Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorites in 2013 - Books


It's that time of year again, when our calendar is running thin. Soon we will have a brand new year to desecrate with fornications and debaucheries, but for now, it's a time to dwell on the time behind us. One way to measure that is to examine what media you consumed and how it effected you.  With that in mind, I want to look at my favorite things from 2013.

Note on two things: 1) these are my favorite things--not necessarily the best, or the highest class or whatever, just the things that I enjoyed the most, 2) these are my favorite things that I experienced this year--that doesn't necessarily mean they came out this year, just that that is when I found them.

For this post, I want to talk about MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013!!!!

I want to split this post into two categories of books: general books and comic books/graphic novels.

The "general books" category will consist of books that I've read this year. Non-fiction, fiction, memoir, short story collection, novel, whatever. Is it long-form writing? Then it counts.

General Books

1. Joyland - Stephen King

Joyland was not what I expected that it would be. It was sort of like the movie The Way Way Back but with violence and murderers. I realize that's a bizarre description, but it is also very apropos in my opinion. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. I love his voice, his diction, his descriptions of things and people. Of course, this book would be one of my favorites. But I also liked how, while I was expecting a super tense violent mystery, I got a very poignant look at a boy's coming of age story that also featured murders and ghosts.

2. John Dies at the End - David Wong

I love horror. It's one of my favorite genres of fiction, and it has been for as long as I can remember. I've been obsessed with ghost stories since before I was even in school. David Wong somehow took the irreverent, sarcastic tone of Cracked.com, and wrapped a surreal horror story around it. It's interesting how often you'll read and scene and have conflicting feelings of wanting to laugh at how bizarre something is, but it also hitting just the right emotional chord to freak you right the fuck out.

3. I Am Not a Serial Killer - Dan Wells

Dan Wells wrote a not-YA YA book. It's rare that book gives me nightmares, but this book did. Not because the events depicted were particularly terrifying--don't get me wrong, it's a tense, exciting, scary book. I just don't get scared usually. But the mindset of a 15-year-old sociopath who is completely aware of just how dangerous he could become if left unchecked is such a disturbing mindset to be in, that I can't even imagine how Wells wrote this whole book. And, get this, there's a sequel! Like I said, tense as hell, incredibly well written. And it's a testament to how gifted Wells is as a writer, because not only does he make his sociopath interesting, he makes him likable! And (from what I can tell) he doesn't really cheat with the mindset like they have done with the later seasons of Dexter

4. 11/22/63 - Stephen King

Second Stephen King book on the list, I know. King has always ridden a razor-sharp fine line between deliciously crass genre writer, and literary writer of profound and astounding beauty. He's got a gift of voice that is virtually unparalleled. And even though this book is essentially a boat anchor, it is also amazing. It's almost like two different books glommed together--you have the story of the main characters struggles to find and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK, but you also have the beautiful, heartbreaking, gorgeously written tale of the main character's life as he adjusts to and makes a home in 1950's Texas. The latter story takes up most of the book, actually, but you don't care. It's so compellingly written that you have to continue to see what happens next.

5. NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

I'm sure Joe Hill gets tired of everyone being like OMG IT'S STEPHEN KING'S SON11!!!1!!!!1ONE!!! And I have to admit, to an extent, that's exactly why I started following him on Twitter. And it's why I read Horns. And then I was smacked right in the goddamned face by one of the most astoundingly talented horror writers I'd read. NOS4A2 is unlike his other two novels in that it spans multiple decades with multiple characters. Hill creates a villain with almost Freddy Kruger-like charm, and a tough-as-nails main character that he's not afraid to just let be a person. She reacts poorly to things in her life, she pushes people away. She is a flawed person. And it's those flaws, and her desire to overcome them, that makes her so easy to root for.

6. Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh

If you exist on the internet in any capacity, you have more than likely heard of Allie Brosh's blog, Hyperbole and  Half. Maybe you weren't as enchanted as I was--when I first discovered it, I read the entire archives up to her most recent post over the course of three days--but I'm sure if you have human feelings and haven't had your heart replaced with robot parts, then you have read and enjoyed a few of her posts. The book is like that, but in book form. Approximately half of the book is from her blog. The other half is new material--and one post that was previously unillustrated. Go, buy this book. Support a hugely talented and hilarious person.

7. Let's Pretend This Didn't Happen - Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson also runs a hilarious blog that, while I haven't read the entire archives of, I have read a lot of now. Her book had me and my wife sobbing with laughter. We each took turns reading chapters to each other--even after we had finished reading the book, just because it was so goddamned funny. It's not just funny, however. It also has some beautiful, poignant chapters that really tug on the amorphous black hole where my soul used to be. Again: go, buy, support an awesome person.

8. Feed - Mira Grant

I was completely gobsmacked by this book. I knew I'd like it. I didn't realize how completely it would absorb my brain for a while. There are little things that, because of who I am, I find fascinating. Little details will often propel something from "enjoyable" to "holy shit that's awesome." I loved M.T. Anderson's book Feed (unrelated to Mira Grant's book) because you could see the logical pathways he took to create the linguistic patterns and slang that the teenagers of that book used. The book was great, but those little touches constantly delighted me. The same thing is true in Mira Grant's book.

