Friday, March 22, 2024

Masters of the Air on Apple TV plus is kind of a strange watch.

So, before I go further, there's going to be some spoilers in this post. If you want to be completely spoiler free, you should probably check it out after you've watched Masters of the Air. With that out of the way, as I'm watching this show, I have some knee-jerk reactions to it. Yes, it is based on real life people. The soundtrack is awesome, and the opening credits pull at the emotions as you see so many young and beautiful men doing the jobs they were assigned to take on the big bad evil of the twentieth century: Adolf Hilter and his goons. You can't help but feel for every single life lost in this series, which is absolutely the intent. But from a storytelling point of view, it's difficult to follow because entire crews flying the airplanes just die off/get killed. So, you really don't ever get to know anyone except for maybe Rosie, who is extraordinarily gifted in leading his crews to safety amidst towering odds. Like...literally his plane is the only one that survives a bombing mission in one particular episode.

But the thing is: the story doesn't follow Rosie. He's just part of it. So you've got all of these other characters that are only there for a brief moment and then they're just gone. Dead. Shot down. I'm not sure what I would correct or advise if I could to fix this except...maybe...they should have tried to tell a smaller story? I think there were too many storylines going on and for many, they just didn't seem fulfilling because (again) they were just abruptly ended when the character/person got killed.

By starting so far back with the Bucks, they couldn't follow the same crew at all. So that meant more characters, less time to bond with them, and it was essentially a revolving door of turnover. At one point it was really difficult to figure out which character was which. The prisoner of war storylines that they explored were interesting, because it gave us a break from that "in the sky" narrative. Also, I love Austin Butler, but I really wish he'd stop acting like he's the new Clint Eastwood with the whispering and the Elvis-esque acting that he's continued to do since he starred as Elvis in the movie. It feels a lot like Austin Butler has kind of adopted Clint Eastwood in the same way that Christian Slater went full on Jack Nicholson early in his career (and that bugged me too as Christian Slater was not Jack Nicholson). For reference, watch the movie Heathers. It's an ancient movie by today's standards, but if you ever watch it, you will see what I mean with Christian Slater basically acting like Jack Nicholson. It's kind of ridiculous.

However, I don't want to leave you with the impression that I didn't like this series. I loved it, and I'd recommend watching it. But I didn't love it so completely that I feel it is above my criticisms. It had excellent action sequences, cinematography, and acting. If anything, the storytelling suffered because sticking with real men and trying to cover so many at once managed to create a story where nothing really significant got touched upon in any meaningful detail, unless you count "killed in action" as a meaningful thing.

I will be away from the blog all of next week, but thanks for visiting. I'll return for the April 3rd posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I've got some things I need to take care of that require my attention.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

In the Acolyte it apparently isn't Palpatine who makes the Republic crumble this time around.

Yesterday, Disney+ dropped the trailer for "The Acolyte," which is their latest story that the Star Wars universe wants to give to us. Yes, it appears to take place in a crucial and unexplored period of Star Wars, mainly that the story is set 100 years after the High Republic's zenith and taking a look at how the Republic and the Jedi start to crumble. In other words, it's a story about how darkness rises in an age of light. However, I feel that I've trod down these paths before, and I'm not certain why no one else feels this way.

Let me say this another way: haven't we already seen the republic crumble? I's a different era, but I think what I'm getting at is that democracy and a grand republic falling down doesn't feel like it is breaking any new territory. Admittedly, maybe no one including myself comes to Star Wars seeking anything other than lightsabers, Sith, and bad people doing isolated acts of destruction in an otherwise well-functioning system. Maybe the point of the series is for these bad actors to act freely until so much bad stuff has happened that it pulls down civilization itself.

Is that the only interesting story that there is to be mined from Star Wars? Maybe I should just be taking the title literally. It's telling us that there is a "war" in the "stars" so...I guess...everything must be about that war or more wars or different versions of a war. The war (in fact) may never end. If it does, it's time for another war. I guess that's the part that ruins my suspension of disbelief. But as a caveat, what do I know? Maybe war and conflict are the only stories worth showing, and all we need for the other bit is to say "there was a thousand years of peace," and then get back to the war.

