Monday, January 31, 2022

The trailer for the HALO series has me convinced that the March debut will knock it out of the park.

The new trailer for HALO dropped this last week. I was never a player of the games, but I watched some friends play. As a first-person shooter, I was intrigued. And I also liked the sci-fi armor suit, which has been a staple of science fiction for twenty-five years, and before that a staple of comic book type stories.

I expect that people will draw comparisons with Arcane from League of Legends, which really knocked it out of the park as far as a video game adaptation goes. However, the track record on video game adaptations to this point has been bad. I'm sure that going into this thing, which premieres in March of 2022, there will be plenty of people posting the equivalent of, "I hope the writing is not garbage." This is a peculiar comment to me, mostly because I know what goes into writing. And I've never been impressed with most video game writing. What I saw of HALO didn't qualify as good either. So it's weird that people used to consuming such low-hanging fruit would suddenly feel compelled to raise the bar on the writing now that it's getting a live-action adaptation. It's as if the old spoon-fed garbage they consumed for hours is suddenly not worth their time if there is no game attached. (Shrug) I just notice these things; I can't say that I've ever understood them.

That being said, the trailer (which is embedded below) does look good. I like that there is a "Cortana" as the friendly artificial intelligence. It reminds me that this whole thing is a Microsoft property, and why they named their Windows assistant "Cortana." There is also a rumor that they spent $200 million on the first season of this thing, so it may be a pretty spectacular first season. Paramount + (thus far) has been worth every penny I've spent on it since first signing up to watch Star Trek: Discovery, and I'm looking forward to a second sci-fi franchise with now baited breath. Anyone else have any opinions on Halo?

Friday, January 28, 2022

This animated short released by Marvel this week regarding Krakoa echoes what I said about House of X.

When I made my blog post on Wednesday about Marvel's House of X, I had no idea that Marvel was going to release (on that same day) the animated short embedded below. You should watch it, and I loved it. I wonder if this is yet another sign that the mutants are coming to the MCU. In my opinion, "Krakoa" is the best thing to happen to the X-Men in a long time. Let me know what you think of the animated short in the comments.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

I think reading House of X has given me a glimpse of the blueprint the MCU may use to integrate the X-Men.

A good friend turned me onto the writing of Jonathan Hickman, and what he's been doing with the X-Men comic books. If you don't know who this guy is, he's essentially now a legend/superstar for the plot lines he's been concocting. He's achieved a ton of cred for Secret Wars and his work with the Avengers comic book. In reading House of X, I am catching glimpses of what could very well be Marvel's cinematic future and what they will probably need (or will) do in order to bring the X-Men into the fold. Allow me to elaborate by talking about the plot points of House of X.

First off, House of X has honestly changed everything. The basic backbone of the story rests with an underappreciated hero/character named Moira MacTaggert. Previously, I had memories of this character as just being the paramour of Professor X at one time in his life. But there really wasn't anything I could tell you that was very important regarding this character other than Professor X had a relationship with her. But in House of X I learned that Moira is a mutant, and her power is a ground-hog day-esque version of reincarnation.

How this works in the comic book is that she gets essentially ten or more lives (the jury is still out on this one). A comic book character named Destiny told Moira (prior to killing her so that she would remember what the life cost her) that if she died before her mutant abilities manifested, it would be her final death. And she set a verbal capstone on the amount of times Moira could be reincarnated that reminded me a lot of the stuff they used to say about Doctor Who's regenerations.'s there...but it's kinda wishy washy and if the writers need more in future stories they left the door open.

Anyway, Moira not only remembers everything in her prior lives, but she can also be an active agent in living her current life. This means that as she experiences a lifetime in a time loop, she can either choose to be passive and follow the choices that she made previously and then everything turns out the same, or she can be an agent of change and actively make different choices and alter everything. And through nine lifetimes, she supports the mutants warring against humans, and each time she tries something different and it never ends well. She even joins Apocalypse in one of the reincarnations. In the tenth life, she gets Magneto and Charles Xavier together by meeting Xavier earlier than she ever did in any of her other lives and then asking him to fully read her mind. As a result, Charles builds a mutant island sanctuary named Krakoa, Magneto moves there and lives in the House of M, and mutants are the dominant species. They also sell miracle cures made from a flower on the island to human governments in order to get recognition for their new country.

What I find kinda brilliant about all of this is that it wipes the slate clean for the X-Men in a very elegant retcon. So all the prior garbage that we find in the Fox properties that may be baggage that the MCU might want to address just gets retconned. They can acknowledge it easily, and then say that Moira MacTaggert made different choices and move forward to integrating the X-Men into the MCU. J.J. Abrams employed this same trick when he rebooted Star Trek with the whole "red matter" timeline (which I thought was wonderful, but I know Andrew hated it).

