Archive for February, 2015

This Week in Steves 3

February 25, 2015


Let’s start with some Steve Quickies

Scuba Steve

An acquaintance of mine recently called me Scuba Steve while my friends and I were all online together. I smiled at the time but I couldn’t quite place the reference. I knew I definitely recognized the reference but it took some quick googling to figure it out. Scuba Steve is a fictional toy in the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy. Scuba Steve is a stand-in for a real toy named Diver Dan which is obviously a worse name. Of course, count on Adam Sandler to introduce something derivative and unoriginal. However, Big Daddy is one of his more tolerable films and they had the good sense to cast Jon Stewart at least. I have nothing in common with a child’s toy.

Steve Priest, The Bass Player from The Sweet

The Sweet is a British rock band most known for the song Ballroom Blitz which is a song that always gets me going. I first heard the song in the movie Waynes World, an underrated film from an overrated comedian, where the song was sung by Tia Carrere’s character Cassandra. Later, I heard the real version and, although it wasn’t sung by a sexy, screaming rocker chick, it was just as good. At the start of the song, when Brian Connolly yells “Are you ready, Steve?” the answer is always yes.

Steve – O

Steve – O is a member of the appropriately named Jackasses from the MTV television show of the same name. I was never a fan of the show as I don’t really like gross out humor or shock humor jokes. I like slapstick sometimes but I’m not the greatest fan of that either. I hated that this guy had my name and I hated any comparisons of him to me. I went to college in New Jersey so I met quite a few Jersey guys who shortened everyone’s name and added O at the end. I insisted on being called Steven partially because of this guy. Now I don’t really care one way or the other but Jackass was a sore point for a little while. It’s a shame since they seemed like OK guys.

Steven Spielberg

Few directors had as much as an impact on my childhood as Steven Spielberg and especially if you disqualify television directors. At one point, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and I will always be grateful to Spielberg for those movies. I owned an official movie fedora and bomber jacket when I was little and I would have picked Indy over Han Solo any day of the week. Jaws, Hook, The first two Jurassic Park movies, Saving Private Ryan and even Close Encounters of the Third Kind were beloved films. Unfortunately, he also made ET during that time but I guess I can forgive him for that. Afterall, he later put out such great films as Indiana Jones 4, Minority Report and the wonderfully weird A.I. Unfortunately he also crapped the bed again with The Terminal but they can’t all be winners. What I’m trying to say is that Spielberg is a great artist.

He’s also a great businessman since he’s produced way more than he’s directed which is saying a lot. He’s made sound financial decisions even if they were not always the most artistic decisions. I mean, he executive produced all of the Transformers movies and had the common sense to not broadcast the fact too much. He must have made boatloads of cash on that. Thankfully he also produced stuff like Super 8 so he retains some sense of balance. I hope to work just as hard artistically as Spielberg even if I never achieve even a thimble full of his success.

Steve Rogers, formerly Captain America

I have a been a fan of Captain America from way back in the day. I used to read Avengers comics that I bought with my allowance and Captain America was almost always a key feature of the team (although not a founding member). I watched Steve Rogers get defrosted in back issues and I saw him fight the bad guys. I watched him become the Nomad and then saw him return to the stars and stripes. Eventually I saw him fight Iron Man in the Civil War and take command of SHIELD. The character is currently super-aged and retired from the superhero business but who knows, he may return some day. I have followed him in comics, cartoons and multiple movies and, with the exception of the 1990’s movies, they were all good.

Of all the versions of Captain America though, I think I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe version portrayed by Chris Evans the most. They put a lot of heart into this version of Steve Rogers and it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to the character. In Captain America: The First Avenger it’s Steve’s brains and heart that win the day and also the heart of Agent Peggy Carter. His athleticism is a handy tool but not the weapon that brings victory. In Winter Solider, his heart alerts him to the hidden danger in time to save himself and a similar thing happens in the Avengers. I try to fight for what’s right but also I try not to just follow the crowd. I want to be honest, steadfast and true just like Captain America.


The Mystery 2

February 23, 2015

The Mystery

Two more hours of searching for Trixshot turned up not a single clue and eventually the throbbing pain in his shoulder was enough to send Scott home. The Mystery wasn’t doing anymore good and Scott had stupidly agreed to cover an early shift at the library. He sat at the reference desk and hoped that his bandages would not show through his shirt somehow. He silently declared coffee to be his lord and master if it could get him through the day and to an afternoon nap. Right now it didn’t look promising as his eyes already felt pretty heavy and full of sand. Still, a paycheck is a paycheck and the bills had to be paid relatively on time.

