Thursday, October 18, 2012

Movie Review: Looper

Directed by Rian Johnson

If you've ever seen an espionage thriller or a mafia flick, you've probably heard phrases like, "make him disappear," though the real life horror of falling prey to the mob likely feels less gentle than simply vanishing. In Looper's not-too-distant future, when the mob says they're going to make you disappear, they really mean it.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper, and a looper is a very particular kind of assassin. Joe, and others like him, wait for bound victims to be sent to them from the future. As soon as they appear, the loopers kill them and dispose of the bodies. Even if the authorities should find any of the bodies or swipe some of their DNA, they'll be looking for someone who probably doesn't even exist yet.

Each looper comes with an expiration date. A looper goes into his job knowing that one day the victim sent from the future will be his own aged, future self; and he won't even know it until after the body hits the ground. He retires with a king's ransom and 30 years to spend it before the demons knock on his door.

The worst thing any looper could do is let his future self ecape or, as the loopers put it, "fail to close the loop." And that's exactly what happens to Joe when Old Joe (Bruce Willis) appears on the edge of the same cane field where Joe snuffs out all of his victims. Once Old Joe escapes, both he and the younger Joe are on the run from Abe (Jeff Daniels): a criminal sent from the future to organize the loopers. Meanwhile, Joe is hunting his future self in order to make things right with Abe and recapture his promised 30 years, while Old Joe tracks down a child who will one day become The Rainmaker - the future's most ruthless criminal - so he can kill him and reclaim the life with the wife (Qing Xu) who turned him away from crime and drugs.

What surprised me the most about Looper was how thoroughly director Rian Johnson went against audience expectation, and how refreshing it made the film. I expected the dancer/call-girl Suzie (Piper Perabo) to play the classic hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold whose impersonal charms would eventually reveal themselves to be a professional ruse hiding True Love; I expected Joe and Old Joe - like two dueling Marvel super-heroes - to knock heads at first but eventually join forces and work together toward a common goal; and more than anything I expected a Shyamalan-esque surprise ending involving the relationship between Joe, Old Joe, Old Joe's young target Sid (Pierce Gagnon) and hell maybe even Abe. In fact, while I was sold on buying tickets for Looper as soon as I heard the talent involved and the premise, the TV spots for the film made it come off as a slightly altered Inception, and again I was relieved that wasn't the case.

Johnson uses time travel as well or better as I've seen the concept wielded in any film. He makes it complex enough to remain interesting, but simple enough to remain accessible. Other than how Old Joe's memories are changing because of his trip to the past, Johnson gives us very little exposition about the mechanics of time travel and just lets us figure out the results ourselves. When Joe's friend Seth (Paul Dano) lets his own future self (Frank Brennan) go free, Abe's goons capture Seth and use torture to send messages to Old Seth. In a brilliantly grisly scene, scars appear on Old Seth's arms in the forms of written messages, and as Old Seth races to save his younger self, he comes apart at he seams.

All of the actors bring their A-games to Looper. The chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Willis is perfect, and Willis has never played a more tragic character. His performance in Twelve Monkeys is one of my favorite of his; one of the reasons I was thrilled to see him back in another time-travel flick. While Jeff Daniels's part is relatively small, he renders Abe funny, chilling, and utterly memorable. Emily Blunt wonderfully inhabits the role of mother and reformed drug-addict Sara.

But the biggest acting surprise of Looper is the young Pierce Gagnon. Child actors just aren't supposed to be this damn good. Gagnon is creepy, touching, cute, and just so freaking impressive as Sid. So much of our appreciation of the film depends on whether or not we care about Sid, and it's impossible to not believe Gagnon's performance. I won't be surprised if we see an older Pierce Gagnon holding tiny little golden statues one day.

Looper is a thrilling, intriguing, and genuinely moving sci-fi action film. It finds an easy home in the ranks of films like Bladerunner and The Matrix representing the very best of science-fiction on the screen. I certainly never thought the director who brought us an impressive but thoroughly indie flick like Brick would offer up something quite like Looper to the table. It makes me thrilled to see what he'll do next. Meanwhile that goofy little kid from Third Rock from the Sun is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A rambling, melodramatic, largely unedited, possibly adolescent (yet sincere) rant you should read if you are a friend

There are people in my life - people I care about, and people who care about me - who find me disgusting. This knowledge brings me strength.

I had a quiet, powerful moment the other morning. I drove into my work's parking lot, parked, cut the engine, and thought, I don't like the way I look. And I don't feel good. I should lose weight.

Just like that. I don't think I usually think like that; in Stephen-Kingy italicized sentences. I don't know that my thoughts usually form actual words. But this time they did.

I don't like the way I look. And I don't feel good. I should lose weight.

I weigh close to 360 pounds. I'm 38 years old. I have been fat for as long as I can remember; which is to say that for as long as I remember, I remember myself fat. Pictures reveal otherwise. It is kind of a dark miracle, and really if I manage to remove my emotions from the situation, it is almost life-affirming. I spent a long time thinking I was fat; and not just fat, but huge. I thought it so long, I made it true. Imagine if I had thought something else.

This is what I thought the other morning:

I don't like the way I look. And I don't feel good. I should lose weight.

And what was powerful about it was that for the first time in my life, I attached no judgment to those three simple truths. I did not think less of myself because of the way I look, because of the way I felt, or because I should lose weight. I simply acknowledged the truth of all three things.

The reason it was a first for me is simple. Therapy and drugs. I was recently prescribed an antidepressant, and one of the results is that a whole chorus of voices I never even knew were there have been bound, gagged, bagged, and tossed into the river. Not real voices, but just thoughts. Doubts, hang-ups, self-defeating debris. Whoever Trent Reznor was screaming about in "Mr. Self-Destruct" has been locked away. For the first time, I have just the barest inkling of what it would be like to be Bruce Banner in one of his precious calm moments, when he prays it doesn't happen again and he can just stay himself for a while.

I cannot and will not at any point in this (rant/confessional/essay/whatever) presume to be Ambassador of Fatdom. I can only say what is true for me. But it is tough to imagine that there aren't a lot of people out there who will be able to relate.

I am sure you have seen many films or tv shows, or even read books, about some poor fat kid who weathers a hurricane of insults and used that anger to turn himself around. He lost his weight and got the girl and wasn't everybody so impressed by him? And so yeah all those guys who beat him up and made fun of him were mean, but in the end, they kind of helped didn't they? He turned a lemon into lemonade! If you believe the wisdom of your favorite sitcoms offer valid life lessons, then I'm sorry someone is clearly forcing you to read something with way more syllables than you're used to.

One thing that is true for me, and which I imagine is true for most people struggling with their weight, is that negative reinforcement does not work. Never. No zit-pocked jock in my Christian/military high school ever helped me by calling me any number of embarrassing names I could list to you without blinking. No teacher or coach ever did anything with their snide remarks but keep the shit shoveling into my mouth that much faster.