Grant's book is a look at how society would function after the zombie apocalypse had already come and gone. This isn't a book where human culture just topples and everyone's living in dirty tribes like The Road Warrior. That's not what societies do. Instead, this book looks at the current level of technological capabilities, and extrapolates how we would exploit those capabilities to detain, overcome, or co-exist with the zombie hordes.

I also love politics, and the reason I mentioned this one and not the later two books in the series as my favorite is because this one involves blog-journalists traveling with a presidential candidate and reporting on his campaign from the field. The main character, George, is one of my favorite people to read in a long time. She's smart, competent, analytical, and logical, while also being fiercely proud and loyal. I loved this book. So much.

9. Sharp Things - Gillian Flynn

For 2013, my goal was to make myself read more widely. I wanted to make myself read more women in more genres. I've held myself okay to this. I have several women's books still in my TBR pile, but I noticed that more than half of the books that I read this year were still by men. That said, one of the goals that I started specifically focusing on was reading women in the horror and thriller genres. They're two genres that blend together often, and I've barely heard of anyone beyond Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley writing horror. In that regard, I think I've been a success, as I've tried out several new female authors.

Gillian Flynn is a relatively new writer. I'd heard good things about her. I especially decided to pick her up when I saw her book blurbed by Stephen King. I was not in store for how much I would enjoy her book. She writes about some dark shit, so her books are definitely not for the faint of heart. Flynn's voice is not really similar to King's, but like King, I am in love with it. She has a stripped down, sort of bare-bones style of narration, but with enough flare for language to paint some grim and beautiful pictures. She, like King, uses characterization to a very successful degree, creating characters that are familiar without becoming cliches, with nuances that make them people, not just players in the plot.

Sharp Things' protagonist, in many ways, comes across similar to Joe Hill's protagonist in NOS4A2. They're fucked up, they don't know how to be complete and whole people. But they ultimately try to do the right thing. Sharp Things offers an interesting look at inter-female relationships without all of the cattiness of Sex and the City.

10. Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

If Sharp Things made me a fan of Gillian Flynn, Dark Places made sure I was hooked for good. Dark Places is about a woman who is the sole survival of her family's brutal massacre. She's grown up broken, fucked up--as appears to be Flynn's way--and mostly unable to maintain successful relationships. When her funds dry up, she agrees to investigate the murders for a group of True Crime enthusiasts for cash. What unfolds is a tangled look at the bond between family members, the nosiness of small-town communities, and how fucked up hugely public trials can become.

This book expands beyond just the main character's point of view, alternate between Libby Day--the main character--in present day, and choice characters' view points leading up to the murders themselves.

Gillian Flynn makes me want to be a better writer. She's one of those frustratingly talented people that makes writing look so easy anyone can do it.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels

My comic book habit continues on into this year. While I've maintained reading Gail Simone's Batgirl and Scott Snyder's Batman, I stopped reading Action Comics as it just didn't grab me, and I've dropped Wonder Woman and Justice League to paperback reading, and they've fallen quite a bit lower on my list.  Justice League because volume 2 just wasn't as interesting as volume one, and Wonder Woman because Brian Azzarello turned the Amazons into rapists--I don't understand why people feel the need to make Wonder Woman and the Amazons shittier. They don't make Superman a raging dick that can't control himself, but they constantly characterize Wonder Woman as moody, cold, distant, and the Amazons constantly as blood-thirsty savages. *headdesk*

Anyway, onto my favorite comics I read this year.

1. Wolverine and the X-Men - Jason Aaron

I love Wolverine. I know, that's a controversial opinion--I mean, who likes that weirdo, amirite? But I've liked him ever since I was a kid watching the 90's cartoon. This comic struck me as interesting, taking the "lone wolf" Wolverine and placing him in a role of responsibility not just of teenagers, but placing him in a sort of mentoring, Xavier-like role. I've read volumes 1 and 2 so far, and I love them. Sadly, this is a comic that's being cancelled soon, but you should buy up the trade paperbacks, because they are hugely fun, like X-Men meets Harry Potter.

2. Aquaman - Geoff Johns

I don't read much DC. In my very limited time as a comics reader, I've found that Marvels books--despite Marvel having the reputation as the "dark" company--are much more fun. DC's comics have discovered grimdark, and my god if nearly every comic I've picked up hasn't been scowling and blood and shitty thing after shitty thing happening without even any banter between characters. The books that aren't like that, in my experience, are quickly cancelled and hushed up to make room for another Batman or Superman title.

And then there was Aquaman. God bless Geoff Johns, man. Aquaman has been fun from the get-go. Attacking the stereotypes and old jokes people have been making about Aquaman for decades, Johns makes the character fun, while also presenting him in a way that makes you take him seriously as well--even if the characters in the comics done. I LOVE the current run of Aquaman, and I can't wait to grab volume 3.

3. Avengers Assemble - Kelly Sue Deconnick

There are approximately eleventy-billion Avengers comics at Marvel. They seem to be running about equal with the X-Men. However, I love Kelly Sue Deconnick. She has a fun writing style. The characters clearly enjoy being around each other and being on a team together. You get the vibe that they're--gasp--friends. And I love that. Hawkeye, Spiderwoman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America make constant appearances, although KSD's trade paperback--Science Bros--also offers awesome story lines involving Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man  - Dan Slott

I started trying to read Spider-Man because I heard about his (at the time, recent) demise. I heard about Spider-Ock, how Spider-Man's body was taken over by long-time Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus, and I had to figure out not only why something like this would occur, but I wanted an idea of what Spidey was like before the switch. I bought the Ultimate Collection volume 1, and I have been hooked every since.

