I'll have to pay for at least a month just to get through all of these shows, but I want to give credit where credit is due, before you just see this as a subscribe/binge watch/ and cancel routine to save money. Titans is actually kind of enjoyable despite what I've heard other people say (which did prove to lower my expectations quite a bit).

Most of the negative criticism is directed at the series by Titans die-hards. And by all reckoning, I should be a die-hard Titans fan. I owned all of the original run of the comic books by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. For a time, I enshrined my "Who Is Donna Troy?" and my "Who is Wondergirl?" comics in mylar. My favorite characters are 1) Raven, 2) Donna Troy, and 3) Starfire in that order, although (just to be fair) I love all of the Titans. I should pound my fist as to why Raven doesn't manifest her soul self by episode 5...that thing is integral to her character. I should be bugged as to why Princess Koriander (or Kory Anders as she's called in the show) doesn't fly around with energy streaming from her hair or fire blasts of energy beams (not fire) from her hands (in the show she just shoots out fire like a flame thrower). Personally, the way Carol Danvers powers are in Captain Marvel remind me a lot of how Starfire should look. Those issues aside, I actually love this show.

Dick Grayson is very handsome. He's also got a huge chip on his shoulder from living with the Batman. I'm not sure how I feel about the Batman being painted as a psychopath, but the shoe does kind of fit. But in these first few episodes, Dick does kind of come across as a bit of an ingrate, reminiscing on a childhood that was stolen from him when his parents were murdered and which he landed in foster care and had the misfortune of being adopted by a billionaire who was in a perfect place to understand his particular trauma. Oh how unfortunate that must have been! Poor boy!

I actually love Gar (Garfield) who is Beast Boy. The casting on him seems to be perfect, and he too is quite handsome. Koriander is gorgeous so they nailed at least three of the cast. I'm not happy with Raven's look. In the comics she had an otherworldy maturity to her (and an otherworldy beauty to match). In the show she's a goth teenager who dyes her hair and is into tattoos and wearing black. There's way more to Raven's character than that. I am pleased that they are making a solid attempt at showing her incredible empathic and healing abilities. However, we need that soul self. It's just awesome, and I'm not sure why they aren't showing it yet.

I already know that Cyborg is part of Doom Patrol, and I'm okay with this choice. But in the Wolfman and Perez comics, Cyborg was a huge part of all of the stories. But then again, so was Titan tower, and I'm hoping that at some point we get to see an actual Titan tower. That would be great. I honestly don't expect much from the first season. I already know from a spoiler that Trigon the Terrible, when he appears, is just some actor. They probably didn't have the budget to make Trigon into his real comic book terrifying self, but who knows? Maybe they'll have that budget together a couple seasons down the road if this thing proves to have legs. Maybe we'll get some really amazing Titans's storylines.

It's what I'm hoping for at least.

So yeah, I'm five episodes deep into Titans and I think it's pretty good.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

This June we're talking genres for the Insecure Writer's Support Group

Hello all.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time, and the start of June, which here in Utah promises to be less soggy and perhaps more sunny than May (we got record levels of rain in May). I for one am looking forward to summer. However, the rainy May days did afford me time to curl up with a book or two. I suppose that my go to choice was Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey. This is the eighth book in the Expanse universe, and firmly rooted in space opera, which is a sub-genre of science-fiction. And yes it was a good read.

If you are unfamiliar with the ISWG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you can read about it HERE and at the same time sign up for the monthly blog fest, which was started by Alex Cavanaugh.

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

It's easy for me to answer: speculative fiction. It's also what I like to watch as far as entertainment.

Why? Speculative fiction is fun. Godzilla movies are speculative fiction. The Expanse books and Star Wars and Star Trek and Game of Thrones are all speculative fiction. I crave my escapes from the reality of my life, and speculative fiction does that for me (and always has). Look...I realize that by saying this you may infer that "Mike's life may not be all roses." Well (spoiler alert) that's true and congratulations for understanding me. But on the flipside of this statement, at least I'm not hiding from anything. I know what my life is, and that my choices to a large part have landed me exactly where I am. As a philosopher once said, "It is what it is."