Imagine, for example, exercise when you're 360 pounds. What must you look like? What must the people around you think of you?

I experienced this every day. I walk on a track on the ground floor of my office building every week day during lunch. The imagined thoughts of other walkers and onlookers usually crowd my head. Are they laughing at me? Do they think I'm gross? Are they thinking "Pfft, it's about time"? Are they thinking "Oh God, why can't those people just do it at home"? When I pass a group of walkers are they laughing about how I look from  behind? Do they think I only passed them because I'm trying too hard? Do they think I'm only walking this fast to impress them? Do those women think I'm trying to impress them?

I once suffered chest pains from acid reflux. But at the time I didn't know it was reflux, so I was given a stress test. While I jogged on a treadmill, I saw the doctor motion angrily at the nurse to leave the room. The nurse had been giggling while watching me jogging. Unfortunately, there's no hell. But hopefully, somewhere between then and now, someone punched her.

The day I experienced my powerful moment in the parking lot, my lunch walk brought no worries or concerns about the people around me. Just my music, my footfalls, and my breathing. The phantom thoughts of everyone else finally became just phantoms. I felt like I'd been sitting in front of a giant wind turbine that was finally switched off. I felt like Noriega must have when they finally hit pause on the Def Leppard. I wiped my face once with my sleeve and brought away water that wasn't just sweat.

I worked at a local NPR affiliate for over seven years. I was laid off last August. One of my least favorite parts of the job were the shows about nutrition; the call-in shows in particular. There are many self-righteous nutritional shows on NPR, and when we hosted call-in shows it was an invitation for every asshole in 7 states with a co-op membership and an energy efficient car to call in and drone about how healthy they were and, more importantly, how unhealthy everyone else was. The president of the station, who hosted most of these shows, was (and probably still is) notoriously self-righteous and insulting on the subject. He regularly called fat people "fatties." It was related to me that he was very impressed with me during a period when I successfully lost 80 pounds.

There were a lot of reasons for my lay-off. It was part of a larger series of cuts. At least one person in every department was laid off. But there isn't a silver tongue in the universe that will ever convince me that the fact that I eventually gained some of my weight back didn't have something to do with the fact that I was the only one chosen for the cut in my department.

Today, a friend (and he is a friend, and I certainly hope he remains so after this) posted  a link to a story about an increase in obesity across the country. Accompanying the link, he posted the following:

"I try not to get up on a soapbox on Facebook, but stories like this really get me agitated. At the rate we're going, in twenty years' time over half the population of America will be obese. Note the end of the first sentence of this article: "not merely overweight, but obese." In a healthy population, obesity should effect less than 10% of the total population. What the hell is going on?? Can you imagine the outrage if someone predicted that over half of Americans would be living below the poverty level by 2030? Or, better still if 50% of us were going to be homeless in 20 years. What if 50% of us would have cancer? Why are we all so complacent about a PREVENTABLE condition? This is to the point where we can't blame genetics anymore and America needs to get it's act together. We are killing ourselves."

Many comments followed, and at first most of them agreed with my friend. Of course, there's a lot to agree with. Obesity leads to bad stuff. It should be prevented.

But what followed - what my friend couldn't see, and as far as I can tell what my friend still doesn't see - was a series of smug, self-righteous rants designed to make the writers feel superior. They talked about how healthy they were. They talked about how healthy other people aren't. They talked about how big a problem it is, and asked why we couldn't just be more responsible. A few people talked about how the problem was that we're all too politically correct and fat people are coddled. The first time someone mentioned a factor that wasn't attached to personal responsibility - the fact that healthy food is much more expensive than unhealthy food, and that some people struggle just to feed themselves and their families any food and can't exactly afford to worry about whether or not its healthy,organic, locally grown super food that beats the shit out of any high fructose corn syrup it sees - it was brushed aside. No, no. That's not the problem. No one in the world knows the terrible, but rewarding burden of Personal Responsibility except for the respondents of this Facebook thread; this shining beacon of We-Do-Shit-We're-A'supposed-To-Do.

And then I said something.

I won't reproduce my words or the response. My friend responded. I don't think he agreed with my assessment of things, but at the same time he seemed genuinely concerned about my impression. There was one guy for whom just about every word that ends with "bag" would prove an accurate description. But that's okay. He'll be dead one day.

What was important isn't my response, but that I responded at all.

You might think that part of the result of my negative chorus of internal bullshit getting chemically rounded up and thrown into the clink is that this kind of stuff wouldn't bother me. I would just say "Oh, well ____ is clearly passionate about this, and that's his business. I'll just stay over here and keep shoving bowling balls of melted cheese into my face."

Quite the opposite. The chorus is still gone, but my friend's post still bothered me. What's different is that I wasn't afraid to tell him so.

See, for me, the only thing more scary than what people think about my fatness is what people will think of what I think about them thinking about my fatness. My social life is littered with this stuff. Co-workers, buddies, and dear friends - I mean lifelong friends even - have no problem spouting insulting, righteous garbage about how irresponsible and lazy fat people are. I never say anything.

The other day a co-worker was talking about how her daughter was being picked on at school and how she'd tried to placate her by saying those girls would be picked on once they got out of grade school. Her friend responded, "And tell her they get FAT! FAT! They get FAT!" She said it like she just spotted one and was pointing for the Gestapo to round 'em up.

I used to frequent a message board kept up by a group of friends. A strange, unique thread was kept for people to post things anonymously as confessions. Responses were discouraged. Someone posted that they felt guilty because they found themselves judging fat people all the time. They wondered how they did things like have sex. And while they felt guilty, at the same time they felt justified.

A dear friend and I were watching TV. A young, pretty girl on a talk show was complaining about her mother, how fat she was, how she was embarrassed to bring her friends around. Her daughter rattled on, pensive and mean, while her mother sat uncomfortably on a chair too small for her and cried into her hand. "What a little bitch," I said. "Well. She's right," my friend said.

And I never say anything. I never say anything because to reveal it bothers me reveals it bothers me. So not only am I fat, but I'm sensitive too. And in a time when being Politically Incorrect is, as far as I can tell, the new Political Correctness, the last thing you want to do is let anyone know they actually bothered you with words.

(I think the phrase I hear the most from people is "It isn't easy to offend me," and it's never true. NEVER.)

And that's why I responded to my friend, and to his friends, to let them know this is not okay.

Obesity is an epidemic. I don't dispute it. But I am so tired of feeling like as second class citizen compared to the rest of you. I am trying. I try, I fail, I try again. One of these days I will get it, and I hope you will all be happy for me. But it is not your business. And when I finally do get the weight I want, it will not be for you.