The phone rang at seven thirty and Scott thought about just letting it ring but Tambers would probably skin him alive. Bosses were hard to please sometimes, especially dark goth creatures like Emma Tambers. Tambers was pretty much a mix between your standard goth and that sexy librarian that guys always talked about. Of course. she was nice to customers and bitter to the rest of us but deep down I bet she had a soul. This was when Scott realized he had been thinking of Tambers so much that he almost missed the phone call. He picked it up.

“Westcott Library, how can I help you?” Scott said with almost robotic precision that came from saying the same phrase over and over.

“Good morning, Scott. How are you feeling?” It was Heather. Nothing like an over the phone doctor’s visit early in the morning. At least she had good bedside manner.

“I hate the world but how is that different from other times I was conscious at this hour?”

“How’s your shoulder?” She asked while laughing.

“It hurts but probably a lot less than if you hadn’t helped. Thanks, Heather.”

“Oh, you were right. The tox screen was clear so you don’t have to worry about being drugged.”

“Color me relieved. Though she still could have drugged me and you could be an auditory hallucination.”

“Wow. You really do need more sleep, don’t you? Listen, no more breaking into my office. I have other employees and I can cover up missing supplies a lot easier than you can. OK?”

“Sure. I was just trying to give you a little plausible deniability.”

She laughed again. “Don’t do me any favors. I forgave you after the first time and decided then that I want to help you.”

“Heather… really …thanks.”

“You should probably get some rest before you get anymore delirious. I could have sworn you just thanked me.”

“Bye Heather.” Scott said with an roll of his tired eyes.

“Bye Scott.” And she hung up on him.

He sat and let that thought settle in. Usually he was the one who left her, not the other way around. It didn’t feel all that good but he really was trying to distance himself from her. He didn’t want her to get too involved and then get hurt. He was the one who had decided to take on crime and he had intended it to be a solo mission. Three of his neighbors had been killed by The Butcher and he had first suited up to make sure he was not number four. The police had ended up catching The Butcher but by then Scott had caught three muggers and had developed a taste for crimefighting. He had also discovered strange superhuman abilities he hadn’t been aware of before.

Scott healed faster than normal people, he knew which was how he took so much punishment from the people he apprehended. Still, he much preferred the body armor to take that punishment. Trixshot had found a weakpoint in that body armor and that meant she was a much better archer than he had thought. The fact that she hadn’t pressed her advantage by dosing him might mean that she wanted to play. She certainly acted playful as she shot him and she had purposefully missed before that. There was a distinct possibility that she had snapped mentally but then they were both running around in costumes so maybe she wasn’t alone.

A couple hours later and Lisa came and relieved him from duty and he fought the urge to bound out of the library to avoid a run in with Tambers. She was a frightening person for somebody 5 foot 2 inches. Besides, Scott’s shoulder felt a lot better and he couldn’t wait to get home so he could tear off the bandage and get to work finding Trixshot. She was probably out there rolling in a pile of money after fencing her goods but it was worth a shot. She tended to work in sprees as if she couldn’t help herself once she had gotten started. He had tried to figure that out using the psychology books in the reference section but it was too complicated and there were too many assumptions that he would have to make.

He got home and immediately took off his shirt and tossed it on the back of the sofa where it hung on for a moment before tumbling to the floor. He grabbed one edge of the bandage and pulled hard and winced as it peeled away. He gave himself bonus points for not screaming. The wound actually looked ok and he was thankfull to Heather that there was no infection. He didn’t know the full extent of his healing power when it came to disease or infection and he was not in the mood to test it out. He was satisfied enough with the wound and the range of motion in his shoulder. He could go out afterall.

An insistant meowing came from the kitchen which meant that Timma was hungry and he decided to feed her before she got on his nerves. Of course, this was a major part of their relationship. He filled her bowl and then leaned down to stroke her back as she started to eat which earned him a momentary scowl. He never knew exactly what the cat wanted but it was a cat so that was probably normal. An ex-girlfriend had left Timma when she moved across the country. Timma was Scott’s problem and he was just fine with that. It was nice to have company that wasn’t too upset at the hours he kept.