But while we are being honest let me at least say this: I think that most people's lives have pockets of misery here and there. It's unavoidable really. The reality of working at a job that seems unrewarding...or the day to day toils that bring us pain and feelings of unappreciation...or even the hype of getting to know a new person only to be disappointed by them later goes on and on forever for most people. And then there is of course other things like aging, loneliness, boredom, and just sheer exhaustion brought about by a 24-hour news cycle. Reality can be a real downer, and there's a lot in current events that can even be...should I dare say it...a bit depressing?

So yeah...my choice of reading AND writing isn't to delve into some expert's analysis of why our current president is cray cray. I already know that, and I'm not going to read about it in novel form. I'm not going to spend time trying to understand what made Michelle Obama. I'm not going to peel back the layers of whatever comedian decided to pen a memoir. I don't care about that stuff.

I spend my free time flying amidst the stars, exploring lands where dragons live, and slipping into the skin of someone whose direct actions can change the world for good or for ill. It's escapism, plain and simple. And I likes it a lot. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Good Omens nails its ending which in my book makes it exceptional in the unremarkable genre of urban fantasy.

There are no spoilers in this post so you can read the whole thing.

This weekend I binge watched the mini-series Good Omens with my friend Meg, and I was pleasantly surprised and had an overall feeling of satisfaction after it concluded. I think the main reason for it is that the mini-series (and I'm guessing the book as well) nailed the ending.

Ever since Game of Thrones ended, I've been examining over and over my reaction to endings and how a negative one can taint the entire thing. So for me, I've realized something that may not be true with others: it's not just about the journey--the ending must land for me to enjoy a good story. I'm not sure why this is, or what's wrong with me psychologically that I can't just appreciate a journey and realize that the ending is only a small part of the entire time that was spent. But it is what it is. I have to get a good ending people. :(

An ending is so important (in fact) that it can actually make me like something that I originally felt so-so about. Good Omens for what it is, seems like old hat these days. Its plot is nothing new. Practically all urban fantasy has demons, angels, and retreads of the Anti-Christ and witches and ghosts and zombies to the point of it being ad nauseum. Supernatural, The Dresden Files, The Iron Druid, the Anita Blake books, and on and on and on. These stories just recycle each others plots and Good Omens is essentially breaking no new ground at all. I have a feeling that if a nobody had written Good Omens, it might not even have gotten published these days because there are half a dozen stories just like it out there on shelves already. However, what it does do good is make you care about the characters. And then it gives an extremely satisfying conclusion that feels good.

It's unfortunate really that Game of Thrones couldn't do this. With as much time and effort as George R.R. Martin and the actors did by inhabiting roles he created, I feel like his whole saga has been tainted a bit...discolored...and, well, perhaps shat upon? If we are being perfectly honest. Not that he or HBO didn't make their money's worth, but still.... And my feelings toward endings may not be shared by a lot of people. So I get that. But I think that if May 2019 left me with anything (looking back on it) it was this: that I understand moreso than ever before where my joy comes from when looking at stories. It lies with endings. They've got to land in a way that resonates with me...in a way that leaves me fulfilled so that I can walk away from these characters with a feeling of peace.

So I guess that's it. For me to be happy with endings, I need to feel like I can walk away from the story, from the characters who I spent time with, and I need to be able to say, "I am at peace with them." I hate endings that leave things unsettled and conflicted. Conflict as part of a story should be in the middle and not at the end, and Good Omens does this. It's a wonderful tale, and even if you are jaded by urban fantasy stories, it's worth the time to watch all six episodes.

Friday, May 31, 2019

If Godzilla is King of the Monsters then Mothra is their Queen.

Out of all of the kaiju, Mothra is probably the one that is the prettiest and relates best with humans. My late mother adored Mothra of all the kaiju, and I think her opinion of the queen of the monsters kind of rubbed off on me, because I like Mothra the most as well. In Japan, the name "Mothra" is actually pronounced Mosura or "Moe sue rah," because their alphabet does not account for the sound made when pronouncing the word "the."

