Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm a Hero!

There's this cool thing that Verizon is doing called "Action Hero." Basically, you upload a photo of your face, manipulate a few sliders, pick out some plot points and lines of dialogue, and voila!

You're starring in your own action movie!

It's not perfect. The picture I used was taken at a slight angle that makes my face look more lopsided than usual, and the lighting in the picture wasn't even enough, making me look blotchy. The voice isn't at all close to mine, either, which really hurts the illusion. If I could read the lines as well as have my face mapped on the figure, it would rule.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Studio 60 Again?

So Friday, I'm looking at the programs the Media Center PC has recorded, and it has a new Studio 60 on it. Apparently, after NBC announced they'd cancelled it, they decided to burn off some unaired episodes. Strange thing is, this is one of the best episodes of the entire series, and it is the only one in which none of the three principal actors appears. Coincidence?

Monday, May 28, 2007


So here's the learning experience. The audio quality isn't great, partly because I'm using the cheapest microphone on earth. It took a long time to download for me, even though the file isn't that big. It's about 18 MB and 19 minutes long. It's not great, but it can only get better, right?

Show Notes:

Opening theme, mixed by Tony Frazier from music loops from Partners in Rhyme.

Reflections about my introduction to fandom in the mid-70's, including Star Trek, Space 1999, UFO, and a passing mention of Starship Invasions.

My first con, where I met George Takei and Bret Morrison, and had them sign a Ray Harryhausen fan magazine.

Downer endings in 70's films. Lots of spoilers.

The episode of the Tomorrow show I never saw, until today. And yes, I mispronounced Harlan Ellison's name, sue me.

End theme also provided by Partners in Rhyme.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


For some reason, Encore Action was showing a bunch of Mothra movies today; the original, followed by the three movies in the Rebirth of Mothra series, followed by another movie featuring Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah.

I always thought Mothra was kind of weak as monster concepts go. It's a big moth. You know, it attacks, and you just build a big bug zapper and bzzzttt! Moth flambe. But the character caught on and became popular for reasons that always escaped me.

So I had "Rebirth of Mothra" on in the background, and I'm thinking that it really sucks. It's super-juvenile with even cheaper-than-usual effects and a so-so-so-obvious eco-sermon. And The Girl walks in, and she's just turned seven, and she has missed three-fourths of it, and she is instantly captivated. Mothra is pretty and sparkly, and the little miniature idol singers are riding around on a miniature Mothra named Fairy, and it strikes me that the folks at Toho have come up with a perfect angle to expand the Godzilla franchise to appeal to girls too. Mothra is a pretty-pretty Girl-zilla with a baby caterpillar and magical fairy followers, and my daughter instantly planted herself in front of the TV and began cheering for Mothra without any previous introduction to the character at all.

I feel a little adrift after finishing the second draft. I feel this pressure to start writing something new: a short story, or a new novel or something, but I just have no energy at all. Work has worn me out, and today I've been progressively sicker. I'm debating whether to go in and work tomorrow or not. I don't want to, but I know that there's stuff that needs to be done. And somebody won't show up, I just know it. So I'm just worn down and feeling lost, like I should be doing something, but there's just nothing in me to bring out anymore.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost and Test

We had the season finales of Lost and Heroes this week, and both pretty much kicked ass. I was a little, a smidgen, disappointed in the Heroes finale, simply because we're still not seeing these characters really cut loose. Well, that and the fact that master villain Sylar died, then came back long enough to set up the start of next season, then died again for real, and then... wasn't dead? I don't know. And of course, the fact that Peter didn't really need Nathan's sacrifice- he should have been able to do what Nathan did himself.

The Lost finale was exactly what a Lost finale should be. It answered a ton of questions, while setting up a ton of new questions, and ended with a twist which indicated that the show is once again going to be fundamentally different next season. I love the way that every season seems to be at once the same show and yet a different show from the season before. And the finale also made obvious that these guys haven't been blowing smoke when they say that they know where the show is going. They're not just making it up as they go along.

