Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Shameless plug: Go read my novel The Very Model Of A Modern Starship Captain

I know, I know, the blog's pretty much dead at this point because we all got better stuff to do or haven't bothered getting angry at anything. Tough.

What have I been up to? Besides getting a uni degree? Writing a book which you can find here:

https://alexanderreineke.com/2016/10/31/novel-the-very-model-of-a-modern-starship-captain/

It's being posted chapter by chapter on my personal website and you can read it there free of charge. Thought I might as well share it.


Writer-Man out.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Coming To Terms With Captain America

Originally posted on my personal site but also appropriate here.
https://alexanderreineke.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/coming-to-terms-with-captain-america/



I originally started writing this blog post about two days before the now infamous press release by Marvel Comics that Captain America, the Steve Rogers one, was an agent of H.Y.D.R.A. all along. Now, never mind that this is just another example of a desperate comic industry ratings stunt to sell more than 25.000 copies of any given book not headlined by Spider-Man, Batman, or Star Wars, what really surprised me was the public outcry over this fictional character. I’ve had my issues with Captain America in the past and talked about it here or there with people, but many people are heavily attached to the character. What makes Captain America who is is, is really the embodiment of the American Spirit. Cap is, in the words of Brows Held High, not the man who fought in World War 2. He is the man who fought in the World War that Americans wanted to fight. One in which the good guys always won, in which the Americans didn’t arrest hundreds of thousands of Japanese-American citizens, in which we don’t have to talk about the suffering and dying on the front lines. Where the bad guys weren’t also mostly people fighting to survive and for their comrades to survive. And I think it took me a while to come to terms with Captain America.
Whenever someone asked me if I read Captain America comics, I always used to joke that I would like to but didn’t appreciate always seeing my great-grandfather killed on page 3. That was meant in jest, of course, a bit tongue-in-cheek, maybe, but it also explains the problems of the character. Captain America is a character that was created for reasons of propaganda, he was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, months before the US entered the war, precisely to be a symbol and a political statement. In many ways he is the only one of his kind that has survived. Superheroes like Superman and Batman were created before the war, in the last years of the depression, as escapism and eventually took up the fight as well. Not so Cap. Cap is synonymous with World War 2 in a way little else really is. His closest approximation as a character is arguably Wonder Woman, another character created as a symbol and a political statement. And just like Wonder Woman there have been growing periods over the decades. It’s what happens when you have an icon that was created in time for WW2 and made it through the conservative 50s, the revolutionary 60s, the grimy 70s, the greedy 80s, and the happy-go-lucky 90s to finally arrive in the ominous 2000s. Culture all around the world, and especially the US, has changed, and different generations of people have grown up, lived, and died with new beliefs in how the world actually works. And all of that cultural change is embedded in the character by a writing team and a comics industry. A lot of what we consider essential to Steve Rogers as a character wasn’t originally there in the 40s. He wasn’t a struggling liberal artist, sensitive painter, a man of integrity and a force for good. He is no longer a grunt fighting at the front punching out Hitler, a mindless drone of American propaganda. He has, in many ways, changed with the country. Matured, and it can be seen in newer adaptations, like in Chris Evans’ wonderful performance. The Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Captain America really is where you can point and say that this is a man that stands for the good parts of the American experience.
And yet Captain America is also still a problematic character. While he as a character has matured, his audience and his writing often has not. In many ways it has regressed as an easy way to make the character more palatable to an international audience. In recent retellings, and also the comics, Cap no longer fights the Nazis in WW2, but they have been replaced by H.Y.D.R.A., sometimes just an evil organization bent on world domination, sometimes affiliated with the Nazi regime but made up of colorful assholes like Zemo and Strucker, cartoons, symbolizing simpler times and simpler morality. Black-and-white morality. In the Winder Soldier all the bad in the world, all the suffering and death, the wars, the struggles, have not been the outcome of short-sighted international politics as an outcome of the Cold War and the idea of Armageddon as the only possible outcome, but having been planed out in detail by the not-Nazis. Captain America as a character has been allowed to grow up, to become a complex human being with reasons to fight, not to fight, when to take a moral stance. Yet the writing still treats the audience like children. Good and bad. “If they’re shooting at you they’re bad”, Steve says to the Falcon in the Winter Soldier while taking on H.Y.D.R.A. Motivations? Who needs that. Let’s just look at the movies, since that’s the thing that people actually know. The First Avenger gave us a somber reconstruction of the character, a character piece of how one man become part of something greater but despite all of that stayed true to himself. And then a second and third act happened where he and his drinking buddies fought H.Y.D.R.A. and the Red Skull, a “man so evil that he was kicked out of the Nazis” to quote Bob Chipman without the drooling over so-called clever writing or something. Same with Winter Soldier, which was a complex military/espionage thriller perfect for our merky 21st century, that gave up on moral grayness halfway through to battle H.Y.D.R.A. again. And once again in Captain America: Civil War, where the debate between Iron Man and Captain America gets drowned out by punching and manipulation by comic-H.Y.D.R.A. agent and movie version-spymaster Zemo.
I love the character of Steve Rogers, I think he is a great example of what you can do with a problematic nationalistic piece of propaganda to turn him into a force for good. He is what America should stand for, not what it currently stands for, yet because of his status as a symbol pop culture osmosis has him remain as a one-dimensional symbol of blind American patriotism. Steve Rogers loved his country and therefor knows when to stand up to the evil done in the name of a great ideal. Captain America, more often than not and especially recently, loves his country and is always on the right side of history. Steve Rogers: human being. Captain America: perfect human being. Steve Rogers: character. Captain America: caricature.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Review - Fun But Mediocre