When Mothra was first introduced, she was given an origin that suggested she was of divine lineage. She also had worshipers and two immortal fairy priests called the Shobijin who could communicate with Mothra telepathically over great distances. When the priests were captured and exploited, Mothra rescued them by devastating the city in which they were being held. Since that time, she has been featured in many kaiju films and has almost as many appearances as Godzilla over the decades. Her powers are huge blasts of air that can strike like typhoons, sticky web-like silk that's almost impossible to break, scales that can make it hard to breathe or even suffocate or which can form a shield to deflect energy blasts, and a radiant light that can really be anything from a peaceful bioluminescence to outright energy attacks on her enemies. It all kind of depends on who is writing Mothra at the time and what powers are called for in a battle (isn't that how these things usually go?).

I think that Mothra could communicate with other kaiju as well (definitely Godzilla) and the priestesses (the Shobijin I mentioned earlier) have facilitated this by communicating Godzilla's intent through Mothra to them and directly to humans around the Shobijin. I guess that's one way of getting your message across that you'd like your city to be spared if at all possible. Mothra, in a way, is kind of like a phoenix. There have been countless times when she dies battling a kaiju. But never fear, an egg has been left behind for her to hatch from at some point in the future (and to carry on with whatever it is that Mothra finds important). It's not necessarily a rebirth from the ashes kind of thing, but very close. And I'm not sure if the memories of Mothra actually get passed from one incarnation to the next. It seems likely, given the powerful psychic abilities that this particular kaiju demonstrates (it's the most powerful psychically gifted creature in the Toho monsterverse).

Anyway, as I'm writing this post on Thursday night before going to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I am hoping that the Shobijin make an appearance. However, there may not be room for that given that Millie Bobbie Brown's character seems to take up a lot of the human interaction with Mothra in the trailer. Maybe her character has psychic abilities similar to the Shobijin? Or maybe Mothra chooses her character as a priestess of sorts? Who knows? No matter how it goes, I think I'll still have a great time. How can you go wrong with classic kaiju and devastation porn to kick off a weekend?

I'll leave you with the newly updated score for Mothra that appears on the soundtrack for King of the Monsters. It was scored by composer Bear McCreary (who also did the theme for The Walking Dead). 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Here are four thoughts on four big franchises that contribute heavily to the realm of science fiction entertainment.

I've got a few things on my mind regarding current events under the speculative fiction entertainment umbrella, so I wanted to talk about them all in one post.
Godzilla. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is getting rave reviews from kaiju...err...titan-loving people who were lucky enough to get an early screening. I'm going Thursday evening, and I'm seeing it in IMAX with some friends. My seats are perfect, right dead center, and I paid for a luxury recliner for myself and friend Geneva. Looking over the soundtrack by Bear McCreary, I noticed that there's a track called Mothra's song. I hope that we get to see the Shobijin...two tiny fairies that follow Mothra around and can communicate telepathically with Mothra.
Alien Universe. I realized this weekend in a random thought that Disney now owns Alien, because they purchased the rights to the franchise when they acquired Fox's portfolio of franchises, which included the X-Men, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four. That just seems so weird, and I know they are going to comb through the canon and throw out a bunch of stuff and reboot, which may also breathe some fresh life into a thing that I like very much. Additionally, there's now an Alien Universe tabletop RPG, which I think is amazing. I guess you can take on a role within the greater Alien Universe, and depending on your GM, you may actually never face off against the xenomorph itself. Just all of that Lovecraftian lore is out there, and those events either have happened or are going to happen depending on how your character is created and during what time period. This is how I understand it anyway. It sounds like a ton of fun.
The Expanse Universe. I got my friend Geneva to read the first book, Leviathan Wakes, and she read 450 pages in one afternoon. She told me, "I'm having difficulty putting this book down." I nodded in understanding. It's a super good read...all eight books...and the pacing stays consistent and never lets you go. Speaking of tabletop RPG's, the Expanse now has one from Green Ronin games, and I so want to play it with others.
Star Trek: Discovery. I recently finished Star Trek: Discovery's second season, and I was completely blown away by it. In the season finale (SPOILER ALERT), the Discovery launches permanently into the future by time traveling through a wormhole that places it 950 years later...or about 800 years or so beyond Janeway returning to Federation space with the Voyager crew. Literally, anything can happen. It's a new slate, and based on the writing of the series, season three is probably going to be incredible.

