Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Post-Viewing

I discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien when I was about twelve years old (sometime in 1997). It began when I chose The Hobbit at random from a list for a Seventh Grade book report, not knowing anything about its history or its exceptional and incredibly interesting author. Reading it opened a whole new world to me. 

During my freshmen year of high school I read The Lord of the Rings. I didn't leap right into the trilogy after reading The Hobbit, even though I had heard of it in passing, because copies of the books were unavailable to me, and for some reason the idiom "Out of sight, out of mind" described my way of life in those early teenage years. However, I did see the title and cover images for the other books inside the cover of my copy of The Hobbit and I wondered at them, but I was unable to track them down until later. Though it took me a couple of years to explore the rest of Tolkien's writings, after reading The Lord of the Rings I completely immersed myself in the world of Middle Earth. I learned of its history, its peoples, its languages, and its heroes and villains. It became my universe for escape and fancy, especially when life fell apart around me. 

When the films of Peter Jackson's trilogy were released I excitedly watched all of them, anxious to see my beloved literary universe brought to life. They came to theaters during a time when my family was going through several extreme rough patches and was rapidly dissolving. In those days the books and movies were a powerful comfort and very much my "World beyond the wardrobe" or simply a spiritual link for me to the beautiful dimension of imagination. They sustained me long into adulthood.

Then came Peter Jackson's take on The Hobbit, about ten years later.

News of an adaptation of The Hobbit to film had been around since just after Jackson wrapped his Rings trilogy. I, along with many of my fellow appreciators of Tolkien, were naturally very excited for this news. Even though initial reports suggested that it probably would not involve Peter Jackson, I was simply anxious to see another piece of Tolkien's Middle Earth brought to the screen. When it was eventually announced that Jackson would once again take up the reins I was thrilled because he had already given us a fine adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, and in so doing, proved his understanding of and respect for the source material - even though he did take some liberties with The Lord of the Rings. Then I heard that he wanted to convert the novel into another trilogy. A single novel into three films. At that announcement I suddenly remembered my concern when I heard that he wanted to add a sword-wielding Arwen to Helm's Deep. Odd changes were afoot. Frustration and concern began to set in. 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which I wrote on last year - here) was an enjoyable film, though I did have some issues with certain aspects of the movie's story progression. In the end I chose to view it with the idea that it was an adaptation apart from the source material in several respects and should therefore be appreciated for what it was. So, time passed and I waited patiently for the second part of what I still considered an unnecessary trilogy.

My wife and I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last night, the Saturday of its opening weekend. My initial reaction after viewing the film was one of anger and supreme disappointment. This stemmed mostly, again, from my feeling of unease with Jackson's desire to produce a trilogy and, considering what I had just seen, his decision to justify and make that trilogy by packing in absurd filler, seemingly to placate simple-minded movie audiences who care nothing for the source material. At least I hope that's why some of that material was included, though I detect a certain Del Toro influence in some of the story decision making, which is likely since he co-wrote the screenplay. What I mean by that statement is really a reference to my opinion that Del Toro tends to include sudden, heavy, awkward, and lengthy action sequences and to explore aspects of the characters which interest him and generally tend to have little to no connection to the source material, if he's adapting.

To state it plainly, my biggest issue with the movie was the excessive insertion of additional material and the strange diversions from the original story. Without giving too much away, I found myself bothered by the inclusion of a ridiculous and highly unnecessary love triangle, which included a character created by the filmmakers. One not pulled from Tolkien's writings. Then there was an alteration of a certain major player toward the end of the The Hobbit's tale, the addition of a video game-like sequence which went on for far too long, the poisoning of one of the dwarven party so that the filmmakers could include a nod to Frodo's plight in Fellowship of the Ring, and finally, the games of "Tease the Dragon" and "Let's Light the Forge" played by Bilbo and the dwarves near the end of the film. There were other additions to the original story, but in my opinion, those made sense in terms of creating a film experience for the every-viewer. 

Many things in The Desolation of Smaug excited and very much pleased me, though. Beorn was fantastic, though he was underused and the sequence in his home was unfortunately diminished. The Mirkwood sequence was well executed, and they even thought to include Bilbo's time above the canopy of the wood, surrounded by the butterflies. The elven hall was exceptional, though the film did not need either Legolas or his manufactured counterpart Tauriel. I also thought that Lake Town was well done, and I appreciated the culture of the Lake Folk which the film represented. There were other moments or locations which were exciting to watch, and for most of the film I found myself wanting to both desperately reread the books and to quickly strike up a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

In regard to any feelings of inspiration or longing generated by this film, the largest impulse I had when leaving the theater was to go and seek out a copy of the Rankin-Bass animated feature. Of all the Tolkien adaptations, the Rankin-Bass Hobbit came closest to the tone, style, and overall feel of what I felt was at the heart of the novel. Sure, it left out some great sequences from the book, but the character and world design along with the flow of the story matched my original feelings when I first read The Hobbit. Perhaps I'll pay a visit to Amazon after writing this post so that I can finally own a copy.

It was not my intent to write a scathing review of the movie, but I did want to explain my perspective and my reaction to the film in hopes that other Tolkien enthusiasts would read this and use caution when viewing it or contact me with their opinions of the movie. The above consists greatly of my opinions, so know that I don't claim to have the correct outlook on the film or the only valid view. Basically, see it and decide for yourself, but know that someone who grew up loving the books upon which this film was based felt mixed-to-disappointed about the film.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ender's Game - A Review

From the off I'll just state that it's unfortunate that the man who wrote the book upon which the film Ender's Game was based is the reason why so many of those who chose to boycott it won't be viewing it. I understand that there is a lot of anger and quite possibly a bit of hatred out there for Orson Scott Card because of the fact that he chose to share his ridiculous opinions, but the film and the book, for that matter, don't represent or support the negative opinions of the author. So, whether you see it or not, let me get into what I enjoyed about the movie Ender's Game.

Humanity is preparing for war, frightful and driven by their hatred toward an extraterrestrial enemy which suddenly appeared and threatened them fifty years prior to the period of the main story. Since that time humans have gone further out into space and evolved their methods for combating this ominous foe. Children have been recruited to train as leaders in the coming war because of their abilities to learn and adapt in a manner superior to adults. This is the universe of Ender's Game.

This movie was the type of science-fiction film which excites me. In design and composition, it closely resembles a future which could very well be our own. Like all great science-fiction it explores who we might be and how we might function in the future. It's a film with advanced technology and aliens, but most importantly it's a movie about humanity and life. 

The components of Ender's Game which really made the film for me were the cast and the design. An exceptional cast brought to life a variety of deep and complex characters. Ender was well represented by Asa Butterfield, who managed to display the curiosity and sensitivity of a child while maintaining the calculating, tactical, and sometimes cold demeanor of Ender Wiggin. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, and others filled out the cast wonderfully as people who both shaped and shared the life of the main character in a universe of impending war. 

In regard to the design of the film, it appears that those in charge of its look chose to build upon our currently technology to create a future which feels not only possible but, in some ways, probable. The station upon which Ender and his fellow cadets train appears to be an extended International Space Station, though with segments supporting artificial gravity (if only we had something like that available currently). The carriers and other ships appeared to be logical projections of what our current battle and space exploration tech might be in a future of a little more than half a century away. These decisions grounded the film so well that I found myself at times experiencing the awe I feel whenever I read or behold dazzlingly prophetic sci-fi. 

There were points in the film which could have been better developed in my opinion. For one thing, the ending lacked the power it deserved, especially considering what occured. I think it's safe to say that it fell a little flat toward the closing portion. Also, there were portions of character development and story progression which felt rushed. I don't feel like we were given enough time with Ender as he made his way through training toward the end. Overall, the story either needed more screen time for proper development or an adjustment of some of the less important portions, though this is only my opinion.

