Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not A Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Movie

Nor is The Road to Gandolfo a Family Guy parody of those movies. So it has that going for it. It's a bit of an absurd story by Robert Ludlum, author of The Aquitaine Progression! Oh and some books about a guy named Bourne.

Ludlum admits in a preface that this is one of those stories that started out some great piece of work in his mind, but then turned out as a bit of a farce. Military lawyer Sam Devereaux can't wait for his term of service to end, but first he must travel to China to try and help American patriot Mackenzie Hawkins. Hawkins is accused of shooting the manhood off a Chinese monument. He claims he was drugged. The Chinese government claims he was just drunk. The U.S. government decides to throw Hawkins under the bus to keep getting cheap gas. Devereaux manages to find a solution all three sides can accept. His reward is to be dragged into Hawkins mad scheme for his post-military career. Namely, to hire a crack team of specialists and abduct the Pope, then ransom him to the Vatican at a price of 1 dollar for every Catholic. The Hawk's 4 ex-wives also figure prominently as aides to his plans. Quite impressive to maintain friendly relations with not just one ex-wife, but four.

There's a bed and breakfast here in town. At the bottom of their sign is the statement, 'Kindness Inspires Kindness'. Since I saw that sign, I've been debating its accuracy. It really depends on who you're kind to. Some people will be inspired to kindness, but other people will perceive that kindness as weakness, or something to be scorned, which leads to abuse or exploitation. This does have something to do with the book.

Devereaux doesn't particularly like Hawkins. He says at one point that politically they're about as different as can be, and describes Hawkins as either a fascist, or near fascist. It would have been easy to half-ass his counsel for Hawkins and just burn the days until his term is over. Let Hawkins pride condemn him to a 4,000 year prison sentence in Outer Mongolia, but he didn't. He felt, regardless of politics, Hawkins deserved better from his government. So Sam came up with a solution that everyone found palatable. The Chinese and U.S. governments were satisfied, and Hawkins won't be spending time in prison. After the return home, Sam agrees to go along with Hawk as he travels to Agency headquarters to close out some files. Hawkins' repayment of Sam's kindness is to make him an accomplice to the theft of any number of classified documents. Actually, considering Hawkins friends in the Pentagon, Sam's the only one who would take the fall for that crime. So much for kindness inspiring kindness.

This book reminds me a bit of Crichton's Great Train Robbery, which I read in 7th grade. This book is far less serious, but it's similar that the actual crime is only a small part of the story. When I read the Crichton book, that was a problem for me. The title promises a train robbery, but it takes 80% of the book to get to it. I hated that, found it boring. The Road to Gandolfo takes it's sweet time getting to the papal abduction, but it didn't bother me. Perhaps because the book was so much less serious, the crime seemed doomed from the start, and that removed any impatience on my part to get to the act.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Yeah, Sorry About That

Wasn't my intention to not post over the weekend. the crew I'm working with are living in two houses 10 miles apart, but we only have one of those mobile modem things, and they had it over the weekend. It was supposed to be returned sometime Saturday, obviously that didn't happen. Plus, the library was only open for 3 hours Saturday, and I was working through those hours. That library's a real Mickey Mouse operation, I tells ya. Thus ends the excuses portion of the post.

Before I watched Gattaca, I assumed it was some sci-fi monster movie (probably confusing it with Gamera), but it's about Vincent's (Ethan Hawke) attempts to realize his dreams, in spite of not being genetically engineered, which is a major detriment in his society. So a doctor introduces him to a wheelchair-bound former Olympic athlete (Jude Law) who was genetically engineered, who provides Vincent with various samples necessary to convince the authorities he is a nearly perfect genetic specimen who should absolutely be sent on a mission to Saturn's moon Titan. A murder occurs, which brings heightened scrutiny, and Vincent develops a relationship with another member of the program, Irene (Uma Thurman), which complicates things a bit more. There'll probably be some spoilers beyond this point, if you require a warning for a 14 year old movie.

The thing that impresses me about the film is how consistently it defied my expectations. I originally felt sure Irene's apparent attraction was a ruse, that she was jealous of Vincent's success, and was looking for a certain sample to give her something to discredit him. Wouldn't that have been an ugly message, a woman using sex to ruin a man's dreams and aspirations. Fortunately, it didn't go that way. I kept thinking that Vincent's desperation as the launch date grew closer was going to cost him. Not in the sense he would be found out, or arrested for the murder, but that his predicted genetic issues would catch up with him. He keeps pushing himself in ways I thought would come back to bite him, but the movie avoids that sort of depressing, predeterministic ending.

I also thought Jerome (Jude Law) was possibly going to wreck things, because he seemed to be growing more erratic as the end of their partnership grew closer. he admits at one point that even though he designed to be a great swimmer, the best he could do was second place. Vincent is coming closer to realizing his dream than Jerome did his, and maybe that was pissing Jerome off, especially since Vincent couldn't do it without him.

Ultimately, none of my fears were realized, so hooray for that. Probably that sort of ending would have gone against what Andrew Nicol was driving at. There's a sequence I found interesting that may be part of that. Vincent is at Gattaca, doing some treadmill work while they monitor his heart (they're actually reading a recording of Jerome's nearly perfect heart as he pushed his wheelchair on the treadmill). The police are nosing around, talking to the Director. The Director says something to the effect that they measure the potential of all their astronauts, and that no one can exceed their potential. If someone appears to have done so, then what's actually happened is they (meaning the Director, society, everyone) failed to measure it properly. Through all this, Vincent runs on the treadmill, with a heart everyone says should have given out already.

I don't know whether Nicol's making the point that Vincent is an example of their failure to measure potential correctly, or that it is possible to exceed one's potential. I'd guess the second, since we're shown how hard Vincent works to get to this point, exactly how much pain he was willing to tolerate. It's Jerome's perfect heartbeat the technicians see on their machines, but it's Vincent's supposedly defective one that keeps him going at an impressive, steady pace. You could argue though that a person's determination is part of their potential, but a part that can't be measured by a genetic screening at birth, because it's formed over a lifetime of experience. Your call.

One other little scene I liked. When the whole scheme nearly blows up, and Jerome has to play himself for an audience again, he and Irene share a little kiss. It isn't that she goes to kiss his forehead, and he tilts his head back so they lock lips. I expect that from Jerome. It's how as she moves off to sit next to him, Jerome reaches out and takes hold of her hand, then maintains that contact through the meeting with the cop. It said something about Jerome, the life he lead before and after meeting Vincent. He hasn't had a lot of contact with people, and probably nothing quite like what was growing between Irene and Vincent. He wanted to be part of it, have that connection himself.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I Bought 5/23/2011 - Part 3

I'm not sure whether a declawed cat trying to scratch a chair is sad, or hilarious. My money's on hilarious. I'm using a slow library computer so for now, no images. Plus, I only have an hour on the computer, so more bare bones than usual.

Heroes for Hire #7 - Spider-Man finds himself in the middle of a big mess, including Batroc, Scorpion, dinosaurs, and demon ammunition. Paladin struggles with his self-respect and how he believes he's viewed by heroes who don't work for money. Misty realizes she's not the sort to sit on the the sidelines forever.

So at least we know why the Puppet Master was targeting those specific operations. Perhaps we'll learn who he was working for. Or maybe that person will duck capture and remain a shadowy thorn in H4H's hide.

Tim Seeley's the artist for this issue, so Brad Walker's return was about as temporary as it could be. Seeley's fine, though he doesn't have Walker's page layout skill. He occasionally give Spidey a chicken neck, which is fine. It reminds me of former 49ers free safety Merton Hanks. I liked him. Well, I liked anyone on any team that was trying to stand in the Cowboys' path to more titles during the '90s. In one of those little details I care about more than I probably should, Seeley draws Misty's hair mostly the same as Walker did last issue. He does draw it as more of a solid mass, while Walker had some tufts coming off the - is it an afro? - while Seeley makes it appear she added some hair spray or something to keep it down.