One of the dumbest things anyone ever tells me is, "Well at least you're trying." This is usually when they've said something rude about another fat person, and suddenly realize that for some strange reason, it might offend me. They offer that stupid little sentence as consolation. They never consider the notion that it's none of their business whether I'm trying or not. It's no more your business what I'm doing about my weight than what you're doing to improve things about your life.

I understand it. Unfortunately, my sins are the type that you don't need curiosity to figure out. You see my sins as soon as you see my shadow. It's impossible for you to not judge. My sins grow out of every inch of me.

I wonder what yours are.

Because of my therapy and my medical Hulk-restraints, I can finally face and acknowledge a difficult truth.

There are people in my life - people I care about, and people who care about me - who find me disgusting.

And as a result of the drugs and the therapy, I guess I think that's okay. My girlfriend told me once, "what other people think of you is none of your business." It's simple, but utterly true, isn't it? It is an idea I have tried to absorb into my life. It is difficult to feel, though I am beginning to feel it now.

And here, finally, comes the point to this long, rambling rant (if there even is any point). Part of keeping what you think about me your business falls on your shoulders, right? And guess what?

I'm not going to be quiet anymore.

I am not who I was yesterday. And I've got no more passes to hand out. I love you. You are integral to my life. But tolerating your disgust for people of my body type isn't a burden I'll shoulder anymore. Your self-righteousness is no longer acceptable and I am going to goddamn TELL. YOU. SO. My Fat Ass is my problem, not yours.

Make no mistake. My heart is filled with more forgiveness and understanding than ever, and I will never cut anyone out of my life for this. I promise nothing except I can no longer give you silence.

I love you.

P.S. This is not directed at the friend who wrote the Facebook post that inspired this wandering rant. We're good, and I'm actually kind of grateful this happened. I honestly don't think his initial post bothered me as much as the horseshit in the comments that followed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I have nothing new to say about a horrible day

Three years ago I wrote something of a combination of autobiography and comic book adaptation review called "Everything I Need to Forget, I Learned from 9/11." It was a discussion of the differences between the comic book V for Vendetta and its film adaptation. It was part of an "Alan Moore Month" celebrating Moore's birthday month at the original incarnation of Trouble With Comics (the current TWC, manned mostly now by Alan Doane and Christopher Allen, can be found here).

As far as my writing is concerned, it remains the only thing I have to say about that day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Learning to Love Star Trek: The Next Generation, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

For anyone joining us late, I tweeted some smack about Star Trek: The Next Generation. Fellow blogger Alan Doane responded with a list of 21 TNG episodes he considered great. Always hungry for more to blog about, I took Alan's list as a challenge and decided to watch all the episodes and write about them. Links to the first two segments are above.

A note about SPOILERS (I put it in bold, italics, AND all caps, so you have truly been warned). These episodes are two decades old and I think most would not fault me for the spoilers to follow. I do want to warn you about them, however, because this particular crop of reviews is spoiler-heavy. And also because I don't usually accept the excuse that because something was released years ago that spoilers are okay. If it's new to me, then it's new to me. Unfortunately, the nature of these 4 episodes makes it pretty difficult to discuss what I liked or didn't like without some major spoilage. So you have been warned. Here There be Spoilers.

"Remember Me"
Season 4, Episode 5
Directed by Cliff Bole

Mere hours after the Enterprise picks him up at Starbase 133, Dr. Beverly Crusher's aging mentor Dr. Dalen Quaice disappears. Perplexed and worried for her old friend, Dr. Crusher enlists the aid of the crew to find the missing doctor, but to no avail. Not only has Quaice disappeared, but all proof of his existence seems to have been erased. The Enterprise computer holds no record of his boarding and Starbase 133 claims he was never there either. Not even Chief O'Brien remembers beaming him aboard.  As more and more members of the crew look at Crusher as if she's been sampling her own pharmaceuticals, Beverly realizes Quaice's vanishing act is the tip of the iceberg. The Enterprise's crew quickly shrinks from the thousands to the hundreds to the dozens, and no one seems to think it's particularly strange except for her.

Eventually we learn it isn't Quaice or anyone else who's disappeared, but Dr. Crusher herself. Caught in a warp field experiment gone wrong, Crusher's fears of losing the important people in her life caused her to be trapped in a sort of pocket reality; a shrinking bubble that will implode and kill Crusher unless the ship's crew - with the help of the enigmatic recurring character The Traveler - can find a way to get her out.

"Remember Me" has a really cool, Twilight Zone vibe to it that pulls you in quickly and keeps you guessing (unless you read this review, I suppose, in which case you won't have to guess too much). Dr. Crusher's confusion and frustration with the rest of a bizarrely oblivious crew is a nice departure from the show's usual tone.

While TNG episodes focusing on a specific character tend be hit-and-miss for me, I enjoyed following Dr. Crusher around. I don't think I'd really given a lot of thought to her specific mannerisms before watching "Remember Me." Two things stood out. First, Crusher never seems to question her own sanity. As turbulent and confusing as the world around her becomes, she never lets her resolve waiver. Second, "Remember Me" is the first time I ever detected any similarities between Crusher and her predecessor Bones. Of course, Beverly has no Spock to debate with (while Data might have the intellect to fill Spock's shoes, he doesn't have the arrogance). But as the crew in her pocket reality shrinks, soon the only thing Beverly has to talk to is the ship's computer, and her frustration and occasional insults couldn't help but remind me of McCoy.

While I enjoyed "Remember Me," it's one of two episodes in this segment that slips and falls in just one minor place, but in a way that I think truly does take away from the story.

The Traveler is creepy. The Traveler is meant to be an enigmatic, riddling and largely benevolent advanced being. He is meant to be something like the Phantom Stranger of DC Comics, or even Marvel's The Watcher. But he really, really, no Internet-clever-snark intended, just comes of as a space kiddy-stalker. Everything about him - his slow and sleepy speech, his cow-like stare, and the simple fact that he seems to have little interest towards anyone on the Enterprise beyond young Wesley Crusher -  makes you think his main reason for visiting the ship was because the court told him he had to tell everyone in his solar system he was a sex offender or he'd lose his parole.

But all kidding aside (and I'm hardly kidding), "Remember Me" is a suspenseful, solid episode.

"Future Imperfect"
Season 4, Episode 8
Directed by Les Landau

When Riker leads an away team to the surface of a planet in search of a secret Romulan base, he and the rest of the team are knocked out by gas. Unlike the rest of the team, Riker wakes up sixteen years later. He learns that the gas to which he was exposed causes chronic memory lapses. He doesn't remember that he's been the captain of the Enterprise for years, that Data is his first officer, that he married and had a son, or that the Federation is the middle of reaching an historic peace accord with the Romulans.