Regardless of the poor and public decisions of Orson Scott Card, specifically in regard to the expression of his opinions, I think that those who appreciate the novel and the science-fiction genre will love this film. From what I've gathered it's release was one which caused many long-time fans to grow a bit more than concerned, but I think many of them, if they can accept this as an adaptation (something that is based on the book and not a direct filming of the book), will enjoy it for what it is. For everyone else, I think it will be entertaining as just an exciting space tale about humanity in the future as we deal with who we are and how we interact with other forms of life in the cosmos. This will be one of those films science-fiction folks will be discussing for quite some time, I think.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Why can't I just write like me? That's all I want to do in this moment, but I am instead finding myself incapable. The writing sounds off or foreign. It sounds like attempts at being someone I'm not.

I had a voice once, or so I was told. Professors, confidants, and my wife have all identified it at one point or another. It was mine. Leave it to me, the guy who couldn't detect it in the first place, to go and lose it.

I've been away from writing for too long. So many plans were made in the last few months, plans to redirect my path toward something more profitable and bearable as a future career. Plans to do anything other than write.

I was writing. Eventually I discovered that writing wasn't something I could continue. I became afraid of it. Too afraid to try, apparently. So, here I am, a clock-punching stooge like a majority of people in the world. I've turned my back on the last year of half-hearted attempts and failure of self.

I still have ideas. There are pages and pages of notes and fragments detailing potential  stories, comics, plays, movies, etcetera. All of it is going to sit there, now because of avoidance begotten by dread. Why?

I'm going to try and break through. I don't know if this will work.

This is all I could get out tonight. Maybe I'll manage more some other time.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Return to the Life of Sisyphus

The dream has ended and the work is frozen. That line accurately describes both the status of my life and of my ailing sprout of a writing career. The development of the composing of stories has been arrested by the needs of life. I have had to return to a punch-clock job to help my wife and I recover and maintain. Once again it is time to push the boulder back up the hill and then to chase it down again, to repeat the process without ceasing.

I must admit, the work I do for my new employer could be worse, and it does pay very well, but a tiny portion of me, powered by a nagging trait carried by my unfortunate genes, demands that I dissect this new way of living and never give up on finding a reason to complain. I tire of being me, or at least that version of me. So, I've all but completely dispatched my inner self and found a way to bite down, ignore the life that moves around me, and ride out this ride known as "The Way Things Are."

I mean, it's only for now. Right?

As for creative pursuits, I'm sure that I'll find the will to continue them and to continue trying to put stuff out there for people. Eventually malaise will evaporate, giving way to partial numbness, and I'll feel okay about continuing my efforts. For now things of that sort are the last things on my mind.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Home Intruder

My wife and I arrived home after attending a gathering at her friend's house. I was exhausted and Trudy was a little tipsy from a few drinks. All we wanted was to unwind and drift off to sleep. 

As soon as we walked into our apartment, though, I noticed an offensive odor. It was a revolting amalgamation of ammonia and dung. I immediately assumed that one of our cats had released some foul waste product in their litter box, but the smell from the "Cat hallway" was not as nearly as offensive as the smell in the dining room. 

After half an hour of wondering what was causing the smell, relaxing, and swearing harm to the cats if they took up urinating in the dining room, I noticed a flicker in the air beyond our bedroom door and a sudden wave of panic which rushed through our cat Molly and our dog Goldie. When they both settled into a half-seated stance we noticed that they were both gazing at the top of the refrigerator. What the hell, I wondered?

Some more time passed and they became less concerned with the fridge. We assumed that it must have been some noise from our upstairs neighbor and nothing more. We assumed incorrectly. 

My curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I went out to begin to remove items from the top of the fridge. I took down some spray bottles and a box of garbage bags. I grabbed the dog food bag and a container of dog treats. I then went for one of the two last things atop the icebox, a package of paper towel rolls. That's when the panic returned in full force and all sorts of hell broke loose.

A winged shadow leapt into the air and began bobbing around about me in a mad flight. I quickly fell back into the bedroom and shouted, "It's a bat!"

A small brown bat was apparently nesting behind the paper towels inside a small cooler we were storing up there. We don't know how long it had been in the house or how it managed to make it inside. All I knew was that it was in the dining room flying circles around the ceiling fan, attracting the attention of both of our cats. 

Furious, I considered my options and shouted back potential plans to Trudy who just wanted it out of the house. It took some time for me to figure out where it might be, how I might approach the removal, and to steel myself for facing a small, speedy flying grotesquerie (I'm not a fan of bats). Eventually, with winter gloves pulled over my hands, stretched as far as they would go up my forearms, and with a tan fedora atop my head, complete with a small brown feather in its band, I charged out to survey the room.

It didn't take long to find the fiend, dangling from atop a slightly ajar cabinet door. Jellybean, the older of our cats, was watching it, showing an uncharacteristic interest in this new oddity. I moved to the kitchen to retrieve a broom, certain that my initial plan of braining it with a wooden dowel would be fairly ineffective in comparison.

With broom in hand I moved up, positioning my legs for a stance which would allow a lung as well as the opportunity to dive into the bedroom should my aim fail and the creature dive at me. I swung and dislodged it, which naturally sent it back into a frantic spin around the ceiling fan. It managed to dodge the broom head several times, making several more rounds, until the broom finally connected and sent it crashing to the floor. After it hit it went somewhat limp and supine, apparently only able to move its head from side-to-side. I was certain that I'd caused enough damage to prevent it from moving, but I couldn't just let it sit there suffering or throw it outside to slowly die in agony. 

I brought the broom head down upon it slowly, and with my free hand I aimed the dowel so that I could strike at it through the straw of the broom. One. Two. Three. Four heavy strikes rained down upon it, and I gently lifted the broom to verify its expiration. Based on what I saw, it was quite deceased. 

The clean up was fairly easy, though. I found a spare rag to throw over and wrap around it, and then I threw that into the cooler which held a few pieces of what must have been its feces. I carried it out to the dumpster and threw it away. 

Our animals have calmed down now, and Trudy seems to be resting easy, though she showed significant fear in response to my killing of the bat. Perhaps it was the irrational anger I released upon it. I know that I loathed killing it. I'm sorry that I was too disturbed in the moment to think of another way. 

So, that's tonight's bat story.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wolverine

Allow me to begin by alleviating any fanboy fears. This year's The Wolverine is ten times the film that 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine was, at least in my opinion. Not to say that I completely hated Origins, but this year's Wolvie movie had a superior story, wonderful cinematography, and it arranged things in such a way that the idea of a strong, ongoing X-Men film series is not only possible but so very likely (X-Men: Days of Future Past is shooting now, by the way!). Also, in writing about the movie I might give a bit more away than some are comfortable with. You've been warned!

The Wolverine brings the viewing audience up to speed on the state of the X-Men Universe after the events of X-Men 3: The Last Stand. In fact, I found this installment to be Fox's declaration that they have worked to develop the continuity of their X-Men Filmverse and they're sticking to it. This is a fantastic stand, because in doing so they are acknowledging the one thing that the fan community has yet to open itself to and that's the idea of a film continuity apart from the comic source material. It's a movie series based on a comic book series. By nature it's different, so comparisons are not only unnecessary, they're almost completely meaningless.

The story follows Logan from a flashback to the grim days of World War II when Nagasaki was brutalized by The Bomb. Then we're sent forward in the timeline to a wintry setting in the years after the death of Jean Grey and Logan's departure from the X-Men. He's hold up in a cave, drinking away his sorrows, dreaming of the woman he loved and killed. From there he runs into some troublesome hunters who made the mistake of unjustly killing a bear for which he had a respect and an understanding, catches the eye of a certain Japanese woman who has been sent to retrieve him, and is jetted off to meet with a dying acquaintance of sorts.

All of the events in the film, as we progress from the bestial Logan living amongst the animals in the wild to the warrior with a renewed sense of purpose and an acceptance of the tragedies of the past, we see a growth of character in Wolverine and a typical hero's journey. He begins the movie a hero during wartime. We then witness the wreck he has become, an animal living in the woods, subsisting, respecting and being respected by his fellow beasts. As he's pulled from his surrender to his animalistic nature he's given opportunities to process his feelings for the late Jean Grey. Logan is then given purpose when he becomes entangled in the chaos surrounding the Yashida family of Japan. Overall, without giving anything else away, we're able to witness the reforging of the warrior Wolverine and his sense of self. As must occur many times throughout his tragic life, Logan is forced to deal and, in so doing, grow.