Rocketeer Adventures #1 - I bought the complete collection hardcover last fall, and I always enjoy the movie, so it seemed like a good idea. It wasn't bad, but the Cassaday story was the only one I really enjoyed. Because we got to see some of the action. Allred's was filling in between the last story that was in the hardcover and I guess some of the stories we'll be seeing in this mini-series. Nothing really happened in it, other than I guess Cliff made a decision about how he'll live his life. But when we're talking about the Rocketeer, I'm looking for action!

Busiek and Kaluta's story chose to focus on what Betty was up to while Cliff's fighting in World War 2 (with some little snapshots inset showing what Cliff's up against). I can't believe Cliff would let some flyboys paint a picture of his girl on the plane. Some random actress girl, sure, but your girlfriend (wearing very little)? Well, I can believe it, I just think it's poor judgment, which is a trademark of Cliff's.

Secret Six #33 - The team tries to decide whether to leave Hell, or accept Ragdoll's offer to rule with him. Deadshot renders it moot by doing what he usually does. Scandal temporarily ditches the team to run off with her first tall, redheaded girlfriend. She has a change of heart, though. Meanwhile, the rest of the team are experiencing various torments, either things they already experienced, or things they fear. Scandal tries to challenge Lady Blaze, who I'm guessing rules Hell currently, and Catman returns from visiting his father. Now, Scandal will have to choose which of her redhead girlfriends, past or present, ends up in Hell. I don't know why that's the case other than Hell is run by jerks, which I suppose is reason enough.

It's an alright issue. I kind of think the team was able to overcome the horrors Hell threw at them a little too easily, but they've demonstrated before they won't be anyone's lapdog, though I'd expect Hell to know how to turn that determination against them. I can't decide which way Scandal will go, because I can really see it both ways. The bit with Catman's mother was disturbing, though her obvious love for her son was kind of touching. Which sums this title up pretty well.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What I Bought 5/23/2011 - Part 2

I've mentioned it before, but I still hate ticks. At least mosquitoes don't stick around any longer than they have to. Ticks are like some annoying frat boy that comes to visit, then crashes on your couch for two weeks. If that annoying frat boy drained your blood until he swelled to several times his original size. Which may actually happen if you allow frat boys to crash at your house. I'm not friends with any of them, so it's never been an issue.

Batgirl #21 - Two months ago they had Dustin Nguyen's name on the cover when Ramon Bachs drew the issue. Now Nguyen's actually drawing the issue, but Pere Perez' name is on the cover. Anyway, it's a very nicely done cover, especially considering the issue takes place in a cathedral. Appropriate.

Inside, Batgirl fights Harmony, the second of the Reapers' super-suited lackeys. harmony's suit produces powerful acoustics, and she's trying to steal DNA from the remains of a nun who supposedly had healing powers. Which the Grey Ghost could have used, since Harmony trounced him before Batgirl defeated her. Clancy isn't terribly grateful, actually he's mostly annoyed with Steph for continuing to tell him to quit crimefighting. In other news, Wendy talks to a hallucination of her dead brother, and decides to travel to Nanda Parabat, which will possibly heal her spirit, if not her spine.

I still have no idea what the Reapers are planning, though it's a sure bet Clancy's going to regret dealing with them. Nice touch on Bryan Q. Miller's part, since this seems like a somewhat twisted version of Stephanie's screw-up that lead to War Games. Not that I particularly want to be reminded of that story (ever), but if it's going to be part of her backstory, this isn't a bad play off it. I don't always like Dustin Nguyen's figures, but he does some excellent expressions (Batgirl's smirk as she tripped her first trap on Harmony), and his page layouts are pretty good. Things flow really well.

Batman Beyond #5 - All the angry workers are red on the cover I have. It probably shouldn't, but I think that helps it. Certainly catches the eye more.

WaynePowers is trying to hammer out a contract with their labor union. The regular negotiator has been fired, and now the workers are rioting. Which leads to some crowd control work for Terry as Bruce looks into the new negotiator. Also, Dana breaks up with Terry, just as her creepy-looking brother returns home. And Paxton Powers is released from prison only to be blown up along with Batman. Or not. Probably not.

It's kind of odd that Beechen offed so many of Terry's foes, but brings back one that had been left for dead. He was never confirmed dead, and they pointed that out in the show, but he also never made an appearance after that point. I'm left wondering whether Blight's reemergence has anything to do with Dana's brother. They don't seem connected, but you can never tell.

I've grown accustomed to Benjamin not drawing the characters quite how I remember them from the cartoon. Terry often doesn't look much like his cartoon self (maybe because he doesn't scowl as much). It's style isn't his style, that's how it goes. Dana's brother actually looks like he'd fit in the cartoon, he reminds me of someone I'd seen there. Maybe it's the smoothness of his face, combined with a sort of pointed chin. That was pretty common for the animation style.

Darkwing Duck #12 - Duckthulu is on the loose and surprise, FOWL high command can't control him. Of course not, he's beyond a force of nature, how could they think they'd control him? Putzes. Femme Appeal has some spell that might halt his rise, and fortunately all of Darkwing's friends have shown up to help, including his sorceress girlfriend. The spell alters reality, or sends them to a different one, because that makes it harder for Duckthulu, somehow. I honestly wasn't clear on that, or why Morgana chose a world that was essentially an old TV sitcom, like The Honeymooners. Duckthulu is eventually repelled, most of the FOWL agents (save Steelbeak) are rounded up, but Darkwing loses someone.

I hope Darkwing doesn't go post-Death in the Family Batman on us now. Setting aside that I'm not clear on the significance of the reality Morgana chose, this was a pretty solid arc. The one thing that surprises me is I don't think it sets up as many future plot threads as the last two arcs did. The threat is down, FOWL is mostly down, and what's left probably ought to be more concerned about Steelbeak than Darkwing or SHUSH.

Heroes for Hire #6 - That's an accurate cover in the sense that Paladin would like to shoot Spider-Man by the end of the issue.

In the aftermath of the Puppet Master fiasco, Misty's found it a little hard to get heroes to help her out. Sounds sort of reasonable, though people seem to forgive Logan for mind-control transgressions all the damn time. This has left her available roster at Paladin and. . . well, just Paladin. And he's being beaten by ninjas with bone clubs. Well, at least it's a moderately unique way to die. Enter Spider-Man, who saves Paladin, then won't go away. Much to Paladin's annoyance. Then Batroc shows up and kicks Paladin's butt. Fortunately, Spidey's been talking with Misty, and he's agreed to lend a hand, because he's a good guy and that's what they do.

Alright, Brad Walker's back on the art chores! Walker's a bit like Dustin Nguyen 9though their art looks nothing alike): I don't always love Walker's faces, but he also knows how to design a page so things flow naturally. He also does a good job with some of Spidey's poses, suggesting his sort of playful, relaxed manner. I've never given Paladin much thought, but I like what Abnett and Lanning are doing with him.

Tomorrow, the last of the comics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I Bought 5/23/2011 - Part 1

As I walked through town yesterday, I espied a man with a shaved head wearing a black shirt. I saw him continue east on the sidewalk as I swung by to check the library's hours (open until 9 on Tuesdays, but not past 5 any other day of the week. Strange town). That business concluded I turned east myself, but didn't see the man anywhere. I did see a young boy, maybe six years old, wearing a black shirt, with buzzed hair. For a second I feared UnCalvin had tracked me down, and was finally using his shape-shifting to a greater potential.

