Friday, November 17, 2017

This year's CW crossover is the superheroes from good Earth battling a whole Nazi universe.

I've talked about Crisis on the Infinite Earths a couple of times now. Once in 2015, it was because of the introduction of Iris's then secret brother, Wally West. And then back in 2012 I did a post celebrating how much I loved the artist George Perez, who did a lot of the artwork for Crisis on the Infinite Earths. And then there's this post I did on the Flash Pilot back in 2014. But, as much as I'd love a Crisis on Infinite Earths to explode in the DC universe across the CW's many DC franchises, what we're getting is different, but probably still very cool. Essentially, Barry and Iris's long awaited wedding pulls together all of their various friends from every universe that's been introduced and it also is crashed by evil Nazi versions of Supergirl, Arrow, and the Flash from Earth-X (because on Earth-X, the Nazi's won).

I just want to get this out of the way: Supergirl's outfit looks f'ing awesome. If Melissa Benoit can pull off wearing that much black, it will be epic.

Various Musings:

1) Maybe in the universe of Earth-X, Donald Trump is an egalitarian feminist anarchist fighting the system.

2) One of the highlights of Legends of Tomorrow was Brandon Routh who infiltrated a Nazi party and was physically unable to do a "heil Hitler" salute out of disgust and ultimately punched a Nazi general. They need to top that.

3) The CW poster is an homage to the following comic book covers that appeared over the years in Justice League of America:
4) There is no end in sight for the "Barry Allen's" that the CW can come up with. So far we have: Normal Barry, Evil Barry, Emo Barry, and Nerd Barry.

5) Grant Gustin Barry should meet/see Ezra Miller Barry (from the movies) in the Speed Force and high five each other.

6) The evil version of Oliver Queen should just be "Ollie" with hair dyed black and no discernable personality differences.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Is Amazon going to adapt the Silmarillion for television?

The City of Gondolin, which is in The Silmarillion. Could we see this in the Amazon series?
When The Hobbit movies started getting made by Peter Jackson, I was initially excited. Looking back on them, they aren't ones that I take the time to rewatch at all, whereas the Lord of the Rings movies are ones I do rewatch whenever I catch them on television (usually TBS). Still, I was disappointed when the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien said they were mad at New Line Cinema for their treatment of The Lord of the Rings films, and that they (let's be honest that we're talking Christopher Tolkien when I say "they") were never going to allow Jackson to get near the Silmarillion, which has a wealth of great stories in it, many of them potentially better than the actual War of the Ring.

And just so you know, I'm not a big Christopher Tolkien fan. He hates all the movies made of his dad's material, and he disowned his own son over the movies, even though they eventually reconciled. It just goes to show you that there's no end to legal red tape and bad feelings, etc. to bring these kinds of stories to a general audience. I truly feel for the great directors like Peter Jackson who deal with insufferable and egotistic people day in and day out in order to honor some work that the world appreciates.

Anyway, I thought the story with Tolkien adaptations was going to end with the release of The Hobbit. However, NPR reported this morning that the Tolkien estate and Trust are now entering a collaboration deal to bring all those Middle-Earth stories from the Silmarillion to television via Amazon subscription service. Okay, I'm in. I just hope they do a good job with it, because the Peter Jackson stuff had really solid production values and the battles looked "epic" with a capital "e." In my opinion, to properly do many Silmarillion stories, you'd need a budget that makes the latest season of Game of Thrones look small. Is Amazon willing to pony up that kind of cash? I hope the stories we get aren't just Xena: Warrior Princess types. This is what I'd call "filler" material that is essentially pointless if you don't have incredible high points in the story to make it all worth while.

So imagine the histories of Gondor, Khazad-Dum, and Rohan being told. Maybe one story could be the forging of the rings of power or perhaps Durin's attempt at taking back Moria. Maybe we'd see the other Istari wizards that went south and disappeared into the world of men. Perhaps we see Ungoliante...that would be very cool.

I gotta be honest though...I kinda wish Netflix had took this on instead of Amazon. Just sayin'....

Monday, November 13, 2017

A huge budget Justice League movie comes out this week so let's talk about why DC movies need to be funny.

I pay attention to early reviews. With Thor: Ragnarok, everyone was saying it was the best Marvel movie yet, and I think they were right. I'm a common consensus kinda guy, a sheep, or a follower if you will. Whatever word you use for "average person" I am it, and I own it proudly. Thus, what most people like I tend to like. So what's the early buzz been like for Justice League (which opens this week by the way)? Well they aren't OMG Wonder Woman, but they aren't terrible either.