Has anyone ever bothered to ask why the Republic in Star Wars is always crumbling? Is my age showing? Do I appear jaded? I'm still going to watch "The Acolyte." I guess I'm just complaining. Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it yet.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Warner Brothers has plans for a Teen Titans movie

Okay. James Gunn has surprised me. I never thought there was going to be a Teen Titans movie, and then Warner Brothers (and James Gunn who is heading their DC Reboot) announced that they were going to film a Teen Titans movie. As a Gen X-er who was into comic books, this made me really happy. I grew up on the Teen Titans, and as Marvel's star appears to wane, I'm looking forward to the stories that can be told in the DC universe that haven't been done yet. We have an as yet "untapped" Darkseid, a Trigon the Terrible, and a Lobo just to name a few. Trigon himself could be a villain on the level of Thanos if done correctly, and a slow build up over several movies that culminate in a face-off against Trigon could be just the kind of thing that the doctor ordered.

The only thing I'm a little confused about is the order of how these things are supposed to arrive. For example, you need Batman before Robin/Nightwing and a new Batman always seems to be in the works. Is Robert Pattinson still Batman? I have no idea at this point. You need a Wonder Woman before Wonder Girl/Troia. They just got rid of Gal Gadot. You need Flash before you get Kid Flash. You need Green Arrow before you get Speedy. And last but not least, you don't really get Aqualad before Aquaman. And they just sunset Aquaman.

I have no idea how any of this is going to work. Maybe the plan is to start with the superheroes fully formed, so you don't need origin movies. I guess you could assume that everyone already knows who Wonder Woman is and probably Flash and then Green Arrow. So you wouldn't need to involve them beyond maybe some flashbacks and some exposition. However, it's going to take some clever play to get all of this done. You know...superhero movies must be a pain in the ass to keep on track year after year in a shared universe. And does everyone actually know that Dick Grayson became Nightwing as an adult? I remember finding that out in the eighties and being surprised by that. I think that most people still probably think of Dick Grayson as Robin. But maybe I'm wrong and they think Tim Drake is (or some other version). We'll just forget Jason Todd at the moment.

Also, we need a good Lex Luthor. We haven't had one in years. I think my favorite Lex of all time was Kevin Spacey, but he seems troubling to use as an actor at this point. I'd want someone to play Lex that has the gravitas that Kevin Spacey brought to the screen. Anyway, if you're a comic book nerd and reading my post, do you have any theories as to how they are going to launch a Teen Titans movie without doing any of the legacy superheroes first?

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

No matter how hard I try I think I'm just not meant to get why the Last Airbender is so cool.

I've been kinda/sorta making my way through Avatar: The Last Air Bender on Netflix. This is one of those shows that I'm watching out of the corner of my eye while doing something else. However, I do like it. But it's also not really my cup of tea. None of that makes any sense (probably) if you stop and think about it. To try and clarify, I'm glad that it's getting the love that it deserves, and I'm glad that it has been renewed for more seasons at Netflix. I just don't ever think I will personally understand why anyone finds it to be good. Does that sound any better? Probably not.

I have a good friend that really loves the show, and she's an adult but quite a bit younger than me. When she talks about Avatar, her favorite series of all time, I just smile and nod and because I know the story, I'm able to kind of share in their love of it. And I can fake it quite a bit as in, "Wow! This show is so great. It's incredible what they've done." But I wish I knew why people loved this show so much. I think maybe I just was too old for it when it hit the screens for the first time so that I was forever unable to relate to it in a meaningful way. Or maybe it just really is not all that special and the people who are watching it have no life experience to compare it to anything that is actually good. Or maybe I'm the jaded one, and I just can't stand kid actors (the more likely culprit). I mean...I think that the element bending looks cheesy, the plot is meh, and I think that the acting is bad. But I'm only saying this, because my blog feels like a safe space to air these feelings.

If you don't know what this show is about, it has some really big themes built around a world that is not earth but "earth adjacent." People are separated into tribes for their prospective elements, and one of the tribes (the Fire nation) committed an act of genocide on the Air Nation so that they could remain the most powerful. Is this awful? Yes, yes, it is. Did I cry when the Air Nation died? Not really...none of those characters meant anything to me. The main character is a "chosen one" kid who must rise to the occasion and embrace all of his power to make right the various injustices that occur in the world in the absence of an "all powerful avatar" able to wield the four elements. And the rest of it just seems to be fascism gussied up with elemental magic and this chosen one character is the being who will be the anti-fascist and put everyone in their place again and stand up for the weak (which apparently everyone is except for the Fire Nation). It doesn't help much that the whole world of Avatar minus the Fire Nation seems to be a metaphor for the Democratic party in America (clearly not its intention). But if the shoe fits....