Then I looked another block ahead and spotted the guy. Life returns to its routine. In other news, comics! Three days of reviews ahead!

Annihilators #3 - I like that cover, and that's a good rendition of a classic Dire Wraith by Garner.

The Wraith Queen tries to brainsuck the Silver Surfer, which doesn't accomplish anything other than confusing her enough for the team to subdue her, and convince the Surfer they need to help her. The only way to keep the Black Sun from consuming Galador's sun (and destroying Galador in the process), is to get Wraithworld back out of Limbo, as that will stabilize the Black Sun. Which doesn't seem like accurate gravitational theory, but the Surfer has Power Cosmic, so I guess he understands more about it than I do. Traveling to Limbo, doesn't go as planned, as the team is besieged by Immortus' Time Army, all of which plays into the hands of the real masterminds behind all this.

In the Rocket Raccoon feature, we learn about why Rocket didn't remember where he came from, and what's become of his old home, and what's threatening it.

This was a mixed bag. Tan Eng Huat's art is bothering me the more I see it. It doesn't sell consistently sell the action to me, as characters feel posed, or the combat feels flat. There's no oomph to it. On the other hand, I did like that the Surfer arguing in favor of restoring Wraithworld. Of course the Herald of Galactus would be pragmatic, or an expert at justifying poor decisions. With the backup, I still like Timothy Green's art a lot, but I'm a bit befuddled by the story. I'm not sure if having read the original Rocket Raccoon mini-series is the problem or what, because I keep thinking "Halfworld was not like this," and I can't decide if that's an intentional story hint by Abnett and Lanning, or if they've simply changed things up. Plus, it was an exposition heavy chapter, so kind of dull.

Avengers Academy #13 - What is up with Reptil on that cover? I follow it's a surprised reaction to the spiked punch, but he's looks emaciated.

The cadets have a school dance thing with the Young Allies and some of the old Initiative students. There is much discussion of personal problems, some of which may have been resolved, more of which have probably just been back burnered. I really doubt Striker's not going to resume worrying the team is talking about behind his back just like that. Also, Pym and Tigra resume their relationship, which isn't awkward at all with Jocasta (mind based on the Wasp's engrams, thanks Ultron!) hooked into the fabric of their headquarters.

I did really like this issue. A little bit of downtime, the cadets behaving pleasantly towards one another, or trying to at least. Even if it's a temporary thing, it was a nice change. And I notice Quicksilver declined to show up, unless he's zipping in and out of the backgrounds, which makes perfect sense. Sean Chen's art is fine. Not spectacular, but solid, gets across what it needs to. Some of his faces remind me of Steve Dillon's work, especially Striker, which isn't a comparison that had ever come to mind before.

Avengers Academy #14 - While most of the teachers are dealing with a volcano, Electro attacks an advanced lab in France, and the cadets, feeling good after fighting Korvac, convince the teachers to let them try and take him down. Turns out he brought along the entire Sinister Six, who beat down the kids and take advantage of Pym's doorway system to haul some advanced power source to Doc Ock's lab. The facility they robbed blows up, the Director bitches out Pym and the public begins to turn against the idea of Avengers Academy. Of course they do. Where's the Annihilation Wave when you really need it to kill stupid people?

I was surprised at Doc Ock's elevation to big time at first, but it makes sense. He's had big schemes before, but they were limited to Spider-Man comics (even though other heroes would help out). Sooner or later he'd put one in motion and keep it going long enough it move beyond simply a Spider-Man problem. He has a point about it being ridiculous he was left out of the smart people stuff recently (I'd take Ock over the Wizard or the Red Ghost), and the idea he'd be angry about it fits. He always used to be frustrated that he couldn't beat Spider-Man, when he was so sure he was Spidey's superior mentally and physically (with the metal arms and all). I don't think he's smarter than Pym, though at least his inventions don't backfire on him as frequently.

Anyway, it was perhaps a predictable result that the cadets would lose after their recent victory against Korvac. Still worked. It wasn't as though they rolled over for the Sinister Six, they had a bad day. Their opponents were ready for them, had everything planned out, and the cadets didn't realize what they were up against. It happens. I'll be curious to see how Hank tries to get them ready for more stuff like this.

Gage did a good job giving the Six personality in limited panel time. We see a little something about how they interact, their outlooks on being crooks, and what they all have in common is they take pride in what they do. None of them want to get shown up by a bunch of kids, none of them like being considered second-rate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Prefer My Art With Colored Pencils, Not Blood

There's a used bookstore here in town. Limited hours of operation (3-6 in the afternoon during the week), but it reminds me of my dad's house, with the books stacked up everywhere. No dogs underfoot, though. It's a little more orderly than my dad's, since the books are grouped by type, but they aren't set up on the shelves as neatly. It's kind of hard to check out the books stacked behind other piles of books. On the positive side, the owner let me browse in peace after I told him I wasn't looking for anything in particular.

The point of all this (as you've no doubt guessed) is there will be book reviews in the future. And the present, since I'm doing one today.

First thing I notice about Chuck Hogan's Blood Artists (I keep wanting to call it Blood Addicts), the title is on the spine of the book and the inside cover, but not the front cover. The front cover has the quote 'Everything that begins, begins with blood.' Cheerful.

It starts with two scientists, Peter Maryk and Stephen Pearse. Maryk possesses a remarkable immune system which destroys diseases as soon as they enter his body, before he even develops symptoms. The only downside is his body has to rest afterward, so he usually falls into a deep sleep for awhile (which he terms a "cascade"). Their hope is to make Maryk's genetic advantage into something they can provide to the rest of the world, as diseases have started to overwhelm the tools man has developed to fight them. They're called away to what appears to be an outbreak of smallpox in central Africa, but turns out to be some radically mutating virus unwittingly unleashed by haphazard uranium mining (that explains the radically mutating aspect). All the infected die, and the military firebombs the place to seal the cave and destroy the virus (which can infect anything, including plants, and kill them. Except birds. They just carry it.)

Of course it doesn't end there, and the virus starts popping up in the U.S. Small incidents the Bureau of Disease Control can handle, but can't explain. Things progress from there, as Maryk tries to figure out how it's happening while protecting the last person who has any immunity whatsoever (besides himself), as her blood is potentially life-saving. His attempts to get her on board with this are stymied somewhat by survivor's guilt and the fact she now knows he's been trying to direct her life since her brush with the disease. To protect her. Because she's important.

It's almost a horror story, with the virus that will kill everyone, and there are scenes (usually involving Melanie, who finds herself in peril periodically) that play that way. It's also a chase story, people trying to track down a dangerous person or item before time runs out. Hogan opts for third-person when focusing on Maryk or Melanie's chapters, but switches to first for Pearse's, which is a little strange. Pearse isn't really telling the story, just his parts, since he's frequently not around either of the other two during their chapters.

I find the distinctions between the two doctors interesting. Pearse is the one who more obviously cares about the pain and suffering of patients, but this a) nearly destroys the world, and b) seems to lead him away from active work in the field, as he becomes head of the BDC, believing he can do more as some inspirational figure. Maryk is closer to Dr. House. There are times he put me in mind of the people from Umbrella Corp in the Resident Evil games, because I thought he might care more about unlocking the secrets of the virus than saving people. The sick almost seem like convenient incubators for something he wishes to study than beings looking for help. It didn't result in me not liking Maryk's character so much as not trusting him. Eeven when Hogan lets us inside Maryk's head, he doesn't spend much time examining Maryk's motivations. Maryk knows why he's doing most of what he does, and doesn't need to rehash it for himself, so we aren't privy to it. Nice touch.