I hope everyone's Memorial Day was relaxing. I'll chat with you all on Friday. It's hard to believe that June is almost here already.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Game of Thrones at its end was just the old bait and switch again.

What a con-job...the ultimate bait and switch. Why would anyone spend so much time creating fantastical backgrounds for characters (clearly designed to bait people into this narrative) only to have them go nowhere and be nothing? Who writes a story of Anastasia Romanov only to have her end up flipping burgers in a McDonalds in Kentucky and that's the end? This is what I don't get about people who are defending Game of Thrones. You all got conned! We got conned! Because make no mistake, this is exactly what happened. You were promised a seven course meal with all the trimmings, filet mignon, salmon, pies and cakes...and the list goes on and on. You (no, WE) were teased and tantalized for eight years! And then we got a frozen dinner from Stouffers. Why is anyone happy with this ending? Are you stupid? Are you used to being treated badly?

IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO:


Amazing Writer Person or AWP walks up to me (who is incredibly busy because life as a single person is hard) and begins to talk.

AWP: "Heyyyy...what's up my homie? Would you like to hear a story? It's suuuper good yo! Seriously."

Me: (Busy with about ten tasks that need to be done simultaneously)... "Eh?" I pause, thinking about that old mantra...don't let life pass you by; take time out to smell the roses. "Okay," I say. "I'm always up for a good story. Here take some of my money and now tell it to me."

AWP: "Thanks for the cash, broseff. Now I gots this story of a woman. She's from an ancient family that fled from an ancient civilization that fell to its doom when the ground upheaved underneath them in cataclysmic quakes. Beaten down, raped, and having lost everything including all the family she has left in the world, this woman walks into a frickin' bonfire with three rocks...and she comes out with three dragons! These dragons grow and become fierce just like she does. This woman conquers her naysayers and defeats all the wrongdoers of the world! She learns multiple languages, defies assassins, and is a leader whom everyone looks up to!"

Me: "Holy crap! Wow! That's a great story! Please, Mr. Amazing Writer Person, please tell me what happens? I've got to know!"

AWP: (Cleans fingernails idly). "Oh that's it. She ded. Her boyfriend stabbed her in the heart, and well...she ded. Domestic violence is poison, yo!"

Me: "What the f*ck? That's it? What about all that stuff you told me about her?"

AWP: "None of it mattered. But hey I gots another story for you? Gimme some more money and time and I'll tell it. It's better than that dragon lady."

Me: "Uh...okay...but this next one better be good I guess."

AWP: (Clears throat). "There's this guy who's a bastard. His father, see, dallied with a woman while he was at war, and as a result he was born out of wedlock. But in secret, he's actually the heir to a throne of seven kingdoms. All that stuff was a lie made up to protect him."

Me: (Clearly interested). "You're saying he's an actual king?"

AWP: "Damn straight, homie. And this guy goes north of this 800 foot wall that stretches from one shore to another on a continent with his dire wolf companion named Ghost! While there, they come across all kinds of evil undead and he actually faces off against a King Ice Zombie with the powers of a god and who rides a frickin Ice dragon! That ice dragon is so frickin powerful, it destroys that wall, and it all caves into the ocean! I mean damn! And he gets murdered by his own men and resurrected by a God so he can come back and save all of mankind like Jesus!"

Me: (Mind blown with the imagery). "This story is incredible! What happens to that guy?"

AWP: "Oh that's it. This guy just lives in a shack in the north now with his dog and drinks beer."