He grabbed his shirt and tossed it and the rest of his clothes into an already overflowing hamper. There was a washer and drier in the basement of the complex but it always seemed so far away. He slid a trunk from under his bed and carefully put in the combination on the very touchy lock. If he didn’t do it perfectly, it would not open and he would have to try again which was a pain in the ass. He managed to pull of the lock perfectly the first time and mused on the fact that the identity of The Mystery might remain secret because of a faulty lock someday.

He pulled out his costume and armor and started to get dressed. He dressed mostly in blacks and grays mostly because they were stealthy and that was the only color the seller had for the body armor. Thankfully it hadn’t been pink. That would be silly. He clipped his tazer, collapsable bo staff and stun baton onto his belt. He checked the supplies of smoke pellets and pyrotechnics he had gotten from a theatrical supplier and slipped some into a pouch on his belt. Finally, he flipped on the police scanner and sat in his armchair to wait a bit and adjust to the costume.

Any minute now he would be on the streets and hunting his prey.

This Week in Steves 2

February 18, 2015


Steve, the main character from Minecraft

Yes, the default sprite for the player in Minecraft is named Steve.  Technically he’s called “Steve?” but I’ll accept it.  When I get a new video game, I usually fall head over heels for it (unless I hate it right away) and I play nothing else for weeks.  Minecraft amplified that feeling three-fold and I fell really, really hard for Minecraft.  Never before had I seen a game combine creativity with adrenaline surging fear.  I liked that the whole world pretty much wanted to kill my character while I was just trying to collect building materials.  It made creating things all the more satisfying whenever I finished anything.  I would sketch designs on paper and plan out building projects.  The simplistic graphics did not make me any less afraid as things waited for me in the near impenetrable darkness.

There’s not much character inherent in Steve? so I can’t really relate to him.  I will say that I loved and still love to build safe bunkers in Minecraft which slowly morph into basement apartments that just happen to be connected to gaping underground murder tunnels.  For larger projects I always went with castles.  I love castles so much and designing my ideal castle is still one of my favorite evolving projects.

Steve, The Italian Job (2003)

The Italian Job was a movie that could really have been mediocre.  After all, it stars Marky Mark himself, a guy who is very hit or miss as a movie star.  It is also a remake of a late sixties movie which I never saw but I assume it was at least decent.  I really liked the movie and I thought that much of it was very cleverly done.  Without giving too much away, it’s a pretty straightforward revenge/heist movie.  Marky Mark actually pulls off a good performance and makes a pretty convincing honorable criminal.  In fact, so did Donald Sutherland, Mos Def, Seth Green and Jason Statham all of whom are usually at least entertaining.  Then there’s a perfectly competent Charlize Theron to round out the cast.

But wait, we’re forgetting about the antagonist who is named Steve with no last name mentioned so basically he’s like Cher.  He’s played by Ed Norton who I’ve been a fan of since I first saw him way back in the nineties.  He’s a fellow Baltimorean after he was saved from the fate of growing up in Boston and raised in Columbia.  I always feel a greater respect (or shame) for a celebrity when I find out they’re from my area.  Steve is a manipulative, intelligent but definitely a bit of an asshole.  He gets the upper hand pretty early in the movie and keeps it through to the end.  I wish I could be five steps ahead like Steve is through most of the movie but without the asshole part.

Stone Cold Steve Austin

I was born in the early eighties and I became a pro-wrestling fan in the mid nineties so I was in the correct demographic for the rise of Steve Austin in the WWF.  I didn’t follow his career in WCW when he hung out with Brian Pillman as the Hollywood Blonds.  I did watch it later and I was impressed with what the guy could do as a fairly young talent.  He arrived in the WWF after a stint in ECW and they instantly made him The Ringmaster which was ridiculous.  They wasted a charismatic guy on a dead-end character with a dead-end storyline and he didn’t even get to interact correctly with a legend like Ted Dibiase when the opportunity was right there.  Eventually the Attitude era hit and Stone Cold Steve Austin was unleashed.

Steve ran rampant over the whole company as soon as he embraced his Texas-sized attitude and fought every single member of the roster.  Eventually, he found his ultimate opponent in Vince McMahon.  He fulfilled the wishes of every disgruntled employee in the world who at least occasionally wanted to torment their boss and kick his ass.  Steve made few friends and a whole laundry list of enemies.  He never backed down from a fight and neither the law nor injury could keep him down for long.  I try to harness some of that energy and attitude for good.  I should probably stand up for myself a little more.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling Episode: Cody Rhodes

February 13, 2015


Being a young talent in the world of sports entertainment can be really difficult.  Pro-wrestling promoters are always hesitant to rely on young talent over established stars.  More often than not those same established stars are afraid to give an inch to these new guys in fear of losing their spot and their paycheck  Also, we fans are usually critical of new talent, almost immediately judging whether they have a future or not based on first impressions.  All of this can easily crush the dreams of a new performer before he or she can establish a proper fan base.  On a larger scale, this can lead to the product growing stale and revenue dropping off for everyone involved.