I wonder if the end is supposed to be foreboding, as it seems Maryk might be making the same mistake Pearse did. It seems strange to call it a mistake, since Pearse only wanted to save a life, but it did nearly doom humanity. Maryk is being more careful, but there's still a chance something could happen. Never rule out improbable random events or general human stupidity. Reading the book, I had this sense it was saying doctors caring about their patients is all well and good, but saving lives is more important than holding hands, and that requires knowing when to let someone die (or help them along in dying). That's where professional detachment is key. But caring about someone or something can drive a person beyond their limits to help, so maybe it's all about moderation.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Liked It, But Not Enough To Buy It, And I Don't Know Why

One of my favorite games for the NES is one I never actually owned. I mostly played Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle at my cousin's house at Christmas, but I still liked it a lot more than most of the games I wound up eagerly buying. I never had a chance to read a player's manual, but the gist seemed to be Bugs is caught in a castle with many enemies who want him dead, and must make his way to the top, where he presumably escapes somehow. On each floor he has to grab all the carrots without getting touched once.

The player can opt to try and elude the enemies (including Daffy and Yosemite Sam, among others), or take advantage of weapons that may be scattered about. There were boxing gloves to fire at enemies, and various heavy objects which could be pushed over ledges to K.O. unsuspecting types below. So there was a certain amount of strategy, because you needed to figure out how to get to the carrots without getting trapped, which could take the form of maneuvering enemies to where you could dispatch them, or simply get them out of position. It's not a complicated game, but there were different ways to approach things, which meant I could change my style to suit my mood*.

I have a soft spot for the music too. It's not anything deep, but it works well, in part because I think the music's beats are matched to Bugs' stride. The music sort of works with him.

* I do the same thing with Thief: Deadly Shadows, opting to make it through with as little violence as possible sometimes, but other time deciding to give every person I see a blackjack to the head. Either way gets the job done, so it's all about which is more fun at the moment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Much Do You Like To Define Your Protagonist?

Sometimes with video games, the character you play as has a defined personality. Perhaps not fully fleshed out, but there's enough set dialogue and cut scenes that the player has a fairly good idea what the character is like. I'm sure there are better examples, but I think of Timesplitters: Future Perfect, where Cortez was presented as a reckless, but competent soldier, who was clearly enjoying the idea of leaping through time and teaming up with versions of himself from 5 minutes ago, or 10 minutes from now. He even had a horrible catchphrase he clearly thought was great ('It's time to split!')

Then there are games where the protagonist is more of a blank slate. Phantom Dust is sort of an example, because your character never speaks, but his body language still says something. But that body language is open to interpretation by the player. Still, there are certain scenes that I think give a sense of the character.

Persona 3 is actually the game that had me wondering which sort of protagonist video game players prefer. That game lets you choose who you interact with in your free time, and to a limited extent, what you say to them when they come to you with problems, or open up to you. In that way, you get to decide what kind of person your character is. Are they bluntly honest, calling a dumb idea what it is, regardless of consequences? Do they prefer to soft-pedal, being supportive regardless of circumstances? Is it somewhere in between? Of course, as the person making those decisions, I can justify my choices how I like. There are points where the character is asked why he does what he does, and again, it's my call.

When something important happens, I can't see my character's face, so it's up to me to decide what he's thinking or feeling. Which is funny, because apparently he's supposed to be almost expressionless, a result of the childhood trauma that gave him special abilities, if some of the stuff I've read online is accurate. I had always always considered that a deliberate action on his part, that he had an excellent poker face when he felt like it, but was otherwise perfectly expressive. That was part of my picture of him, different from how other people who play the game perceive him, apparently.

As much as I enjoyed Persona 3, I think I prefer games where my character is already defined. The problem is, I tend to see most of the characters where I'm calling the shots as behaving in similar ways. It's either how I think I act, or how I wish I acted. Either way, I'm not sure there's much variety. I've tried to play against type before, when I briefly owned Fable. I decided going in I was going to be the most evil sumbitch the world had ever seen. Yeah, that lasted about five minutes. After that, I kept finding myself justifying reasons to choose the good guy path rather than the bad guy one. Admittedly, I didn't get very far in the game, but it was frustrating I couldn't make myself be really evil.

if however the game has established already that my character is scum, well that's different. When I played Goldeneye multiplayer, I almost always chose Alec (006). As he was the bad guy, I felt it perfectly in character to shoot my opponent (usually Alex or my dad) in the back a few times, then run away until another sneak attack opportunity presented itself (this worked much better with my dad than Alex, though Alex was considerably more likely to blow himself up with explosives).

While I enjoy the occasional game where I form the character's personality from my own mind, one the whole I like it when the character's a little more defined. It adds to the variety, and I think it can make for a tighter story, if a more limited one.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Only Person Who Can Stop Batman Is DC's Version Of Bud Selig

Related to yesterday's post, do you think any superheroes or villains own sports teams? I'm positive there are people in the Marvel and DC universes who own sports franchises and use heroes and villains for their own purposes. Captain America bobblehead night. Hiring Rainbow Raider to render opposing quarterbacks colorblind so they throw to the wrong team.

I can't picture Reed buying one (during those times when he isn't broke). Johnny might do it (if he has that kind of dosh) as part of some elaborate prank on the Thing. Xavier doesn't strike me as the sort either, though maybe he'd buy ad space on an outfield wall. I could easily see Tony Stark buying the naming rights to a stadium*, then Obadiah Stane buys the naming rights to the rival team's stadium. I don't see Lex Luthor being a sports enthusiast (or considering it a sound investment). Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk)? Maybe. The biggest issue would be a known superhero getting okayed to own a sports franchise. The other owners have to sign off, and they might be concerned about super-villains attacking their players, or a rich super-scientist outfitting his players with high-tech equipment. Do Pym Particles count as performance-enhancing drugs?

I could see Bruce Wayne of the '80s or '90s** buying a local sports franchise as part of his "clueless playboy" act. The rich guy wanting another toy. As to whether Bruce could gain approval, I'm sure he could play the clueless schmuck willing to spend big to the point the other owners would OK his inclusion. He'll appear to wildly overspend, then wind up with a franchise worth twice what he paid (and 3 times what it was worth originally). He'd be successful, because as Batman, he's smart enough to develop all sorts of new methods of evaluating players. He'd approve the signing of players nobody else wanted, because his advanced metrics say that guy will play extremely well in their home stadium. He could make Alfred manager. Compared to looking after Batman and his various sidekicks, how hard can running a baseball team be?

I doubt he could have done it, but I'd like to think Danny Rand could have bought one at some point (maybe a hockey team). Then brought in his master, Lei-Kung the Thunderer, as the team's manager. Or at the least the trainer. It'd be the toughest, most agile team ever, assuming the players could survive the workouts.

Actually, Arcade would be the perfect person to own a sports franchise. Or at least to design a team's new (taxpayer-funded, naturally) stadium. Players, coaches, fans, they'd all have a ball. . . the size of a truck roll over them if they made the wrong step. Relax, it wouldn't have spikes or anything. Snare traps hidden near the goal line. Basketball rims that are periodically (and randomly) electrified.

OK, that wouldn't work, it'd never pass league approval. If Arcade were going to do that, he'd have to arrange the traps to be subtle, so people wouldn't notice what was happening, or they'd think it was a fluke. The snare trap would just appear to be a poor job of laying sod***. That goes against his style, though. I suppose he could always just modify some team's stadium without consulting anyone, but that's not quite what I was thinking of. And there's always the possibility he would legally purchase the arena. He offered to buy Agent X's amusement park from him, rather than just letting Hayden die and claiming it for himself.

* "Welcome to Tony Stark is Brilliant Arena for tonight's divisional playoff game!" Or perhaps "Tony Stark is the Cool Exec with a Heart of Steel Field!"