Eventually, Riker figures out the charade, or so he thinks. He believes he is on a Romulan holodeck and that the illusion was created to trick Riker into revealing the location of a secret Federation base. The illusion of this reality fades away once he confronts the Romulans he believes to be his captors, but he learns the boy who acted as his son, Ethan (though he was named Jean-Luc in the future illusion), appears to be as much of a prisoner of the Romulans as Riker.

Using his knowledge of the Romulans' base, Ethan helps Riker stage a daring escape, but eventually the boy's story proves false. Not only was the future "Captain Riker" world a ruse, but the secret Romulan base was just as much of an illusion. Ethan is in fact Barash, the apparent lone survivor of an alien species, left in the cavern of a barren world who wants nothing from Riker but connection with a real person.

The red herring of the future Captain Riker and all that came with it is the best, most fun thing about this episode. It was an impressive way for the creative team of TNG to turn viewer expectations on their head. I doubt any regular TNG viewers would be fooled very long into thinking Riker's future was a genuine one. The constant computer lag is a big hint, of course, as well as the very existence of holodecks in the show's mythology. But the fact that the Captain Riker future was an illusion trapped in an illusion was refreshing, and as always it's nice to see alternate reality versions of the crew. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, almost the complete plot of "Future Imperfect" minus the double-reveal of the illusion within the illusion, was copied for an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, with the Dominion replacing the Romulans.

But again, like "Remember Me," there is just one little thing that shouldn't take away from the rest of the episode but does. The reveal of Barash's true form at the end of the show is disappointing and just plain lame. He looks like a kind of grey alien from The X-Files or general UFO myth. Everything about his design seems to be a loud, braying broadcast from the crew that designed it, "ATTENTION, WE WEREN'T EVEN FUCKING TRYING WITH THIS ONE!" I would not say it ruins the episode, but it's just kind of jarring. You're sitting there, satisfied with an hour well spent, and then there's this ugly spud of a thing someone slapped together. It would make a kick-ass Halloween costume maybe, but on a television show, not really. You can be the geekiest geek in geektown. You could be a 55-year-old virgin with a dog named Chewie, and three cats named Legolas, Picard, and Firelord respectively. Your ring tone could be nothing but George Takei saying "Han shot first...Han shot first...," and saying it in Klingon, and you'll still be embarrassed if someone walks in on you watching the end of this episode and sees that ET reject providing the emotional climax for your past hour.

As fun as it is for me to trash the poor little guy, let me reiterate, "Future Imperfect" is a good, fun episode. As much as I may or may not be exaggerating about Barash's impact, I do think his physical reveal serves as a good example of how one little thing can throw a monkey wrench in the warp core.

Season 4, Episode 14
Directed by Les Landau

While investigating an uncharted M class planet, what appears to be a wormhole renders the entire Enterprise crew - save Data - unconscious. When they awake, Data informs them they were only knocked out for 30 seconds, though the wormhole threw them a day's worth of travel away. Data suggests sending an unmanned probe to back to the M class planet because of the danger of the wormhole. Soon, however, minor mysteries sprout up suggesting the crew was out for much longer than 30 seconds. The probe returns with images and data of a gas giant instead of the M class planet originally detected. A crop of plant samples being tended to by Dr. Crusher show an entire day's growth. People like Chief O'Brien and Worf show up in sick in bay with unexplained injuries. Counselor Troi suffers horrifying hallucinations. Eventually, Geordi proves that Data tampered with both the probe and the ship's chronometer. Data refuses to cop to the charges but won't defend himself either.

When a frustrated Picard returns to the planet, we learn that Data's deception was meant for the safety of the crew.  A xenophobic, energy-manipulating race - the Paxans - protect themselves by stopping any outside species from even learning of their existence. They simulate a wormhole-like effect which stuns any approaching ship's crew and then they transport the ship safely away in their sleep. Most crews awaken believing a wormhole sent them deeper into space, but most crews don't include self-aware androids. Immune to the Paxans' stuns, Data initially revived the crew before the Paxans could transport the ship away. Once the Paxans threatended to destroy the ship, Picard suggested that the Paxans wipe the crew's memory clean. Since Data was immune to the Paxans' abilities, Picard ordered Data to keep the knowledge of their race a secret for the rest of his days. Confronted with the Enterprise a second time, the Paxans are initially convinced they must destroy the ship. Picard convinces them to give his crew a second chance so they can get rid of the irresistible clues that lead them back to the Paxans.

"Clues" is filled with engaging "minor mysteries" (as Picard often puts it). Though I think what I enjoyed most about the episode was Data. Whatever criticisms can be laid against Star Trek: The Next Generation or any of the franchise's various incarnations, I think it's safe to say casting is one of their strong points. A Data without Brent Spiner is unimaginable, and "Clues" is a wonderful example of why. While Data does not act particularly different, he manages to seem not only deceptive, but downright menacing at times. And his little smirk at the end of the episode is priceless.

There are minor but-hey-waitasecond problems I have with the episode; the most glaring of which is why Data chooses to keep changing the ship's clock when it seems like it would be easier to just tell the crew they were out for an entire day. It is, after all, the time difference that initially gives him away. Not to mention that it seems like sooner or later they're going to run into another ship or starbase who's going to tell them, "Dude, your clock's, like, two days wrong." Then there's the question of Counselor Troi who suffers frightening visions after her body is taken over by the Paxans. I mean, they can change clocks and dust off fingerprints and tamper with probes all they want, but how can they get rid of Troi's psychic terror?

Initially, I also had a problem with Picard acquiescing not once, but twice, to the memory loss scheme and putting his crew's lives in the hands of the Paxans; a group of folks he knows very little about, and among the few things he knows is that they're assholes who knock people out just for looking at their backyard.

Now though, I don't know. After watching not only the episodes on Alan's list but quite a few others, I have an easier time imagining he would do it not only for the sake of his crew, but for his commitment to the Prime Directive (even though he manages to break that, like, always).

"The Host"
Season 4, Episode 23
Directed by Marvin V. Rush

While transporting the renowned Trill negotiator Odan to a peace negotiation, his shuttle is attacked and Odan is critically injured. Dr. Crusher, Odan's lover, learns upon examining the negotiator that his species is a symbiotic one. Their humanoid form is merely a host for parasitic beings that carry the true consciousness of the individual. The Enterprise contacts the Trill for a replacement host body, but the Trill are too far away to arrive in time. In order to buy Odan time and complete the negotiations, Commander Riker agrees to act as host for Odan. Fighting conflicting feelings of love for Odan and those of brotherly friendship for the body he inhabits, Crusher eventually gives in to love. Odan succeeds in negotiating a peace before collapsing. The Trill arrive just in time to save Odan, but to Crusher's disappointment, Odan's new host body is female. The episode ends with Crusher telling Odan she simply cannot deal with his constant changes, with a disarmingly passionate kiss (though not on the mouth).