Welcome back. Last time I reviewed a movie it was Batman v Superman, the story of how a rich man with daddy issues fights an All-American icon on whether or not super-powered beings should be allowed to be free agents or be brought to heel, all the while a guy who definitely isn't German throws gasoline on the fire of discontent, and several sequels are set up. Oh boy...

All joking aside, I did review this movie before. Four weeks ago. Civil War is, while in actual plot very different, it is surprisingly similar to BvS in terms of concept. Things differ, of course, but in concept both movies are very similar. After a botched heroing job by the Avengers, the UN, supported by Thunderbolt Ross from the Hulk movie, Tony Stark, and the nation of Wakanda, wants to introduce legislation to bring the Avengers under UN control. First strike against this movie: it implies that any nation on Earth is actually doing more than just humor the UN. But okay, we accept spandexed wall crawlers and rich people giving away free college tuition like a libertarian's wet dream, so I think we can accept that. Two teams form, one around Iron Man, who is for the registration, having been guilted into it by the mom of someone who died in Age of Ultron, and one opposing registration, led by Captain America, who is against it because he has already read the rest of the script. At the ratification ceremony which somehow takes places in Zurich instead of New York, because the UN moved their headquarters for reasons(?), a bomb is set off by what appears to be Bucky Barnes, killing several people, among them King What's-his-face, aka Black Panther's dad. 
Now on the run, Cap jumps to the defense of Bucky Barnes, eventually leading to them killing and maiming German law enforcement like it's 1945. From then on it's all out war between Iron Man's and Cap's sides. You might even say, a Civil War...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Batman v Superman Was 30 Minutes Too Long and 30 Minutes Too Short: A Few Words On Movie Length

Obligatory thumbnail. We'll get back to it later in this article.

We've talked about this before on the podcast, but I have believed for a number of years now that Hollywood blockbusters have gotten too long. 

This occurs to me every single time in the theater and mainly because at around the two hour mark or so my thoughts shift from whether or not I agree with Captain America or Iron Man on whether or not the Avengers should be accountable to the public, to "oh my god, when's the next lull filler scene happening so I can take a pee break". On this note a very warm thank you to Batman v Superman for including a scene with Kevin Costner so I knew when to take that break. 


I would like to thank 30 seconds in Picasa for this.