** Current day Bruce is too busy with Batman Incorporated to own a sports franchise. Assuming any are left after the earthquakes, plagues, gang wars, and so on. At this point, the various leagues may be unwilling to have Gotham amongst their cities, what with the likelihood other teams' players will get murdered on road trips.

*** Might explain a lot about the Steelers' field. It's not that the grass won't take hold, or that the stadium is designed so the winds at one end are particularly tricky. The designer littered the field with traps for kicks. I'm sure there are still ejector seats in the upper decks, and luxury boxes that will spontaneously fill with cheese foam to discover.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Comic Gives Me A Chance To Blather About Sports

In last month's Power Man and Iron Fist, Luke Cage showed up in a nice aircraft to fish Victor and Danny out of the ocean. Luke's price for not telling the rest of the Avengers is Danny's courtside seats at the next Knicks' game, a playoff game between the Knicks and the Heat.

I'm not sure why it's a huge issue if the Avengers found out about this. So Danny didn't quite handle things smoothly. Big whoop. A couple of his teammates are Spider-Man and Hawkeye, both of whom have multiple screw-ups to there name. Not to mention Wolverine, who gets mind-controlled into slaughtering 500 people every other Tuesday, but I digress.

My initial reaction was to laugh because by the time the comic came out, the Knicks had already been eliminated. By the Celtics. Well, you figure van Lente wrote this months ago, before the Celtics stumbled post-trade with Oklahoma City, and it would have looked like Knicks/Heat in the first round. That's a boring explanation.

Perhaps the Marvel U Celtics never made the Perkins for Jeff Green trade, the rest of the team didn't fall into a depression, and they held onto the #2 seed, leaving the Heat to battle the Knicks. Or maybe the Knicks fell to the #7 seed. Which raises the question of whether it happened because they made the trade for Carmelo Anthony and it did worse in the short-term than it did here, or because they didn't and attempted to rely Amare Stoudamire even as his back troubles increased and left the team without a premier scorer.

There's always more radical possibilities. van Lente anticipated the way playoff seeding broke out, and in Luke and Danny's world, the Knicks were able to triumph over a worn down, disinterested, or just outmatched Boston team. So the Knicks and Heat are playing in the second round. It could be the Conference Finals, but I'm not going crazy enough to think the Knicks can make it that far.

The way Luke mentions Jessica having a thing for LeBron suggests he isn't in New York often where she can check him, but maybe it's just a rare occasion where they have the time to go watch him. Perhaps in the Marvel Universe LeBron took his talents to Long Island, or wherever. He and Amare have made the Knicks a powerhouse, while Wade struggles with Bosh as his sidekick.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Make Some Friends, Save The World

Every role-playing video game I've owned had some unique aspect to it. Skies of Arcadia Legends had the battles between ships, rather than simply between characters. The Baten Kaitos games had the card battle aspects. Wild Arms 3 has its Western setting. Dragon Quest 8 had Akria Toriyama character designs. What? That was a good enough reason for me (combined with excellent reviews). Sudeki, well, Sudeki was the first RPG I owned, so it had the advantage of there being nothing to compare it to.

With Persona 3 it's the Social Links. Normally, dating sim games hold zero interest for me. The key here is that making friends and spending time with them (strengthening the Social Links) improves the main character's chances of saving the world. Each S. Link corresponds to an Arcana. Each persona (which is an aspect of your soul that can take on a form and help you fight monsters) belongs to an Arcana. The stronger the S. Link, the stronger Personas of that Arcana are when you create them. Building connections with others makes you stronger as a person.

The story is fairly standard. Your character returns to a town he grew up in, but there are strange happenings. Fortunately, you are an exceptionally gifted youngster, so you join Professor Xavier's X- I mean, you join S.E.E.S., the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, and set to protecting the city from monsters, while scaling Tartarus, an immense tower that appears during a hidden hour each night. I wish we had a club like that at my high school. That's not the whole team over there, either, since it's missing the dog, the robot, and the elementary school kid. Truths are learned, personal difficulties are faced and overcome by each team member, etc., etc.

The dungeon crawling/leveling up aspects are the least interesting part for me, which is a little frustrating because they're also the most time consuming. The fun part was deciding how to spend the day. Would I hang out with a friend, or go buy some better equipment for my teammates? You can increase your Academics, Charm, and Courage over the course of the game with different decisions. Sometimes it's as simple as staying awake in class (Academic boost), other times it requires going somewhere and spending money, but you can find cash in Tartarus, so it pays (literally) to go there. Increasing those areas will open up certain S.Links to you. The wealth of choices you usually have makes the limited periods where the story is on rails really annoying, though.

That's one thing I really like about the Social Link part. Most of the Links are in turn, connected to others. Join an Athletic team and make a friend, but given enough time, you can also befriend the team manager, Yuko. Progress that friendship far enough, and she tells you a rumor she heard about a monk that hangs out in a nightclub. Who you can also befriend. The more people you hang out with, the wider your connections spread. None of it is essential to win the game, but in my mind during the game, the S. Links emphasize who the character is fighting to protect. Since it isn't essential, you can focus on whichever ones you find most interesting. I've completed all the S. Links at least once (the completist in me), but there are certain ones I have no interest in dealing with again. It's become almost like a puzzle game for me. Trying to figure out the best way to spend time with everyone I want to, so that nobody winds up feeling neglected.

The combat is fairly straightforward, though it benefits from a really excellent soundtrack. I don't mind some of the repetitive battling against cannon fodder because I enjoy the music. The combat system is a little different from other RPGs I've played because I don't have absolute control over all the characters in my party. I can issue basic commands, like telling them to attempt to knock enemies down, or focus on healing, but I can't tell them to use a specific spell or attack. It added a certain level of unpredictability to the battles, and I found myself spending more time healing teammates.

In most RPGs, I tell the other characters to do the healing, and my character spends most of his time attacking, and it works because I can be sure that a character I tell cast healing will do it, and on the character I specified. With Persona 3, even if I set someone to "Heal/Support", there's no guarantee they'll cast a healing spell, and they may not cast it on the character I'd prefer. So it was best to be sure the job was done right. Besides, I like the other members of SEES, I didn't want them getting knocked unconscious.

If you were going to ask me if I'd recommend it, I'd say yes. I don't know if the hypothetical you likes RPGs, but I can tell you I really love the game. Enough to play it through 6 times. I already mentioned I like the music, I also love the voice work, especially for Junpei, though he benefits from being a class clown type, so he uses many exaggerated voices throughout the game. The controls are pretty easy, and when roaming Tartarus, the game enables you to see potential enemies, so you can avoid or attack them as you see fit, which is always a plus. One of the persistent annoyances for me with Skies of Arcadia and Dragon Quest 8 was that you couldn't avoid those sorts of random battles. You run for three seconds, boom!, you're attacked by randomly spawning enemies you can't see. Not a problem with Persona 3.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Alex and Mine's Reactions To The Latter Half Of Burn Notice Season 3

During one of my visits to Alex last month, I brought Burn Notice Season 3 along. We'd watched my copy of Season 1 previously, and he owned Season 2, so why not get him as caught up as I could?

My favorite episode of the season is still the one where Michael plays the mysterious guy who pressures Omar, King of the Barrio, into finding the child predator, Rincon. With the snappy outfits, and the various tricks to make himself appear supernatural, it's a style that really appeals to me.

Alex liked that episode too, but preferred the later episode where Dead Larry returns, having used Michael's name while ripping off a cartel. I think he enjoyed seeing Michael actually experience some fallout from taking his friends for granted.

I'd enjoy that episode more if I felt like it truly produced a change in Michael. He does apologize, but in subsequent episodes, he reverts back to not keeping them in the loop, or simply not trusting them to help. Some of it's a desire to protect them, but it feels a lot like trust issues, which is kind of ridiculous considering how often they stick their necks out for him.