I put together a podtestcast, but I'm having trouble posting it. It was a lot harder than I'd though it would be, and the result is kinda dull, so I may redo it. Or not. We'll see.

Monday, May 21, 2007


So I mentioned Lileks's podcast a while back, and it got me searching for other podcasts. I've listened to a few here and there, and I'm thinking maybe I should give it a try. I like the concept of Kick Ass Mystics Ninjas, for instance. This is like a nostalgia podcast for old geeks like me, reviewing classic old books and not-so-classic movies and shows. Bester's The Demolished Man is an example of the former, and Airwolf an example of the latter.

If only the execution were a little better, I would seriously love this show. The audio is often of varying quality, and the shows often seem to run out of steam after a while, as the hosts all end up with long awkward pauses in the conversation.

Lileks's show is more polished, but hinges on obscure music. Anything I did would be more like the Ninjas, offering my own commentary on, you know, whatever. I have an idea for a first, test show. I have a microphone somewhere that I can scrounge up, and I've been learning how to use Audacity to put this stuff together. I may try to throw together a testcast (or is that podtest?) later this week and see if anybody likes it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Second Draft Blues

The second draft of Hero Go Home is finished, with the exception of a little clean-up, maybe. I read the first act and a bit of the second last night, and it's better than before, although I wonder if maybe I'm pushing too much backstory in too quickly.

Most things I write don't have much backstory. They start when they start, they don't depend much on what has gone before in the characters' lives, and frequently I couldn't answer many basic questions about the characters' pasts if you asked.

But for this book, I've written a few short stories about some of these characters already, and wrote about two-thirds of an (awful aborted) novel about another, so they have histories in place. And so much of the book feels like another entry in the series, I think. I don't know if I explain stuff enough so that a new reader, unfamiliar with the short stories, will ever feel comfortable with what's going on.

On the other hand, when I decided to write Hero Go Home originally (and now I'm talking about the late 80's/early 90's, when it was a vague screenplay concept and three pages of an opening scene that no longer appears in the book), one of things I specifically wanted was to avoid the usual approach to starting a new superhero world, which is to show a normal world with heroes and vilains just emerging for the first time. I wanted it to be a world already populated with heroes, with adventures happening all over the place on a daily basis; instead of having the reader come into the world gradually, dipping a toe at a time, I wanted to yank them right into the deep end.

And for all the changes that have been made to my original vision in the intervening years, this one thing I've stayed true to. Now to find new readers and see if it works any better than before.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This Time It's Personal

I mentioned in my review of "Spider-man 3" the totally unnecessary retcon of Uncle Ben's death. Basically, they changed the storyline to add a second shooter, unmentioned in the previous two movies, and said that he was the real killer so that Spider-man can go off to indulge his desire for revenge. Not only that, but he ends up being one of the major villains in the Spider-man rogues' gallery.

I really hate this. I've hated it for years, since Burton's first "Batman" film. In that film, we learn that the young Joker killed Batman's parents: a totally unnecessary twist that added nothing to the film, in my opinion.

My dislike for this particular trope got even worse two years later when Costner's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" came out, in which we learn that the Sheriff of Nottingham killed Robin's father while Robin was out fighting the Crusades against his father's wishes.

This was a big change to the Robin Hood I grew up with, which was the Errol Flynn version. In that movie, Robin is a nobleman who refuses to join Richard the Lion-Hearted on the Crusades, thinking it a foolish waste. He acts out of principle to oppose a war which he thinks is wrong.

But when Richard is captured and Robin learns that John has usurped the throne and kept Richard's ransom money to line his own pockets, Robin then turns outlaw, again on principle, to support the rightful ruler. Robin puts principle above his personal feud with the king and puts his life on the line to save the man who had previously branded him a coward and traitor.

This is a story with real meat on its bones, and in the Costner version, it's all "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Let me call the Waah-mbulance.

Which is not to say that I dislike Inigo Montoya. I thought "The Princess Bride" was pretty brilliant. A character with a legitimate grudge against the person who killed his father is fine, fair game.