Shakespeare's old idiom on brevity being the soul of wit is something I often find myself agreeing with and echoing whenever I talk about long movies. Length certainly has become a problem in big action movies, mainly for reasons of value. That's why books are also often encouraged to elongate their narrative to reach a certain amount of pages so that the reader can feel a certain sense of value for money per hour spent. With ticket prices now having averaged out at ten Dollars or Euros, people are feeling a certain sense of value from a long movie. Makes sense, after all, why spend ten Dollars on a two hour movie when you can spend it on a two and a half hour movie? But often these movies are not elongated in a way that I appreciate: instead of making the central conflict a bit meatier (or tofuier depending on your dietary habits) and deepening the intellectual implications of the central conflict between, say Batman and Superman, or Iron Man and Captain America, the movies tend to get lengthened with action scenes. Action scenes are all nice and good, who doesn't like some pulse pounding battle scenes after all? Flashy lights and the fitting sound on a 4K Cinema Display and Dolby 7.1 System sound pretty great, right? Yes, but after a certain point it can start to feel exhausting. Be it sensory overload or repetition, eventually an action scene can outstay it's welcome. For me, action scenes have become the great sin of superhero comics. A book already short in monthly installations often breaks it's interesting narrative and character interactions, it's very plot, for a fight scene that is often two pages too long, and even though a movie and a comic are different mediums, the idea is the same: padding. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why Counter-Terrorism Shows Like 24 And Homeland Don't Work


24. Homeland. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Quantico. What do all of these shows have in common? Besides prettier than real secret agents? They all, basically, focus around the idea of counter-terrorism in some way or another. Jack Bauer, Carrie Matheson, Phil Coulson, Alex Parrish, their entire calling in life is to snuff out the latest threat to American interests. Sometimes an Allie may be in danger but, come one, we all know that it's really all about the good old US of A. 

And for a time there, that made sense. It's become a cliche to say it but 9/11 has really changed everything in the West, and in the US in particular. Not since Pearl Harbor, which wasn't even on the US mainland, have Americans been attacked at home. The World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, all of them fought in the distance, and in many ways it was impossible to tell it was war at home. 9/11 changed that. Paris and Brussels are changing that right now in Europe. Vulnerability is something even our high powered armies with precision missiles smarter than the average middle schooler, and what not, cannot make us feel safe at a concert or some other big event anymore. So, like always, we took to fiction to cope with this. Jack Bauer can take out two terrorists threats in a day all without sleeping, going to the loo, and reading the Geneva Conventions. Carrie Matheson can track down Not-Bin Laden in a couple of weeks by connecting all the dots. Phil Coulson... does stuff with Not-Mutants. And Nazis. And something is happening on Quantico but that's not been spoiled by pop cultural osmosis yet so why spoil it here. In real life the big three letter alphabet agencies were not able to protect the citizenry even while happily undermining basic civil rights for privacy and person-hood.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Agents of Pseudoscience

I feel you, Tony. (Image credit: Dave Sampsell.)

 
         So, boys and girls, y’all know I don’t keep up with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. However, last week my pro-GMO group exploded in nerd rage – apparently this show has decided to be terrible in a whole new way and have Simmons (the biologist!) make some broad anti-GMO statements (something to the effect of “GMOs and pesticides are ruining the food supply”) that apparently reflect her actress’s actual views, but may or may not have become part of the plot. Because of course it did. Because appealing to liberal hipsters is much better done with a swipe at GMOs than by actually removing some of the fascist content in your show. On the one hand, it’s deeply disheartening that the parent company, Disney, would allow this kind of potentially dangerous rhetoric to become part of their products (when they have a ride at Epcot sponsored by freaking Monsanto) and I’d hate for any of the show’s remaining ten viewers to be influenced by it. On the other hand, Jessica gets to drop some science education and talk about how terrible Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is. It’s like Christmas came early.

Monday, March 28, 2016

8 Most Impactful Movies

Time to move over more stuff from the old blog before that goes kaputt. 

I always stop myself from making up a Top 10 Movies of all times list whenever someone asks me about it. Think is, it's kinda hard, especially when you are a film buff like I am. I'd also only put in genre movies, scifi and fantasy classics. More Robocop and less Casablanca, you know. And while that list may some day still come, in the meanwhile enjoy my list of the 8 Most Impactful Movies (that even a word? should be), the movies that, while not necessarily my favourites, but had nonetheless the biggest impact on me and how I experience movies. So don't be surprised when most of them turn out to be childhood movies, or movies I watched at a young age. I found out, that those actually rather stay with you than a Citizen Kane. Oh and don't be surprised that no Star Trek Movie is on this list, as I have more memories of watching TNG growing up rather than the movies. So here's the list in alphabetical order:


Back to the Future

I cannot remember anymore when I first saw this movie, but this has to be one of the most entertaining and watchable movies of all time. I've probably seen this one more often than anything else and if it weren't for Robocop this would probably be my favourite movie of all time, but as it stands its only my second most favourite. I just adore this film, I love the pacing, I love the characters, I love the story, the setting, everything about this movie just fits.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Its this and not Raiders because I saw this one first, one of the earliest action movies I can remember. I mean, really, its Indiana Jones what else can I say?. For a long time after this I wanted to become an adventure archaeologist until I found out that there wasn't much adventuring since the 40's anymore, but hey I'm still studying history... so this movie might have actually shaped my academic career as well as my taste in movies? Now that is impressive.

How To Get Into Stargate (Part 3) - The Decline and Mercy Killing

Stargate 101



Okay, last part. Atlantis and Universe... *sigh*. Let's get it over with, okay?


Stargate Atlantis Seasons 4 and 5

 

I quite honestly don't know what to say anymore. How can a show that started so good become so... mediocre at best, often worse? That's what they call 'squandered potential'. Atlantis' biggest problem was probably, that it often treaded the same water, that SG-1 did for almost a decade at this point. Same enemies (Asurans, The Lost Tribe, the singular guy-that-is-different-from-his-people-and-therefore-the-only-one-that-is-still-a-threat anyone?), same basic plot lines in stand-alones and so on. It had some great ideas, but never developed them properly. Most of the cast were uninteresting at best and got on my nerves at the worst of times. At this point, the show had pretty much become the Shepard and McKay show, because those were the only really interesting characters and even those probably more for the yaoi fangirl-shippers than anyone else. It also didn't help that less and less episodes drove the Myth Arc forward and instead retold old SG-1 episodes but with less interesting characters. But I think I'm starting to repeat myself and with that, let's begin with season 4:

SGA 4x01 Adrift (Part 2) Myth Arc and Asuran Arc
SGA 4x02 Lifeline (Part 3) -Myth Arc and Asuran Arc
SGA 4x05 Travelers -  ties into the mid-season multi parter
SGA 4x10 This Mortal Coil (Part 1) Myth and Asuran Arcs
SGA 4x11 Be All My Sins Remember'd (Part 2) Myth and Asuran Arcs
SGA 4x12 Spoils of War (Part 3) Myth Arc
SGA 4x17 Midway - Ronon. Teal'c. They kick Wraith arse. Nuff said
SGA 4x18 The Kindred (Part 1) Myth and Michael Arcs
SGA 4x19 The Kindred (Part 2) Myth and Michael Arcs
SGA 4x20 The Last Man (Part 1) Myth and Michael Arcs

How To Get Into Stargate (Part 2) - Atlantis and the Ori

Stargate 101



So, here we go again. Part 2 will cover Season 8 through 10 and the follow-up movies of SG-1, as well as Atlantis Seasons 1-3. Part 3 will come out next week with the rest of Atlantis and Universe as well as my conclusion on the franchise, what worked, what didn't and so forth.

Stargate SG-1 Season 8 & Stargate Atlantis Season 1


With the start of the Atlantis Series, it's best to watch these two shows parallel now, as there are some crossovers and parallel events influence the other shows in one way or the other. I'll mark the shows with SG-1 and SGA plus episode number respectively.
   Atlantis Season 1 is different from every other season of the franchise, in that it's a continuously building story the overall tension that comes from the status quo and whats going on with the Atlantis expedition shines through most episodes, so it helps watching the entire season. I will however still only write down the episodes, what contribute to an story arc in one way or the other.

How To Get Into Stargate 101 (Part 1) - The Golden Age

I'm bored. So let's move over some stuff from the old blog, shall we? 
In any case, let's play Stargate 101. I promise you won't go cross-eyed and I clearly didn't just think of this again because the SG1-A-Thon on the main Youtube channel is running out.
So let's talk about Stargate

Stargate SG-1 was one of the earliest SciFi shows that I can remember. A great, fun adventure series with a bunch of smart ass heroes led by McGyver fighting over the top villains. Those of you who've read my book (and of course you did!) might just figure out where I got some of my inspirations from. But all of that aside, it's probably up there in the holy trinity of SciFi TV shows/franchises, that really influence me to this day, along side Star Trek and Babylon 5

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Movie Review (Spoiler-free)



I was gonna be funny and instead of posting a review of BvS I was gonna post extracts from my Age of Ultron review from last year. But I won't because I'm too lazy and someone would probably complain. I digress.