So that you are on the same page as me, here's how the New York Times described democrats from an article just this week:

"Why are democrats so congenitally weak? Why did it take a group of former Republicans--the Lincoln Project--to create the nastiest, most effective anti-Trump ads in 2020? There are several reasons, which are impossible for Democrats to admit in public. The first is that they have a reputation as the favored party of the American Bar Association, they're rife with lawyers, they see poetry in a well-turned codicil. They are also the party of the so-called helping professions--teachers, social workers, speech therapists, home health aides, ivy-clotted academics. In general, these are not people comfortable throwing a fierce left hook. And they are the party of identity politics, always sensitive to insensitivity, often to a fault. They care a lot more about appearances, and propriety, than Republicans do."'s the thing: I'm a Democrat, and I'm wondering why everyone who seems to vote like me is so weak. It's actually kind of frustrating. I know so many people who just basically let others run them over, and the only way they seem to be able to find any strength at all is in vast numbers. Standing up for yourself is difficult (I get it), but there seems to be a phenomenon now where everyone is just collectively depressed, anxious, and kind of paralyzed like a deer caught in some headlights. It's kinda like watching the Fire Nation run everyone over to be honest, and I don't like it at all (but it is what it is). And then to go from that reality to a show like Avatar that seems to celebrate this kind of weakness by literally showing that none of these people are ever going to be capable of standing up to the Fire Nation without a godlike being who has their's a message that I don't enjoy a lot. And I wonder why some people do? Because in real life...there is no avatar coming to save anyone.

But maybe I'm just digging too deep on this kid's show. People probably just love it because it features different cultures working together, some good humor, and characters who grow over time. Kids also probably just love the magic...the bending of the elements...and the aesthetic of "that's cool." Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all just use magic to solve our problems? Yeah...maybe I'm just too old to appreciate a kid's show. But I can fake that I like it to fit in. That costs me nothing.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Today I'm sorting out the things about the Walking Dead The Ones Who Live that I don't understand completely.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live
is a spinoff of the original The Walking Dead, which I stopped watching in season 9 when Rick left the show. This new iteration, the third of which I have watched following Dead City and Daryl Dixon feels a lot like The Walking Dead I remembered. But a lot of it doesn't make sense (probably) because maybe I missed something by skipping out on how The Walking Dead ended. However, everything I read about The Ones Who Live explicitly stated that the series would stand on its own, and that I wouldn't need to know anything from the prior series to understand the events in this series. But just so I can kind of see it all written down, I'm going to go through the things that I don't understand that are in this show as of just three episodes. This is your spoiler warning:

1) There are three cities I guess in the former United States that decided to draw boundaries and keep out the dead. They enacted a form of martial law, built barriers, educated their populace, and essentially became military states. And somehow, this allowed up to 200,000 individuals per metropolis to basically exist as if it was the times before the big event that made the zombie apocalypse. How is it that we are just now hearing of this? Especially when they have helicopters flying everywhere, munitions, and other things like electricity and water treatment and sewage treatment plants. One of the cities in like episode two finally collapsed. So this is like...ten years into the zombie apocalypse (still a hell of a record I think). We don't know all of the details, but it sounds like it just got overwhelmed by a dead army or something weird. I wonder if this has more to it...kinda like maybe they are exploring intelligent forms of undead and there was maybe a leader or something that whipped up all of the zombies. It's easily the most supernatural and interesting lead that this series has dropped, but there hasn't been any more exploration of the potential of that in the remaining episode I watched.

2) Rick cut off his own damn hand. This was...I dunno...unnecessary? Rick was on a tight leash to prevent his escape, and he was doing his job, which is to cull zombies. This particular branch of zombies was on fire for some reason--it wasn't explained. But in order for him to get off the leash, he needed to cut his hand off. It's a parallel to an event that happened in the Daryl Dixon show, because a tertiary character was handcuffed and in order to escape, needed to cut his hand off to get out of the bond. When Rick did it by choice, it just seemed so unnecessary. What was his plan exactly? To run into a forest of burning zombies with no food or water and in pain and dripping blood from a hastily done amputation? It was easily the dumbest thing I've seen, and I just can't imagine why Rick would do this as he's an intelligent character. But he did get a cool prosthetic out of it with a switchblade, and I suppose it also demonstrated how desperate he was to get away from the people in this "secret city." But in the end, this particular thing fell flat with me, and I have questions/don't understand why it happened.