Now, being crushed by the system isn’t always the fate of the new guy.  In an earlier episode I talked about CM Punk who defied the odds and the backstage politics and became a white hot superstar.  Today, I’d like to talk about somebody different who defied the odds and became a future hall-of-famer (yeah I’m calling it).  Cody Rhodes showed up in July 2007 and,  although he was athletic and well-trained, he was less than impressive.  He was the son of Dusty Rhodes and the brother of Goldust but that didn’t win him any points.  If he wasn’t going to wow us then he could be the lovechild of Ric Flair and Jake Roberts for all I cared. Instead, when he first showed up he looked and acted like a default Create-A-Wrestler in a video game.  No charisma, pretty boy appearance and very athletic without an interesting list of moves.

Of course, Cody Rhodes was a Real Wrestler and he had the ability to adapt and change, he just had to work on his charisma problem.  That would apparently have to wait as his character decided that he would rather be successful than loved.  He turned on the fans who, like me, probably didn’t feel all that betrayed.  He teamed with a fellow second generation up and comer, Ted Dibiase and they started to run roughshod over opponents.  People started to care about Cody Rhodes but they hated him for what he was.  He was the son of a legend and he was in front of a camera, expecting everyone to love him with no accomplishments under his belt.  People started to hate him because people hate entitlement.

So they gathered up all of the second generation stars and formed a team known as the Legacy.  But what’s better than being an entitled asshole?  Being an entitled asshole who betrays his friends.  Teaming up with Randy Orton was a shot in the arm for Cody’s career.  He was part of a faction now and under the leadership of a ruthless man and it started to rub off on Cody.  He started to develop more of a personal style and added to his move set which included taking at least one move from his mentor or partner.  Orton, Rhodes and DiBiase were dominant for two years where all three of them were able to hone their craft more.  Randy became a little less boring, Cody became more interesting and Ted was OK.  Finally, it came time for Cody to leave the nest.

They decided to make Cody into a singles wrestler and take him in a somewhat new direction.  He became “Dashing” Cody Rhodes and he finally got to talk more.  Really, a wrestler who can’t talk is mostly doomed to lingering just short of the top of heap.  Thankfully, Cody could talk and Cody could piss people off and create rivalries between himself and his opponent.  He loved the way he looked and was not afraid to tell the world that he was better looking than anybody else.  So we now had a pretty boy who was arrogant, entitled and backstabbing.  I do believe that’s considered a hat trick.  He started to evolve even more and grow in the new space he was allowed.

By a stroke of luck, Cody had an unlucky incident.  He got his nose broken legitimately by Rey Mysterio Jr.  and had to take a little time off to get it fixed.  He returned with a darker character, devastated and psychologically twisted by the loss of his good looks.  He looked just the same as ever but the character believed he was hideous now.  He became a dark figure who wanted to scar the world and grind it under his boot.  He became “Un-Dashing”.  In the process, he became an even better performer.

Eventually they teamed such an annoying pretty boy with the self-proclaimed smartest guy in the company, Damien Sandow. Team Rhodes Scholars was great for Cody and Sandow.  It allowed both of them to work more on their mic skills and develop their characters a little more.  They also seemed to learn a lot from each other’s in ring styles.

After a while, the two big egos eventually feuded with Cody finally becoming a good guy again after all this time.  His bright lights shined until he hit a brick wall named Randy Orton and the Authority.  At which point, his character was fired.  He returned alongside his brother Goldust and the two worked together even though they had not encountered each other much in their careers.  They worked together well and Cody was able to reconnect with his family and become a bit of a fan favorite.

Eventually the two brothers ran into some trouble and it looked like we were finally going to see the two sons of Dusty Rhodes go at it one on one.  Alas it was not to be but what we got was even weirder.  Cody reforged himself as a counterpart to the Goldust character.  He was now known as Stardust and he became manic and just as unconventional as his brother.  The two of them continue to fight side by side to this day.  Every so often they tease the feud that I would enjoy so much.