The movie has the same flaws as both Avengers movies, Iron Man 2, Man of Steel, and pretty much every movie from the past five years or so, that has tried to set up future films. It's obvious, it detracts from the actual plot. The action is shot a bit too close up for my liking and it's a bit too dark to see what happens at times. Oh well. Other than that? I quite enjoyed it. The characters were good, there was a halfway decent villain plot worthy of a four color comic book bad guy... oh wait... and all it all a lot of what is missing is probably in the extended cut I kinda wanna see now. I liked the characters and the acting, I think Cavil has made the role his own, Gadot was surprisingly good for someone I had previously only dredded to see from the magnum opus that is Fast and Furious 24 1/2, and Affleck nailed it as Batman and Bruce Wayne alike. 

I see some of the criticism from other reviews, like how the intro goes on for a bit too long, but then again the scenes are all important later on, so I probably would have shuffled them around a bit or shortened the scene with the cops that's also in the trailer. Others I don't get, like I said the film was coherent enough for me, though the extra 30 minutes would be nice to see, all the character scenes worked well, and the action scenes where either better paced than in Man of Steel or didn't go on for as long, I'm not sure, I don't take out my watch during a film and actually stop scenes. Yet. 

In the end, this is a setup movie and as good (or bad) a setup movie as all of them. Both Age of Ultron and Iron Man 2, the two movies I consider closest to this in intent, I rated average or above average and so do I rate this. Though I would rather rewatch BvS before those two. In the end, I don't think it's that different from the other comic book movies out. Not really great, but also not terrible, some great scenes, some cheesy scenes, one laughably stupid scene, way too much setup for other films that hurt the pacing of the actual movie. Been there, done that. Not necessary to get one's panties/boxers/briefs/going commando in a twist over.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Marvel's Civil War 2: Stop Giving Them Money







Civil War 2? Civil War 2.
Civil War 2... 2. Two. Sigh... let's do this then. 













You know, I can feel nothing but numbess anymore for big comic events. Be it Marvel, be it DC, be it Valiant, Dark Horse or insert any number of comic publishers here. When I started out I used to kinda like them for the novelty, but then I'm one of those weirdos that got into comics because of 52 so that might explain it. But really, big comic events have never actually been good. All they ever really do is come up with a stupid, sometimes insultingly stupid, excuse for all the heroes to come together and fight either each other or insert relevant bad guy here. Doesn't help that this comes out when the Civil War movie will be big, so you can add in another strike against this movie because it tries to appeal to a certain zeitgeist that it will never capture. I think the big events annoy me the most because I don't actually read superhero comics for the fighting but for the drama. Fighting, to me, is padding. An event is nothing but padding. Padded so much it could be a Kardashian. See, now there is a useless, soon-to-fade, culture joke. 

But really, big comic events will never stop, no matter how much people on the internet will complain about them. Exactly for the same reason, by the way, why Michael Bay will never disappear: because it works. They sell. Critical acclaim doesn't matter, as long as Marvel can shift a couple of ten thousand issues more than on the average book you can be sure these events will continue. It is the same useless cycle we continue every single time an event comes out, every single time a stupid blockbuster comes out. People complain, people state that Michael Bay or insert any other creative hack here, has ruined their childhood... and then they will turn around and go see it. You see that all the time. People dislike something so much, that they will spend money opening night to see it, or run out and get it on release day, just so they can get online and say they hate it. Fine, more power to you, everyone needs a hobby. Mine's running a Tripple-Z-list online blog, so we all have our crosses to bear. Just don't complain when they will continue to create more derivative drissel. I know the expression "don't like it, don't read" is a terrible point to make in regard to criticism, but money talks, and in the immortal words of President George W Bush: 

Or something. Please, do yourself, your wallet, and creativity a big service by not falling for marketing ploys and shallow entertainment over and over again. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Stop Putting Bleach In Your Kid's Butt


Content warning: Discussions of child abuse including a very upsetting picture and strong language (because this subject makes me mad as hell)        

There are many things you wouldn’t think we would need a law for. Don’t marry your sister. Don’t molest chickens. Don’t make your kids drink bleach or give them an enema with bleach in it.