3) There was a whole lot of exposition about the kinds of people they want in the city of 200,000 (referred to as CRM in the series). For one, I guess they don't want any "alphas." They don't want any leader types, and those kinds of people just end up dead. They just want "betas" or people who are relatively good at being sheep to follow whatever shepherds that they have running the government. This is really weird to me. Why is being a person who wants to be in charge a bad thing? People who are driven and don't need someone to take care of them are exactly the kinds of people I think you'd want in an apocalypse. Things are tough already, and these...let's call them "type A" personalities are the kinds of personalities that I think would end up being the most valuable in an apocalyptic scenario.

4) There's a character who is already dead in the show who was named "Okafor." His whole background, which seems kind of pointless at this time since he's dead, was that he was in the military, and that his own wife wanted him NOT to bomb Philadelphia. So, he killed her, but then he refused to bomb the city anyway? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but maybe I missed an important detail somewhere? However, since the character has already kicked the bucket, I'm not sure I can justify a rewatch since it's apparent that none of it mattered anyway other than to say that there are people in the CRM who don't follow orders. And maybe that's the point. If there are people who are in leadership positions (like Okafor) who want to bring the whole government structure down, it sets the ground for some chaotic grasps at power for Rick and Michonne to make in the new world of the Walking Dead.

All that being said though...I'm still going to watch this thing. It's Rick and Michonne, and those two are characters I love and feel like I know after being with them for so long. I'm excited to see what unfolds and what those two decide to do in their post apocalyptic lives.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

For the Insecure Writer's Support Group post I'm talking about a.i. and how I use it in my writing.

The Ides of March will soon be upon us! But, the Insecure Writer's Support Group is already here, whether or not the Ides of March will truly care. And if you don't know what the Ides of March are, maybe a more contemporary metaphor will due in its stead: "March Madness is upon us!" And with that song and dance out of the way, let's get to the real reason why you are here: my March 2024 Insecure Writer's Support Group post. But (before that), let's talk a little about this monthly blog celebration that was started by Alex Cavanaugh many moons ago. First things first, if you are interested in participating, you will want to click HERE and go and sign up. I promise you that none of the writers who participate will bite you.

What is the purpose of the IWSG?: It's 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.

When do y'all post?: The IWSG blogs on the first Wednesday of every month. This was chosen by Alex way back when, and I'm not sure as to why that was the official day. Anyway, it is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day now.

What do you post?:  Anything you want that has to do with writing. 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.

Do y'all have a motto?: Yes. It's "Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!"

What about an X (Twitter) presence?: Yes, the official "X" handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6th posting of the IWSG are Kristina Kelly, Miffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liza @ Middle Passages!

What if I don't have any ideas?: Well, every month the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.  But remember, the question is optional. Below is the March 6th question:
Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing?

The A.I. that I use the most is ChatGPT, and yes, I've been using it on just about everything. I run a Dungeons & Dragons game and I've had it generate dream sequences for characters and backstories for characters in seconds after I fed it a few prompts. When I read them out loud, my players at the table have no clue that I didn't write it, and they have been received very well. I've used ChatGPT to write boring passages that are fun to read but which I cringe to write. I've also used it to generate ideas for modules for my Dungeons & Dragons game, and the ideas that it comes up with are excellent. It kind of blows me away each and every time I use it. And yes, I've used it to spruce up my own writing a lot. I think that ChatGPT is incredible, and for the most part I believe that the business end of creative writing has been irrevocably damaged by it. But as supporters of the A.I. products that are out there have said, "You can always create your own art. No one is stopping you. It hasn't taken that away. It's just taken away any money you can make from it." And...that's true. It's also how I feel about it. Write away all you want. Just don't expect anyone to pay for it at all.

But let's clarify my comments a bit. What A.I. has done is just completely decimated what we call "the mid-list." So now, basically the only way I feel like a person could make money in the arts is by being a nepo baby, by being connected to a religious community that is cultish in the way it puts some on a pedestal, or by being a genius business influencer like a Kardashian or something similar. This is way different than it was even a few years ago. Everyone else will just make along the lines of what a monthly welfare check might pay or less, and you'll definitely need food stamps. A.I. has also decimated art. I honestly don't know how graphic artists can expect to even be paid in the future. A.I. art for concept art and editorial art is faster and better than what a human can do. People can get insulted by it all they want, but the volume in which it creates and the level of detail continuously blows my mind. I've had thousands of hours of art training, and I haven't done a single picture since I saw what Midjourney and Stable Diffusion could do in seconds now. My phone is literally brimming with a.i. pictures I've collected. They all look so real and so fantastic. I could never compete, and that's just self-awareness.