So that’s a little retrospective on Cody Rhodes career.  It can only go up from here and I predict that, unless something goes wrong, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame.  He might even win the Heavyweight Championship.  Only time and the stars will tell….

This Week in Steves

February 11, 2015


I was given the name of Steven when I was born.  It’s a Greek name even though I don’t have a drop of Greek blood in me.  It means “crown” or “victorious” which are two words that never really applied to my life much.  Well, like most humans I’m occasionally victorious, of course, but I was never royal.  Names are our birthright but they really don’t mean anything but I find it fun whenever I find another Steven or Steve.  So I thought I’d explore different characters or real people who share my name.  For now, this does not include Stephen because I don’t belong to that rival tribe.

Steve the Monkey from the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies

I remember reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as a kid and the book was definitely surreal and fun but it was more of a  poem than a story.  I have to hand it to the makers of the movies who completely spun straw into gold.  They took a very simple story and made it into a great animated movie.  Not only that but they filled it with puns (the lowest form of comedy) and it ended up being hilarious and not annoying.  Truly there was some dark magic involved there.

The character of Steve is a Vervet monkey and lab assistant who talks through an altered speak and spell (performed by Neil Patrick Harris).  I specifically chose to talk about him because a friend of mine often does an impression of him when somebody says my name.  Now, Steve mostly wears his heart on his sleeve, literally saying his emotions, his desires, what he’s doing at the moment or his own name.  That’s not me.  I tend to keep a lot of things to myself and I’m less impulsive unless I let my rage problem get the best of me.  In some ways I try to be a little more like Steve the Monkey by joking a little more and hanging out with people more.

Steve Urkel from Family Matters

I haven’t met somebody from my generation who hasn’t heard of Family Matters yet.  We pretty much all watched it along with the other shows on ABC’s TGIF line up.  It was a wholesome show that had a semi-realistic depiction of a family.  The Winslows loved each other and looked out for each other but they weren’t afraid to show the parents yelling at their kids for doing the wrong thing.  They also weren’t afraid to show the members of the family making fun of each other which is something my family does as well.  Sure it was a sitcom so everything was often exaggerated and more extreme than anything I experienced.  Still, it was pretty relateable and it gave us a handful of jokes when we watch Die Hard each year.

Now, before anyone called me Harry Potter (ok it happened once), I hated sharing a name with Steve Urkel.  Urkel was a character that exploded pretty soon after his first appearance and is probably the primary reason that Jaleel White primarily did voice acting for a while.  Urkel was a technophile with poor coordination and low social skills.  He didn’t care about being cool, being a nerd was cool to him and he loved being himself.  However, when people compared my name to his it was an insult.  Urkel was an outcast on the show who none of the Winslows wanted around because, frankly, he was annoying.  However, eventually his good qualities won over his annoying ones and he wormed his way into the hearts of everyone.  Urkel probably was the first time that I started to embrace my nerdy side and not care so much what people think.

Steven Stone from the Pokemon games

I love Pokemon.  I first experienced Pokemon as a video game as most people did but it wasn’t long before I was exposed to the anime.  I got to see the adventures of Ash Ketchum and then my brothers and I could strive to become Pokemon masters ourselves.  My brothers had Red and Blue and I got Yellow as soon as it came out which was more like the anime.  I loved battling Team Rocket and putting together effective and dominating teams.  I favored fire and electric types most.  I eventually graduated to Pokemon Gold and I check in on the anime to this day but I never did play any games.  If I had, I would have found about Steven Stone before this past weekend.

In current Pokemon game continuity, Steven Stone was the champion of the Hoenn region and thus the main boss of the Ruby/Sapphire games.  He is a trainer who specializes in Steel-type pokemon, a type I hadn’t really mastered until lately.  Now that I see them in action, Steel-type pokemon are hard hitting and formidable in battle and some of them look awesome.  Steven Stone is a champion and is very intelligent in the anime (which isn’t saying much when compared to Ash Ketchum).  Where he really shines is the Mega Evolution special (see above video).  There’s not really enough character to compare myself to but at least there’s a Steven like me in the Pokemon world.

Dean Wyatt Begins to Assemble the Murder Board

February 9, 2015

Yes the title here is a reference to Castle.  It turns out that my GM did not kill off my character while I was absent. He’s now tried twice but each time Dean has returned from the brink of death like the fleas that avoid multiple bug bombs.  So I will give Alternate Dean a break and visit Dean Classic who I had all but given up on.  It was great re-engaging the character as I had withdrawn my emotions from him when I thought another author had killed him off.  Don’t worry if this piece is confusing as it is a reflection of how confusing the storyline of our sessions are.  This is basically what I was thinking in the last hour of the session and especially as I drove home listening to J-Pop and BABYMETAL on Pandora.