I have to admit that when I first saw this episode, I didn't like the ending. I felt I was being preached to and I didn't like what I was being preached. I'm all for positive LGBT messages, but while most of the successful social messages we find in Star Trek episodes can find easy analogies in the real world, I couldn't see the real connection here. I felt like I was meant to be disappointed in Crusher's refusal to continue her relationship with Odan, and that didn't seem fair to me. When would this situation, or something truly comparable to it - a woman falling in love with a man who becomes another man and then becomes a woman - happen here on a true Earth? And while accepting homosexuality in others is one thing, at first I felt like I was meant to want Crusher to forcibly change herself into a homosexual at the end of "The Host," and that doesn't seem particularly fair or open-minded to me, just as I wouldn't want a gay character to feel forced to act against his or her nature.

But I've changed my mind since. Certainly, "The Host" challenges our perceptions of sexuality and gender, but I think overall it doesn't mean to do that just by asking us to rethink homosexuality and/or transsexualism; it means to challenge our notions of what the boundaries of love truly should be, if any.

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This picture represents my hopes and dreams for this evening

I just wanted folks to know that it was my plan to update the blog at least a couple times this week. Unfortunately, a nasty case of insomnia derailed my attention. I woke up feeling rested Friday morning, and that was the last day that happened.

I am taking appropriate steps to stop my life from feeling like the first 20 minutes of Fight Club and I have not forgotten Superheroes, etc. But until I can wake up and truthfully say, "I did not spend a half hour in the early morning staring at my ceiling fan and believing it was involved in some kind of clandestine test subjected upon me by a criminal mastermind," the blog will regretfully fall outside the umbrella of my top priorities.

Wish me well. Wish me sleep.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Learning to Love Star Trek: The Next Generation, Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

Shortly before I let the blog go dark, I started a project to watch and review 21 specific episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation recommended by Alan Doane. The idea came about after some twitter chatter between me, Alan, and Tim O'Neil. When Tim said he'd wanted for a while to write a Top 10 list of his favorite TNG episodes, I responded that I couldn't even think of 10 that were worth watching. Shortly afterward, Alan posted a list of 21 episodes of the series he thought were great and enjoyed "watching again and again." I took the list as a challenge. Since all the episodes are available digitally on Netflix, I vowed to watch all 21 and blog about them.

I didn't get very far and upon reflection that shouldn't be surprising. It seems usually, before I decide to fall off the face of the Internet once again, I make big promises about grand projects. Their bigness probably has something to do with my eventual choice to not finish any of them and hide in a corner for a year.

I doubt Alan, Tim, or anyone else would wag a finger if I chose to just forget about this and move on. After all, it's been nearly a year since I posted the first segment and that only covered the first four episodes. If this were Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings adaptations or The Hobbit (which, as I've been writing this, has no doubt been extended from a trilogy to 6 movies, one HBO mini-series, and some youtube shorts featuring Agent Coulson from Avengers), then a year's break would be expected, but it's kind of weird for something as relatively small in scale as my TNG reviews to have an annual rotation.

But the thing is, I notice I have these cyclical things. I mentioned, for example, how I always make big promises about big projects before I stop blogging? Well, I want to construct some new cycles, and one of them involves finishing what I started.

So here's Part 2 of my Not-Sure-How-Many-Maybe-Five-But-The-Existence-Of-Two-Part-Episodes-Makes-It-Tricky Part series, "Learning to Love Star Trek: The Next Generation."

"Yesterday's Enterprise"
Season 3, Episode 15
Directed by David Carson

Moments after the Enterprise investigates a temporal anomaly, everything changes. One second we're on the bridge with which we're familiar, watching Picard regard the view-screen thoughtfully and concernedly, consulting with Commander Worf. But before the opening credits the bridge becomes much darker, Worf disappears, and in his place stands Lt. Tasha Yar who met her end two years previous in "Skin of Evil." No one seems to notice anything's amiss except for Whoopi Goldberg's occasional character, the oracle/bartender Guinan. Whatever's gone wrong has something to do with the Enterprise Cthe ship that preceded Picard's command - which emerges from the temporal anomaly battle-scarred, barely operational, and carrying a crew from 22 years in the past. We eventually learn that in the timeline we are witnessing, the Federation is locked in a long war with the Klingons and it is a war they are close to losing. The Enterprise C has something to do with it, and Guinan - who feels in her bones the wrongness of the timeline - desperately tries to convince Picard to send the Enterprise C back through the anomaly to the past, an act which would potentially fix the timeline but almost certainly act as death sentence to the Enterprise C's crew.

Before starting this project, there was a very short list of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that truly impressed me, and "Yesterday's Enterprise" was one of them. I saw it when it originally aired and it seemed immediately unique and powerful in a way that no episode before it could have been. I'm afraid I'm not educated enough about television to say with complete authority that "Yesterday's Enterprise" was the first alternate reality episode of its type of any series, but it was definitely the first I saw and I loved it. It was copied quite a bit, not only in other Star Trek series, but all across the spectrum of television. The first example that springs to mind is Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Superstar" in which a minor, nerdy character becomes the star of show and even the opening credits of the episode were changed to reflect it. That is what immediately, viscerally impressed me about "Yesterday's Enterprise"; not just that it temporarily changed the status-quo, but that it did it, initially, without explanation. It just dropped you in the changed world and let you figure it out. Very little is left to the imaginations of impatient television audiences, and it's such a boon when a show's creators are brave enough to trust the audience will stick with them without a spoon-feeding.

There's a lot about "Yesterday's Enterprise" like that; changes that are clear and irrefutable but aren't shoved in your face, that you might not even notice unless (like me) you're sitting there with a pen and a notebook and writing stuff down. The show's crew accomplished quite a bit by simply turning down the lights. The Enterprise of this episode is a much darker place, and it reflects the dark moods the war with the Klingons have inspired (though, from a practical standpoint, you can't help but wonder why being stuck in a long war would make people want to see stuff less clearly at work). During the first argument between Picard and Guinan, you can see a map outlining Federation and Klingon positions behind Guinan. The Federation uniforms are altered slightly, and eventually you notice that no one goes anywhere on the ship without a phaser handy. One of the things I find the most interesting about the episode is a subtly, but noticeably, different dynamic between Picard and Riker. There is little camaraderie between the two. Picard doesn't waste an extra word or breath for his First Officer, and his usual patience and consideration towards Riker's questioning is replaced with terse rebukes.