There are many great nods to moments from Wolverine's comic heritage, not to compare the film to the events or continuity of any comic storylines. His quiet, predator-to-predator respect for the bear who in turn shows him the respect of distance harkens back to those moments in the X-Men and Wolverine comics when Logan would be out amongst nature, another animal in the animal kingdom. We are also given the classic Japanese storyline from Logan's past, though this time it's set in his post-X-Men years and, in the case of the movie universe, perfectly so. Then there's the quality and nature of the action which was definitely another comic-like aspect of this film. We got to see Wolvie being the best he is at what he does and doing it in a manner which is anything but nice. Add to this the comic book look of the costume of a certain villainess and the design scheme of one of the film's most imposing antagonists who, in a powerful way, redefines the look and function of Wolverine going forward, and you have a movie that was more comic book-y than most comic book-based films.

I do have some issues with the movie, though. There was a continuity error in one sequence when the villainess went to remove her left glove. Due to poor editing she ended up removing it twice. Ouch! Also, I found the end battle to feel a bit hammy. Sure, it's a comic book-like battle, and I read comic books, but the way in which Wolverine fights the main antagonist and what happens to him in the process seemed a bit off from the feel of the rest of the film. There were several moments, some featuring combat, in which the character-developing quality of the movie's story was abandoned so that claws and guns could go up against each other with many gratuitous "Snikts" and "Bangs" to appease the action audience. This kind of weakened the film at times. These were the only serious issues I had with the film. 

Regardless of a few minor complaints, I was highly entertained throughout the film, and I am thankful that I was able to find an open viewing time at 10pm last night, Thursday. This is the kind of movie I love to see as soon as it hits, if not sooner. If you're a fan of superhero comics, The X-Men, Wolverine as a character, and exciting action movies, then you owe it to yourself to see this filmic hero's journey in theaters as soon as you possibly can. Also, sit through the credits. DO NOT make the mistake of walking out as soon as the screen goes dark. Trust me on this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Work On My Webcomic

Comics have been a part of my life since practically the beginning. My paternal grandmother provided me with Uncle Scrooge books in my early years, and my uncle took me to my first comic book shop, which was in West Palm Beach, FL. I grew up learning the concepts behind the "Funny books," their inner workings, and the various types of stories you could tell through the medium.

For years I've wanted to create my own comics. I taught myself to draw when I was a child and have spent many years doodling in the depths of my own, technically weak style. It's been fun, regardless of the quality of what I've produced. Considering the joy and experiences I've had drawing throughout my years and ignoring the pangs of self doubt, I decided to launch into my own comic-making venture in the Winter of 2011 with a comic zine. I prepared it for a local toy and comic expo and assembled it within a week's time. The book didn't do well, but it was a terrific and humbling learning experience.

Shortly after, while considering the contents of another zine, my wife suggested that I attempt to work on a webcomic. The benefits of such a venture would be that I might gain the discipline of creating a comic work on a regular basis and so that I might attract a readership. It took some time for me to appreciate and plan this move into an area of comics with which I was mostly unfamiliar, but in May of this year I jumped in full force.

Since then I've been releasing a weekly webcomic titled "Saves the Day." It's the product of my overactive imagination and a brief bit of inspiration I received after driving past a Day Labor Office one afternoon. Thus far it's attracted the attention of familiar folks from comic message boards and various friends from past jobs and school. The important thing is that it's entertaining someone and teaching me some priceless lessons.

What's the point of writing about all of this? Well, I needed a place in which to organize my thoughts and detail my future plans as they pertain to the comic medium. In the next two-to-three years I would like to move "Saves the Day" to its own website and develop it into a widely known brand. I would also like to make attempts at publishing several comic scripts I've developed over the years. I'm hoping that in time, after paying my dues and humbly learning lessons, that I'll be able to write comics professionally while maintaining some form of webcomic presence.

Sometimes one needs to spell out the details of their dreams for the sake of attaining clarity as they move forward down their chosen path. I think that's the case with this post. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Racism - A Supreme Failing

I'm going to diverge from the usual comic book, film, and random nerd rant format and discuss a topic which should be explored and reflected upon by every person, especially if they're a citizen of the United States of America. Racism is that topic. It is an irrational, sub-intelligent, inhumane doctrine which separates, divides, and weakens the unity of a species which desperately needs to unite so that it might have a strong chance at a long, fruitful future. It is a cancer which thrives within members of every cultural and racial background, unfortunately, and it has marred the history and reputation of the US since its inception.

I grew up in South Florida with a Southern family. Racism was a part of life in that part of the world when I was a child, and it is still active today. We see evidence of it in the case of the late Trayvon Martin, who was recently dealt the injustice of having his murderer acquitted. He was a black boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is unfortunate for him that he was in this country and of his race at the time because the existing racism of which I spoke was actively causing a certain man, George Zimmerman, to profile him. Sure, Mr. Martin should probably have taken a different route, but it is not his fault that he was seen as a black person - followed, harassed, and then shot because of what very much seems to be racism.

Let's face it, based on the general outline of the incident (I found such an outline on CNN) it's difficult to read the events surrounding his death as anything other than yet another case of a non-black person following and assigning judgement on a black person because of what they are. Maybe Zimmerman was just responding to someone who shouldn't have been where they were. Perhaps Martin's reaction to Zimmerman was uncalled for. Did it have to lead to a shooting? Should a neighborhood watch member, out on patrol, have been armed? Why did Zimmerman actually choose to shoot? These are questions which will always be asked, and sadly no one will ever know the exact "Whats" and "whys" which occurred, except for the deceased and the acquitted.

I don't use the words "Maybe" and "seems" and speak of what might have happened because I'm a white man. I use them because I wasn't present at the time of the incident. No one can say without a doubt that it was truly racism or it was clearly self-defense. To proclaim such with any surety is foolish and suggestive of a bias which is just as corrupting in this case as racism.

Getting back to racism and looking at it in the context of this recent event, it is an amazing thing that President Barack Obama recently spoke out on the feelings of black men in America, citing his personal experiences. It is unfair to assume the worst of someone because they are of a certain skin color. This goes for religion, philosophies, and lifestyles as well. Prejudice is myopia. You cannot clearly see someone for who they truly are when you attempt to discern them from a place which is inherently prejudiced. The President gave all of us a window into the mind of a minority which has too often felt the sting of a biased, hateful society. We should be grateful that someone as respectable took the time to open up in such a way.

I have been guilty of racism at times in my life. I could excuse those times as part of a condition of having grown up with an old Southern family. I could say that it's just a natural aspect of life. I would be terrifically missing the point and ignoring mine own ignorance. Looking back, I can admit that I have been stupendously stupid and angry in those moments and chose to process them with a base-mind. I was wrong, and I know that I was wrong. Seeing the error of my ways and reflecting upon the troubles of the bigger issue will, I hope, absolve me for my past failings in some way at some point. Also, in writing this, I hope that I will present a case for reparations in society. One small voice crying for necessary change to fix the failings of a system which belongs to all of us. One voice at a time and maybe we will eventually have that change at some wonderful future point.

I wish that all sides and all peoples would acknowledge their racist beliefs. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, everyone. We as human beings need to leave behind the thinking of our primitive forebears and assemble ourselves without prejudice to build a successful future. I imagine the question of "How?' would be a popular one to those willing to neglect their biases. I wonder if whites and other non-blacks questioned the expectations of blacks in the last week as the Martin case resolved. What can we do to change things, to make blacks feel differently about society? To ask such questions or to consider change for the good of all isn't appeasement or surrender. It's a logical step toward fixing our world.