What I hate, hate, HATE with a passion is the retroactive addition of this particular grudge to any established hero of popular culture when the suits in the room think his origin needs spicing up. Why does Daredevil fight the Kingpin? I mean, "cause it's the right thing to do" is just so blah. But here's an idea: if Kingpin was the guy who murdered his father...

And in Spider-man 3, it's even worse, because not only did they change the origin story from the comics to make Sandman the killer, but they even changed their own continuity, because the first film told the story correctly. So they retconned a grudge that had already been resolved.

Just blind and stupid in so many ways.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Problem with Threes

First off, damn Lileks! I listened to the latest Diner this morning, and he played four, count 'em, four versions of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and now the damn song is stuck in my head.

I ended up working four hours on Saturday night and then turning around to do a morning shift on Sunday, so the weekend was basically shot. My boss then encouraged me to go home early yesterday, so I finally got to see "Spider-man 3."

A little disappointed, frankly. I had hoped that if anybody could avoid the "Curse of Three," it was Raimi. But alas, it was not to be.

We know that sequels are hard, especially if they're unplanned. A good sequel has to be the same, but different. It needs to flip all the same switches in the viewer's brain, but it can't be too similar, and most importantly, it can't be smaller.

But the third film is a different beast. Often, a good sequel has not only satisfied the "same but bigger" itch, but it has also resolved lingering questions from the first film to give both films greater resonance. A third film often has to "keep going, but start over" (which is why I think so many tend to echo the first film even more than the second did). And it's beastly hard to get right. I'm hard-pressed to think of one, actually. I think "Die Hard With a Vengeance" came as close as any. Maybe "Rocky III."

The good things: Raimi's still pushing the emotional core of the character. The special effects kick ass, mostly.

The bad things: Peter's a jerk in this one. We can blame it on the black goo, but frankly, he's pretty jerky even when he's goo-free. Mary Jane's even worse. Kirsten Dunst never made a good romantic lead; her "I love you" speech at the end of the first film was awful, and you never felt the chemistry between her and Tobey Maguire. You could sort-of understand why he had a crush on her, but not why they'd end up together. In this one, Peter has a competing romantic interest in Gwen Stacy (the gorgeous Bryce Dallas Howard), and she's everything MJ is not: beautiful and fun and interested in the same things Peter is. But Peter uses her badly, so she takes off and Peter ends up in a joyless dance with MJ, two unhappy people who are stuck with each other.

Too many villains: "Spider-man 2" managed to avoid the Batman "double-the-villains, double-the-fun" syndrome, but it was just a tease. In this one, they hit us with three! And it makes everything feel sort of overstuffed, not to mention the number of mind-boggling coincidences the screenwriters devise to make everything happen. Flint Marko just happens to fall into a hole on a nuclear testing facility just as there just happens to be a nighttime test, and Peter and MJ just happen to have a romantic interlude near where a meteor bearing sentient black goo just happens to crash, and the gorgeous model Spider-man saves just happens to be his beautiful classmate, Gwen Stacy, and the black goo just happens to infect Peter right after he learns that Flint Marko is the guy who killed Uncle Ben (in one of the most unnecessary retcons of all time), and Peter just happens to try to get rid of the black goo in a church's bell tower, where the vibrations of the bell just happen to be the creature's one weakness, and Eddie Brock, who just happens to be both Peter's rival at the Bugle and a suitor of Gwen's, just happens to be standing underneath Peter when the goo comes off, and oh my God, can stuff please STOP JUST HAPPENING?

Don't even get me started on the interpretive dance number in the middle. Raimi has always been a giddily indulgent filmmaker with a weakness for goofy slapstick (see "Crimewave" for the worst example). But in this one, he indulges his worst instincts. The depiction of Peter's descent to the dark side is virtually unwatchable; the characters have no emotional continuity at all, just whipsawing this way and that for the needs of each particular scene. And Raimi's love of cameos, so much fun in the first two pictures, really brings this one down. The requisite Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos just don't work, and the cameos of his kids... I understand parents indulging their children, but the kids get too much dialogue.