However, an educated film viewer (also me) will take into account that half the early buzz is from Collider. Collider writers are on the enthusiast end of the press spectrum. Also present are folks who write for IGN, Slashfilm, and io9. So take what you read up to this week's opening with a grain of salt. Also, I want to point out that lots of people freely criticize DC as needing to be as funny (or funnier if possible) than Marvel. In fact, that's probably the number one criticism: DC takes itself too seriously. But does it really?

I suppose there's a part of me that wants to ask this question: Why do people want DC to be funny? It's a simple question, and it has a lot of complexity to it. I think that DC is oftentimes funny. Take The Flash for example. In the animated show he, oftentimes, has jokes. And the Batman has a wry sense of humor. Then again, there are plenty of DC comics that aren't funny. Take Batman: Arkham Asylum. The main villain is the Joker and despite this "comedic" villain, it isn't funny. It's deadly serious.

So, why do people want DC to be funny? Let's brainstorm a bit, shall we? Well, you're selling a property based on a comic that may or may not have an animated series. The comic has a circulation close to 50,000 readers at $2.99. That equals a steady income of $145,000 give or take some decimal points. The animated movies have a gross around the $6 million mark, so 40 times what comics bring in (they tend to be light and humorous too). So the answer to the question of why DC needs to be funny is because: money.

The average person (me) likes to watch escapist fiction that is joyful and delightful rather than grim and dark. That's just the truth. And big budget movies need to cater to the general audience, and not fifty thousand readers.

Look, it's a comic book movie, and I watch a lot of comic book movies. I suppose I just hope that it a) makes sense, b) does not have half the damn movie shot at night while illuminated by a sole Maglite, c) avoids any major missteps in characterization, and d) has lots of special effects. As far as not simply being a Marvel film in a DC costume, I think they've always had their own compass where this is concerned.

Are you seeing it this week? Comment below please :)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why does no one point out that there can be some spectacular and horrifying consequences to saying no?

Before I get to the point of my post, I would like to say that I believe all people have a right to say no. They have a right to draw boundaries, and they should be encouraged to do so with abandon. Children should be taught the power of saying "no" to this and "no" to that. Women and men should say "no" all the time to all kinds of advances, questions, opportunities. However, I feel that all of these "the power of no" conversations are lost teaching opportunities. People are overlooking the uncomfortable other side of standing up for yourself and drawing boundaries, which are done solely for selfish reasons: to secure what makes you happy (or what is healthy for you). This "uncomfortable other thing" is the elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring: that there can be unforeseen and even unpleasant consequences to saying no. Think of all the things that qualify for "no" in this world.

Saying no to someone who wants a relationship with you.
Saying no to an applicant that desperately wants a job.
Saying no to someone who is demanding equality.
Saying no to a person who is demanding to be respected.
Saying no to someone who asks for your help.
Saying no to someone who wants compassion.
Saying no to someone who just wants to be listened to.
Saying no to someone who wants to be included.
Saying no to someone who wants monogamy.
Saying no to someone who wants your money.
Saying no to someone who wants drugs.
Saying no to someone who wants a book deal.

The list is endless, but our society teaches that it is OKAY TO SAY NO. Fine. I'm all for that. Every single one of us should always get what we want and never have to do anything that even remotely makes us uncomfortable or could possibly damage us in any way.

In a perfect world, there should be no consequences to saying "no," and I for one will line up for this perfect world so fast I might get whiplash. But here's the rub: we don't live in a perfect world. We don't live in a world where a person can freely slam the door in someone else's face and expect them to be "right as rain" about it. Sure...we can try to educate them...we can try to condition behavior to the point that, if someone rejects you...if someone says no to something you want badly...then you just need to smile, say thank you, and walk away. Yes, we can try to achieve this utopia. But the pessimist in me thinks that people should all be aware that sometimes this isn't the case. And on very rare occasions, it can backfire spectacularly (and in horrible terrifying ways). When I watch the news and see instances of these backfires...when I see horrible crimes that have been committed because someone was so angry because they had a door to something (that they desired deeply) slammed in their face so many times...I am stunned by how many people come forth and say, "We were so surprised. I can't believe that this man did _____. We never saw it coming." Are we really this naive?

I'm not a criminal psychologist. But I don't think it takes a criminal psychologist to see some horrible shootings that have occurred as a result of repeated "no's" (or their equivalent) heaping on top of unrequited desires for (insert blank). And again, I'm not saying that any of this is right. People should feel free to say "no" as much as they want with absolutely no consequences. But I don't ever hear someone saying to a child, "I want you to know that it's okay to say 'no.' But be aware, that if you do say 'no' to someone...that if you make them feel disrespected in any way...there's a very rare possibility that this someone will not take it well and either hurt you or a bunch of other people. That's just how life works, and you need to be prepared for that consequence. And be aware that the consequence need not be immediate. It could take years of 'no's to eventually break a person. Yours could be the first or last in a long line of them. It's all just Russian roulette and sometimes, in life, ya just gotta take a spin and see how it turns out." Nope...no one says that. Instead the last half of that sentiment gets chopped off and all that's said to the child is, "I want you to know that it's okay to say no."