A wise man once gave me some clarity in regard to racism. His name was Lewis Meriwether. He was a black man and a former city commissioner for Grand Rapids, MI. I had the privilege of meeting him as my Political Science professor during my first year at Grand Rapids Community College. In his class we one day discussed racism and the position of blacks in the nation's history. After class I approached him and foolishly suggested that it would be best to make everyone happy by going out of the way to respond to every issue so that no one could complain. He corrected me and said, specifically in regard to black people, that people deserved to be treated as they want to be treated. In his suggestion of the "Platinum Rule" I believe that I caught his meaning. Fair and equal treatment on an individual-by-individual basis is more effective than an attempt at offering a social panacea which completely ignores the specific needs and feelings of individuals in society.

It is my hope that one day we will put all the petty bickering, bias, prejudice, and needless hatred aside so that we might repair our species and move forward to great, long-lasting success. May we survive our mistakes and never forget the lessons of our past.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The X-Files Season 10 - Issue #2

Another Wednesday has come and along with it another issue of IDW's The X-Files Season 10. In my opinion, issue two is the chief release of all the offerings this New Comic Book Day, a weekly holiday for the special nerds in the know - the "Funny book" folk.

The subscription cover (pictured above, with art by Cerebus creator Dave Sim) offers a pretty big hint at what lies in store between the pages of this second part in the "Believers" storyline. I won't spoil anything, but there's a possibility that the conclusion of the Season 9 episode "Jump the Shark" wasn't as airtight (there's a silly joke in the use of that adjective, but you'd have to be familiar with the episode to understand it) as we were led to believe.

Events from last issue continue, though Scully's whereabouts remain mysterious. We're given a look at an occult-like, possible human hybrid related conspiracy which reaches across great distances to focus upon any existing connections to baby William, Scully's child which was given up for adoption last season. Mulder is left to figure things out along with a seemingly impotent Skinner who can only offer a few details about an oil pipeline in Wyoming and Agent John Doggett's assignment to the site to investigate a possible terrorist threat. From there Mulder goes to work assembling the pieces of this mystery as Scully encounters a member of the group which abducted her. Add to all of this the appearance of some old friends and a nemesis (no telling, read the issue) and you have yet another great X-Files comic from the folks at IDW who are one of the only publishers doing anything interesting these days, as far as I'm concerned.

I anxiously await next issue. I'm certain we'll have an interesting explanation for the last page of issue two. At least I hope so.

Go out and buy your copy as soon as you can!

Also, my thanks to the X-Files Universe message board folks for sharing my podcast review of the first issue. Check it out here: The Nerd Closet - Review of The X-Files Season 10 #1

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim - THE Giant Robot vs. Giant Monster Movie

Growing up I watched the occasional Godzilla film, various Anime science-fiction titles (mostly Gundam series), and had a powerful, general love for the concept of giant robots. Tonight I watched a film which expertly combined all of those things into one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time. In fact, I consider it the best of 2013 thus far. I'm of course writing of the newly released Pacific Rim, written and directed by master of cinema Guillermo del Toro.

Pacific Rim was above all things a giant robot versus giant monster flick, and it didn't try to hide that fact nor did it pretend to be something it was not. While it offers giant robots, which are beautiful to behold, and giant monsters, which are extremely detailed and each exceptionally unique, there was also a wonderful human story at the heart of it all. In addition, it had an original sci-fi setting to put most of those in film to shame.

Naturally, the setting is Earth, in about ten or so years from now. In this version of the future humanity is besieged by massive somethings from beyond, known as Kaiju (a Japanese word for "Giant monster," essentially). As in every story, we fight back. Time passes and the attacks continue in spite of our efforts. Humanity realizes that it must advance its methods of defending itself from annihilation. Enter the Jaegers.

As the story progressed I felt the depth of the history and culture of this victimized tomorrow world. The design perfectly depicted a used future, like the kind one could find in Star Wars or Alien. There were folks from all parts of the globe which came together as one people to lend their skills to the most important effort, defending the species. When the robots went to work it felt natural, and nothing felt over-the-top because you knew that you were watching a giant robot versus giant monster film. Then when the story had progressed to a certain point and the movie hit its stride every aspect just exceeded everything preceding it.

I admit that I had some doubts based on my reactions to certain trailers for Pacific Rim, but after seeing it I can say that I would confidently recommend this to fans of any of the above mentioned genres. In my opinion, Guillermo Del Toro truly outdid himself this time.

Also, I feel that I can declare without a doubt my belief that this film will open the way for more giant robot films. Perhaps we'll one day soon see a live action Gundam movie which won't be shot shot on a Sci-Fi Channel budget (G-Saviour). I can only hope.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

JAFAX 18 - Out Amongst the Fans

Colorful, peculiar characters were meandering about the crowded lobby floor of Henry Hall on the campus of Grand Valley State University. Cute creatures, guns for hire, and sword-wielding heroes stood out from the hoards of mundane browsers and consumers. Long tables stood out from the walls, bearing impressive loads of artwork, craft work, DVDs, books, collectible figures, and stuffed animals. All of the above, each an aspect of a bizarre festival where Anime, Manga, and general Japanese Popular Culture are worshiped and celebrated with abandon. Such is the event known as JAFAX (the Japanese Art, Anime, and Film Expo).

I found myself wandering into the crowds of JAFAX this afternoon as the sun mercilessly blasted down. Lying in random patches of shade between the parking lot and the entrance to the headquarters of the event were cliques of sweaty, irritable kids in body paint and drooping costumes. Scantily clad girls were giddily chasing each other around hedgerows as somber, darkly dressed pseudo-warriors congregated around the aquamarine fountain outside of the Student Services Building. At times the grounds of the area surrounding the event felt like the neighboring regions of dreams, with the occasional huffing obese guy shuffling his way about, carrying one too many Pikachu backpacks.

Once inside, I spent my time attempting to locate the vendors section of the event, hoping to find some choice Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, Mobile Suit Gundam, or Rumiko Takahashi items. After a brief chat with one of the event coordinators and a couple more hundred feet later, I was walking through the Mackinac building, peaking into random classrooms, each of which was stuffed with three-to-four different vendors. With some occasional clever footwork I managed to avoid being overwhelmed by sweaty throngs of wig-wearing children as I stood gazing over the offerings of each of the merchants. Studying their price stickers, I found myself supremely frustrated by the hard truth of expo extortion. Piles of items meant to appeal to the current trends were all that most of the vendors had to offer, though I did occasionally find a few Gundam models or Studio Ghibli films - each extremely overpriced.

Eventually I was able to find some decently priced items of interest, but shortly after I began exploring the vendor area there was a loud call from some event personnel that everything in that section was set to close within the next ten minutes. I hurried about checking and double checking tables in each of the rooms still hoping to find what I've usually found at most conventions or expos - the seemingly elusive "Magical Deal." It proved itself truly elusive as I rounded a corner and found the expo folks locking up rooms and directing myself and others out of the building. The show, sadly, was over.

JAFAX is an event I've visited off and on for many years now. I even wrote about it last year. No matter what I discover during the expo or what discourtesies assail me in those reeking, heated halls, I always find myself returning the weekend after Father's Day, every chance I get. I think what keeps me going back is an irresistible urge to chance fate and hope beyond hope that each year I attend will be the one in which I find that rare collection of sought after, discounted Manga or Anime. Sure, this year allowed me the chance to buy an Adventure Time wallet for my wife and a volume of Rumiko Takahashi's Maison Ikkoku, but I get the feeling that next year, in spite of what has or hasn't happened for me at JAFAX in the past, will be the year that I strike gold or get the perfect collector's opportunity. Here's hoping that I'll find some cheap Gundam models or inexpensive Miyazaki treasures in 2014.

If you're interested in learning more about JAFAX, visit the website for the event at or read my blog about JAFAX 17 at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The X-Files - Season 10 Issue 1 - New Comic Book Day

I was confident that I would walk into my local comic book shop this afternoon and grab a hold bag labeled "Sample," in which would be the first issue of The X-Files Season 10. When I finally arrived at the shop I went straight for the hold box. Thumbing through bag after alphabetically ordered bag, anxiously searching for my last name, I found that I didn't have a hold after all. For some reason I was left out, though I'm not surprised considering my past experiences with that particular store. 