         But sadly, apparently, we do need laws for all these things.

         I alluded to this a couple of times in previous essays, and will probably continue to allude to it because … Crap on a cracker, guys, this needs to stop. For those of you who don’t know, MMS, or “Miracle Mineral Solution” is a solution sold by a conman named Jim Humble who thinks he is a god from a planet of gods orbiting Alpha Centauri sent to save humanity or some crap. (Basically, scientology that thankfully hasn’t gained traction with the celebrity set, yet.) MMS is sold to “cure” just about everything, from cancer to autism. It’s sodium chlorite and hydrochloric acid, which “patients” are meant to mix together and then dilute in water and drink or take as an enema. When HCL and sodium chlorite mix, it produces chlorine dioxide, a kind of industrial bleach used to strip textiles, take the brown out of wood pulp to make paper, and for surface disinfection. It is also used in water treatment in some districts, but in much, much smaller concentrations than "patients" are instructed to use. The author of this blog goes through some calculations that show that what’s being used by “patients” is over 3,000X the safe level for water treatment. Other investigators have taken it at these concentrations and taken the color right out of cloth,or dissolved meat at frightening speeds. I always used to say that if idiots wanted to use this on themselves they should go right ahead (I’ll get into why I say “used to” in a bit), but the really infuriating thing is that a terrifying number of people are using this in their children to “cure” their autism. This is led on largely by Kerri Rivera, a disciple of Jim Humble’s who claims to have cured her own son of autism and wrote a book about this protocol (which also includes a strict low antioxidant diet and use of a hyperbaric chamber) and offers personal Skype sessions for an exorbitant fee. She’s also currently in violation of a plea agreement prefaced on her not selling the damn stuff,but that’s neither here nor there, right? Probably just Big Pharma paying to have her smeared. 

The next section is where things get rough. Refer back to this bunny as needed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Even If Bernie Sanders Loses He Will Signal A Change in America's Political System



From an outsider's perspective who is also majoring in history just my two cents: despite the hype around Bernie and him being objectively the best candidate, I don't think and outside of a fleeting hope for my friends abroad I never thought Bernie could win. The country isn't ready. But what it does show is a sign of things changing. Your country seems to have finally woken up from the nightmare that your political system has turned into: center-right and right wing. The fact alone that Bernie had a shot of being on equal footing with Hillary, even if he pulled in two hundred delegates less than Hillary, he still pulled in three hundred or so. A respectable number for a self-proclaimed social democrat. It is a sign that socialism is no longer a word that Americans fear. That burden of the Cold War seems to be dying off. And yet, as harsh as it may sound, because we all love our grandparents... the lack of generational change due to prologened live expectancy and voter disillusionment in the younger generations has created a point in time where third party candidates, which, let's be honest, Bernie is in all but name, can be profoundly electable, just not in Party Primaries yet. But that will change in the next decade. Bernie will probably never reach the White House. He doesn't have to. Societal change has always been glacial. It just appears to have been rapid in retrospect. Give it another election cycle or two and within the next decade you will see more progressive candidates winning Presidential elections. It's a shame, there is frustration, especially because the US and the rest of the world are facing great challenges in the next decade or two. Change will come, eventually. That comma and the word "eventually", trust me, is the worst thing to say when studying anything history related.



(That awkward moment when the title is longer than the 2cents)

Monday, February 8, 2016

“Fear Itself”: That awkward moment when a TV show you like accidentally implies kids are better off dead than autistic