I can't say that I'm a fan of Marvel's decision to divorce Peter Parker and Mary Jane, especially the asinine way they did it, but Carlie Cooper has been a fun, if a little bland. I can't expect her to be as developed as MJ, though--MJ had years of development.

Slott's Spider-Man is hilarious, and reading him makes me feel exactly the same way watching the 90's cartoon growing up did. I'm slowly catching up to the current run of Superior Spider-Man--especially thanks to my wife's generous gift-giving this Christmas--and I'm especially intrigued because I've heard rumors of other changes coming to the Spider-verse involving a certain mixed-race superhero. I am STOKED to find out more.

5. Captain Marvel - Kelly Sue Deconnick

My favorite comic that I've read this year is, without a doubt, Captain Marvel. My search for reading more females didn't just apply to books, and I wanted to try my hand at supporting female superheroes as well. Captain Marvel has earned the right to take over the mantle left behind by her deceased partner. The first 12 issues of the book ranged from fun, snappy adventures to emotionally charged personal stories. Captain America and Spiderwoman are especially prominent in the books, and thank god. Carol Danvers' relationship with them is awesome, fun.

The art hasn't always been my favorite, but the story more than made up for it, and the Enemy Within story line was great fun. I'm super sad, and super excited simultaneously, about the relaunch. While space adventures certainly fits more with the Captain Marvel's powers, I'm hoping we can keep plenty of appearances from Spiderwoman, as she's quickly become a welcome face.

________________

So that's my list of favorite books from 2013. See anything you're interested in? See anything in the list you've already seen that you have a burning desire to discuss? Fire off in the comments.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favorites in 2013 - Movies

Photo from:  popturfdotcom Flickr
It's that time of year again, when our calendar is running thin. Soon we will have a brand new year to desecrate with fornications and debaucheries, but for now, it's a time to dwell on the time behind us. One way to measure that is to examine what media you consumed and how it effected you.  With that in mind, I want to look at my favorite things from 2013.

Note on two things: 1) these are my favorite things--not necessarily the best, or the highest class or whatever, just the things that I enjoyed the most, 2) these are my favorite things that I experienced this year--that doesn't necessarily mean they came out this year, just that that is when I found them.

For this post, I want to talk about MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2013!!!!

I want to split this post into two categories of movies: general films, and documentaries.

General movies will be just that--movies that were created for entertainment purposes. They involve stories, plots. You know...movies. This includes biopics and such.

General Movies

1. Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim was one of those movies that should have done better, but that probably came out at the wrong time. After a glut of mindless, giant robot movies, when Pacific Rim came out, it was hard to quantify why it was good. There wasn't a gimic to separate it--they're not actually giant robots, the people are just really really small!!!--so it came down to descriptions like, "It's like Transformers if you had good characterization, good writing, and you cared about what was going on beyond explosions and noises.

2. Fruitvale Station

This was one of those movies that is based on a true story, that just hurts to watch. If Michael B Jordan doesn't become a much bigger name in acting, I'm going to be one pissed off movie patron. He was fantastic. The movie starts with the main character getting shot. Then you follow him through his final day of life. The events of his death are tragic, and is a story that's all too common anymore, especially for people of color. Everyone should see this one...at least...if you have the constitution for it.

3. Don Jon

A movie about a porn addict and a romance movie addict. Both characters are selfish and are using their partners for some unrealistic idea of what is a "relationship." Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great, Scarlett Johansen was great. This was a movie with great characterization, and a great sense of humor while being put together. And it was surprisingly more complex than I thought it would be.

4. Prisoners

Very Silence of the Lambs. I don't know how else to put it. It's a thriller crime drama with a fantastic--and tense--performance from Hugh Jackman. It puts you in a very uncomfortable position where you understand what the main character is doing, but you're still horrified by what he's doing.

5. CSA: Confederate States of America

One of the movies on my list that explains what kind of weird guy I am, CSA is a mockumentary that uses some actual historical records and information and extrapolates from that a look at what America would be like if the Confederate States of America had won the Civil War. The film plays like it would if you were watching a History Channel special, complete with commercial breaks. The catch is that the products featured in the commercials are satire not only commercials of our time, but the products are also usually racist in nature, or have something to do with the keeping and maintaining of slavery. It's a fascinating and very well done movie.

6. Iron Man 3
This was a surprisingly controversial movie because of certain aspects of the villain Mandarin. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. However, I can say that it was my favorite part of the movie. I loved this movie more than any other Marvel movie. Shane Black directed one of my favorite movies--Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang--and I could see his touch all over this movie. I also loved that this movie actually looked at the events in The Avengers and actually did something with it, unlike Thor 2, which basically just said, "Hey...remember New York? Crazy, huh?"

7. Evil Dead

In a sea of incredibly soft R-rated horror movies, and an absolute glut of paranormal haunted house movies, this was a breath of fresh air. It does lack the cheesy charm of the original movie--because this is a big budget movie and not a shoe-string 70's B-flick. And while the characterization was a bit thin, I thought it moved at a nice pace, the main character at least was well developed, and my God they didn't skimp on the gore. It was funny, intense. I actually enjoyed it, despite its flaws. This was a nice contrast to that horrible movie I saw last year, The Collection, which also had lots of gore. Both movies are over-the-top, but where Evil Dead seems like it's having fun with itself, The Collections nonsensical plot and meaningless gore felt like another tired Saw rip-off...which according to what I've read online, it actually was.