Regardless of the neglect I was able to purchase a copy after all. Fortunately there were two copies left, one with the standard cover and one sporting the artwork of artist Dave Johnson. I bought the Johnson cover and ran for home.

After reading through the issue, studying every page including the front and back covers, I find that the long wait has been worth it. This is a fantastic first issue for both a new comic series and a continuing story. Thanks to the writing abilities of Joe Harris it is a perfect jumping on point for folks new to The X-Files and fans who have been waiting for fresh material since the end of I Want to Believe. Accompanying Harris' script, overseen by Executive Producer and X-Files Creator Chris Carter, is the attractive artwork of Michael Walsh, who manages to service the script wonderfully.

Mulder, Scully, and even Skinner make appearances in this quick read of a first issue. The thirty-two pages of this book bring us up to date on the status of the main characters and introduce us to a shadowy new element. According to Deputy Director Skinner, who appears early on in the issue, the FBI has been hacked and the X-Files might have been targeted. Now Mr. and Mrs. Blake (Mulder and Scully's new shared surname under the Witness Protection Program) must question why someone would go to the trouble of seeking out the X-Files and concern themselves with whether or not they're in danger. 

This comic offers conflict, mystery, a nod or two to mysteries left over from the television series, and the beginning of another sinister plot. Will the agents survive for long? Will we have old questions answered? Will the new questions be answered sooner rather than later? Is this the beginning of a beautiful and long-running comic phenomenon? I guess we'll have to wait and see. 

Now the wait begins for the next issue. I just have to find a comic book shop that will actually hold a copy for me. That or I'll have to wait at the store before they open to guarantee that I can easily acquire one.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Lonely Monster's Prom - An io9 Writing Prompt

Artwork by Sam Bosma - From io9 Prompt

Fiery eyes crackled in the corner of the moderately sized gymnasium as a Top 40 song reverberated off of the space's glossy brick walls. Ebengettoraxic sat hunched over on four flimsy, metal folding chairs, staring out onto the crowded dance floor. He could see the bounce of a blonde bob which sat atop the head of the girl, Sadie McPherson.

Sadie was dancing heatedly with Merphoragattet, a tall, muscular, tentacle-faced member of the football team and the bane of Ebengettoraxic's high school life. The way in which she swayed before the imposing jock and the manner in which she ran her fingers through the thick, course, grey tentacles which hung from his square jaw, stung the ember-eyed voyeur. He took a slow sip of green viscous punch, which had been provided by the parent's of the Prom Planning Committee, and seethed.

Between the side-sitting loner and his dream girl shuffled the forms of dozens of his classmates and their strangely dressed dates. To one side of his focal point was the class cut-up, Gorgatheterax, holding both of his dates, two boys from rival Southside High, by the faces and rocking them back and forth as they tried to comfortably do a lazy version of the Twist. Close to them he spied Calibrekket ingurgitating a gorgeous olive-skinned girl who was one year his junior. Above the rest, impossible to ignore, rocked the massive form of Dregoroplazik, the class president and this year's Prom King, who held his long-time girlfriend, and the Prom Queen, Lydia Fernandez in the palm of his gargantuan hand.

This panorama of familiar faces finding joy in the evening deepened Ebengettoraxic's depression. He continued to stare longingly at Sadie. Maybe, he thought, he could sneak a quick dance with her if that imbecile Merphoragattet would go off to the restroom or leave to retrieve some punch. Maybe she would say yes and he'd get a moment to be close to the Helen of this school's Troy.
As if in response to his hopes, Merphoragattet made to break away from his date as a remix of a UB-40 song came to an end. Sadie stood alone, looking about at her dancing classmates with an ecstatic grin as Merphoragattet disappeared into the crowd. Ebengettoraxic's eyes widened, releasing a brighter flame, as he made to lift himself out of the chairs.

Just as this seemingly wonderful opportunity presented itself, it quickly disappeared. As Ebengettoraxic stood, Sadie turned to run after Merphoragattet, embracing him warmly from behind when she found him. Ebengettoraxic's face fell at this sight as his hearts felt the stabs of jealousy and sorrow. His chest sunk heavily as he dropped back carelessly onto his seats. He continued to spy on the happy couple as an obnoxious novelty song blared suddenly from the overhead speakers.

I never get what I want, Ebengettoraxic bitterly thought as he took another sip of the charnel-smelling, chartreuse concoction. Dancers spun about him, a separating sea between this lovelorn onlooker and his ideal girl. Then the majority of dance floor inhabitants slowly halted their dancing to watch the sensational rhythmic jiggling of the serpentine Auroralottrug to the nearly obscene, auto-tuned lyrics.

I hate the Prom, thought Ebengettoraxic.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel - Superman Epically Returns to the Cinema

Credits rolled around 3am at the five-screen theater in Lowell, MI - a location my wife and I prefer for our big screen movie watching because of its low prices and small crowds. Not more than a minute into the scroll of cast and crew did incensed nerds begin to loudly bitch and complain. Apparently Man of Steel didn't uniformly impress that particular audience, but it certainly made an impression on me. 

The character of Superman has suffered through many poor treatments over the years on both television and in the movies. In my opinion, up until Man of Steel, the only decent Superman film in existence was the first Christopher Reeve movie.  Since then, and even before, fans have had to pick and choose moments which "Worked" for them while discarding a considerable remainder. Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer have finally given us a Superman film which can stand alone, as boldly as the Donner film of the late 1970s.

As I think back on the screening, which began a few hours ago at 12:01am, I find that the film was an enjoyable journey through the development and growth of a character who constantly found himself in-between worlds. Focusing on the perspective of this, the titular character is the key to appreciating the journey of the film, I feel. It's a story of a dying people's hope surviving in a boy who comes to terms with his identity over time while becoming the hope for and a part of a new people. It's a movie about making life-altering decisions, finding one's place in a world, and understanding what it means to be a hero. 

The design of Krypton and the look of the film, the actors and their portrayals, the strong rooting of the origin in science-fiction as was originally intended by the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and the methods employed in telling the tale of this film all came together beautifully in the end. As with any Zack Snyder film, the visuals seem to enhance the world in which the characters exist and aid in the progression of their stories.  The design scheme for Krypton was amazing, and it is thus far the best depiction of Kal-El's home world in any medium, as far as I'm concerned. The general casting was exceptional, especially in the case of Henry Cavill who not only handled the part well, he made viewer believe that he was Superman. Russel Crowe's Jor-El surpassed Brando, in my opinion, and Amy Adams' Lois Lane was both ideal and natural. Also, Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent was as terrific as he was endearing, and (minor spoiler) I challenge anyone who cares about the characters of this universe not to feel as heartbroken as Clark at Pa Kent's inevitable passing. The story terrifically managed to offer viewers a brief and concise origin while giving them an exciting epic which left open the potential for several other films. Though, the possible ties to a future Justice League film are pretty much nonexistent and would have to be established in a later or different DC/Warner Brothers' film.

While I enjoyed various aspects of the movie, especially the way in which the film wonderfully presented the origin of the character, sent the viewer along with him on his journey toward self-discovery, and reinforced his growth with appropriate flashbacks to times during which he was lovingly educated by his constant and caring Earth father, I did have a gripe or two. The items which troubled me were minor, but I found that they made it difficult to continue to focus on the heart of the story. My biggest problem was with the length and scale of the action sequences. While those of us who read comic books are used to Superman thrashing around with villains, while watching a film I imagine many of us have difficulty viewing more than several minutes of continuous building destruction, slugging, and tackling. It all seemed gratuitous and repetitive toward the end. Another difficulty I had concerned the plans of Jor-El, the conflicting plans of Zod, and how Kal-El decided, in a way, to say, "Tough," to both of his senior Kryptonians. When and if you view the movie you might be able to understand what I'm getting at. Maybe you'll find it less conflicting than I did. In the end, sure, I had some issues, but I still understand the importance of suspending disbelief when viewing a film, especially one about a superhero.