The alternate reality aspect of the episode has a way of rendering Yar's presence, and thus her absence and her death, more powerful than it ever was in "Skin of Evil" or any other episode that referenced her passing. It isn't until we're deep in the episode that Guinan gives Yar dark, wary glances as if she's about to drive a stake through Yar's chest. The rest of the time, no one acts like there's anything strange about Yar being alive and well, and that fills Yar's scenes with so much more meaning. In a brief exchange between Data and Yar on the turbo-lift, there is no hint, no tongue-in-cheek reference, regarding their memorable union in "The Naked Now," and of course that makes you think of nothing but that. Toward the end of the show, when Yar requests to go back in time with the Enterprise C and Picard vehemently - almost childishly - rails against her request, you get the notion that even though Picard is as firmly ensconced in this Wrong timeline as everyone else, that part of him remembers what happened to Yar across the temporal gulf and desperately wants to hold on to this second chance to save her.

It is not a perfect episode. There are little things that bother me. The sashes most of the crew wear don't really go well with the uniforms and don't seem to have a practical value. Lt. Castillo's courting of Yar just seems kind of silly under the circumstances. And I can't help but wonder if the timeline is different, if the Federation is in a perpetual state of war, and if the very notion of children being on a starship is enough to make Picard look at Guinan like she's grown a third arm, why the hell is Wesley still driving the ship?

Regardless, this is not an episode Alan or anyone else has to convince me is worth watching again and again. I understand it's a favorite of Trek fans, and with good reason.

Season 3, Episode 23
Directed by Les Landau

The Enterprise is tasked with the honor of bringing the Vulcan ambassador Sarek - father to Spock of the original series - to form an alliance with a race known as the Legarans. It soon becomes clear that Sarek is not the vulcan he used to be. He is easily irritable and shocks the crew when, at a Mozart concert performed for his honor, he is so moved by the performance he sheds a single tear. Meanwhile, tempers on the Enterprise are flaring. Otherwise calm crew members are coming close to blows with one another, and eventually actual violence breaks out barroom-brawl-style on Ten Forward. We soon learn that Sarek is suffering from Bendii Syndrome, a rare vulcan illness that causes Sarek's emotional repression to break down while broadcasting hostile emotions to those around him; a fact that Sarek's wife and assistants have tried desperately to hide from him. Picard tries to cancel Sarek's negotiations with the Legarans when he becomes convinced Sarek cannot possibly go through with his mission. Perrin, Sarek's wife, suggests an alternative. Sarek mind-melds with Picard in order to temporarily transfer his emotional instability to the Enterprise captain. He conducts the negotiations while Picard struggles to cling to his sanity.

I think it's fair to say that for most of my reviews so far I've been pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the episodes. "Sarek" definitely breaks that streak. Like many of the best Star Trek episodes, it deals with a very contemporary subject: the potential horrors of aging and how they can affect not only the elderly, but the people in their lives. "Sarek" doesn't work for me however, and some of the reasons why might fairly be laid at the doorstep of personal preference.

Vulcans bother me. Or, to be more precise, the manner in which they are handled bothers me. Vulcans are always vulcans and the most important thing about being vulcan to a vulcan is being a vulcan. They are always reminding you they are vulcan. Judging by how they are handled in every single episode of every Star Trek series to prominently feature a vulcan, they don't just suffer from Pon-Farr or Bendii; they also suffer from a condition which compels them to say something along the lines of, "perhaps you are forgetting that I am a vulcan" once per episode or their fucking heads explode. Do the rest of us do that? Does a human on an otherwise vulcan ship walk around yelling, "Hey guys, I'm human! Don't mind me sitting over here watching Jersey Shore and playing with my own poo! I'm human."  I honestly do not know if a situation has ever arisen in which I felt the need to remind people of my species, but for vulcans it is apparently an every day thing. Klingons too, now that I think about it. In fact, Klingons need to constantly remind each other (e.g., "WE! ARE! KLINGON!" (the preceding quote was taken from every episode of every Star Trek series to feature two or more klingons)).

It's impossible for that kind of thing to not come up in an episode like this. When Sarek loses his shit while arguing with Picard and starts yelling. "It's ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL! ILLOGICAL!" over and over, I kind of throw my arms up and give up on liking the show. It seems like these incredibly intelligent and creative people have somehow found a way to bookend everything they could possibly have to say in the world with reminders to everyone around them that they're vulcan, and proclamations that something is either logical or illogical, and there just isn't one goddamn thing interesting or convincing about that.

Things aren't helped by Mark Lenard's portrayal of Sarek. As long as he just needs to be very ambassadorial and vulcany, he's great. But as soon as he has to convey emotions, I stop buying his performance.

I also can't get beyond the feeling that while on the surface this is a show about the ravages of age, in a much more real way, this is an episode about Spock; more precisely, the relationship between Sarek and Spock. Not directly of course. He's only mentioned twice in the episode, but you feel his presence regardless. The emotional climax of the episode comes when Picard, suffering from Sarek's emotions via the mind-meld, cries out Sarek's love for Spock (sure, he mentions Perrin too but who gives a crap, we barely know her), and even though he's hardly mentioned, it feels like this is the moment the story's been leading up to. And really it feels like the only thing worth caring about.

"The Best of Both Worlds" Parts 1 & 2
Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1
Directed by Cliff Bole

The Borg finally reach the Alpha Quadrant, and all hell breaks loose. The lone cube heads straight for Earth, kicks the Enterprise's butt, captures Picard, assimilates him into the collective with the name "Locutus of Borg," and decimates a huge chunk of the Federation fleet. Commander Riker is forced to take the helm and defeat the Borg, even though his old captain's knowledge now informs their strategies.

I think it's fair to say "The Best of Both Worlds" remains one of the most important stories in Star Trek's continuity. It set the stage for Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Perhaps more importantly, at least to this writer, it made good on the promise Picard dreadfully uttered at the end of "Q Who"; the episode that introduced the Borg.

"They will be coming."

I watched "The Best of Both Worlds" when it first aired - both parts - and it occurs to me as I write this that it was one of the first times I remember a television show making good on a promise like that. Sure, two part episodes and the like had been around forever. Recurring villains were nothing new; hell, the original Enterprise crew had its fair share of them. But while now I appreciate the fact that most TV episodes back then were written specifically so that new viewers would need a minimal amount of back-story for immersion, at the time I resented it. I'd grown up on Marvel comics. I was used to needing Story A to understand Story B, and needing both to understand Story C. I didn't like how every episode, no matter what the series or franchise, seemed to start from zero. I resented any discrepancies; anything forgotten from past shows. The other Trek spin-offs set in TNG's era - Voyager and Deep Space Nine - would both eventually come to rely on more extended storylines, but in the meantime this was the first time TNG made me think it might live up to my comic book wishes.