8. You're Next

Another R-rated horror movie that was a breath of fresh air, this movie had me completely by surprise. The trailers for it made it look incredibly bland, boring, just...like a big 1.5 hour chunk of nothing. I was wrong. I had a blast at this movie. It was a ton of fun. If you like horror movies, but you thought this one looked like another bland home invasion movie, give it a chance. I think you'll enjoy it.

9. The Conjuring

I like horror movies, okay? Anyway, one of my favorite directors, James Wan, released two movies this year. This movie, and Insidious 2. And while I liked Insidious 2, it had a lot of flaws that I didn't see in the first one and ultimately it felt like a fun but unnecessary follow-up to the first one. This movie, strangely, felt like a truer sequel in spirit to Insidious. It was atmospheric as hell, and it employed the music and framing to its advantage, scaring the shit out of you at just the right opportunities. I saw it a couple of times, and it was just as good with repeat viewings.

10. The Way Way Back
Sam Rockwell is one of my favorite little hidden gems in movies. Just about every movie he's in, he makes it just a little bit better. The Green Mile, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 7 Psycopaths, even the otherwise meh Iron Man 2 was much better when Rockwell was on screen. This is very much a sort of hipster, "boy finds himself through his misadventures with wacky side characters" movie, but dammit, I like those kinds of movies. And this movie is better than most. And, while the girl isn't a central character, she's not handled as insultingly as she is in other movies. Still not great, but better. But really, you want to see this movie for Sam Rockwell.

Documentaries

I have a love of documentaries. I like to learn things. Documentaries about how the brain works, documentaries about how healthcare works, documentaries about political espionage and party politics. I'll watch them about whatever. However, I'm especially partial to documentaries about social or cultural practices.

This year, I've seen several fantastic documentaries that I want to go ahead and give a big thumbs-up and a recommendation for. If you haven't seen these, consider checking them out.

1. Reel Injun

One thing that I'm constantly trying to do is learn how other people live and feel. As a young, white, cis-het, mostly able-bodied white dude, I have it pretty easy compared to many in this country. Because of that, it's easy for me to overlook how other people feel. It's why I try to keep my twitter feeds, Facebook, Tumblrs, and whatever else in my life filled with different viewpoints. I like to be reminded of other perspectives. It gives me things to think about. This documentary looks at the history of Native Americans portrayal in movies throughout the history of cinema and how that has contributed to our nations viewing of the group as a whole. It also shows a people struggling with their identity. I highly recommend watching it if you haven't. Added bonus: you can get a list of lots of movies to check out.

2. Tales from the Script

I'm fascinated with the creative process. Learning how others view and function helps me learn about myself as well. This is a documentary that looks at different screen writers in Hollywood. It gives you an insight into how film scripts get turned into movies, what influence the writers of those movies have over their films--if any in come cases--how directors can change the script, and other neat insider information.

3. Indie Game: The Movie

Another film that deals with look at creative-types, this film looks at how some of our most popular and famous indie video games get made. It's usually one or two guys doing something they're passionate about and hoping this will be the thing that gets them to the big time. These are some honest portrayals, showing the awesome power of the creative person in all of their flawed and inspiring selves. Quite a fan of this one.

4. Miss Representation

This documentary didn't necessarily show me a whole lot I didn't already know from a ton of reading, but it was a fascinating look at how the lack of representation of women in media--and the lack of certain kinds of representation especially--can contribute to a lack of female representation in positions of leadership and authority as well. The most effective moments involve interviews with teen boys and girls giving their opinions on female representation.

5. Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines

This was, by far, my favorite documentary I watched this year. I got to catch an NPR sponsored showing of the film at a nearby library and stayed for the panel discussion, but honestly this film is totally worth watching. The film divides its time between a history of the character of Wonder Woman and how she was treated and changed alongside the rise and fall of other female characters. You can spot trends that are absolutely fascinating. It also hits the nail on the head explaining why stories matter, especially to underrepresented groups of people.

________________

So that's my list of favorite movies from 2013. See anything you're interested in? See anything in the list you've already seen that you have a burning desire to discuss? Fire off in the comments.

Next time: Books

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas. I'm with my family. The presents have been opened. We're going to go get Chinese food soon because that's our family Christmas tradition. Then, we're going to get together and watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. So have a happy holiday, be safe, and if you celebrate Christmas, have a great one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Tis the Season

We Know the DJ
Friends...it's Christmas time. It's the time for people to put aside their differences and accept each other as we are. It's the time of giving to those less fortunate, smiling at strangers, and reminding yourself to have just a modicum of more patients before getting upset in traffic...that last one may be personal.
Now, I know that reality TV is sort of waning into nonexistence. Really only a small niche audience watch that style of TV anymore, but I wanted to mention this little arthouse-style show called Duck Dynasty. It's about a family of rednecks in Louisiana that invented a special duck call and got rich from it. It's essentially a real life version of The Beverly Hillbillies. Recently, the family patriarch, Phil Robertson, was in an issue of GQ talking about various beliefs he has.