For the seventy-fifth anniversary of this beloved hero, the world has been given a fantastic film about a legend, created by two dreaming kids from Ohio, who began the increasingly popular genre of superhero stories. Here's hoping that wherever Siegel and Shuster are now they're proud of the work and love which went into creating this, one of the best screen versions of their immortal character.

As for the nerds in Lowell who seemed to mostly hate the film, they were bitching about everything else there is to bitch about before the movie began, including their feelings on the next generation of video game systems. I think the definition of "Nerd" might read something like this: whiners who occasionally manage to have good ideas but often waste their energy complaining about creative works with which they have no creative association and upon which they have no significant influence (a somewhat general description based on years of evidence). Oh, well. You can't please everyone, right?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Wife and Time Before Our Time

Time to write about an aspect of my life. In fact, the greatest aspect, my wife. There are certain areas related to my relationship with her which aren't easy for me to process, but they're things I live with every day. So, here it goes. 

My wife, Trudy (cool name, no?), is six years my senior. That might seem odd to some or inconsequential to others. Either way, I love her more than I've ever loved anyone. That shouldn't be a surprise. 

Before I entered her life she had adventures and other relationships and life events with no connection to or bearing upon our fated relationship. She had a life before me, and it's taken almost the entire time we've been together for me to cope with that fact. At times I've clumsily handled it like Holden in Chasing Amy. Other times I've been able to take a deep breath, hear her out, and go on focusing on the point of it all - my love for her. 

One fact that always nags at me, though, is that she gave birth to a baby girl in her final year of high school (at the time I would have been around 12 years old - yikes). Due to her irresponsible nature, her complicated living situation, her complicated relationship with her sister (her only guardian since the early passing of her mother and the long-past disappearance of her father), and her less than admirable friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner (it's as complicated as hell) and that person's selfish mishandling of such an important situation, she was forced to accept that she was incapable of successfully caring for a child. From our talks I've gathered that she felt confident when she made the decision to offer the baby to a kind and generous couple for adoption. She was responsible enough to recognize her lacking and the fact that the couple could provide for the child in a way she could not. For whatever that decision is worth, it was probably the most loving thing she ever did for that baby. 

I've been with my gal for the better part of seven years now, and I've known her slightly longer than that. Her long and colorful history may have been troubling to me as I slowly developed the maturity to process all of it, but regardless, I am proud of the woman she is in spite of all that has befallen her. I respect the decisions she's had to make, especially such terribly difficult decisions like giving up a baby to people she scarcely knew. After all this time and all the emotional trials I've had to face to maintain the sanity to be a loving partner to her, I believe that she is the greatest person I've ever know. 

Life is random, and difficult, and sometimes it's just funny. Some days certain issues seem insurmountable. Other days those very same issues seem as insignificant as an age difference between two people who were - based on chance, years together, and too many coincidences - meant to be together.

If that little girl ever reads this (the chances being significantly low), I hope she understands that whatever life she's lived since her birth, it was arranged out of love so that she would always be safe and loved. A caring, complicated, simple teenage girl made decisions, had a kid, and chose a better life for that kid. Sounds cliched but it happened. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The X-Files - Season 10 - Coming Soon

Rumors reached me a couple of months ago of the possibility of a new X-Files comic series. Ever since then I've frequently scoured the internet, searching for details, dates, and any other news related to any other new X-Files developments. What I've learned of the upcoming series has me feeling more than a little giddy, and the event to which I'm most looking forward, the release date of the new comic, is just less than two weeks away from the time of this writing. This is something for which I and my fellow X-Files fans have been waiting for quite a long time.

IDW, one of the best current publishers in comics (publishers of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, Doctor Who, and many other titles), along with Fox and series creator and executive producer Chris Carter, will be releasing not only a new X-Files comic series but the official Season 10 of The X-Files! Chris Carter will be overseeing the production of the new comic (in a way similar to Kevin Eastman with the Turtles and Joss Whedon with Buffy and Angel, I imagine), which is said to be continuing the canon of the television show and is set in a time after the last film, I Want to Believe. The release date for the first issue of The X-Files Season 10 (god, it feels good to type that!) will be on Wednesday, June 19.

So, in less than two weeks I'll be visiting my local comic book shop right when the doors open so that I can grab a long-awaited copy of the comic which will satisfy my craving for material covering the further adventures of Mulder, Scully, and their continuing quest to seek the Truth. I look forward to collecting this new book, and I hope that it leads to a bright and ongoing future for The X-Files Universe.

In regard to my writing on The X-Files and all things related to it, I will be returning to my "The X-Files - I Believe" blog series (sounds so official) soon. I'll also be posting a special X-Files Season 10 podcast through my "Nerd Closet Podcast" show on YouTube on Wednesday, June 19, after I read my copy of the first issue.

For my previous blogs on The X-Files you can click on the links below, and if you're curious about further details related to the upcoming comic, I've included a couple links for you to peruse.

The X-Files - I Believe - Part 1
The X-Files - I Believe - Part 2

Wired article about Season 10
IDW Press Release/Website Announcement

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Emulators and ROM Files - A Return to My Video Gaming Roots

According to my father and my uncle, when I was very young, sometime in the years before Preschool, I often played with our family's Atari 2600. Naturally, I have no memories of this, but I do remember seeing a joystick and cartridges for Space Invaders and Centipede lying about long after our system gave up the 8-bit ghost. They were such curious relics from a bygone era, and I wish that I could remember the entertainment they once provided me. Alas, such is the nature of the mind of a very young child.

Though I forget the joy I received from the Atari, I clearly remember my experiences with a game system which surpassed and supplanted the 2600 in almost every way. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was gifted to my sister and me on a Christmas morning so long ago. The memory of the room in my grandparent's house in which we opened the gift and the joy which welled up within me as I beheld the box with the highlighted system image backed by a magical star field are unforgettable even now, twenty four plus years later. It was one of the greatest days of my life, and considering the years of gaming pleasure which followed opening that gift I can say that such a statement is completely devoid of any hyperbole.

My time with the NES was lengthy and enchanting. I played through the various Mario Brothers games, Metroid, Timelord, Star Wars, Abadox, Mission Impossible, Wolverine, and several other titles. I took in the gameplay patterns, the game design, the look of the characters and their worlds, the catchy game music, and even the occasional comical glitch or two. I also mastered the process of connecting the system to our family television, expediently surpassing my father's knowledge of home entertainment setup. In many ways my time with the NES created a standard by which I've judged every gaming experience since. Even as I progressed through the systems I've owned at one point or another - including the Gameboy, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the Playstation, the Gameboy Advance, the Xbox, the Playstation 2, the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo 64, and the Xbox 360 (every system I've owned in order of purchase) - I still find myself forming judgement for every experience by comparing them to the pinnacle of my greatest gaming pleasures from the NES.

It's been a long time since I've owned my NES, though. Time passes, life changes, things break, family gets in the way of maintaining a collection (especially if you're poor), and treasured possessions fade away. I've recently entertained the notion of seeking out another NES so that I might revisit my old experiences and discover the ones I was denied due to the circumstances (mostly financial) which prevented the growth of my childhood game library, but it's been difficult to find a system with all the necessary accessories intact and in decent enough shape. Thankfully I had the fortune of attending a BASIC Programming course at my local community college and, through doing so, the opportunity to meet a fellow programmer who was kind enough to gift me with a disc of this thing called an "Emulator" and it's accompanying files known as "ROMs."

I'd like to say that the first time I inserted the NES emulator disc into my PC was as revolutionary or as fantastic as first connecting and playing the NES itself but that's just not true. It was a strange new experience for me since I had, at the time, a very basic knowledge of computer software and keyboard game controls. My initial reaction was one of amusement at the realization of the novelty in the fact that so many games, which would have once filled a wall-sized bookshelf, could now fit conveniently onto a single compact disc. After overcoming the awe and confusion I encountered when I first loaded the disc, I spent hours dabbling with dozens of titles, most of them completely foreign to me. The overall experience was powerfully nostalgic. There I was, a "Nintendo Kid" submerged in the colorful glow of my past, sending familiar sprites, digital extensions of myself, leaping over obstacles, firing pixelated munitions into the guts of so many flashing foes. If felt like I had returned home.