Me: "What the hell? That ending sucks. Why are you doing this?"

AWP. "Wwhhhat? You don't like my stories? You know...just because you go to Harvard and your last name is Kennedy, DOESN'T mean that you are going to be a senator or a judge! You can be a janitor and peak with a job at Taco Bell. That's what my story is about, you know! The extraordinary in all the ordinary!" Amazing Writer Person scoops up my money, having already taken all of my time, and says a parting, "F*ck you very much," and now he leaves.

Me: "But here's the thing!" I shout out loud. "I DON'T WANT TO LISTEN TO A STORY WHERE A MAN OR WOMAN WHO WENT TO HARVARD AND WHOSE LAST NAME IS ROCKEFELLER REACHES PEAK CAREER AT TACO BELL!!!!"

And that pretty much sums up how I feel about Game of Thrones now. All 73 episodes of it. What a dumpster fire and a disappointment. Endings matter, people. 

After watching season 8, I feel like I got conned by a grifter. It’s like how I imagine really bad phone sex must be where someone gets you all worked up and then all of the sudden you get a dial tone or a busy signal. Somehow, you manage to reconnect with the person and you ask them, “Did we just get disconnected?” and they reply, “Oh no...that was the end. That was the finale. I hope you liked it.” I mean...what the hell? Who does this?

It just makes me angry. It’s like I was teased this fabulous dinner and told to invite all my friends over and then the person that teased me showed up with frozen burritos, tossed them on the porch, and drove off shouting, “Bye, Felicia,” out the window never to be seen again.

What a con-job.

I hope Bennioff and Weiss and anyone else responsible for this ending (Martin maybe?) gets teased with a fabulous vacation and when they go to actually do the vacation, it ends up a huge disappointment with them staying in a Motel 6. "Yes, sir," I hear the customer service person saying to a complaining D&D (David Bennioff and D.B. Weiss). "The pictures in the brochure DO NOT match the actual product. You should be familiar with that little trick. It's called bait and switch. Bye, Felicia."

Here's a clip from In Living Color, which explains by example everything I'm talking about. Start the video at the 3:00 mark (which it should automatically do). 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

This wallpaper I have for my computer shows a world completely at home with giant sharks and other monsters from the deep.

I'm not exactly sure who drew this wallpaper. I found it in a reddit subgroup for three screen wallpapers, and it's utterly fascinating. You really should click to embiggen the picture, because it's got a ton of details that set my mind to wondering what the heck is going on with all of these images.

The ship on the right panel looks like it has the enormous jaws of some megalodon mounted on its prow through which a canon is posited for use in naval combat. Just below that is some guy in a rowboat that is right next to a dorsal fin of a shark that (from scale) looks to be about a twenty-foot great white. The bay is also literally teaming with dorsal fins of other gigantic sharks (think anywhere from 16 to 20 feet). The mountains rising from the bay that are in the background sport these colossal steel barracuda heads, and there are numerous cranes on piers overlooking the shipyard, one of which is holding a fish that is probably the size of a blue whale. There is also another kind of dead gargantuan fish near the middle of the picture with its teeth pointed upward (maybe its on its back), and half its body is on a ramp and its middle looks to be tied to one of those cranes I mentioned earlier.

In the forefront of the picture there is what looks to be a pair of rats, only they have shark tails and heads. And all of the tie-off pilings are covered in sinister-looking steel fish decorations with wide open grinning mouths and teeth.

On the left side of the picture is what looks like some kind of bay-side workshop with a portcullis that can be raised or lowered to allow small boats to enter into a kind of sluice. In this workshop are all kinds of things, but what catches my eye is a skeleton of a huge fish near the ceiling and the most gigantic fishhook I've ever seen. And there's the hints here and there of old caribbean-style piracy, with gold doubloons, scimitars, and crates. The details in this painting are quite astounding, and as I stare at it, there are so many stories that seem to pop into my mind.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this with you, seeing as there's no more Game of Thrones for me to really rant about (I will probably talk about the disappointing series finale on Friday).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Was Darth Vader supposed to wield god-like power or did power creep just make him that way?