One thing Alex and I agreed on was that neither of us was fond of Simon. Alex simply described the guy as "a dick", but for me it's that he's too obviously nuts. Gilroy was also off-kilter, but he had a style I prefer in villains. Simon's too much the modern day Joker. Crazy, likes killing people, doesn't really care about anything except his rep as a killer. It makes him harder to counter because you can't use money or threats against him or loved ones, so I guess that can be interesting. I prefer villains who enjoy their work, but aren't entirely consumed by it. Gilroy and Dead Larry do what they do for money. They both enjoy their work, but also enjoy the perks it brings them. Or Arcade, certainly he enjoys killing, but doing it with style is even more important. And so's the money, or he'd simply abduct random people off the street and throw them into Murderworld, rather than taking on contracts.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Posting From The Local Library

I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs over the weekend. There wasn't really anything else on (besides the Cheyenne Social Club), and I figured it would at least be good for some laughs. Which it was so mission accomplished.

The two parts that stuck with me were the bit where Flint's created a beautiful (if creepy) place within a giant jello mold, and we learn that the weather girl is kind of blind, and has seen Flint as this square-jawed action hero type. I didn't get a good look at her blurry misconception, but I wonder if it was based on Bruce Campbell, since he's a voice actor in the film. I like that we'd been given no idea that was the case until she put her glasses on.

The other part was near the climax, as the heroes are surrounded by what appeared to be baked chickens. The moment where Flint and Co. look up and see the chickens crawling along the ceiling behind them was very creepy. Like something out of a Silent Hill game, which was not at all what I was expecting from the film. Giant headless, cooked chickens, out to eat people.

Monday, May 16, 2011

This Spun Off From Vocabulary To Villain Weaponry

It's kind of cool the words that will pop into your head while watching something. Sometimes the word makes perfect sense, sometimes it doesn't. The Cheyenne Social Club* was on again over the weekend, and considering the dresses some of the ladies wore, I'm not really surprised the word "decolletage" leapt to the front of my mind. Which is nice, it's a nifty word, rolls off the tongue well. Then I wound up arguing with myself about whether it's a word that can be used in casual conversation without offending someone. I guess if I was discussing a lady's outfit with a designer, perhaps. Directly complimenting a woman on the low-cut neckline of her dress seems like to get me slapped, unless I'm considerably smoother than I think I am.

At least that one made sense. I'm still not sure why the term "vagus nerve" came to mind while I was playing Persona 3 last week. Nobody mentions it in the game that I can recollect. For a minute I wasn't even sure it was a real term. Maybe it was something I made up, maybe it was a made up comic book term. No, it refers to the nerves that, among other things, regulate your heart rate.

Actually, thinking about it as a possible cmic term had me in the mind of it being the Vegas nerve. Something like, "Not even Captain America can resist the Vegas Nerve!" Though that would probably be the Las Vegas Nerve, a weapon that sends impulese to your brain consistent with gambling, liquor, and casinos. Cap might be a bad target for that. If you're going to stop a superhero with blackjack, women, and shiny things, you're better off taking on Tony Stark. Or Hal Jordan. Maybe Volstagg if it can simulate all-you-can-eat buffets in there.

* I really enjoy Henry Fonda's character in that movie. He's generally a good friend, but also a bit of an opportunist. Only a little bit, he's too unmotivated to really try and take advantage of a situation. Plus, his tendency to be a motormouth, and complain about what he perceives as Jimmy Stewart's deficiencies. He's like a less crotchety version of Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo, but more goofy for that. Actually, he's a little like how Volstagg was portrayed pre-Simonson, the guy who acts as though he had everything under control, after the shooting has stopped.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Looking Back At A Resurrection

Do you think the Spider-Man writers bringing Harry Osborn back from the dead has worked out? Or, bringing him back from a near-death experience that sent him to Europe to detox, I guess.

I was looking back over an old post where I (inaccurately) predicted Harry's return, originally because I figured I should perhaps update it to reflect how things actually turned out. Except I already did that sometime in the past.

Reading over my extremely bitter post, I started wondering if Harry's return has been worthwhile. I'm still a fan of the arc DeMatteis sent him through leading up to his apparent death in Spectacular Spider-Man #200, and I wonder about undoing it. At the same time, I'm glad that Slott and the rest gave Peter Parker a supporting cast again (something JMS didn't much bother with), and Harry's a part of that. They didn't have to bring Harry back for that, though. Peter has plenty of old acquaintances who weren't considered dead to use (some of which they did dust off), and there's always creating new supporting characters (which they also did, to mixed fan response).

I haven't bought many Spider-Man comics the last 3+ years. 20, to be exact, and Harry hasn't played much of a role in most of those. The biggest role was chiding Pete for becoming a paparazzi in the Slott/Marcos Martin Paper Doll atory. So I can't really speak much to how he's been used. The impression I have is he's still struggling to get out from under Norman's shadow and establish himself. The difference is, it's harder with Norman alive, running superhero teams, being a superhero himself, fathering a kid with Harry's (ex?)girlfriend, and generally throwing his weight around and withholding his approval. I would have thought it'd be worse for Harry when Norman was dead, if only because it's hard to argue with a ghost or a memory, since those won't change, but I obviously underestimated how bad of a father Norman is. Still, it feels like the same old song Harry tried to deal with for years.

Maybe it's been more than that. I have this vague sense Harry actually successfully stood up to Norman at some point, though I could argue he did that when he chose to save Pete's life at the end of Spectacular 200. The last few pages of that issue always get me, but the impact's blunted a little since I know Harry didn't actually die, and Pete, MJ, and Normie are more torn up than they need to be. I figured I'd ask for your thoughts, since I'm guessing someone in the audience has read more Spider-Man the last few years than I.

Also, I plan to get a post up early tomorrow, because I'll be in a different location for a few months, and while they've promised to get the internet running as soon as they can, that still might take a few days. Hopefully not, but if the blog goes silent for awhile, you'll know why.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not Good Employee Benefits

I was rereading some R.E.B.E.L.S. issues from earlier this year and I hit the point where Starro's making his Big Gloating Speech to Vril Dox. Starro tells of how Dox paralyzed the Starro this conqueror wears on his chest, which freed all of Starro's minions, and there went Starro's army. Except for Smite and Stormdaughter, who saved him from execution at Despero's hands because they were never controlled by Starro. They served him willingly.

What occurred to me was Starro wasn't smart enough to see the importance of that. He notes it was a remarkable realization for them, but it doesn't seem to have taught him anything. He didn't care that Storm-daughter might be pushing her luck trying the same trick on Lobo twice. Didn't care that the trick didn't work a second time and she was killed. When Smite made the suggestion that they use to Lobo Clone Army to stop Lobo, Starro called him a coward and insisted the clones were too valuable to waste. Which lead to Smite breaking ties with Starro, going off to fight Lobo himself, but then switching allegiances.

It's a typical villain mistake, to take things like loyalty for granted, but you'd think Starro might have learned something from his earlier defeat. There are ways to incapacitate his little starfish, and if they're the only thing keeping his army together, then he can lose it in the blink of an eye. Having people who follow him willingly, even after a crushing defeat, is a pretty rare thing. Too bad he values an army of clones that he can't control (or even simply unleash like a one-time natural disaster) more.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm Typing Cheese An Awful Lot Without Discussing Food

Theoretically, yesterday's post will come back up eventually. If not, I'll just have to retype it. Little annoying, but it's not as though it was the next Great Swiss Novel. No, I'm not Swiss, but I think that'll work in my favor. No one will expect an American to write a great Swiss novel.