The book/collection of House of X takes on a huge timeline (spanning about 1000 years). It's told in glimpses of the past, the present, and the future. We see mutants get their own island nation that is teeming with wonders and is a place only mutants can get to without escort. They even get their own written language that they immediately understand that gets implanted into their brains. They come up with a vaccine to eradicate all disease and extend life, and humans want it desperately. Even powerhouses like Apocalypse agreed to join Krakoa, and then they established the first three mutant laws (which are very interesting):




There's also a potentially great MCU villain in this story called Nimrod. To put it simply, any future that has Nimrod in it ends badly for mutants. Nimrod is easily the worst aspect of any Sentinel (which are machines that capture the ultimate aggressiveness of normal men who see mutants as their enemy), and he's a huge threat. He basically is as powerful as several omega-level mutants together in one place. 

This is Nimrod. He's really powerful and dangerous to mutants.

Anyway, by reading this graphic novel or comic book collection or whatever it's called, I've got a glimpse of what could be when the X-Men finally make their appearance in the movies. I want to see Krakoa. I want the brilliant retconning of all that has passed through Moira MacTaggert's many lives. I see it as something that's never been done before, and it has way more potential than the school setting which has been in too many movies now. I know none of them have been in the MCU, but I have no interest in seeing what the school will look like with Disney in charge, as it will more than likely be more of the same. It's time for something radically different, like what Jonathan Hickman has shown us in House of X. And I think that introducing the X-Men through a storyline like this will go a lot smoother than The Eternals, who did nothing to help when Thanos was killing off half the life in the universe.

Anyone else have thoughts on this? Anyone else a fan of Jonathan Hickman?

Monday, January 24, 2022

By the end of season 2 of The Witcher I liked Triss Merigold way better than Yennefer of Vengerberg.

Yes, I'm still talking about all the things that premiered in December of 2021 that I watched. This time, it's about the second season of The Witcher, which premiered just in time for me to start watching after I got done with Lost in Space in its final season. I think that between The Witcher and Amazon's Wheel of Time, the heir apparent to Game of Thrones appears to be The Witcher. It's second season was strong and full of intrigue, frightening monsters, and interesting characters. Plus they really leveled up their special effects budget. Two characters in particular I've thought deeply about are Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Triss Merigold. Here is your <<SPOILER ALERT>> if you intend to watch season 2 of The Witcher and you haven't done so yet.

Season 2 when it started rolling was more of a grayish and wintry world than season one. A lot of the action was set in Kaer Morhen, which is the chilly abode of the world's last line of witchers. They don't appear to have a lot of architecture or engineering experience, and they have channeled all of their energy and time into defeating monsters. So that's what they are good at doing. But this is to the detriment of the actual castle they live in, so the place is run-down and falling into ruin. It's kind of the stereotypical "man cave" or messy bedroom of the alpha male loner, and I guess no one repairs anything. The modern world equivalent is a kind of fraternity where everyone works out and no one actually cleans or fixes broken things. However, the run-down set pieces look fantastic.

The head Witcher (and most experienced) is Vesemir, who worries about what is going to happen to his younger brothers even as another wave of monsters comes at them. Triss Merigold appears and helps Vesemir solve a problem: making more Witchers, and it involves getting blood from Ciri (who has "Elder blood" and which can be turned into a mutagen by Triss's potion knowhow). Meanwhile (and for most of the show), Yennefer has no magic, having sacrificed herself in the season one finale at the Battle of Sodden Hill by channeling forbidden fire. She gets it back by the end of the season, but before that she pretty much burns every bridge she made with characters like Geralt of Rivia, and no one really trusts her all that much (for good reasons).

Geralt and Yen's relationship in season 1 felt kind of toxic, and it does collapse when Yen endangers Ciri's life by almost giving Ciri to a powerful hag clearly inspired by the old folklore of Baba Yaga. In the books I've read, Yen was unambiguously the villain the first time she appeared, and then she was given a long, hard redemption story. The show being written toward that redemption from the start has to struggle with those same actions not instantly turning people off, and it doesn't always nail it. So I get that.

As for Triss Merigold, well I think she would be a more supportive partner for Geralt (I wonder if they are going to go there? A love triangle seems kind of young adult so they might not). In the books, she is one of Geralt's sexual partners, and she has a crush on him (I mean...Henry Cavill so who wouldn't?). All this aside though, she seems to be more cheerful, warm-hearted, and helpful. She's also a gifted healer, which has got to be a plus for someone who is out killing monsters all the time.