What with all the liberals and atheists taking the Christ out of Christmas and warring on our favorite holiday, it was good to see someone making some sense out there in the trenches. During the interview, Robertson said, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men." Exactly, having multiple sex partners in your life, having sex with animals. Same thing, basically. There were a few times in college, after having had a drink or two, where I'd look at all these beautiful women and then realize, DAMMIT, I just had sex with a horse. AGAIN!

Robertson went on to say, "Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Thankfully, Robertson isn't a judgmental person. “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job."

See? He's a kind, caring soul. He'll love you in a totally platonic, no-homo kind of way that expresses a chaste Christian affection while still maintaining his heterosexual and masculine status. Just like Jesus.

Robertson gets it. You don't judge people for their lifestyle choices. Sure, liars, drunks, gays, prostitutes, and greedy people are going to hell, yeah, we all know that. But we don't JUDGE you for it! That would be wrong.

One thing I'm thankful for is that these Duck Dynasty guys have shown themselves to be true, upstanding Christians. They won't fall to such deceptions as homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, or greed.

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It's good to see good, humble businessmen like the Robertsons cracking down on the real social evils of homosexuality. It's good that they're bringing us back to the True Biblical Message, especially when our most important holiday is fast approaching.

In addition to reminding us that God is watching us have sex, Robertson also spent some time explaining to us how black people feel. Now, Phil Robertson is what some in the racial communities would call "passing." That means he's black, but he just doesn't look it. I mean, I assume that he's black, since he explained how black people felt during the Civil Rights movements.

"I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

See, we white people completely misunderstood when Dr. Martin Luther King said, "There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities."

What he meant was: "White people! Keep doin' what you're doing. No worries, brah."

It's so obvious now! I feel silly. What a miscommunication.

(From Wikipedia)         Pictured: perfectly happy people
Now that we have that all cleared up, we can go back to our regular businesses. No more worries about racism, okay, black people? And gays, if you don't like the way people are treating you, just don't be gay anymore. It's clearly that simple. Just like I chose to have exercised induced asthmatic attacks in middle school and high school. If I had just breathed normally instead of that heaving, gasping nonsense, not only would I have been less pudgy, but I probably could have made some cool friends.

Ah, the folly of youth. Glad we can get these world problems knocked out before the holidays. I am eagerly awaiting Phil Robertson to release a statement solving world hunger and world wars as well.

I imagine they'll read like so:

"Dear hungry people,

Just cook yourself something and quit whining, kay?"

"Dear warring people,

Chill out."

EDITED AT 4:39PM TO ADD:

From Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post, linked to on Wil Wheaton's Tumblr:

“On Friday, GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne went all in, comparing [Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson] to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.. 
“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” Bayne said in an email to supporters. 
“What Parks did was courageous,” he added. “What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”
We gotta be getting rick-rolled...right?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas from Saruman

Christopher Lee, Saruman, the White Wizard, Dracula, the ultimate of badasses, has released a Christmas album.

I know what you're thinking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actors. Releasing musical albums. What a corporate cashgrab. And a Christmas Album? How much more corporate America money maker can you get. When you think of all of the terrible Christmas albums released to just make a few extra bucks, we could probably take all of those, build houses, and solve our homeless problem this holiday season (nobody would miss the cds...I mean...c'mon..."Christmas Shoes"? What an awful song).

But, but, but.  This is Christopher Lee. He's already a bad ass with an amazing voice.

And it's a heavy metal album.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman


While Marvel has also been doing some cool experiments with their mythos and attempting to bring their comic universe to the big screen in a unified way (and featuring superheroes that generally wouldn't be considered), DC has chosen to ride the Batman and Superman horses until they're dead, reanimate them, ride them until they rot away to so much wind chime material, and then see how much father they can drag the bones before they disintegrate in their hands.

DC has made 9 Superman movies, and 5 animated movies (although the Justice League movies certainly count since he's sort of their leader, and the Superman/Batman movies count for both Superman and Batman, obviously.)

DC has made 10 Batman movies, and 6 animated movies (although, again, the Justice League movies could certainly count--especially Justice League: Doom, and the Superman/Batman movies count for both of them).

DC has made one direct-to-dvd animated Wonder Woman movie in 2009.

In 60 years of films being made, Wonder Woman has had one shot to herself.

There was big-big-big news recently when it was announced that, for the first time, we will see a Wonder Woman on the big screen in a big budget movie. It will not, however, be in her movie. She will be featured in the Batman vs. Superman movie.

This is troubling because they say that they have to do her right, that they really have to try, but from what I understand, Wonder Woman's animated film was received very well. And yet, the Green Lantern got his own cartoon series after a failed movie, while Wonder Woman's solo career remains at one animated film.

At this point, it's just embarrassing. The one argument that could have been even feasible would be that audiences wouldn't respond well to a non-traditional superhero with such a complicated mythology and background--all of the gods and goddesses and magic might be confusing to them.

Except...ahem...


So then, what is it about Wonder Woman that's so hard to create in a movie?

Conventional wisdom is that female led movies don't make money, they can't make money, nobody will go see them. They'll point to Elektra and Catwoman as examples, despite the fact that those movies were absolutely godawful.

Except...ahem...


So, we finally have a person cast as Wonder Woman, the relatively unknown Gal Gadot.

Gadot hasn't been in a lot of films. She's most known in the States for being a supporting character in the Fast and Furious franchise. She's not a very big name to be cast as one of the Holy Trinity of DC. Then again, people didn't expect Michael Keaton to be a very good Batman, and Hugh Jackman is so far removed, physically, from the Wolverine of the comics that it's almost laughable.

