Saturday, January 31, 2015

What kind of week has it been

In 1996, Grant Morrison created a superhero called Aztek. Aztek is simultaneously boring and impossible to explain, and the only person who loves him is Grant Morrison. His series was cancelled before the conclusion of his character arc, but he was then transferred to the pages of the Justice League, because Grant Morrison was also writing that, and he was going to finish that story, by gum!

He was absolutely forgettable, but he did have one awesome moment. He's manning the Justice League Watchtower while some half the team is off investigating the villains, and the rest are trapped in the future, all according to Lex Luthor's plan. Luthor has been rope-a-doping the team from the beginning.

Now he co-opts the Justice League's transport and communication systems. He drops in a a dozen ticking nuclear warheads, and by-the-way, informs Aztek that he had paid for his armor.

He suggests, oh so reasonably, that Aztek not go down with the ship, but instead hop on over to Luthor's HQ, where they can discuss his new position as a mole in Justice League like reasonable men.

Aztek has other ideas. He accesses his armor for the schematics of the nukes and begins disarming them one by one.

When the rest of the team sorts their stuff out, they tell him to evacuate, but he informs them that he doesn't have to.

I was recently placed in a situation at work where I suddenly had to take on a lot of extra responsibility. I was given a task that seemed insurmountable, especially considering the end of day, drop-dead deadline, but like Aztek, I hunkered down, approached it systematically, and did it. I don't mind saying that accomplishment felt really good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stuff Josh watched over the weekend: Agent Carter, Red, California Crisis, Time of Eve, Prey, Colorful

I visited my best buddy Tim up in New Hampster this weekend. We watched a bunch of stuff. Here are my reviews:

The first three episodes of Agent Carter: I really, really wanted to like this show, but I found it predictable, formulaic, and written for the dumbest person in the room. It's a network TV show, so I do cut it a little slack, but so is Hannibal and that's some of the sharpest writing out there. I love shows with female protagonists, but they don't automatically get a pass, and this middlebrow horseshit ain't gonna cut it.

Grade: C

Even Automat Angie can't save it.

Red: So, this is what porn for old people looks like.

The Cast of Red as imagined by fans of the movie:

The cast of Red, in reality:

What. The. Fuck. We get a movie with a bald Warren Ellis character, and it's not Spider Jerusalem? What kind of world do we live in?!

I hate the recent trope in comic book movies where the direction is dominated by the need to recreate certain "iconic" panels from the source material. Watchmen is probably the worst offender, but the movie that bothered me most was Snowpiercer.  Red does it constantly.

I joked that I liked Karl Urban, but the old people were all assholes, and I was only half kidding. Not to mention the fact the fact that kidnapping Mary-Louise Parker, tying her up and taping her mouth shut comes across way more rapey than I'm comfortable watching.

Grade: D.

Richard Dreyfus was chewing the scenery, and conveniently, he could just take out his dentures to pick out chunks of it when he was done.

California Crisis: This is an anime from 1986. You can watch it in its entirety, on youtube, but I'd advise against it. The production values are zero, the plot makes no sense, and then it just ends. They couldn't even get the colors on a goddamned rainbow right.

Roy G. BiP? Seriously, what the fuck is this?
Grade: F

And I still would have dropped my $29.99 on it at Suncoast video in 1991. Le Sigh.

Time of Eve: I'm actually a bit torn on this one, because while I think it ultimately fails at what it was trying to say, at least it makes the attempt. I like the poster, too.

The basic idea is that there are robots that are indistinguishable from humans, except for the ring of light that floats above their head. Our protagonist finds that his robot has been visiting a club where robots are permitted to turn off their identifying ring.

The robots are bound by Asimov's laws of Robotics.
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Wikipedia says, "These conversations make frequent allusion to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, often highlighting surprising interpretations of those laws, some of which form apparent loopholes." Maybe this is true of the episodes that were combined to make the movie, but discussion of the laws of the movie is extremely facile.

That's the big problem with the movie. It's kind of a "greatest hits version of the series". This kind of thing isn't completely uncommon in adaptations, but the movie's pacing does suffer terribly because of it. They set up the premise, then quickly go through the rising action, climax, falling action and denouement of each episode, which leaves the whole thing terribly awkward. Also worth mentioning are the long, slow pans over a still shot. Again, not completely unusual, but the movie did it constantly, causing Tim to remark, "This movie is going to have a baby soon, with all these pregnant pauses."

In some Star Wars EU book, word of god is that all droids are explicitly non-sentient. C-3PO doesn't actually have the personality of a neurotic butler; he just has the facsimile of such. There is nothing in his brain that says "I am I". He's simply a series of notched plates that react the same way each time. That makes the droid torture scene in RotJ even more ridiculous, but it does sidestep the question of "Hey, you seem to have built a slave race of robots. Doesn't that give rise to some awkward issues?"

It's never clear if the androids in Eve are self-aware or not. If they are, then it's straight-up monstrous to enslave them, If their interaction with the world is some kind of Chinese Room illusion, then I wouldn't feel any more guilty about using them than I would for using my car. Unfortunately, nobody even think to ask this question.