         Content warning: Discussions of abuse of disabled children, including a fairly upsetting and nauseating picture, ahead
So, as the members of the official N.E.R.D. Facebook page know, I recently watched the USA show The 4400 for the first time. I had watched it here and there while it was airing but neither of my parents cared for it and they controlled the TV at either home. (See Jeff, someof us kids these days know the struggle.) Realizing that the writers and producers consisted of a significant portion of the writing/production staff for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, AKA my favorite TV show ever, only cemented my interest and I was glad to queue it up on Netflix. Very briefly, it’s the story of 4,400 individuals from around the world and across sixty years of time who disappeared mysteriously, but return all in one day from a glowing ball of light over Mount Ranier. Some of them have superpowers. I have never seen Heroes but I am told this is basically a better executed version of that. I highly recommend the show, all though I have to warn you about two things. 1. It ends on a massive cliffhanger, so if you have closure issues skip this one. 2. This freaking episode.
         Considering I just gave the show a glowing recommendation, I’m going to try to minimize spoilers for the series as a whole, but considering this is a season four episode and it’s a continuity-heavy show, some series spoilers are necessary for context. If spoilers are a huge problem for you, maybe bookmark this blog and read it at some time later after seeing the show for yourself. Also, as with the “I Am Not a Monster” blog, this blog will have some strong language because … this freaking episode is awful.
Refer to the kitten as needed.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How To Be A Pro Business Selfish Socialist

Here is a secret I got to tell those of you who do not believe in social security, free college tuition, unemployment benefits, and the minimum wage: being a socialist does not have to be about being selfish and giving back to the community. No, these programs are, in fact, beautifully shrewd and pragmatic. I love ‘em. Do I do so because I like some bad apples coasting on benefits or because I want to join them? Do I do so because I enjoy a tax money subsidized affordable university education? Maybe. But here is why I think everyone should approve of these welfare programs: because they are so inherently, beautifully selfish. But first a history lesson before everyone thinks I’ve been replaced by a lizard person from the 5th dimension.  

The one step program of creating a welfare state: be selfish. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Knight In Tarnished Armor: Why this Coulson fangirl wishes he'd never gotten his own show

I literally added this so there would be a relevant picture in the link preview. This blog is so professional.

 
          Spoilers for the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (mild) and the first season and a quarter of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (extensive), if anyone cares.

Alternate title: Reason #282 why I hate Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

          So by now I’m sure you’ve all seen the Honest Trailer’s hilarious take on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven’t, watch it immediately. I laughed hysterically throughout, and they seem to have hit every complaint I could make about the show except one, which I’ll get into here. I rage quit the show halfway through the sixth episode of season two, so some of this may have been addressed since then but 1. I doubt it 2. Frankly, I don’t care. The first person to comment “Oh but it’s getting better now, you should watch it again,” had better hope I don’t develop Scanner powers. Look, when I watched the show and complained about it, you yelled at me for that. Now that I’ve quit, all I hear is that I should watch it again. Your options are I watch it and complain or I don’t watch it and only complain about the part I sat through when someone else like Honest Trailers brings it up, those are your options.

Friday, January 22, 2016

No Country for Old Men


So some of you may have seen the kerfuffle over the fact that time exists following the release of the Force Awakens last month. There was so much criticism of Carrie Fischer and how she’d aged that the amazing actress finally had to comment and tell the fanbabies to stuff it. People rightfully applauded. There were commemorative memes. It was a great time. But there was something about the discussion in terms of gender that really struck me the wrong way that I couldn’t put my finger on.

This weekend, instead of doing housework I watched every review Mistress Diamanda Hagan has done of a Jeffrey Combs movie, because it was really exciting to find someone who has as much of an actor crush on him as I do (all though hers is more platonic than mine due to, you know, not being into guys and all). Also because screw house work, it’s not like the Queen’s coming over. One thing that ground my gears, though, was her reaction to Combs’ role as a detective in the movie Faust: Love of the Damned. Some of it seemed to be a really strong aversion to seeing Combs cast against type, which is a topic for an essay of its own, but there was something more to it than that. It’s not as though he’s never played a badass before. Usually not that straightforward, sure, but he actually kind of specializes in characters that, rather than having some kind of Napoleonic complex, just seem to have never noticed they’re physically unintimidating. He can project a great force of personality, and it’s something I’ve always appreciated. It’s not as though his performance in the movie in question was unconvincing, at least in the clips used in the review. So why did this particular role just seem so jarring?

Oh, probably because the character looked like this.