In other news, I showed Alex Batgirl #18 (the Valentine's Day team-up with Klarion) while I was visiting. I don't think it wowed him, except for the part at the end. Now he's on the lookout for the perfect moment to exclaim "My word! A wandering pack of harlots!" This seems like a questionable idea, but he does have a way with people, so he can probably deliver it in such a way he won't get punched. It's unlikely I'll be around at the time to follow up with 'Cheese it, buckles.' Just as well. Alex doesn't wear buckles much, and it might only amuse me anyway.

I'm still partial to that phrase myself. The problem is Steph used it differently than I typically think of it. Yes, I think about the meaning of the phrase "Cheese it", what of it? She's using it like "Cool it", or "Relax". I tend to think of it as "Run away!" That's how Bender used it in that Futurama Animal House takeoff episode. Dang it, I'm getting conflicting signals from my entertainment options.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Early Morning TV Comes Through Again

Speed was running on some channel this morning. I've never seen it, so I watched for about 10 minutes. Saw Keanu try to board the bus, fail, commandeer/hijack a car, damage said car, then finally get on the bus. At which point I decided I had stuff to do.

Seeing that bit of it reminded me of those Slappy Squirrel shorts that used to run on Animaniacs. Specifically the one where she tries to take a vacation and gets caught in every recent (at the time) action flick. Besides being unable to take her seat on the plane (because Wesley Snipes is Passenger 57, damn it), and being waylaid by the latest Die Hard* (which gave her the chance to make fun of Bruce Willis' receding hairline), it also involved a ride on a bus.

Based on that, I figured the movie was basically, 'You must drive fast. Very fast. Over 50 fast. Say, you're kind of cute.' Then they crash into an airplane. At least she didn't miss her flight.

I hadn't thought of that cartoon in a while, so I guess I owe Speed some thanks for reminding me, and for serving as fodder for it.

* Kee-yi-yo-yippie-yo-ki-yi-yay!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hi Detective Nick!

I can't remember if anyone's said that to Nick Gage yet in Batgirl. I guess he'd need to say 'Hi everybody!' first, and that's a little too exuberant for St. Nick.

I've been trying to piece Gage's history together a little. Last month he told Steph he used to be a Reaper. We know he transferred to Gotham from Coast City (opting for more psychotic murders, but less chance of being crashed into headfirst by Hal Jordan). If his insight into Clayface's actions in issue 13 was any indication, he had a wife at some point (or at least a significant romantic interest) who isn't with him any longer.

There's a new issue coming out today, and it may render all speculation moot, but what the hey.

Most of the Reapers Stephanie's dealt with appear to be college kids, which could suggest that's when Gage was recruited. Get him when they're young and stupid, and if they have any skill, they'll stick around. It make me wonder if he became a cop because of whatever lead to his no longer being a Reaper, or if it was at their behest. Shadowy organizations always like to have some piece of law enforcement in their pocket. But the relationship went sour, and Gage started taking the job seriously

There's whoever he lost, and I wonder whether he met her before he joined the Reapers, or while he was with them. Maybe being a Reaper provided him with opportunities that enabled him to meet that person. Did the Reapers decide she was a distraction, or did she find out what he was involved with? The most likely end result is she was killed, and certainly the Reapers haven't been shy about killing people in their way. Still, I think it'd be more interesting if she's alive. Nick knows something about the Reapers and how the operate, or he at least knows some of the people in the same chapter (if we figure it's a wide-reaching group that doesn't work in just one location). He could use the threat of revealing that to perhaps make them leave her alone, while he works on trying to gather more concrete evidence to bring the whole thing down.

As it is, she's still disappointed he was a willing member of the Reapers in the first place, so they're no longer together. Maybe she still cares for him (and he does seem to miss her, flirting with Steph and Babara aside), but doesn't think they're right at the moment. He's focused on trying to get the Reapers, wherever they might pop up, she has her own life, and so they part until the point when it works for them to get back together. She encourages him to go off and continue this quest of his and he does so because he knows he needs to, but he still misses her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maybe It's A Sign of A Bibliophile?

Can you read in your dreams?

When I was a kid, I watched an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called Perchance to Dream. In it, Bruce wakes up and his world is perfect. He's married to Selina Kyle, he's not Batman, and his parents are alive! Naturally, there are some things that don't seem quite right, and the one that keeps bugging him is he can't read anything. Road signs, books, sky-writing, everything is gibberish, and this eventually leads him to the conclusion that he's in a dream. As opposed to him just being crazy. Turns out the Mad Hatter hooked him up to the technological equivalent of the Black Mercy plant. Poor Jervis, he couldn't understand why Bats wouldn't stick with his happiest fantasy. Maybe Hatter should have just hooked himself up to it. Or would it not have worked because he'll know he did that?

I think for a long time I took it as fact you can't read in dreams. Batman said so, and animated series Bats was a smart guy (It's so weird to realize I do like Batman at times other than when he's having a bad day. Or when he's Jean Paul-Valley). He was always using some obscure bit of geologic or botany knowledge or theater lore that he'd gone to the trouble to learn*. Somewhere along the line I actually had some dreams that involved reading that I remembered (I had one last night, not that there was a lot, but it was there and it was legible), so that confused me. Was Batman wrong? Or were those not actually dreams? I wonder about that sometimes. I know lucid dreams are dreams, but it seems strange that I'm aware enough to interact with the dream, but I'm still asleep.

I thought I'd ask my audience. A little informal poll.

* Or he'd hooked up his computer to relevant databases. Unless he compiled all the information in those databases, which would be pretty impressive.

Monday, May 09, 2011

One More John Wayne Movie

I should have mentioned earlier that I'm reentering one of those phases where I won't be reviewing comics weekly. Hopefully I can manage every other week, if Jack and I can stay on the same page.

I was at my dad's over the weekend, and the dogs mostly behaved as they do when he and I are both there, though Hooch was less protective of him around me than usual. Unfortunately, he was much more agitated when we'd bring Eddie or Joey out for their walks, which is strange. Charlie I'm used to behaving like that, Hooch not so much.

My dad and I watched the Sea Chase last night, with John Wayne and Lana Turner. I think I'm burned out on John Wayne for awhile. Wayne's second-in-command kills these three stranded fishermen at a relief station that Captain Ehrlich visits for supplies at (he's not supposed to do that, but as the captain of a German freighter at the start of WW2, he wasn't supposed to leave Sydney's harbor, either). The exo wasn't supposed to do that, especially since the fishermen didn't even have a functioning wireless radio, but he's a good Nazi (meaning scumbag) so there you are.

The Royal Navy gets there eventually, finds the dead men, and it's an international incident, the Brits screaming bloody murder, the Germans claiming it's all propaganda, and Ehrlich hasn't a clue for some time (until the reports hit the airwaves). I'm disappointed Commander Napier turned on him so quickly. He's a member of the Royal Navy, but they seem to be old friends. Yet he never considers the possibility his friend didn't do it. Maybe the fishermen were already dead, maybe his crew did it without his knowledge. One ought to have more trust in their friends.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

I Guess There's Always Something That Bugs Me

Alex and I wound up watching a few John Wayne westerns while I was visiting, sort of. We started watching The Searchers, but he had to Skype with someone, so he only saw the first 30 minutes. Which is why when he asked me what happened I told him bears ate everyone. If he can't be arsed to awtch, then I can't be arsed to tell him the real ending. We did watch Fort Apache, but we were also playing chess, and Alex was chatting with friends online, and texting with another friend on his phone. Which explains why I kicked his ass so easily (I'm not remotely good, but neither is he. A true chess master would weep watching us play). He wasn't interested in The Cowboys, so I watched that while he was at work. I wasn't that interested either, but my dad wanted to tell me something about it, but didn't want to spoil it*.