I really, really wanted to like this one more than I did, but it's just not there on the screen.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Old Radio

On Sunday evenings here in Tulsa, local AM radio station KRMG plays old-time radio shows. This past Sunday, they played an old Jack Benny, which was a revelation. Things were just so different then, you can't imagine.

No, I'm not talking about corny humor or Rochester as a racist stereotype. Frank Sinatra was the guest star, you see, only this was early in his career. So there were no references to him as the grand old lion of show business. No Rat Pack. No Vegas. No mob rumors. No "Chairman of the Board." No "New York, New York."

No, the jokes were all about how skinny Sinatra was. How insubstantial. How he looked like a pencil wearing a toupee. At one point, he's talking to a female cast member, and they start to go through a door. Sinatra can't open it. Because he's so skinny and weak, you see.

The woman, of course, opens it easily.

It's like observing an alternate universe. Really.

Lost, by the way, after an uneasy start to the season and a long hiatus that almost made me give up hope? Rockin'. And guaranteed three more seasons. (warning: the link to Zap2It will try to give you popups)

My random prediction? Sun and Jin find out they are brother and sister.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anime: What I'm Watching Now

I've written before about Full Metal Alchemist and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The shows I'm watching currently are Blood+ and Bleach, as well as the occasional Naruto and Samurai Champloo.

I've also been sort of watching a show called Eureka 7, mainly just cause it was on in the same Adult Swim bloc as Bleach and Blood. Eureka 7 is the winner of the Most Annoying Character Name award this year. Although in English we pronounce "Eureka" as "yoo-reek-uh," on the show they consistently pronounce the character's name as "eh-ooh-wreck-uh," which rolls awkwardly off the tongue and just freakin' annoys me every time I hear it.The story itself is a mish-mash of nature worship and techno-fetishized mecha. You know, "we've killed the Earth with war and pollution and now we've got to save it--with giant freaking robots!" Completely senseless and convoluted, but some fun action scenes.

Saya from the DVDBlood+ is one I had high hopes for, but I'm not blown away by it so far. It's a sequel to the awesome short film, "Blood, the Last Vampire." In the original, Saya is a young-looking girl who battles monstrous vampiric creatures called "chiropterans" on an American airbase in Okinawa right around the start of the Vietnam War. For the sequel series, Saya has been redesigned to be more innocent-schoolgirl and less bitch-from-hell, but has lost her distinctive look in the process. She's like a cheap Sailor Moon clone now. The tone of the show also lacks the dark vibe of the original.

Saya from Blood+The chiropterans are still effectively creepy, but the story has turned into a turgid soap opera without the distinctive realistic flavor that made the original such a fun ride. The original had an almost documentary feel that made it feel completely different from other anime; the series, not so much. It's not Blood-plus; it's Blood-lite.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

TV Round-Up: May 2

Heroes: Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!. We get a Days of Future Past-style future dystopia, complete with the deaths of practically the entire cast if Hiro can't get his shit together and kill Sylar already. Most of the action is still taking place off-stage, with only tiny hints of the powers being used--the big final confrontation between Peter and Sylar takes place outside a door around which we only see tiny flashes of light, for instance. Either they're saving up effects budget for a kick-ass season finale, or else the show going to tease us forever and never really cut loose. Hints of what's to come: Sylar is apparently going to kill both Radioactive Ted and the shapeshifter chick before they bring him down.

Drive: Fun show from an executive producer of Firefly and Wonderfalls , starring Nathan Fillion from Firefly. I liked it so much, it's canceled after three episodes. Tim Minear's next show show is going to be canceled before it airs, and the one after that is going into negative episodes.

American Idol: The two contestants from the top 24 with vague Oklahoma connections are still in it (Phil and Melinda), and I think Melinda's in it to win it, which will do incredible things for our station, having another hometown winner.

I'll doing some anime comments tomorrow or the next day.