Grade: C

"Where did all the liquid went?"

Colorful: A boy commits suicide, and a ghost in short pants helps him redeem himself by understanding his boring family. He's like Shinji Ikari, but even more nebbishy. It's not terrible, but it relies a bit too much on assumptions of Japanese culture to be accessible to Western audiences.

I do like the movie poster, though.

Grade: C-

"Now this is pod-racing!"

Prey: Probably the best of what we watched over the weekend. The Fugitive in Britain, with John Simm as Richard Kimble. I watched it because Simm was in it, and he didn't disappoint. He's always fun to watch. Cops in UK are rubbish (Simm's first two stops are his best friend's house and his in-laws's house, where his son is being kept), but it's a solid execution of a story we've all seen before.

Grade: B

Not since he played the Master has John Simm been so lovable.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

[Zelazny] Update on Shadows and Reflections

Since anyone who reads this blog almost certainly also contributed to the Shadows & Reflections campaign, you would have received the same email I did, so this probably isn't news, but in case you didn't:

Hi everyone. I just wanted to let you all know that Trent and I are busily working on this Anthology. We're hoping it will be out in March. Lots of big names and a few surprises. We're getting really close to having a wonderful book.
Looks like we can expect to see it this year!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Search Results, Part 8

The latest in our series looking at what brings people to the site.

  1. bernard hill naked (I'm blind!)
  2. cartoon porn wolfman part2 (Don't waste your time. It fails to live up to the promise of the original)
  3. can matter eater lad eat people
  4. dean stockwell son porn star (Rule 34, baby)
  5. village shitting teen girls (Again with the shitting)
  6. empress miss tarah lee hypnosis (I'm kind of curious about what they might be looking for, but I really think I don't want to go down that rabbit hole)
  7. free willy porno (I've always admired the titles people come up with for the adult adaptations of mainstream movies, and, on reflection, it does seem like this one is begging for that treatment)
  8. matt smith with a unicorn
  9. are you dead? sunnybyrd request
  10. 3 cartoon girls fucked by dogs (When 2 cartoon girls just aren't enough. WHAT THE FUCK?!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Comics in the 1990s

I used to work in a comic book store in the 90s, and this cross-sample is representative of the decade.

Not pictured: Superman with a mullet.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

All, right, Zach, I finally played that second game of Smash Up

German monsters! Achtung, baby!

Heh. I wasn't ignoring you. It's really been this long since my original post since I played a second game of Smash Up. So, as promised, here's my actual play of our second game of Smash Up.

Our original impressions were mostly correct. Some sets are overpowered, and some combinations are ridiculously overpowered. We only played to ten points, as opposed to the official fifteen points, and it still took forever. We'd have a knockdown, drag-out fight over a base, with each of us playing a bunch of shitty, low-cost minions, and when somebody claimed it, the consensus was "Ugh, how many more times are we going to have to do that?"

The three teams were me and my eight-year-old, my wife, and Kenobi Jen and Dave. Lily and I were sprites and plants, Jen Classic was Ninjas and something else and Kenobi Jen had dinos and wizard people. Lily eventually lost interest (and when I say "eventually", I mean 45 minutes into the game/the third turn), and I wound up playing her hand. We had a zillion cards that allowed us to play extra minions...and, no minions. I don't know if this was bad luck, or just shitty design.

I've been playing a lot of Hearthstone, and the medium allows the correction of a lot of balance problems. Is this card undercosted? Well, now it costs more after the latest patch. There is probably errata out there that corrects some of the Smash Up balance issues, but we didn't look for it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

PSA: Slow Blogging

I just wanted to drop a line here. My New Year's Resolution was to write 500 words of fiction every day, which I think is an achievable and sustainable goal. Unfortunately, time is fungible, so time that I would spend writing for the blog is time that I spend writing fiction. Until I'm able to find a new equilibrium, posting is going to be more erratic than usual. It's not going to stop entirely, but I'm not going to adhere to a regular schedule either.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Deadly Drug

I was watching something with Lily that had a reference to pot, and I asked her if she knew what it was. She said "Marijuana." I asked, "What's that?" She said, "A deadly drug."

A marijuana lab

I'm pretty sure she gets this from her health class. I don't doubt their good intentions, but let's have some perspective. The peril of this approach is, of course, that when she finds out that one puff of pot isn't going to turn you into an addict twitching in the alley, she'll no longer trust other thing she learned from people who lied to her with good intentions. Jen once knew a women who said, hopefully in jest, that she was going to tell her daughter that one kiss would make her pregnant. Same deal there.

I didn't say anything at the time, but what I should have said was something like, "We'd prefer if you didn't smoke it, but it's not a deadly drug. The biggest reason that we don't want you to do it is that our drug laws are draconian and unevenly applied, and if you get caught, it could really fuck up your future." (Though, as a middle class white girl, that uneven application is probably going to get applied in her favor, but that's another conversation entirely.)