There were also things that I didn't like about season 2, and that I think continue to plague The Witcher as a series. The first of these is that the sense of time, scale, and geography are baffling. Apart from "North" and "Cintra" I frequently don't understand where people are supposed to be on the continent or how long it should take to travel to different places. A second point of confusion is that sometimes it feels too much like decisions or events are made for the plot to progress, and not because they are logical or fitting within context. Yennefer's reason for saving Cahir seemed weak. And then there's the whole scene with Jaskier getting on the boat and the 4th wall break with the guard being the voice of season 1 criticisms. In my opinion, this show desperately needs a map (like the Game of Thrones intro). But overall, I really liked it despite these criticisms. And as the title of this post says, I liked Triss way more than Yennefer, and I hope that Triss becomes more of a major character in the next season. That would be really cool.

Anyone else a fan of The Witcher? Any particular things you want to say about the first two seasons?

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Expanse series finale left a bunch of dangling threads but gave us closure in many ways on an incredible hard science fiction story.

The Expanse
ended its sixth and final season on Amazon Prime this last week, and it was a glorious farewell to (in my opinion) the best science fiction television series to have ever been filmed. The two minds that make-up the combined writer (who goes by James S.A. Corey( are brilliant. That their novels translated so well to the small screen is also amazing. I'm kind of in awe of this series, and I think that this is quite unusual as far as adaptations go.

But (to be fair) they had to roll with the challenges that they faced. I heard that filming this thing was a logistical nightmare under Covid protocols. Furthermore, it was getting more and more expensive with every season. However, it really looked good. What Amazon did with the show is nothing short of incredible as every set and every scene looked like what you'd get from a high budget movie. The actors who played the characters also seemed very committed to their parts, because they put in incredible performances. I don't think I can pick a favorite, because they were all so good. But maybe Avasarala would have to rise to the top simply because her voice (which sounds like what I would guess a person would sound like after chain smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years) is mesmerizing. I could listen to her read the phone book, and I think it would sound fascinating.

Another challenge they had was that the actor who played Alex in the show committed sexual assault or was accused of it. I'm not sure which or what is going on with that. But the show dropped him like a hot potato, and they killed off the character. In the books, I like Alex a lot. So I actually did miss seeing that character in the last six episodes. However, I know why it is important to get rid of troublesome actors like that.

A third challenge they had was keeping actors around while they didn't have much to do in the books. The way they did this was to combine events from the novellas, so that they could cut away to Bobbi Draper on Mars and the story with her nephew. That's an example of a work-around that seemed to pay off dividends. 

One of the things that made The Expanse so good was that they treated the science so carefully. For example, at first blush it seems like yet another SF show with "sounds in space" blunder, but it actually is not. Every crash and explosion you hear is a sound that someone in the show would hear, e.g., a missile hitting a spaceship is certainly heard by the people inside a spaceship, and so does the viewer, even if the camera viewpoint is in space. But events which nobody can hear, such as a missile hitting an uninhabited rock, are silent. At least...that's what it seemed like to me.

The one thing that is frustrating about the tv show is that there is soooo much more story to tell. I'm about halfway done with the last book, Leviathan Falls, and I'm excited to see how they bring the series to a conclusion. I know Patrick has read it (no spoilers please), and I'll be there soon enough. Anyone that watched season six knows that the showrunner sprinkled Laconia plot line seeds throughout the six episodes. So the people who haven't read the book are probably going to be invested in a plot line that will now have no resolution. However, there are rumors that maybe some movies might be in discussion to pick up events in the last three books that take place thirty years later (there's a big time jump in the books). This is all just speculation on the part of rabid fans and not real news. For whatever it's worth, The Expanse threw up the equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass in its last season to generate enough buzz in the hopes that someone (with the power to produce things) might pick it up later. It's an interesting strategy, and as someone that loves the books, I hope it bears fruit.

Anyway, I'm sad that The Expanse has ended. It sure was an amazing story, and it just captured me from the get go and never let up. Did anyone else out there watch it? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Spiderman No Way Home was an average superhero movie that went gangbusters at the box office for reasons I cannot comprehend.

This December, I went into the movie theaters to see Spiderman: No Way Home. Let's talk about it now. Also, this is your <<<SPOILER WARNING>>>.

First off, I enjoyed No Way Home. However, I'm at a loss to even try and explain why it has made as much money as it has in the Box Office. The only thing I can think of is that Tom Holland is way more popular than people realize...than I realized. I mean...this movie was "all right." I'd give it 2.5 stars out of five, and I probably won't see it again. There were things that just bugged me about it. Here's my short list:

1) How did Octavius know the identity of Spider-Man and Green Goblin in No Way Home? In No Way Home, Octavius appeared on the bridge looking for his machine and already knew Spider-Man's identity but how? In Spider-Man 2 (2004) Octavius only found out about his identity minutes before he died, plus, by that time (or very shortly after Peter took off his mask) Octavius was convinced by Peter to let go of his dream.