I did end up having problems with all three movies. with The Searchers, I didn't like that Ethan, having spent the whole movie proclaiming that his niece is no longer his kin because she was abducted by Native Americans, and seeming set on killing her, is the one who gets to carry her back to the closest thing she has left to family. Marty spent the whole movie insisting he was going to save her, wouldn't let Ethan kill her, risked his neck sneaking into the camp to rescue her, killed Scar, nearly lost the girl he loved, I really think that should have been his right. Yeah, ethan needed something to show he's not a complete misanthropic ass, and he's still isolated from everyone around him, but it still bugged me. I'm normally a fan of redemption stories, but I didn't feel like there had been the proper set-up for the character turn. He'd been gradually softening towards Marty (a little), but I hadn't seen any sign he'd changed his mind as to whether Debbie was worth saving.

With Fort Apache, I couldn't understand Captain York adopting mannerisms of the late Colonel Thursday. Sure, Thursday didn't abandon his men, he rode back to their position and died with them. But they only died because of his foolishness. He wouldn't show Cochise proper respect, which lead to fighting, then he wouldn't listen to York's advice on what wasw a poor tactical choice (trying to fight guerilla fighters with European war style tactics). I didn't understand why they'd glorified the whole thing until Dad pointed out to me if Thursday's arrogance, bullheadedness, and stupidity were pointed out, it would reflect poorly on the Army as a whole, and emphasize how meaningless the deaths of his men were. This way they are glorified as brave men who did their duty best they can (which they were), rather than brave guys who died because their commander was an idiot. I still don't see any reason to start wearing a hat like Thursday, or using his 'Any questions?' conversation ender.

The Cowboys isn't nearly as good a movie as the other two, but that climactic gun battle where the boys kill Bruce Dern's gang of scum was troubling. Dern's crew were bad guys, no doubt, and in Westerns, bad guys tend to wind up dead. So if the kids didn't do it, someone else would have had to, but they might not have arrived in time to stop Dern from profiting from all the cattle they'd stolen. Still, with the boys doing it, it's like a kids game where someone switched their cap pistols with real ones. It's a rite of passage I guess, but it's spooky to see a bunch of kids cheerfully gunning down a bunch of people.

* He wanted to tell me that Bruce Dern says that movie was the worst career move he ever made because after you kill John Wayne in a film, you get typecast as a villain.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

They Tie Back Together At The End

The last of the posts I had ready to go. So I'll have to type something up tomorrow. Today, a few random things.

Watched Rio Bravo with Alex last night. Not sure how much he liked it. I knw he enjoyed it somen, but I don't think it worked for him as much as Sergio Leone Westerns do. He does have a greater appreciation for Dean Martin's singing voice than I do, though.

They set off those warning sirens this morning, I guess for the monthly test since nothing was happening at the time. Most of the towns I've been in, they run them for a minute, maybe less. Just enough to make sure they work. Here, they let it go for three or four minutes, which started to get irritating after awhile since I was talking a walk at the time. The amount of testing seemed wholly unnecessary, so I think it was just someone being a bit of a jerk. They can mess with everyone's day, and all they have to do is let the damn Armageddon horn keep going. It's probably the only bit of power they have, and like Nathan Burdette said, every man should have a taste of power before the end.

Friday, May 06, 2011

There'd Be A Load Limit For Speedsters

A little early in the morning by my standards, but what the hey.

I've been thinking about these last two issues of Batgirl, with Slipstream and the plan to heist all the money at once. How was Slipstream going to carry it? As far as I can tell, the suit made him super-fast, not super-strong. He could only carry so much at one time, so he'd have to make multiple trips if he was going after it all. If he wasn't after it all, why bother to break into the banks and spray the bills with a traceable compound, rather than grabbing it while he was there?

Sure he's fast, but in the time it would take him to grab some cash, haul it out of the tunnels to a safe location, then return for more, the trucks would be getting ever closer to the other side, where there are presumably multiple roads they could fan out on. Perhaps he could disable the trucks, maybe by lifting them off their tires with his wake, but then they can defend that location. Fast as he is, he can't get too evasive or his reaction time will leave him wall pizza. Throw enough bullets at him and one's likely to find its mark. Will a frictionless suit stop a bullet from penetrating? What's the screen over his face made of? It might not be bullet-resistant at all.

I don't think the whole thing was just a hoax. The mysterious leader of the Reapers said Slipstream being in jail was part of the plan, but sounded like they did want that cash. So the robbery wasn't supposed to fail, though Slipstream was supposed to be caught somehow. Probably he'd deposit the cash, then they'd hit him with the kill switch and leave him trapped for the cops.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Who Determines The View Inside Rogue's Mind?

Originally typed Sunday, but posting today.

Rogue used to (and may still) have traces or imprints of all the people she's ever absorbed memories or abilities of. There have been at least a couple of stories where she's inside her own mind, trying to fight them off because they're just a little unhappy with the situation.

Here's what I was wondering. Do those imprints appearances change over time? If it's someone Rogue has frequent contact with over the years, and they change how they look or act in the real world, does that carry over to Rogue's mind? I was thinking of this in terms of how Rogue perceives them, whether her will determines is able to alter how they look, or whether they retain enough of their individual selves to maintain the look they choose.

I'm going to guess that even when Rogue's at her strongest, they look how they choose, which is how they remember themselves. Though it'd be interesting if that wasn't uniform, if only imprints of people with strong wills, did that. So, the bit of Captain America she picked up always looks like Cap, but Joe Schmoe, random Genoshan Magistrate will shift how he looks on the mindscape according to Rogue's thoughts. If she perceives him as a monster, he looks it. If she sees him as a weak, pathetic figure, that's how he appears.

I was initially thinking of this in terms of people Rogue knows and talks to (or fights with) over the years, but it could also apply to people Rogue's absorbed powers from more than once. If she drew from Wolverine once in the '80s, when he had the brown costume, then again during the Morrison leather uniform years, would the Logan in her mind change? Or would there be two, since the later Wolverine has new experiences and memories, and isn't the same as the earlier one.

It reminds me of Ultron Unlimited, when Ultron's captured some of the Avengers and is taking recording of their engrams. He notices Vision's new patterns are different than the older ones. The answer being Vision has grown and learned new things since then, so he's not the same, and a robot given those engrams presumably wouldn't behave the same as one uploaded with the earlier file.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Purely For Insult Research

It wasn't my plan to go five days without posting. I'm at Alex', but since I brought my computer I figured I could keep banging out posts. Then Alex couldn't remember the password so I could connect to his network. He'd saved it on his phone, but he goes through phones like I go through tissues during allergy season, and it's rare that everything on the busted phone can be transferred to the new one. Alex' laptop has some sort of bug where I could type a post, save it, but couldn't publish it. The downside is, no posts the last five days. The upside is, I kept trying, so I have three more days' worth of posts ready to go. I know you probably didn't care, but I strive for daily content here, and failing that, to at least let you know ahead of time when there won't be.

OK, explanation finished. Moving on.

What would you say is the typical alcoholic beverage of elderly southern ladies who belong to a garden club?

I ask because there was a little festival down here recently, and the garden club hands out awads for best presentation or whatever. Every year the same people win (this also happens at Christmas) regardless of how much or how little effort someone made. I'm not actually much of a decorator, but the cool kids only aspect of the awards irks me. So I derisively described them as a bunch of old biddys sitting around playing canasta, smoking cigarettes and drinking Tom Collins, but I have no idea if they'd actually drink a Tom Collins (I know doodley-squat about alcohol).

Mint juleps seems too obvious, plus I'm not sure we're far enough south. Maybe it would just be gin?