You will need to watch the below embedded short (it's about a minute long) first before you understand what I'm talking about in this post. It's quite entertaining, and kind of re-imagines a portion of the Battle of Hoth sequence in animated form.

From a Generation X-er and a Baby Boomer standpoint, nostalgia can be a trippy drug, especially when it comes to Star Wars and bad guys like Darth Vader and the Emperor. For example, take Darth Vader. The tone of the original trilogy (if you try and control your nostalgic feelings of "this is totally how I see him through the lens of history") is that he was perfectly content to let the stormtroopers do the dirty work for him. This mildly suggests that if Vader were capable of spectacular displays of the Force (like blasting open a hangar door in the below short clip), Luke would never have escaped the Death Star the first time just because a measly door closed while Vader leisurely strolled over too late to get through safely.

Needless to say, if he could blow open giant metal doors, he ought to be able to just blow up smaller nearby ships with the Force too. But we never saw this happen. However, if we see Vader again in future movies, we just might see this happen because of Force and "power" creep.

To explain further, I bring all of this up because in the newest movies, the Force is portrayed as much more powerful. And it's getting more and more grandiose all of the time. What Daisy Ridley's character did in The Last Jedi by casually levitating tons of rocks might not have been a thing that even Yoda could have done in earlier movies because not enough time had passed for people to really simmer on these ideas they have regarding the power levels of characters. Simply put: as the decades roll on and on, the Force gets more and more powerful. A Yoda featured in another Star Wars movie filmed say, in 2020 or beyond, would easily be able to do what Daisy Ridley's character did in The Last Jedi, and maybe even more cool stuff.

This phenomenon of power creep is not new to fiction. It's happened to Superman too. The Superman of the 1930's could leap tall buildings. The Superman of today has all the powers of a god and is nigh unstoppable unless you have one of his very specific weaknesses: kryptonite and/or magic. It's all "power creep," and I see it happening in the Star Wars movies with each new release, animated short, and progression of stories through CGI-based animated series like The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

But don't get me wrong, it's all fun. It's just something I've noticed, and I attribute a lot of the power creep to feelings of nostalgia and fondness over characters and what they could possibly do to fit any given situation.

Friday, May 17, 2019

My brain refuses to acknowledge that Robert Pattinson has now been cast as The Batman.

Uh...Robert Pattinson has now been cast as The Batman. Uhm...I can't even. I-I don't like this. Say it's a nightmare or an April Fool's joke that's a month too late. Did no one at Warner Brothers even see him perform as Edward in Twilight? Did no one care? I miss the days of Christian Bale playing Batman so bad. We had it so good and never really appreciated it.

If anyone needs me, I'm going to be sailing on the River Denial.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Despite Daenerys burning King's Landing to the ground I maintain that anger and hatred are not mental illness.

This is a remarkable screenshot of Daenerys and actress Amelia Clarke who is showcasing extreme anger.
The aftermath of this anger is some of the most grotesque genocide humans are capable of inflicting.
So Game of Thrones went the way of every other fantasy series that has ever been written: the only one fit to rule or save the day is in fact a straight white male. I suppose that my disappointment at the final reveal is a culmination of feelings around the concept of "I thought this story was going to be different." It seemed different. It masqueraded itself differently. But at the end of the day it was just Dynasty or Falcon Crest but with dragons. It had its female villains like Alexis Carrington, but ultimately (and at the end of the day) these women do such horrible things that the audience has no choice but to beg for a straight white man to ultimately put these "mad" women in their place.