2) With regards to Green Goblin, the only people that knew were Peter and Norman, later in the movies Harry found out at the end of Spider-Man 2, and in Spider-Man 3 the butler said he cleaned Norman's wounds then realized it, but both of these instances Octavius was already dead so he had no way of knowing.

3) It was a rehash of villains that I've seen before. There literally was nothing new about this movie regarding the bad guys other than offering a kind of redemption, which was meh. And then to pile on the other Spider-Men seemed underwhelming. I've already seen these guys in other movies, and it seems really weird to be basing so much of a big budget show on a rerun, even if it did afford the time for lots of jokes regarding everything from web shooters to Tobey Maguire's bad back in Spiderman 3.

4) Doing the great "reset" by having M.J. and Ned forget everything along with the rest of the world seemed like a step backward to me. Now they get to do the whole awkward romance and love thing with M.J. again, and I honestly don't know why people keep needing this. But Peter Parker just like Peter Pan cannot ever seem to break out of certain moulds. That character always needs to be poor, young, and hopelessly chasing a woman. The fun is all in the chase I guess, because once the woman is caught, then it's no longer fun. I don't know...I guess I'm glad I don't write for these things. I feel like I'm out of touch with what people want (obviously) as this sequel is like the biggest movie ever. I just get tired of all the angst.

However, I did like that Matt Murdoch (played by Charlie Cox) is now confirmed as Daredevil in the MCU. I've been rewatching the Netflix series, and I realized that Netlix really did an amazing job with the Daredevil character. I imagine we shall see some kind of reboot of this on Disney + in the near future that plays on Charlie Cox's return as that character. I'd also like to see a Spiderman and Daredevil team-up against new villains (that would be really interesting). 

I also liked that Ned apparently has the ability to become a sorcerer. There are few other characters in the MCU who are fat, and it's nice to have some kind of representation for fat people in the MCU.

And the final thing that I liked about No Way Home was that the script played with the concept of morality amidst new planes of existence. And regarding that last part, the whole "new planes of existence" thing is going to be a gold mine for Disney, as it allows them to recast parts as much as they want to without having to keep increasing actor pay (which has got to reach absurd levels at some point).

Anyone else see Spiderman: No Way Home over Christmas? Am I being too harsh?

Friday, January 14, 2022

Parker Posey's Dr. Smith was my favorite part of Lost in Space.

Let's talk about Lost in Space with a big <<SPOILER ALERT>> for those who haven't finished watching and intend to do so. With that out of the way, let us proceed :).

As I have said before, December of 2021 had lots of entertainment options. One that I watched during the twelfth month was Netflix's Lost in Space, which saw its third (and last) season get released. One of the most important aspects of this show in previous seasons was Will Robinson (played by Maxwell Jenkins) and his relationship with the killer alien robots. So I was not surprised to see this theme go full circle with season three, because it was the alien robot really that started all of their struggles. If you don't know, it's because it attacked their ship and forced them to crash land at the very beginning of the series in season one.

In season 3, we get a lot of questions answered, and we also get some incredible landscape shots that show that Netflix really dumped some money into this series to make it look good. Overall, I was very pleased. One of the highlights happened when they found a lost city that was built by the civilization that built the robots. Will Robinson plays with an alien computer, using a severed and mummified hand that he gets from an alien corpse that is probably thousands of years old.

This is our first hint at what these creatures might have looked like and (big surprise) they designed the robots to look like themselves. The robots also ended up destroying them. This comes in a confession made by SAR, who is the leader of the evil robot legion. SAR ends up savagely damaging Will's physical heart, and this in turn ends up being a plot device whereby Will's robot friend can save him, and also destroy SAR. So the final act of the show ends up broadcasting this huge message of trust...and how trust is what makes it possible to overcome life and death obstacles.

My favorite part of Lost in Space though is a matter of contention. You see, it is an unpopular opinion: I loved Doctor Smith. Played by Parker Posey, this character was a narcissist and asshole. However, I saw many things that I identified with regarding that character that are echoed in myself. For example, she did what she could to ensure her own survival. I get that, and she overcame obstacle after obstacle that other people put in her way. Her tremendous survival instinct flew in the face of those who were arrayed against her, and who repeatedly underestimated her intelligence and quite frankly, did not want her there. 

It seems painfully apparent that the Robinsons had the unvoiced opinion that Dr. Smith was not worthy of being saved from a dying Earth (and of course they were). In fact, Dr. Smith belonged back at Earth suffering from the abuse that she endured by toxic family and then perishing in the destruction of the planet. But she wasn't going to have any of that, and she lied, cheated, and stole her way into a life for herself that was better than dying on a world that thought she was garbage. Sure...the character is completely self-interested. But that's because no one in the entire world in which she inhabits cares about this character at all. No one. She has nothing. I know exactly what that is like.