With Gadot's casting, people have revved up their waaambulances and really gone to town, bitching about everything: her race, her accent, her nationality, her beauty, her modeling career, her body shape and size--fucking everything!

For my money, Gadot seems to be choice casting. For one, she's Middle-Eastern--specifically Israeli. This is nice casting because Wonder Woman is very often depicted as white, which is a bit disingenuous since, according to Wikipedia, the Amazons (the race of warrior women that Wonder Woman comes from) could have been located in Ukraine, Asia Minor, or Libya. I know cultures and races aren't interchangeable, but it's just nice to see someone who isn't white cast.

Because she's not American, nor is English her native speaking language, she does have an accent in her interviews. Again, Amazon. This makes sense. Also, I've heard Christian Bale's accent. If he can put on a convincing American one, I'm sure she can if she has to. And she has to have decent acting chops or she wouldn't have been cast in a multi-million dollar franchise like Fast and the Furious

While she'll certainly be conventionally attractive--she was Miss Israel 2004--she was also in the Israeli Army! Are you fucking kidding me?! That's so bad ass! Who seems more fitting to cast as a warrior princess from another culture: a soft Hollywood actor-type, or someone who was in the fucking Israeli Army?!


One of the most baffling things I've heard people complain about is how "waif-ish" Gadot is. And she is certainly thin. But just like we shouldn't body shame larger built people, you shouldn't body shame a celebrity that's naturally thin either. 

However, there is a certain amount of casting that just makes sense, I guess. Justin Long isn't necessarily going to be cast in an Andre the Giant biopic, right? And Wonder Woman has often been shown in the comics as muscular. She has hips and thighs--and boobs! So a lot of people are bitching and moaning that Gadot is too small and dainty for Wonder Woman.

You know who needs a lot of bulk to be played to remain true to the comics? Batman. Here he is depicted in his current comic as well as his representation in the Justice League TV show.


Now for a guy to properly represent Batman as he is presented in the comics or in the cartoon, he'd have to be a ripped son of a bitch. 

I'm curious to see how much working out Ben Affleck will do to portray the role. He looked like he'd gained a little extra weight in Runner Runner that wasn't exactly muscle. I'm sure he'll slim down for the role. One thing for sure, though, is that Ben Affleck certainly has the build for the role. At 6'4, Ben Affleck is a fucking giant. He's 4 inches taller than Christian Bale, and 3 inches taller than Henry Cavill.

See, Ben Affleck makes sense physically for the role. It's not like we've cast a skinny guy to play Batman before...


Oh, right. Christian Bale was a beanpole in The Machinist in 2004, and he managed to bulk up okay for Batman Begins in 2005.

See, this is where I get annoyed. You don't think Gadot's a good actress? Okay. People bitched about Affleck being cast as Batman, as well. You don't like the movies she's been in? I'd say tough shit, but whatever. If you're going to judge actors based on their past failures, you're going to run out of actors to watch in movies. Actors are in bad movies sometimes. It happens. And when you're starting out a career, you take whatever jobs you can get. But the people that are bitching about Gadot's body? For real? C'mon, son, pay attention to the words leaving your facehole. Look at the previous Batmen. Tell me you're not that clueless.

Sadly, there is a lot of pressure on Gadot to be a spectacular representation of Wonder Woman. The way the industry works, this character has one shot. If Gadot's performance is lackluster, or if she has a shit script, if anything goes wrong...we'll likely never see a Wonder Woman movie. They'll point to this and say, "See? We tried. You guys didn't like it." 

Even though Joel Schumaker put out two of the absolute goddamned worst Batman movies I've ever seen, Batman still got three more movies and a fuckton of animated features. Man of Steel got a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and it's getting a sequel! But if Wonder Woman fails, it will be blamed on her gender--which is absolute horse shit.

All I can say, is I hope Goyer writes a Wonder Woman with the kind of charm and chemistry of Marvel's Black Widow or Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. And I hope Gadot pulls out all of the stops in her performance. Because it's about damned time we get a female superhero movie. It's about damned time we got a Wonder Woman movie.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman photoshop from teagone on Deviantart.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snowpacalypse 2013!!!

Well, how about this weather, eh? Apparently the entire United States was blindsided by a winter storm of epic proportions.

The wife and I are only just now getting back to normal life. We were snowed into our house for around four days. When the streets were cleared, we had to contend with the massive amount of snow pushed into our driveway by the street plows.

It's funny, the snow and ice didn't last that terribly long. Mostly, it was waiting for the roads to thaw. The surrounding cities didn't plow as the stuff was falling, so ice fell, then snow on top of it, and it took close to a solid week for the stuff to melt off enough--with constant grating, sanding, and salting--for everyone to be able to leave their homes and do things. It got so bad that Arkansas's Department of Transportation was holding meetings with Missouri's to see what they were doing differently.  When you drove to the Arkansas/Missouri border, it was a solid sheet of ice and then BOOM clear.

Below is a picture of our backyard that I took when the ice started to fall. That's not snow you're seeing. It's sleet and freezing rain with maaaybe just a touch of snow mixed in.


Next you'll, of course, see the picture of the backyard when the ice had stopped and the snow had started falling and really building up. It actually got a bit deeper. We had probably a foot of snow in some places despite the TV under reporting it as only 6 inches. My grill looks very unhappy to be there.