These days I still occasionally return to the emulator. Every once in a while I find that nothing will ease my mind or entertain me more than a romp through the digital worlds of the games from my early years. I fire up one of several emulators for one of several classic game systems. I'm able to revisit my NES heritage, explore the mysterious realms of Sega (a range of games which were alien to me throughout my childhood), dabble with the old Atari games, and test systems which would have never before come to my notice. So, I'm thankful for emulators and the available ROM files out there, posted and maintained by others like me. Those who also dreamed digital dreams and time and time again overcame numerous pixelated challenges. They deserve my greatest thanks for keeping those worlds and dreamways alive and accessible.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I have a date with Satan in the world of Ghosts 'N Goblins. He's not kicking my ass THIS time!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overwhelming Reminiscences

Music, literature, photography, painting, illustrations - all of them evoke something, whether it be a minor expression of emotion, positive or negative, or a maelstrom of unexpressed feelings which have been restrained for years long past. Some people seem sensitive to media and their evocative qualities while others are incredibly indifferent. I guess I'm a person of the former.

In response to my wife's insistence I began reading Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being A Wallflower. At about the same time I started into the novel I found myself spending long periods listening to Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Mazzy Star, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Literature and music, two different types of media, suddenly combined to a potent effect.

Suddenly I found myself swept up in the synergy of the feelings and thoughts of Chbosky's Charlie and the melodies and lyrics of the above listed bands. Even now I  don't think I can adequately describe the intensity, pain, or beauty of the euphoria and melancholy which surround me as snippets from the book and various songs haunt my mind. It's an emotional space like no other, and at it's core it's so frightening that I feel that it might forever change how I live. Heavy, is a fair adjective to describe the current state of my world as I type this.

I've been flashing back to the past as a result of these feelings. My memories, while in this state, both recall the soft, sweet pleasures of my best high school relationships as well as the course, embarrassing tragedies of my failures in love and friendship. I see the faces of the people I let down through my youthful ignorance. Powerful images of one girl in particular flash through my mind. A girl for whom I felt something close to love. A girl I once tremendously disappointed.

This one person was someone I had known for many years, since elementary school, and grew especially close to in high school. I failed to react well in a moment when the emotional environment between us was most conducive to a potential for love and deep bonding. I failed to correctly handle a dance/date and, in doing so, forever ruined her opinion of me.

Now, with these songs and words flowing through my mind, I keep seeing her as she was but as sad as she might have been because of me. I imagine her as she was on the night of my failure - in that dark blue casual dress with an altered t-shirt, cut down the front middle, pulled over it - looking at me with sad eyes as the chorus of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" echoes around. Nothing is as tearing as seeing a past love in the perfect preservation of fond memory surrounded by the sweetest most moving music. It powerfully wrenches the heart. 

So, I write about all of this because it is a necessary method of egress for these feelings, and I need to keep from letting all of this completely overwhelm me. I can't afford to let my present happiness be inundated by monstrous waves of regret. I've got to keep on in the now, the pleasant, joyous present. The past is the past and it will be mourned as such. That's all I or anyone can do. Just let regrets remain with yesterday, buried by impenetrable layers of time.

Time to turn off the music and put the book down for a little while.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Passion Finds A Way

What happens when we lie on our passions? I think I've acquired some experience to help in answering this question. You see, I am a writer. Except, writers write. Don't they?

It's been almost a year since I made an arrangement with my wife, who was trusting and supportive enough to believe that I could fulfill my promise to make a more than respectable attempt to achieve regular publication of some sort. I was to write every day like it was a job, instead of a clock-punching Sisyphean position with some bland company. All that would be required of me would be to sit in front of my computer every day and write for as long as it took, until something was ready for submission somewhere.

For a short while I lived up to expectations. I wrote a short story, edited it, and sent it out to one publication for which I believed it to be suited. I was wrong. I didn't try so much after that.

It wasn't necessarily the rejection which crippled my drive. It was self-doubt upon self-doubt which weighed me down until I crashed. The rejection was merely a slight breeze to the severely unsteady tower of my creative confidence. While down my traumatized writer's spirit transformed into apathy. I was immersed in a smothering hopelessness.

Regardless of how little faith I held for my own abilities and how little I cared about my seemingly illusory potential, I still had some passion for writing. Somehow I managed to find my way here, to the blog, every now and then. The occasional beats of my weak writer's heart are evident in the archive of the posts from the last several months, here on Random-Verbosity. A few blips on the EKG.

Some fraction of a drive must mean there's still some hope. Even now. I still can't quite see past my doubt and the apathy produced by it, but I write on because I can, I have to, and, more importantly, I desperately want to. Something drives me in spite of myself.

What happens when we lie on our passions? I think, if they're strong enough initially, energy still escapes. Something finds a way past obstruction and the light of hope remains lit. I'm trying to follow it now. One keystroke after another. Another word to follow the last. I'm slowly finding my writing legs again.

Time to focus on sufficiently honoring a nearly year old promise, not minding if the result is success or failure. Time for true, fervent effort.

From now on this writer writes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - The Best Yet?

I don't want to go into too much detail so that I don't ruin the film for those who have yet to see it, but I decided that I had to write something about my reaction to Star Trek Into Darkness. To put it plainly, I was completely blown away by every aspect of this film. The characters, the multi-layered plot, the use of so many familiar references to the beloved Star Trek universe, and the fantastic employment of 3D all made for one hell of a damn fine movie.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban along with the writers under director J.J. "Movie Master" Abrams have brought back the feel of the good old "Trinity." Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were sensational in this film playing off each other perfectly and bringing together their varied perspectives and personalities to an astounding effect. This was one of the most fabulous aspects of Into Darkness which served to truly make the movie work for me.

The plot, which I won't spoil because I appreciate it so much that I couldn't bring myself to do that to someone who has yet to see it (and see it they should!), was one of the best, if not the best, in a Star Trek film, in my opinion. I refer to it as a "Multi-layered" plot and it really is. Don't be deceived by trailers and don't go in expecting anything. Just sit back and take it in. It'll overwhelm you in an incredible way. Also, why not just appreciate a film for what it is instead of trying to break it down, define its every attribute, and "Master" it like it's a god damned challenge? It's entertainment, so let it be entertaining.

Trek fans and moviegoers alike should find this a pleasing feature. It literally has everything one could want in an engaging science-fiction, action film as well as enough Trek Universe material to sate those, like me, who are desperate for the next evolutionary step for our beloved franchise. See it, support it, and let's hope the future of Trek continues to ascend as these Bad Robot films have, thus far, in their quality and spectacle.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Of Excess and Dreams - The Great Gatsby

Like a fine cut diamond traced in golden art deco patterns surrounding a passionate beating heart, the entirety of it the centerpiece of a hedonist's carnival, such was the tale and the 2013 film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrman's film delivered the beautiful, tragic dreamer of Jay Gatsby in the midst of a sea of drunken, unceasing revelry which truly roared just as powerfully as the happenings of the tale's setting in time, the aptly titled Roaring 20s. It featured commanding portrayals of classic characters with an eye-popping design scheme which terrifically represented the gluttony for finery demonstrated by the peoples who consistently wined, dined, and shamelessly played at playing all throughout that glitzy decade of yore.

 My wife and I woke early this morning to make our way to a small, five-screen theater just outside of town for a 3D showing of Gatsby. She had been anxiously awaiting the film's release since we first glimpsed the trailer in theaters last year. The both of us possess a familiarity with the novel, though we'd only each read it once many years prior. Regardless of our current distance from the work, we both share an appreciation for Fitzgerald, my wife being an avid fan of the expatriate circle which included Scott, his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and others.