I think that this is wrong to do. It raises a person to believe that "no" is empowering and that you can throw it in another person's face and they just gotta take it. But it completely ignores or outright disrespects the potential and power of violence. I don't know how many times I've heard people say, "violence doesn't solve anything." It's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. I usually am swift to correct them by saying, "Actually, violence solves a lot of things. Depending on the level of violence, it has a potential to bring a swift end to any disagreement. It has the potential for finality, unlike any other thing. It just depends on how committed to the violence someone is." I have actually been asked to leave a home because I said this to someone. They were so "shaken" by my ability to point this out. However, in my defense there were others in the room that immediately agreed with me, making this person who kicked me out of their home very cross that I could possibly bring up such a sentiment around their children.

So here's my ultimate point: it's my observation that we are increasingly becoming a society where no one wants to deal with the garbage. And yes, I'm using "garbage" as a metaphor. "Mommy, I don't want to put my hands on the garbage because my hands are dirty and I smell." Yes, yes that is a reasonable thing. However, if there is no one that wants to put their hands on the garbage, the garbage starts to rot and fester and it does start to pile up. There's more and more garbage every day. No one wants to date the garbage. No one wants to live with the garbage. No one wants to have sex with the garbage and get that horrible mess all over us. We are raised to expect better, and (for lack of a better metaphor) to avoid the garbage because we are better than the garbage. Do you get what I'm saying? But I think that the garbage gets tired of being treated like garbage. And sometimes (very rarely) it has a very strong opinion about its perceived "garbage status." Yes, we could just brush it off as mental illness, but I think there's more to this than PTSD, "aspies," and any other flavor of the psychological universe. I think people need to become more aware of the power of anger, and they need to be more aware of spotting signs of anger and treating anger like a disease. If people thought of anger as a disease, they would learn the causes, and learn how to cure it no matter how unpleasant the cure happens to be. But we don't like "unpleasant" conversations as a society, so we'll probably just stick our heads in the sand.

Yes, there can be some spectacular and horrifying consequences to saying "no" to the garbage. If we don't want to deal with these consequences, fine by me. But we should all be prepared for them in any case. We should also, maybe, have a societal conversation between all of us that we should try to say as many "Yesses" as we possibly can stomach before throwing up. Maybe if we all dirty ourselves just a little bit, then no one has to suffer too much.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum of Star Trek Discovery was a low point of the season but it still had some things to offer

Star Trek: Discovery ran a pretty weak episode last night when you compare it to how the earlier episodes went. However, it was still leagues above anything in the first seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was also the penultimate episode right before it airs the fall finale, after which I can cancel my subscription for a few months. Was it worth the $5.99 a month to see the episodes? Yeah. But if you haven't signed up yet, it'd be worth it to just binge watch using the one week free option that they offer for CBS: All Access. I kind of wonder (amusingly), if there's going to be a raft of cancellations right after the fall finale airs next week. I think I would LOL if there is.

Last night's episode was called Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, and there's going to be a few spoilers as I discuss what happened. First off, what didn't work? They really developed the "Kelpian" race in this one. The Kelpian crew member is Saru, and he's a prey species. Pretty early on Michael Burnham rattles off some statistics about Kelpians (as they are investigating a new planet called Pahvo), and she says that Kelpians can run really fast (in the neighborhood of 80 km/hour). We can assume that this makes them pretty strong too as strength definitely factors into speed. So what does a viewer with any intelligence make of these carefully packaged facts? Probably that the Kelpian is going to turn on everyone in the landing crew and use his super powers to take them down. And that's pretty much what happens. It was a kind of clumsy way to do foreshadowing. Add to this the fact that the animation of the Kelpian running through the forest looked terrible, and the crystals that surrounded this antennae that rose from the ground into space looked plastic...and it all adds up to a kind of blase episode at best. Don't get me wrong...the effects still look good overall, and I'm still not tired of seeing the black alert spore drive animation, but some of the other effects were borderline bad.

We also got to see the Klingons again, and we got the pleasure of reading lots of subtitles. Look, I respect the fact that someone at some time got really creative with Klingon and gave them their own language. Cool beans. I just fatigue easily when it comes to reading subtitles, and it always makes my brain hurt when I have to read the Klingon ones for minutes at a time. There was some development on the Klingon side, however, that was a little unexpected. Thus far, they've been the Federation adversaries lurking as specters in the background, basically raising the tension of everything that the Discovery does because they are beating the Federation so badly. So the development came in the form of L'Rell, who confessed to Admiral Cornwell (who is a prisoner) that she wishes to defect and proposes that she and Cornwell escape. Of course, this all goes tits up when they are seen and L'Rell murders Cornwell to dispel suspicion.