And finally, a picture of my dog in his sweater in the snow. We had his doggy door open for a while and when my wife and I went out to play in the snow, he came running out to check on us when we fell. I snapped a picture before he scampered back inside. He was not thrilled with the cold, but he seemed to do okay. I think he enjoyed jumping over the piles, even if it was colder than his preference.

Also, apparently my dog will go outside and piss with snow up above his goddamned head, but even the slightest hint of rain and he'll hold his urine until he bursts like a water balloon at a pool party.


My family got mostly ice. They actually went without power for a while--and it's been flickering on and off ever since. So, what was the weather like in your neck of the woods? Did you get much snow? Or do you live in Florida and have no idea what this strange marshmallow-like substance covering my yard could be?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Quietness Around Here

It's been pretty quiet around here lately. Sorry about that.

Lately, I've been extremely busy with work. It's not been exactly enjoyable...more of a "hunker down and hope that this passes soon" kind of thing. But it seems like things are getting better, if only because the holidays are approaching.

Speaking of which, the wife and I already exchanged our "big" presents this year--tablets! We each got each other Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. We stuck with the 7 inch models because, especially for our first tablets, they seemed like the best choice between function and price. So far, we've really enjoyed them. The wife got me an extra bit of fancy by purchasing a tablet case with a Bluetooth keyboard, which means that I can now type and do writing type things on the go again. Since the death of my laptop, this has not been the case. That's actually what I'm typing this post on right now. I'll be interested to see how it looks using the Blogger app and the Bluetooth keyboard.

In other news, Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. I am very much looking forward to the usual visiting with family. My wife and I have already had our personal Thanksgiving. I made the turkey and my grandmother's pumpkin pie, my wife made her amazing crockpost stuffing, and all in all it was a grand 'ol time.

After that, we put up our tree and watched our first holiday special. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Christmas is my favorite holiday. Ever. EVER. I absolutely LOVE Christmas. So we watched Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas because SHUT UP MICKEY MOUSE IS A NATIONAL TREASURE AND I LOVE HIM NO I WILL NOT PUT MY PANTS BACK ON!!!

Anyway, here's a shot of the tree, freshly decorated and presentified. Looks like it's time for the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Les Miserables Review

One thing that has helped me in both reading critically and thinking about my own work in a more critical fashion is watching review shows. When you watch other people deconstruct a work and explain what does and doesn't work while they examine the multiple facets of often complicated works of art, it reveals layers that you may not have considered and often gives you an idea of how to look at something similar later.

Also, these internet reviewers are also just plain funny.

With that in mind, here is the Nostalgia Critic's incredibly awesome musical review of the musical Les Miserables.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Bought a Suit

Photo from Flickr user SUPERADRIANME
Technically, I've owned one suit before. And I still own it. However, it is getting a bit old and slightly shabby looking, and I've lost a bit of weight since I last had to wear it. So, over the weekend, the wife and I went suit shopping.

It's interesting. Suits are sort of, to me, a clothing style so completely removed from the type of life that I have lead up to this point, the very fact that I was looking at them was blowing my mind in a "how have I ended up at this point in my life" kind of way.  Not a bad kind of way. Just interesting.

The suit, by the way, is for an upcoming wedding. Where I grew up, nobody I knew ever wore suits. Everybody that I knew that got married, even my mom and dad's friends, wore button up shirts and slacks--MAYBE--or possibly jeans and cowboy boots. A suit is something else entirely.

I'm noticing myself getting placed more and more into these types of situations. About a month ago or so, my wife and I went to our first "grown up" party. It was a dinner for the same wedding that I'll be attending this weekend. There were people in polos and button up shirts with well styled hair drinking Italian beers and many bottles of wine. The entire back deck (they had a deck!) had been decorated to look like an Italian restaurant. The back deck overlooked an expansive, wooded property. All I could think as I sipped my beer and stared into those dark woods was how this was the type of situation that began many a horror movie--rich, white folks gathering for a fancy dinner. Having just seen You're Next, the wife and I spent most of the evening joking about when we thought the killers would make their first strike.

The dinner wasn't horrible. It was, however, incredibly uncomfortable. When a good portion of your day-to-day life is Doctor Who and science-fiction novels, you don't have a lot of common ground with people of the upper crust.

So, now I'm looking for a tailor to help fit my new suit, and to help fit and mend my old suit.

I have only 2 friends left that do not have babies. All of my other friends, those I frequently talk to, and those that I haven't spoken to since high school, have at least 1 child. I have 2 childless friends and my brother. That's it.

Sometimes, when I sit back and examine my life for a moment rather than racing from one thing to the next, I find myself wondering: How do you grown up?

(I didn't buy a suit from the pictured business above. I just chose a picture filed under "creative commons" that I could use for my blog.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

1 Year With MoviePass


Welp...this was certainly not the post I was expecting to write.

About a year ago, I signed up to be in the beta version of this service called MoviePass. The idea of the service was that you could pay $30 a month for a membership, and then go see a movie a day (not counting 3D or IMAX movies, because those are much more expensive.) With ticket prices at the cinema rising to a little over $10 for regular tickets, I had to see about 4 movies per month in order for my membership to be cost effective.

This was not difficult for the wife and I to do. We bought two memberships, and then all we had to do was check in to the theater on their phone app and then buy the tickets with the debit card the company provided.