Re-watching it, I'm surprised at how well it stands up to the test of time. It's a relatively fast-paced show with a lot more action than most TNG episodes, and before the first tussle with the Borg, there's this great sense of overwhelming doom. The Borg are rendered a huge, unmovable enemy unlike any the Enterprise has encountered. The battles between Enterprise and the Borg cube are some of the most engaging of the franchise. Even though their first tussle is largely a rip-off of the battle between the original Enterprise and the Khan-controlled Reliant in Star Trek II, it's a fun and suspenseful (if not overly original or surprising) ride.

One of my favorite parts of re-watching "The Best of Both Worlds" is the focus on Riker. I don't think I ever thought seriously about Riker as a captain. Certainly I never thought the show would end with Picard permanently absorbed by the Borg or dead with Riker needing to take over for good, but as I watched it this time around, I couldn't help but think, "Well, maybe." Patrick Stewart could never be replaced in TNG, but if Frakes were given his own show, I just might watch it. His Riker enjoys kind of a middle ground between Picard and Kirk. He's too safe and rigid to be Kirk, but too devilishly cunning and ruthless to be Picard.

And now that I've been deservedly positive about this episode, allow me to reproduce a line of dialogue from it for the sake of snark.

"The Borg have neither honor nor courage. That is our greatest advantage."

Worf is such an asshole. Why does he even have a job?

To be continued...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top 10 Thoughts About Todd Akin

So, clearly I'm a little late to the Fuck Todd Akin party, but I'm trying to wrap my head around a few things.

10. Now, let's say there were anything at all that Todd Akin said that was based on reality. Clearly, that isn't the case, but let's just pretend. If it were true that women had a biological trash compactor that activated in the case of legitimate rape and proceeded to, as Akin's scientific acumen led him to phrase it, "shut the whole thing down." Well. Wouldn't that still be an abortion? Just, you know, self-induced without outside interference (save, of course, for the "interference" of the legitimate rape)? Or if not an abortion, then clearly a naturally occurring contraceptive along the lines of the so-called Morning After Pill?

9.  And if # 10 is true, then what could possibly be wrong about asking a doctor to perform an abortion? Mr. Akin contends that a woman's body is designed to "shut the whole thing down" in the case of legitimate rape. Well, my lungs are designed to process oxygen. If my lungs stop working, then there is no one, I think, on either side of the political spectrum who would argue it would be wrong for me to seek medical attention to correct my malfunctioning natural processes, as well as helping me survive artificially while those natural processes are still on the fritz. So if a woman's Magical Naturally Occurring Baby Ejector stops working, what's wrong with calling a doctor about that?

8. And if #10 is true, and if there is one true God who created us in His image, doesn't that mean it was God who gave women the make-pretend ability to "shut the whole thing down" in the case of legitimate rape?

7. And if # 10 is true, and if #8 is true, doesn't that mean God is pro-choice?

6. And if #10 is true, and if #8 is true, doesn't that mean that God is, in fact not only pro-choice, but in certain cases is just plain pro-abortion? I mean, if a woman automatically flushes any possible baby-making potential in the case of legitimate rape, that means she has no choice about whether or not to carry the baby to term because God programmed the woman's body to either not conceive the baby, or to abort it without her say-so.

5. And if #10, #8, #7, and #6 are all true, doesn't that mean that God does not deem contraception and/or abortion sinful?

4. And if #5 is true, and most - if not all - pro-life movements are based on religious beliefs, are they not in fact, all of them, heretical?

3. And if #10 is true, and a child cannot be born of legitimate rape, does that mean Freddy Krueger and Officer Olivia Benson - both children of rape - are...make-believe?

2. And whether or not #3 is true, isn't it extremely inappropriate for me to make jokes about horror movie characters and crime drama characters while talking about such a serious, controversial, and sensitive topic?

1. And if #2 is true, and whether or not anything between #10 and #3 is true, does that mean maybe we should stop basing our laws, our beliefs, our morals, and how we treat each other on the Land of Make Believe?

Review - Hulk: Season One

Hulk: Season One
By Fred Van Lente and Tom Fowler
Published By Marvel; $24.99 US
136 pages

If you know me and/or if you've ever been a regular reader of the blog, you probably know Hulk is a favorite of mine.  And if you know that, then you might presume that any comic redefining the character's origin as Hulk: Season One attempts, will be met with some stubborn resistance on my part. I couldn't blame you for that. I've been guilty of prejudging comics trying to mess with the who and whats of my sacred super-cow's beginnings. I'd say, for example, I didn't really give Brian Azzarello's Startling Stories: Banner the chance it deserved. Though I still would argue that Paul Jenkins's Mythos: Hulk was memorable only for how forgettable it was and Jeph Loeb's Hulk: Gray was interesting only as a way of telling the story of Hulk's origin from Betty Ross's point of view. But I swear I really did want to like Hulk: Season One, if for no other reason than it would have meant one of my first reviews upon returning to blogging would be a positive one about a book chronicling the adventures of my favorite funnybook hero. It just wasn't meant to be.

Though, in a bit of a reversal of my usual way of going about things, I want to talk about what I liked first.

I don't know if I've ever seen Tom Fowler's work before, but I think I can officially consider myself a fan. His style is not one I would normally associate with a Hulk comic, and it's vibrant and refreshing. His Hulk manages to be ape-ish and childlike at the same time, which goes along perfectly with the story Fred Van Lente tells. Some of his Hulk drawings reminded me of Eric Powell's Goon, and some actually put me in mind of Sam Kieth's brief work on the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #368 and later in the Wolverine/Hulk mini. In particular, I love one specific panel toward the end, when Hulk looks like an angry little fat kid in swim trunks, but still manages to be menacing.

I enjoyed many of the minor changes to the origin. I found it bizarrely satisfying that the gamma bomb explosion that transforms Bruce Banner is set in one of the strange mannequin-filled replica towns rather than the featureless expanse of desert in the classic origin. On one hand I like the weird unreality of it, and on the other it gives that piece of the story a bit more definition. I appreciated changing Betty from the doe-eyed damsel of the original Lee/Kirby story to someone more like Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck (from the newer series, not the old; that would really be a redefinition of the origin story).

I'm a little more neutral about other character changes. While the notion of Rick Jones belonging to a drug-peddling gang leaves a bad taste in my mouth, admittedly it makes sense Rick might find himself in that kind of crowd at that point in his life. Though, speaking of another character important to Hulk's beginnings, I'm disappointed that Glenn Talbot was nowhere to be found in Hulk: Season One.

It is reassuring to a Hulk nut like myself that Van Lente proves he's done his homework by pulling a lot from different corners of the Hulk's history. He doesn't go very deeply into the abuse Banner suffered - an element of the origin introduced by Bill Mantlo and greatly expanded upon by Peter David - but it's clear that it's important not only to Banner, but to his alter ego's existence. Monica Rappacini, first introduced during Peter David's brief return to Incredible Hulk circa House of M, returns to find an integral place in the origin. And something that I initially disliked but eventually realized was a testament to Van Lente's knowledge of the character's history is how the Hulk's dialogue changes drastically throughout the story. When he fights the Gargoyle and his robotic minions, the Hulk sounds like his thuggish, grayer self. Later when he fights the monstrous Biocide, he sounds more like the classic savage HULK SMASH Hulk. But I soon realized that what I initially saw as a discrepancy was actually intentional and, considering Banner's fractured psyche, makes perfect sense.