But whereas a person who is in the same position might just say, "To hell with one cares at all about me or will even check in on me so I might as well commit suicide and die," she goes in the opposite direction. She chooses a path to live, and in doing so, she causes tremendous problems for everyone else. But why should Dr. Smith die so that it makes the highly educated and perfect family of the Robinson's life easier? It's almost like the Robinson's have this halo about them that says, "This is the family that deserves to survive." It's like the worst kind of virtue signaling.

And I'm the person that asks, "Why? Because they are smart? Because they don't have disabilities? Why do they get the shot at an amazing life and this other person does not?" So yeah...I love Dr. Smith. She was chosen for extinction, and she said, "Not today." I see that instinct in me, flying in the face of pre-destined greatness supposedly possessed by other people (as if some were just born to be leaders while others need to clean toilets). Here in Utah, there's a certain "kind" of person that ends up with a house, nice car, nice family, nice job, etc. I never fit into that. But through my own determination and guile, I ended up with those things anyway. And there's actually a bit of schadenfreude that I experience when I see people who are "that type" fail at getting the things that I got. I don't feel guilty about it at all. I am my own Dr. Smith. I wish that life didn't have to have winners and losers. But it does, and I was damned committed to not being one of those that ended up on the losing end of things despite the fact that I was unwanted (being fat, gay, atheist, mixed race in an area of the country that prizes whiteness, and any number of other things). So yeah...Dr. Smith is an amazing character. And she made the whole show incredibly interesting.

I know that Lost in Space is done. However, I do hope that there might be a spinoff at some point where we could see additional adventures in the universe created by the show. One that stars Parker Posey would be an amazing place to start. Did anyone else watch the show? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

If you haven't seen Hawkeye yet it is worth your time.

Let's talk Hawkeye! <<<SPOILER ALERT>>>>So this latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+ was a delight to enjoy over the holidays. Honestly, the entertainment choices for the holidays were premium this year, so I was a very happy camper. With regard to Hawkeye, I (at first) was wondering why the Marvel machine would want to moor this particular series so closely to a particular time of year. But after I got to watching it, I realized that it would be more than just another thing that one might view when Christmas rolls around (Home Alone, Elf, etc.). And there was more there on the screen to talk about than just trick arrows and flashing light bulbs.

First, and this one seems a bit obvious, but Disney is probably looking to replace Clint Barton soon with the much younger Kate Bishop. This seems like an excellent choice although I will miss Jeremy Renner. But people (unlike superheroes) get old, and Jeremy's contract with Disney is almost up (I think). So, as much as people like me are fans of his work, it's probably time to get ready to say goodbye to this character so that the cinematic universe can keep plodding forward. That's the neat thing about Marvel...there is an endless array of new characters that can be added to the ever-progressing storyline. And Kate Bishop was fantastic. She was charming, witty, and a really good fighter with a compelling backstory that wasn't shellacked with trauma. I'm kind of getting tired of the "superhero" that has to be varnished with trauma to get to be a sympathetic person and start saving people (looking particularly hard at Spiderman right now).

I also loved that we got to see Yelena again (from the Black Widow movie). She stole practically every scene in that show from Scarlett Johannson. That may have been a disservice script-wise to Scarlett's character, but her trailblazing performance and run as Black Widow was really good. I'm pretty much satisfied with original Widow's entire character arc minus the unpleasantness of her death, which I felt was a disservice to the character. However, I'm not a fan of Endgame. I think the only thing I like about that movie is when Scarlet Witch grabs a hold of Thanos with all her power and almost crushes him. So that's like two minutes. The Yelena/Kate frenemies fight was also spectacularly good. I adored Yelena's whole energy of, "You are out of your league, Kate Bishop, but I want to be supportive of your efforts here, even though they will not stop me." This is nothing new, since Widow and Hawkeye have always been pals. It's just fun to see that this is going to continue with these new leading ladies in their respective roles.

However, not all resolutions in Hawkeye were given the depth that I hoped for. This is a strange feeling, because I get the sense that Disney + is a place where stories should be richer, because time is not a factor. For example, Tomas (who was part of the Tracksuit Mafia) had a connection with Kate Bishop, because he asked her for advice on dealing with his girlfriend. They went to a Maroon 5 concert though, and it should have been Imagine Dragons, because he said earlier in the show, "I love Imagine Dragons."