We also got some concrete information from Stamets (the engineer) who says the spore drive is essentially killing him, and that he's keeping the information from Culber, who's his partner and the ship's medic. This essentially means that the spore drive is probably going to fail at a crucial point in the fall season finale, otherwise there isn't going to be an effective cliff hanger to bring us back in the spring. So yeah...there's that happening.

One of the things I did like that this episode did effectively was give us a view into Saru's mind. As a prey species, he's born afraid and lives with fear every moment of his life. The alien planet Pahvo had some amorphous aliens which took that away from him, and for the first moment in his life he knew peace and comfort. I thought that was a really neat touch, because I could empathize somewhat with how awful it must be to live in fear all the time. To have that suddenly gone...man...that must have felt amazing. That was one of the more profound touch points of the episode and in the series thus far.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Without any spoilers I can say that Thor Ragnarok was just as good as Spiderman Homecoming.

You probably already know this, but Thor: Ragnarok is a really good movie. I saw it last night with my buddy Brad, and it is helpful to know a few things before going to see it, so I'll tell you what those things are.

1) At the end of the last Thor movie, called Thor: Dark World, Loki was in charge of Asgard. The fact that the god of mischief is sitting on the throne of Odin leads to a lot of laughs. I think I'm going to miss Tom Hiddleston, who may never again reprise his role as the famous trickster. However, Disney does have the ability to back up a truck load of cash....

2) "Ragnarok" is a term that's used in the Marvel comics to signify a reset of Asgard. In the comic books, it's happened a few times already. Each time the Asgardians get reborn and everything goes back to normal. This movie is a bit different, because it mashes two storylines together: Planet Hulk and Ragnarok. It ends up being a fantastic mashup because it's fun seeing Hulk and Thor together. And let's face it...Hulk is only good when he has amazing things to tear into and smash. Him being in a solo movie by himself is kinda boring because he needs a villain powerful enough to stand up to his fists.

Okay, so here are my assorted musings (and I don't think any of these are spoilers):

1) Cate Blanchett as Hela, the goddess of death, is a huge win. I want more Hela.

2) Loki and Thor have incredible chemistry. You can tell their characters love each other, and when they fight together it's kinda magical. It's a shame that Loki's always going to stab Thor in the back when he least expects it.

3) The script writing is smart smart smart. Every moment is either a laugh out loud moment or just witty banter.

4) It sets up the Avengers: Infinity War really well. You should stay for both stingers. The last one with Jeff Goldblum is hilarious (much like the rest of the film).

Go see Thor: Ragnarok guys! Seriously.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

As Nano kicks off the IWSG ponders a deep and meaningful publishing question for all the writers out there

Today is November 1st. There's a lot of things that happen in November. For one, we've officially entered the holiday season. This year is the first one in which I'm putting up my own tree and decorating (a little bit) for Christmas. For Halloween, I just put a bunch of pumpkins on my porch, so it'll be a little more effort than that to dress the house up for the holidays. Second, it's the start of Nanowrimo for many people out there, and this event also has to do with the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly question which is talked about below. Third, it's the first full month in which the iPhone X is going to be available. It's been a few years since I upgraded, so I think it's the one I'm going to jump to once its widely available (there's currently a production bottleneck). My current iPhone is barely useable. It's battery lasts about an hour if I don't use it at all and fifteen minutes otherwise. And the lag it experiences is significant. When I type a text message, there's usually a one second delay now before the letters appear on the screen. Yeah...it's pretty awful.

So this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group question is: "Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?"

I actually have never participated in the NaNo project, so I guess that's easy. However, if you dig into what the question is really asking it's this: have you ever just binge typed a novel into completion in thirty days. The answer is still no, although I did type out one novel in about sixty days once. And no, that book was never published.

Right now, I'm collaborating on a fun project with my friend Jake. It's been really interesting, as he's come up with a fascinating story and loaded it into google docs, and I take on the persona of one or two characters that he doesn't want to deal with and respond in character to situations that he's put them into. The fun thing is, he can actually see my words appear on the screen in the google docs program as I type them. I never realized writing could be a shared experience, and it's a lot of fun. As for the story it's kinda meh. It currently has no plot really, but we are certainly getting to know the characters rather well. I guess that's something. I imagine we are cranking out enough words to qualify for NaNo. But I've got enough publishing experience under my belt to know that this is a thing that should never be published because it's kinda bad lol. Bad can still be fun though. It's true. And in the least, it's showing me that it's actually quite easy for two people to work on a project at the same time (and weave together their writing styles). I think it'd be fun to take this experience and apply it to a more serious context in the future.