    
I so wish he was on a motorcycle so that I could caption this "The mid-life crisis starter pack."
Yeeeeeah. Combs is a good-looking guy (in my humble opinion) but everything about this says, “Trying too hard."  At the time, Combs was forty-six-damn-years old and already at the point of telling (adorable) “you kids these days …” stories at Star Trek cons. This is based on a comic with which I’m not familiar, so I tried to find pictures of the character from the comics, thinking that this had to be one of those things where they chose faithfulness to the source material over common sense. Wouldn’t you know it? An image search for the character’s name only turns up pictures of Combs from the movie and a web search only brings up discussions of the movies, so I’m thinking his character was either a composite of several comics characters (since there seems to be about five people living in the city in the movie) or invented whole cloth to keep the narrative moving. Which means they chose to dress him like a character played by someone twenty years younger. (Watch some fan of the comic show up to tell me I’m wrong.) Combs did apparently choose this role from all the characters in the film since his friends produced it, so it’s entirely possible this was his idea. Especially given that that hair and the sideburns looks distinctively seventies, when Combs would actually have been young enough to wear that. And for all I know he was riding up to the studio every day on a motorcycle his wife yelled at him for buying. But somebody should have damn well told him no. I’ve been told it’s sexist to tell women they’re dressing too young. Now, I’m usually not one for “turnabout is fairplay” – I’m just as disgusted by Marvel Studios selling me Chris Hemsworth and Bret Dalton’s bodies instead of an actual product I want to watch as I am by the objectification of women that is still widespread throughout media – but if it’s sexist to tell Grandma to take off the yoga pants with “Sexy” emblazoned across the ass, maybe we should have balanced it out years ago by telling Combs to take off the jacket, shave the sideburns, and wash the hairspray out of his hair. Put the same guy in a proper detectives’ coat and give him a decent haircut and it would have been way less jarring. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I Am Not a Monster: Why That One Scene Will Always Cheese Me Off




           Oh hey, I finally wrote an essay for the blog! What did I choose to write about? Some cool science thing? Some show I'm really excited about? Nope, I decided that the first thing I should write, right out of the gate, was an essay about why the "You're not the only monster," scene in Avengers 2 disturbed me so much. Batten down the hatches and put on your flame-proof clothing, because I'm really sure I won't regret this choice.
             
            For those of you who somehow managed not to hear about this particular brouhaha, let me summarize what happens. (Full disclaimer, I haven’t actually seen the movie, just had this scene described several times. Some would say that means I shouldn’t comment on it at all. Perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps the scenes before and after are filled with context that somehow makes this one scene better. I doubt it but maybe. So take my analysis with a grain of salt.) While trying to relate to the Hulk, Black Widow decides to unleash some weapons-grade exposition and gives some insight into her backstory, which involves being trained by the Black Widow program, killing people, and being sterilized. After relating this last bit of information, she tells him, “You’re not the only monster.” People got upset. And by got upset, I mean they threatened Joss Whedon with death and inundated his Twitter with so many mean Tweets he eventually took his Twitter ball and went home (though he said it was for different reasons, the timing was just a bit too convenient to believe that). Obviously, threatening anybody with death over anything short of actually committing a serious crime is wrong, and even then you should probably leave it to the authorities, keyboard warriors. However, I understood exactly why people were upset … because I was mad as hell. I don’t plan to ever see this movie, not only because I’m so over Marvel, but because I would know this scene was coming and be unable to give the rest of the movie a decent chance because I’d be sitting there with butt and teeth clenched waiting for it to be over with.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Was Joss Whedon Ever Revolutionary?


When it comes to science fiction television series blended with western and cowboy motifs following an ensemble cast of snarky badasses who go from job to job, throughout a star system on their awesome spaceship with a spin-section, Firefly is my second to most favorite next to Cowboy Bebop. But all joking aside, when Firefly aired in 2003 in the US and when I finally got my hands on the DVD set around the time the movie hit, it was a series that friends of mine got tired of me talking about until I had infected them with the Firefly virus as well. 



I loved the stories, the universe it set up, the characters, their motivations, the wonderful soundtrack, it was great. I wondered who the genius was who had created this wonderful show that I had come to adore so much and that was the way I learned about Joss Whedon. Oh, Joss Whedon, what can you say about the man that the internet hasn’t dragged up yet? Well, nothing much. From Buffy to Angel, from Dollhouse to Agents of SHIELD, from Serenity to The Avengers, numerous comic book runs and entire tropes of the likes of “Buffy Speak”, the man certainly has left a mark on pop culture over the last little while. And yet there was always this slight nagging in the back of my mind whenever fans and pop-culture critics praised the man for being the innovator that he was.