I did like that Jack turned out to be nothing more than some comic relief. I like the actor a lot, because he plays a very intelligent, clever, and charismatic villain in the Breaking Bad spinoff called Better Call Saul. He brought some of the smarmy-ness of that role to Jack, and who knows, he could end up joining the LARPers, which weren't treated as a colossal joke. Instead, the series showed the fact that they are real, normal people who happen to have a nerdy hoppy. This was a refreshing pace over how LARP is typically portrayed: an entire society of people who never break character and that the LARP is their reality and they cannot function in the real world.

Seeing the Kingpin was great, because it was yet another confirmation that the Daredevil and other properties on Netflix (which I thought were very high quality) are now a part of the MCU. In other words, those series mattered. I also don't think that Fisk is dead. That being said, without watching Daredevil, there is no clear way to feel how much of a threat this guy really is. I mean...he's bad. However, I was a little disappointed that Kingpin was only scary to me, because I've seen Daredevil on Netflix. And wearing a Hawaiian shirt didn't help things. In the one episode in which he appears on Disney+, there is no way to feel the intensity and danger that Kingpin represents. Point of note though: the way in which Vincent D'Onofrio just threw Hailee Steinfeld around looked awesome and properly Kingpin.

I suppose the final thing that I want to say about Hawkeye is that it is nice that Marvel didn't sweep the whole thing of Clint's stint as Ronin under the rug. There were consequences for what he did, and he essentially made Maya what she was in a revenge-seeking pseudo villain. And speaking of Maya, it was wonderful to see someone with disabilities portrayed as very functional and in no need of coddling whatsoever. That was awesome.

Was the show perfect? No...if anything it ran a bit short. However, it is easily a stronger entry in the MCU than WandaVision was. Have any of you who are reading this seen it yet? If so, what did you think?

Monday, January 10, 2022

If you like your science fiction and fantasy to be dark and full of terrifying monsters you should probably try Angels of Death on Warhammer plus.

Once I got past the fact that Warhammer miniatures, and more specifically, the 40K line of miniatures had managed to launch its own streaming service in 2021, I actually signed up to watch one of two series that were on that network. Does it seem absurd that a gaming company has its own streaming channel? Yes, it does. However, let's move on from the ridiculous of that and talk about what I watched.

Called Angels of Death, the show featured ten episodes that ran various lengths from 15 minutes to about 22 minutes on the heavy end for like mid-season finale stuff. It was all done in black and white, and it was completely computer animated kind of like those video game trailers that Blizzard and Warhammer stick onto their products for people who play their games. After I got done watching the series, I thought to myself, "That was like watching a movie that was a video game trailer." So anyone that has ever wanted that kind of thing (I think) would be pleased with Angels of Death.

That being said, the storyline was pretty weak. It was simply about some Space Marines of the Blood Angel chapter who were on the run from a massive tyranid fleet. They fled into "The Warp" to escape this tyranid invasion in the sector in which they were fighting, but going into "The Warp" unexpectedly had some serious problems for them as their primary navigator was dead. So they had to rely upon their secondary navigator to find a psychic pathway to a safe port in the "Warp Storm."

To anyone that doesn't know how "The Warp" works, it's essentially this timeless expanse that has no features by which you can navigate visually. It also is the place where a lot of Chaos collects, and in the situation of Warhammer 40K, Chaos is very bad...and when I say "bad," I'm really wanting you to think Hellraiser-esque demons bad. Additionally, the Warp has several properties, the most important of which is that it is "unknowable." This is both very simple and very complex. But if you think you understand what The Warp does or how time works, you don't. However, it's the only way to cross vast distances of space. It's just that by doing so, literally anything can happen even if it is in contradiction to events that have already passed. Got that? Good :)

So, Angels of Death itself doesn't pull any trickery with being stuck in The Warp itself. The ship that houses the fleeing space marines on it is stuck there for about 40 days before they find a psychic trail that leads to a so called "safe port." But it isn't. They arrive at a world that on its surface is very welcoming, and they dock at an enormous space elevator above a planet that has been ravaged by war. There is only one city on the planet, and the space elevator goes right to it. At this time, their ship gets a signal from the planet that is very curious to them, and the space marine captain goes down to the planet to investigate with a squad of other space marines. They get ambushed by "Gene Stealers," who are humans that are completely corrupted by Tyranid mutations, and they number in the thousands if not millions. The planet is completely infested, and all of these "Gene Stealers" are calling out desperately to their Tyranid god (whom they worship) to come and rule over them (or whatever it is that cults want). The only thing is that the Tyranid's don't care, and they will just liquefy everything on the planet down to biomass and suck it all up through a straw and move on. That's what they do.