As one might expect, since my wife and I have jobs, we see most of our movies over the weekend. Most weekends, we saw about a movie a week. There were bumps here and there where we'd go see 2 or 3 in a weekend, but not often. And, of course, there were a few months were we just couldn't get out to the cinema to see the movies, so our watching wouldn't quite pay for itself.

MoviePass wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Their app was extremely buggy. Often, I would try to check into the theater, and be told I needed to be within 100 yards of the theater...when I was standing inside of it. And while some of their customer reps were fantastic and helpful, others treated you like an annoyance or an asshole simply for calling in. Despite all of that, I didn't really have any complaints. The service was too good to cancel over a few douchey phone jockies.

I've just finished up one year of service with them, and I was about to write a post about how fantastic the service was, and I was going to seriously promote the hell out of it. Not anymore.

Recently, MoviePass sent out an e-mail updating us about the state of the service, and it mentioned new options rolling out.
"We have many exciting new features coming that will improve your experience even more."
One of the biggest drawbacks to MoviePass was, while you could check into regular movies with no issues, going to see, say, Iron Man 3 or The Hobbit would be difficult. Those are the types of movies my wife and I like to preorder tickets for so we can avoid the long line at the ticket window. But you can't preorder tickets with MoviePass, because you have to be within 100 yards of the theater to check in and activate the debit card they provide. I was really hoping that one of the new features would be some way to preorder tickets for highly anticipated movies more easily.

The first feature was basically just the ability to buy a subscription for friends or loved ones for gifts--which is nice since it's been on beta for so long, but I wasn't exactly clamoring for the feature. The next feature mentioned was a Countdown Clock.
"We’re also excited to introduce a new feature: The Countdown Clock. This clock counts down the time until your next available screening."

This seemed like one of those goofy comsmetic things that I wouldn't necessarily care about but that might be occasionally nice and fun. Maybe the clock would be counting down big movies like the next Hobbit film or the next Avengers or something. No such luck:
"You will still be able to go to a movie each day, but there will be a 24-hour period between screenings. Your MoviePass app has already been updated, and you will notice these changes the next time you see a movie."
The way MoviePass used to work, if I watched a movie Saturday night, I just had to wait until it rolled over to Sunday to watch another movie. If I wanted, I could watch a movie Friday night, and then watch a midnight premiere of a film at 12:01 Saturday morning if I wanted to. But I wouldn't be able to watch anything all day Saturday if I did that--I'd have to wait until Sunday.

MoviePass's new terms of service makes it to where I can watch a movie at 7:00 PM Friday night--which the wife and I often do--but then I can't go watch a Saturday matinee of a film while we're in town running errands--which we also often do. We have to wait a full 24 HOURS before we can see another movie, meaning we have to wait until 7:00 PM Saturday night.

That doesn't sound too bad. Consider, however, that if I go to a late showing of a film--say 9:00 PM, which I do for PG-13 movies to avoid as much of the younger crowd as possible--then I have to wait until 9:00 PM the next day to watch another movie.

This is significantly altering the way the service functions and purposefully inconveniencing frequent users like the wife and myself. It's not like I have all the time in the world to watch a movie. My wife and I have day jobs, and our local cinemas typically have a 1:00 showing, a 4:00 showing, a 7:00 showing, and a 9:00 showing. The times vary a little depending on the movie length, but that's about average. No more wandering around the mall on Saturday and deciding to catch a movie on a whim. Nope, can't do that. Saw a movie the day before. We'll find something to do for 3 fucking hours until the next showing.

I'm sure they were trying to stop those people who go see a movie a day--like, the guys that go see 7 movies a week or whatever. But if that were the case, I wish they'd just put a cap on the number of movies you can see in a week. Put a cap on 3 movies a week, and then you're locked out for a certain time. That's reasonable. The average user would be hard pressed to hit that 3 movies a week cap anyway. Or hell, even raising the price of the service would almost be understandable.

However, what really pissed me off about the e-mail was how they were trying to sneak this change in the terms of service by us as an EXCITING NEW FEATURE!!!11!!11!111!!!

Ethan Anderton put it best:
Yes, MoviePass is a business, and this is likely a move that will help them stay operational if certain power users are costing them money. But what's truly insulting is how this policy change has been presented to us as a new feature. We're not stupid, and all the complaints you're receiving on Facebook and Twitter are evidence of that. Maybe if you would have explained this nonsense to us like adults and played to our sympathy about wanting to keep your business going, we would have understood. But now you can be damn sure that I will use MoviePass to the max, planning around this 24-hour countdown clock to make sure you pay for this atrocity. And honestly, there's a good chance I might just drop the service if this continues.

24 hours between films, when the most viable time to use the service for many users, including my wife and myself, is on the weekend, is a stupid decision on the part of the company. When my wife called to complain, she was told there was a 14 day window where we could cancel our service (signing up is sort of like a contract where you guarantee to use the service for a year). Because it's no longer useful or viable as an option, because their new terms of service handicap the usage so much, my wife and I will be cancelling our service. 

I was originally going to wholeheartedly recommend the service. I can't really do that anymore. It's much too expensive if you can't fit in at least 4 movies a month, and they've made it as difficult as possible to do that. 

So long, MoviePass. We had a great year, but I guess all good things come to an end. Let me know if you change things around to make your service more viable. Until then, I'll just start going to the discount theaters more often, instead.