From the icy, shadowy flashback at the beginning throughout Nick Carraway's (the narrator of the tale) recollection of the events surrounding his introduction to and the fall of Jay Gatsby, this movie radiated Fitzgerald and its period. Luhrman and his associates clearly did their research and rendered an idealized version of an era known for its splendor, its copious wealth, and its tremendous waste. Their script was as true to the novel as I can estimate, myself still trying to recollect my reading from the latter days of high school.

The film score was controversial for some, admittedly myself to some degree, but the incorporation of the modern music seemed inconsequential, seeming like so many gnats circling around a picturesque fruit arrangement. My wife believed it to serve to depict the cacophony of the booming city and the frantic, kinetic jumble of the party scenes. Though I had my doubts, I was overjoyed when Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was used to highlight the unveiling of the titular character himself as he stood beneath the firework-punctuated climax of his glamorous soirée. It was also welcome, though expected, when classic tunes from the period wound their way through the scenes.

Leonardo DiCaprio performed masterfully as Jay Gatsby, emboldening the character's qualities as the wildly dreaming, hopeful idealist. He led a cast of splendid actors and actresses who all assembled to provide a considerable pulse to the tragedy. Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, a portrayal which many critics seem to have been all too eager to assault, wonderfully led the viewer through the story while playing a character who was both new to the wild life of the city and yet broken by the horrible people who tailored the terrible events which filled its many apartments and lined its streets. Carey Mulligan delivered an emotional yet distant woman of the period who both loved and failed the concept of true love as only a shallow person might. Tom Buchanan was acted by Joel Edgerton whose booming personality, haughty, selfish lifestyle, and early-Twentieth-Century-wealthy-white man-ignorance opposed the desperate, hopeful romanticism of DiCaprio's Gatsby. These protagonists, antagonists, and their accessories were supported by a fantastic group of character types which defined and set apart the worst and best aspects of this tragedy's cast.

It was a film worth watching for those who appreciate the entirety and soul of Fitzgerald's novel and message, those who enjoy the period of the 1920s, and for those who respect the ability of the medium of film to combine design, story, acting, and music into a sensory-stunning marvel, especially in the case of this classic silver screen sad story.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Yet Another Fat Man Makes An Attempt At #dinidream

Here's a little something inspired by Paul Dini and Kevin Smith. From episode eighteen of "Fatman on Batman."

Written in something close to script format, it's obviously shorter than an actual issue, but it's more of a beginning or a snippet than a whole story. Hopefully it makes sense and fits with the original concept.

Enjoy, readers and Bat-fans. If either Mr. Kevin Smith or Mr. Paul Dini ever get a chance to read this, then I hope that they'll know that it was written by a fellow fan who loves the Bat as much as them.



Panel 1: A trisection with each portion depicting one of three figures. The first is a shadowy man standing shirtless atop a cliff in the shadows of what is obviously the interior of a cave. The second is a portly, balding man in a towel lathering his face in front of a mirror in a tiny bathroom. The third shows a pair of wide bloodshot eyes lit by a slit of daylight which trespasses through window blinds.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- Every day the routine recycles. He reaches deep within and finds the drive to continue his mission.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- Every morning he's up before the alarm. His dedication to work and his routines adds a comforting monotony to life. 

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- Every morning I try to do something special for sweetums. No matter what, he lets me know that he's noticed. This morning it was a door in the face.

Panel 2: A trisection with each portion depicting one of three figures. The first is a fastidiously dressed man stealthily peering around a corner of a natural rock wall.  The second is a housewife draped in a bathrobe, visible through an open doorway, her hair in curlers, pouring coffee into a mug. The third is a young woman in a tattered jester's outfit slumped against a wall, holding her swollen face in her hands.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- I long for the day when he will fail to dredge up that drive.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- If only he was as dedicated to me.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- And if I don't find those joybuzzers he'll probably do worse. 

Panel 3: Trisection again. The first depicts the shirtless man opening a vault in which there stands the silhouette of a bat-like figure. The fastidiously dressed man stands by his side. The second depicts the portly man adjusting a tie as the housewife waits behind him, holding out a pair of pants. The third depicts a pale man with a monstrous grin peeking through the opening of a door, looking down on the young woman who beams up at him, though tears stream down her powdered cheeks.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- This is not that day.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- This is good enough, though. Really it is. I love him and I don't know what I'd do without him.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- Aw. Puddin's got that look in his eye. That look he gets after a good cry. For me, maybe? Nah. But now I might have a chance to find them buzzers after all.


Panel 1: Trisection. The first displays gloved hands pulling a cape to above a large bat symbol on a chest. The second displays hands working a foot into a dress shoe, a pair of slippered feet stand in the background. The third depicts stained, gloved hands rummaging through a chest of drawers, pulling out playing cards, rubber ducks, rubber noses, and various other novelty items.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- I promised him my ongoing support, and though he drives on in his dangerous crusade I must maintain my place at his side.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- I'll just be the good wife, waiting and serving. He appreciates it. I know he must.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- Uh-oh. Here it comes. 

Panel 2: Trisection. First portion displays fastidious man holding out a lined tray with various gadgets (such as pellets, bat-shaped shiruken, and a grappling gun) for the other man, dressed in an atramentous cape and cowl, who picks various items from the tray. Second portion displays the portly man as he places his wallet in his back pocket while taking his hat from the robed woman whom he meekly kisses on the cheek. The third displays the stained gloved hands as they adjust a colorful boutonniere.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- How long shall I stand at the ready, though? How long shall I bear witness to the weathering of my charge? When and how might I truly defend him from the greatest dangers?

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- If he doesn't, after all this time...well, I don't know what I'd do.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- He just wanted his flower. Ha! So it's going to be that kind of day. And here I was, kinda scared for a moment.

Panel 3: Trisection. First portion shows caped man leaping into a nearby vehicle as the fastidious man looks on. The second shows the woman in the bathrobe watching the portly man through a window as he enters his car. The third shows the grinning man's back as he exits through a door, flinging, over his shoulder, a Joker card covered in scribbled script, which is for a moment visible to the reader. It reads "Sorry. With love. -J"

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- I must first face an important truth which cruel twists of fate and the passing of years have crafted for us. Then, perhaps I'll be able to say what must be said. For I am his support. His only security. His surrogate father.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- Thinking about the worst is easy. Especially when love is just the occasional peck on the cheek. But that's just his way. I can't doubt him because I expect too much.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- What's a door in the face when he goes and does something like that, huh? Sometimes I think he's had it with me. He gets that look and says those horrible things. This is the real him, though. I know it.


Full Page: The grinning man's grotesque smile takes up the center of the page as he leans over, his hands clutching at the lapel of the portly man from the previous page, both are clearly on a rooftop. The man's face hangs backwards, upside down, a mask of despair with streaks of sweat running down. In the background, gliding down menacingly from atop a water tower, is the shape of a bat.

     Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- It is that fact which holds me here as he goes forth. Gliding through the darkness, passionately executing his chief duty, he battles on so that in some far future time the night might lose its bite.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- He's out there working to take care of us. He must deal with such stress so that we're secure. Thinking about that makes me sorry that I doubted him even for a second.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- He's not crazy!


Full Page: Trisection. First section: Fastidious man stands by a window, a bat symbol is projected onto a cloud bank beyond. Second section: The portly man fiercely embraces his wife. His face is one of fear and hers is one of relief. Two GCPD officers stand in the door behind them. Third Section: Blonde woman with running makeup stands in the rain before a wrought-iron gate with a sign over the entry which reads "Arkham Asylum." She's bundled in a trench coat. A chainsaw blade dangles slightly below the bottom of the coat.

      Narrator 1 (portion 1-grey text box)- In that moment, as soon as it may come, I will still be here. I will still be a loving father for a tragic son.

     Narrator 2 (portion 2-blue text box)- I know he loves me.

     Narrator 3 (portion 3-red text box)- And that's why I love him. That's why we play these games, over and over again. Because we both know.
         Harley Quinn: Time to go home, Mistah J.