So, the Captain gets stuck on this planet with his fate unknown...and the rest of the story orbits around the other space marines that are back on the ship that is docked at the top of the huge space elevator. They decide to go and rescue their captain, and shortly after that, it becomes clear that the entire planet is infested with a cult of tyranid gene stealers and all hell is about to break loose. The cool thing in the telling of this story are the many combats with the gene stealers. There are so many different kinds of them, and they give off strong "xenomorph" and "Alien" movie vibes (if you are a fan of that franchise). These monsters are clearly inspired by Giger's work in that movie (the artist). And the space marines are just really effing cool in their power armor, slaughtering everything as fast as they can and wading hip deep through the gory remains of alien monsters. The fight with the patriarch of the gene stealers, a towering monster that (I think) used to be human but now resembles a xenomorph queen (from the movie "Aliens") is the climax of the series. 

Anyway, if you like your science fiction and fantasy dark and filled with monsters, I'd say give Angels of Death on the Warhammer streaming service (Warhammer +) a try. You could watch the whole thing in one sitting, and it only costs $5.99 and you can cancel when you are done. I'll link a trailer below so that you can see the animation. You'll note that the animation is all black and white, but the color red shows up as an artistic element. It reminds me a lot of the movie, Sin City, which was also black and white but featured splashes of color here and there for dramatic emphasis. When they come out with another series, I'll probably sign-up again. Despite the artistic-ness of the black and white, I think I prefer full color overall.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Is the Wheel of Time any good?

Is the Wheel of Time on Amazon a good show? I enjoyed it quite a bit. I thought of it as high-budget Xena, if you remember that series at all. But there are so many other people who have varying opinions about this show that it is hard to discern the true measure of it. Almost every friend I know who bothered to read the books (disclaimer: I didn't) has said some version of the following (this is a direct cut/paste of a conversation I've had but I'm not saying who it was):

"Not liking Wheel of Time. Many reasons. Casting sucks. Forced diversity. Not even close to the books. Action scenes out of Xena. Some of the set pieces look okay...but way too dependent on these landscape shots. Makes everything else look out of place. Wardrobe and costume design is horrible. Not going to waste any more time on it."

Another friend of mine said, "I love this show, because it features strong women. People who hate this show probably don't like admitting that women can be strong."

And another friend of mine said, "This simply isn't how the books went. They've changed everything. The Dragon Reborn should never have even the possibility of being a woman, and they brought that up in episode one to satisfy the diversity police. But that's wrong. The Dragon Reborn is a dude. At least they got Rand's hair color right."'s all very weird to me. I guess the diversity police really did get a hold of the Wheel of Time series and said, "None shall pass until you meet our criteria and then this will be spooned to the masses!" Or something like that. However, that's their call, right? I mean...let's face it...writers go begging to studios to produce their stuff, because it's everyone's dream to get something turned into a movie or a television series (and get a payday with fame and oohs and aahhhs).

Sooo...with all that begging...I mean...the writer doesn't really have the power now do they? That's just how business works. That's why the workers at Kellogg's are having such a hard time trying to get the company to cave into their demands (by striking). It's hard being the little person trying to get the big company to give into your thing. I could put your foot down and scream, "NO! I will not allow this to happen!" And that would be fine too. It just means that the company would buy some other dime a dozen fantasy series and promote that, and yours would fly into obscurity. Or in the case of striking workers, the reality is they could all be fired.

What's weird is seeing all of my especially misogynistic friends being upset with the series as if their boycott is going to cancel anything (the series has already been renewed for season two). Their anger stems from the fact that a beloved property of theirs has an estate that has "sold out" to a corporation that will change the material so that they can line their pockets and satisfy a narcissistic demand to see their story on the screen, acted out and portrayed by professionals, and lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars. What narcissistic person wouldn't want that? They throw aspersions at Amazon for exercising "I do what I want!" in capitalist America while they say nothing at the sellout owners of the intellectual property of the late Robert Jordan. In many cases, they are the worst kind of hypocrites, because given the chance, they'd sell out in a heartbeat to have the money and prestige of an Amazon series...even if it compromised everything that they believed in regarding white male privilege. Funny how that works, isn't it?

The fact of the matter is...when new properties are turned into series...the worst impulses of writers whose works are being adapted are going to be mellowed by the diversity police. And this is how it should be. We don't need works that glorify fascism, that glorify male privilege, or who insist on making everyone one race. We don't need works that show women cooking and cleaning and black people in the role of household servants and Asian people working in laundromats. Those days are gone. You can write that stuff and probably get an audience of some kind. But for a big corporation to adopt it into something that the public will's going to get changes. Otherwise, they won't buy it. And this is upsetting to a good deal of folks, but let them rage.