However, I have not (nor do I ever) plan on having a.i. write any of my blog posts. The stuff you read here is all me. You may ask me why? Well, the simple reason is that I like organizing my thoughts through writing. I can't do that if I have a.i. just generate my content. If I don't feel like writing, I won't post. But lately, I've had plenty of thoughts I've wanted to share, so I continue to post. Maybe someday that will change. But rather than feed any visitors some a.i. generated garbage, I just won't post. So, it's all me. This flies in the face of experts who have weighed in on The New York Times and on NPR who have both said that within 5 years, 90% of everything we read online will be a.i. based. If I'm still around in five years, I will be part of that 10% that isn't, and I'll probably find some excuse to rant on something at that point that is different than what I rant on these days.

And now for the final question: do I use a.i. to write a synopsis? I haven't yet. But if I need one, I probably would try. A.I. is a really impressive thing. If it's going to take all your money away and make all the hard but creative and rewarding work essentially worthless, you might as well use it to do some of the boring stuff, right? Who knows? You could land an agent and sell a book that maybe makes you $15,000 dollars for two years of work. Even though that won't even buy you a good used car, maybe it's enough to put down for some land-locked swamp land somewhere. If you want my advice on how to be a wealthy and famous writer, work on being a nepo baby or join a cult and market your book to its members. In the latter case, just make sure you exploit the cult for free labor in getting your books ready. And also, make sure you have a spouse that has a full-time 40-hour a week job. That way they can support you while you work really hard and make peanuts. But the reward isn't the money, is it? It's the fact that you get to exercise that creative muscle. Thanks for visiting :)

Friday, March 1, 2024

Will a Neuromancer series be able to overcome the insurmountable challenge for books that are simultaneously super influential and super dated?

We're in a weird place with television and movie adaptations. On the one hand, I love what is happening. For example, the first two premiere episodes of Shogun on FX were nothing short of spectacular. Their adaptation is so faithful to the book material, and it all just looks so good. On the other hand, decades of people desiring to either get a side gig, become rich, or become famous by telling stories has resulted in a flood of material that is so deep, that the original (that may have kicked it off decades ago) seems derivative. actually have to tell people that Dune and Star Wars got their ideas from Asimov's Foundation. If you don't, then anyone who looks maybe at Apple TV's version of Foundation will declare it as a "Star Wars knockoff done poorly." It's very rare when writers of new ideas and the media (that we consume) go hand-in-hand. This happened for Rowling with her story of a wizarding school. But if she'd been just a decade or more late...The Magicians by Lev Grossman might have told the first wizarding school story that hit it big and then people would have declared that Harry Potter was just an English knockoff, when it's clear that The Magicians is the actual knockoff.

Now, we are set to have another such phenomenon land. A favorite book of mine that won both the Hugo and the Nebula is set to be adapted on Apple TV plus. And it's about time. This book, called Neuromancer is the singular book that started a ton of ideas. Neuromancer gave us the terms we use today for things like "the Web" and "Internet." It was the thing that inspired movies like The Matrix which has an incredibly original world. Neuromancer invented cyberpunk. But for one reason or another, William Gibson's incredible novel has been stuck in development or non-development hell for decades. Meanwhile, all of these other projects got greenlit around it while Neuromancer just floundered despite its enormous fanbase at the time. And that's crucial to understand. It has been almost forty years since that book was published. Millennials and GenZ for the most part will have no idea what Neuromancer even is. We've had Shadowrun tabletop games come and go. We've had hundreds of cyberpunk video games. And now that Neuromancer is finally getting a ten episode season, it will be hard...almost impossible not to succumb to the "John Carter Effect." I define this as an intellectual property that will seem derivative despite being the originator of so many tropes of the genre. It's a case of too little too late, I've already seen all that. This is 100% the insurmountable challenge for books that are simultaneously super influential and super dated.

All that being said, I'm pretty excited for this. Apple tends to actually spend money on their shows, which certainly helps, too. And they don't seem to want to cancel shows, unlike Netflix which frequently chops off 80% of the shows that it green lights for a season one. TV is also (probably) a better format for Neuromancer. It will give the novel the time to highlight the slow burn qualities that are present within the work. Still, I wish there had been a movie in the timeline between 1986 to 1994 or so, before the novel's influence started to percolate into popular culture via games and other media. There's definitely a cinematic, vivid quality to Gibson's prose that, in the hands of a skilled director, could translate into a stunning thing to watch.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Neuromancer. Next week, I'm only blogging on Wednesday for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. I'll resume my normal blogging schedule on Monday, March 11th.