One thing that always rubs me wrong about stories like this are the "updates" to the dialogue and the culture in general so that Marvel can show younger readers that they're With It you know, daddy-o? They're not like the squares! I see the need for it. Even though I cringe when I read Rick Jones saying, "Ain't no thing, Scummy, just how I roll, youknowwhatI'msayin'" I still know there's a reason for it. It's just that the execution is always so clumsy and obvious. My least favorite part of the book comes right after the Hulk crashes into an alleyway and surprises some gangbangers. One of the bangers yells, "WHAT IS IT? IS IT PO-PO?" Really, dude? You think the giant green half-naked thing that came crashing out of the fucking sky is a member of the El Paso police department?

But that's a relatively minor gripe. What leaves me more concerned is how busy the story is. There's too many villains, too many random and unconnected elements, and very little actual redefining. There's the Gargoyle and his robots who apparently work for the Russian mafia rather than the Soviets.  There's the strange science group Them (who are clearly A.I.M., so why the hell aren't they just A.I.M. instead of Them?) and their stockpile of bald kiddy clones. There's the manipulative temptress Rappaccini and the junkie douchebag Special Agent Derek Halperin who eventually transforms into the gamma-eating Biocide. The story would've been better served with one major villain rather than enough villains to make Sam Raimi laugh and say "What do you mean 3 in one movie is too many?"

Part of the problem with the plot is perhaps my biggest disappointment with the story. Unfortunately, mentioning it would spoil it, so let's just say the book ends with Banner coming to a fairly huge decision, and I don't think Hulk: Season One ever comes close to showing us why Banner would make such a choice. It's something he eventually came to in the comics regardless of this new origin, but it was something that took years. And it was something that should take years. If there was anything in Hulk: Season One to convince me he could reach such a drastic change in outlook so quickly, I missed it.

Regardless, Hulk: Season One won't ruin my enjoyment of the character. Is it the official history of the character now and forever? Sure. Just like that last three were. And in a year or two there will be a new official history of the character now and forever. Who cares?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Flying into the Sun

I hate doing this, and yet I do it again and again.

I review, I blog, and eventually I stop. I go dark for a few months, a year, or more. Eventually I come back and feel the need to explain my absence, my return, and all the epiphanies I gathered in the interim. And in the meantime I always wind up feeling like an addict returning to a meeting, explaining why this time I know I'll stick to it. Regardless of how many encouraging claps on the shoulder I get from all the folks who did stick with it, deep down I always know they couldn't possibly believe I'll go the distance this time.

So I refuse to be long-winded this time around. I won't waste your time with grand promises.

I'll simply say that recently I realized how much I miss this. I miss reviewing and I miss blogging. I miss buying a comic specifically with the intention of reviewing it. I actually - no BS - miss reading graphic novels with a pen and paper handy to take notes. I miss it. And there's no good reason to miss it when the venue for it is right here, waiting for me.

Why did I stop then? Because I thought I should be doing something More Important. But as much as I tried to do something More Important, I couldn't force it. This is where I want to be. So I'm hoping I can let that More Important version of myself fly into the fucking Sun and leave me alone for a while.

There are e-mails to be sent out, bridges to hopefully be mended, and apologies to be made. But the books are bought, the time scheduled, and I'm ready to go. There will be a review here Monday; either of Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad or of my slick new copy of Hulk: Season One (which review will be here depends on whether or not I can force myself to speed-write a review of Breaking Bad late Sunday night or early Monday morning). There are projects I started before Superheroes, etc. went dark - like reviewing Lone Wolf & Cub volume-by-volume and a series of reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation- and I intend to dust those off and finish what I started. But for now all I promise is that there will be a review here on Monday, and we'll take it from there.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My imagination is Borg

At 4 am I woke up, thinking I'd heard the doorbell. I tried to imagine why someone would ring the doorbell at that hour, and because of my enduring faith in humanity my only answer was that someone was looking to rob me blind but wanted to make sure I wasn't home first. As soon as they saw me switch on a light to answer the bell, they'd bolt. This would not be the smartest tactic for a robber, but such fine specimens aren't known for their Mensa candidacies.

As some of the haze of sleep faded, I realized it had to be my imagination. It couldn't have been my doorbell. The sound I heard was the normal "ding-DONG," and my doorbell doesn't sound like that. My doorbell is a loud burst of high-pitched buzzing. It sounds more like something you'd hear in a prison when the guards open the cell doors. Whenever anyone rings it, I jump out of my seat and am immediately angry at whoever pressed it. It's horrible and stupid.

So, I forgot about it and dozed off. Minutes later, I awoke certain I'd heard the doorbell again, and this time it was more like my actual doorbell. It wasn't quite as loud or annoying, but it was the right pitch, and it wasn't that pleasant, sing-song chime. Of course, I ended up leaving bed and peering out the shades to the predictably empty front walk.

My imagination is Borg. If my reason wins the day and convinces me my fears are unfounded, my imagination will endlessly adapt to counter my intellect. If I'd continued to try to sleep like a normal person, my imagination would have continued to evolve the scenario. The doorbell would repeat, and would become indistinguishable from the real one. Eventually, I would see phantom shapes outside my window, ready to strike. I would find a note on my nightstand reading "Dear Mick, Your doorbell is ringing. Love, Hulk, Zeus, and Jesus."

Imagination is an asshole.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Capital Region Folks - Comics and Cards for sale

I've been steadily shaving away my floppy collection for a few years. I'm moving in May and I figure it's time to finally get rid of the whole thing. I also have a bunch of Magic: The Gathering cards I don't use anymore, and some Marvel Vs. cards I've never used.

I'm posting this as an offer to any local folks to contact me and go through what I have. You can pick and choose, and I'll probably give you a pretty good price. I don't have the energy to figure out clever ways to trick people into paying too much.

However, you should know that I don't have anything spectacularly valuable. You won't find any copies of Detective Comics #27 or Amazing Fantasy #15 in my collection. As far as the cards are concerned, I don't even know them well enough to guess value. You could totally end up hosing me for some hidden treasure.

I'm giving anyone who's interested until March 1st to contact me and set up a time to go through the stuff. After March 1st, I'll be posting the entire collections respectively on either craigslist or ebay, and after that there will be no picking and choosing; it'll be an all-or-nothing deal. I'm not nearly as concerned with money as I am with getting rid of baggage so the move doesn't need quite so much moving.