Is the Wheel of Time any good? I thought it was fun. What I don't understand is why so many people wanted this story to be taken so seriously? And I think, this lack of being taken seriously is behind the outrage of people who hated what happened to "The Wheel of Time." To some, the story of the "Wheel of Time" was a sacred thing, because...well...they read it. With books thick enough to be a door stop...a lot of men who read the books put in some serious effort and time to slog through it all. And their time is valuable dammit! So yeah...they read "sacred" it has now become. For someone like Amazon to come along behind them and "trivialize" the story with casting changes, inclusion, diversity, etc. seems to have ruffled their sensibilities. "How dare they?" I could imagine one saying. "Would they have done this to Harper Lee?" However (and for what it is worth) I don't see statues of Robert E. Lee as sacred but other folks do (shrug?). So, I'm okay with them being boxed up or even recycled while others scream and cry about it all night. Maybe it even ruins their lives? I have no idea. I guess Obi-Wan Kenobi was right when he said to Luke that a lot of what one believes in life extends from a certain point-of-view. It's just a weird phenomenon to watch in real-time, and...I don't get it. But...whatever.

As for the Wheel of Time, I think you should watch it. I enjoyed it more than Cowboy Bepop, but not as much as The Expanse.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The January 2022 IWSG has asked us to explore our writing regrets.

Happy New Year. It seriously just feels like a breath of fresh air to have made it through the holidays. I know some people just love the holidays, but I've yet to experience the joy of living through them that I had when I was was a kid. There's always so much to do, and throwing get togethers are a lot of work from cleaning everything to food prep. I did make some homemade Swedish meatballs that got a lot of talk from people I invited over to have some, and the following week I made a splash with a homemade lasagna. Lots of wine was consumed, and conversations around the table seemed to become an excuse for people to talk about what was bothering them. Sigh. I attended no one else's get togethers because there weren't any. I think people just realized it was too much work and decided to rely upon me to do everything. So if I didn't throw a party, then no one would see each other for two months during the holidays. My social circle is kind of terrible about doing things for others. I'm the only doer and everyone else is a taker and has the attitude of, "I take care of myself and that's it. That's all I can do. No spoons!"'s all over for another year. :) Now, that it's January, I have a little more time and peace of mind to start blogging again. I'm kicking it off with my New Year's post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you haven't heard of this blogfest started by Alex Cavanaugh, then you can go HERE and sign up for it. It takes place the first Wednesday of every month. Here are some other details about the neverending blogfest:

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

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

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

Remember, the question is optional!

January 5 question - What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

Okay, so now that I've said all of the above, I'm going to answer the January question.

I think my biggest regret with my writing career was trying to please other people. I think that for many years when I was young, I tried to tailor what I wrote to fit within boxes that were checked by creative writing "professionals." It was validation-seeking, and yes...I was able to overcome it. I think to be any kind of true writer, you need to turn off the voices of everyone else that yammer at you about what you should write about. Writing needs to flow from the person that is doing the work. Writing (at least the rough draft) should bring you some kind of joy. If it doesn't, then you are probably not being true to yourself.

At the same time, I think it is okay to idolize other writers out there as long as you know that you are not them. Don't try to be the next Stephen King. There is already one of those. Don't try to be the next Maya Angelou. The only thing you have to be (as far as a writer is concerned) is you. And if the world doesn't make you a best seller, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. And that's okay. That still makes you a writer. You're just a writer with a very niche audience.

I think artists create too many rigid rules to follow that just dumb down everything to mediocrity. I get why this happens. It's a collision where art and business collide and the dollar has to justify the time, etc. But in other industries, there's so much disruption that the dollar isn't even tied to logic of any kind (crypto currency is an example of this as is Tesla being valued at over a trillion dollars). None of it makes sense. But art programs and writer programs are still trying to pound away with their rules saying, "You have to do this to be successful," and "You have to write this way" when the whole world doesn't care anymore. Everything is being disrupted. The old way of doing this doesn't make sense any more. It's just my two cents. However, I think that writing is evolving fast, and the old gatekeeping of the past just doesn't make sense at all anymore when you can just publish on platforms like Medium and start gaining an audience. I also think that many people will also not be able to make a living with writing. However, I want to expand this to: I don't think many people going forward will be able to make a living...period.

Things are changing so fast in this world that it's given me a bit of whiplash. Average homes in Salt Lake City are now $650,000. To buy a home in SLC, you have to make $84.00 per hour. Like...what? That doesn't even make sense. Inflation is going insane, everything is expensive, rent keeps going up as landowners raise rent so that they can afford elite schools for their kids and a family vacation and maybe a new car. New cars now cost $70,000...and that's for a Kia. There are shortages of things everywhere. None of it makes sense, and I have no idea how everything became broken in such a short amount of time. I also don't know how any of it is going to get fixed.

Anyone writing a dystopia should have lots of ideas! Thanks for stopping by for this month's edition of the IWSG.

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