Sigh...I've seen this story before soooo many times. I'm tired of it...exhausted even. I guess I'm too well read for this crap anymore. People who haven't read the number of books that I have will find this story refreshing. Say a person who has read maybe five books in their life. That person is going to be so surprised by "White man is the best man for the job." I'm so disappointed in myself. I've been in denial if I ever thought that Game of Thrones showcased any diversity at all, and most of this was driven by the allure of such strong female heroic figures. But in George R.R. Martin's world, there is no such thing as heroes. Daenerys, however, came really close until "The Bells" happened. Boy did I get suckered in. I got P.T. Barnumed (famous for saying "A sucker is born every minute."). Yup, that's me.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention things about episode 5 of season 8 that got me thinking. For one, I'm interested in the mental gymnastics of how people go about justifying Daenerys's heel turn (thanks for letting me know what this term meant Pat). It reminds me of how people can take any passage from the Bible to validate just about anything they desire. "She crucified the masters." "She said she would take what is mine in fire and blood." Yes, she did do these things. But anger is a valid emotion...any of you seen the Pixar movie, Inside Out? Anger is not madness. And being angry and hating people who have wronged you or deeply wronged you is decidedly human. It is not mentally ill. It is not crazy or "mad" as in the "Mad Hatter" which is how people referred to the condition of "crazy" before the invention of the DSM.

It bugs me deeply that people use the terms "Mad" and "Crazy" and "Mental Illness" to describe someone who cannot reasonably deal with their anger or hatred. Hate is not a mental illness. It's a response to being insulted, wronged, or being violated. Hate can arise from being disenfranchised. It can come from places we least expect it to arise, but to wrap it up in a diagnosis of "mental illness" makes it easier to ignore. It becomes someone else's problem and allows a person to wash responsibility from their hands because "that other person is just crazy."

Daenerys is now the "Mad Queen." Blah...it makes me want to throw up in my mouth just a little bit. From my point of view she is a mass murderer and definitely no longer a hero because she has murdered tons of innocent people. However, she is not "cray cray." This isn't hip hop. "Bitches be crazy, ya know?" "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." "Women are so histrionic." "Women are so emotional." And so on and so forth. All of these one-liners going back hundreds of years are all rooted in misogyny, and it didn't need to be written that way unless the intent was to make Jon legitimate by shit-writing Daenerys. Make no mistake, folks. This is what happened here. She was a complete soaring hero up through the end of season 8 episode 3 that ended with the Night King's death. So in two episodes time, she's become a foaming at the mouth, carpet-chewing, burn them all "Mad Queen."

There are people who loved episode 5 called "The Bells." I have a red-pill friend who loves it, because, "with all of her betrayals, Cersei murdering her best friend as a big f*ck you at the gates, Cersei lying about sending troops, Cersei killing one of her dragons, the betrayal of Varys, and on top of that...getting rejected by Jon Snow [yes, I guess this is a legitimate reason for a woman to commit genocide...because...penis is so good, ya know?]...I don't think anyone, man OR woman, would have stopped or shown mercy...." I guess saying "No" really does have its consequences. Sigh.

I know incels who love it too. It fits their worldview of women, and what women do to men. I know people who are filled with bitterness and self loathing and have carried it so long it has morphed into diagnosable depression because that anger and hatred they have has no outlet. These people LOVED Daenerys burning King's Landing to the ground. "The Mad Queen!" they scream in delight.

I shake my head at the whole thing. Daenerys Targaryen was just extremely angry and packing a lot of hatred, and it just so happened that she was also packing a lot of firepower too and people paid the price. Answer me this: if the killers at Columbine high school had access to a dragon like Drogon and not assault weapons/guns, what do you think would have happened? What about the killer at Sandy Hook? What would he have done with his "dragon?" My guess is probably say "Dracarys" and burn a school to the ground and then start on the city. But what do I know?

So yeah...I'm grossly disappointed in Game of Thrones. But I also don't like how people use "Mad" and "Crazy" to describe anger and hatred. Hatred is not a mental illness, which is why mental health professionals will do nothing to stem the tide of mass shootings in our country. Hate and anger can't be dismissed, but addressing these emotions and the causes of them are probably too complex for people to want to take on unless there is no other choice.

I did love the special effects though, and I am going to finish this series by watching the last episode. I've come to far to quit now. I'm just glad it's finally over.