*       *       *

Dean lay in his bed, once again laying his head down in a foreign land.  This time the team had landed themselves in the middle of a muddy swamp full of frog people which reminded Dean of a Hulk comic he had once read.  Those were frogs right?  The whole thing was strange and had only gotten stranger.  He had been glad to go out and drink with Carlos and Chuck, probably two guys he would never have hung out with.  In fact, he imagined a world where he would have been hired to investigate a cheating Carlos.  While it was true that drinking was pretty pointless, at least it allowed Dean to stop thinking so much for a little.  He also wanted to get away from Mario for a little while.

Now he had nothing keeping him from thinking.  He thought about traveling in the market with Chuck.  He was afraid of the secrets that Chuck was keeping and the threats that might represent in the future.  In retrospect, stopping at the strange empty restaurant had been a mistake.  Magic was still a pretty unsettling phenomenon but he knew that there must still be a cost for such things.  The waiter or maitre d’ had known about the map Chuck had.  What was on that map?  Dean couldn’t remember Chuck or Mario talking about the map before.  If the map was lost, would this help or hurt their mission?  The waiter had spoken with a lot of subtext seemingly meant for Chuck but Chuck hadn’t given the whole story.

The revelation that Mario was or will be or is the Perfect is not exciting or comforting news.  There are too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns attached to that information for Dean’s liking.  The Prophet, apparently an ex-schoolteacher, believed that he himself would change into the Perfect down the line.  Setting the fake in Tira Linga aside, that would mean two potential Perfects.  Since he was always referred to as The Perfect, Dean believed that there could only be one.  He’d seen Highlander and knew how that went down.

The townspeople had sworn fealty to The Perfect and apparently that was a metaphysically binding contract, one that the townspeople might be fulfilling subconsciously.  They had parted around Mario and they had molded the statue in the image of an older Mario.  Who instructed them what The Perfect looked like?  Why was the lower half imprinted with the hands of the worshiping townspeople.  The religious fervor had been frightening and had nearly killed Dean, Tina and had injured several in their team.  If the Prophet could broker a faith like that, he was even more dangerous than Dean had thought.

Mario’s magical display was interesting to say the least.  Dean was grateful to be healed from near death by their compatriot’s magic.  Now there were crops and fish in abundance and hopefully that didn’t destroy the ecosystem of the swamp.  How much power did Mario have?  Dean had never really trusted Mario fully.  Maybe it was the way he freely insulted Dean, maybe it was his admitted criminal past.  Lately Dean had found him more likeable based on their agreement that the Prophet must die.  Handing a powerful lineage and powerful magic to Mario was enough to form a knot in Dean’s stomach the more he thought about it.

There were a lot of questions that still needed to be answered and a lot of ground to cover.  Dean had noticed that during dinner everybody had reacted to Mario’s announcement oddly.  Sure they looked surprised but they also looked unfocused for a moment.  What was that?  Why had it not happened to Dean?  He needed to choose one of them to confront about the incident but that was for another day.  He wondered what they would think of his not being included in their event.

Still, their mission remained the same.  They had to take out the Deathknights, Abyssals, Technocracy and now the Infernals as well.  They were surrounded by enemies and bound together by either destiny or free will.  It was hard to see which one governed the future now more than ever.

American Sniper

February 4, 2015

I recently saw American Sniper and I have *opinions*.  I have waited half a week to write this down because I did not want to offend.  Let me get this disclaimer out of the way.  I respect our soldiers for laying down their lives to defend our country.  I respect the sacrifice that families of soldiers make and the sacrifices of the soldiers themselves.  In no way will I be trying to offend anyone you know or anyone you don’t know personally but respect and admire.  This is a statement about a Clint Eastwood movie so please stand down.

Chris Kyle was kind of a dick, huh?  At least, that’s how he is portrayed throughout most of the movie.  He answered questions with one or two word answers in a non-committal tone.  He seemed to think violence was the best answer for most situations and he was cocky as hell.   That cockiness leads to irresponsibility in battle and encourages it in his fellow soldiers.  He was a heavily flawed human being whose legend inspired those around him.

I was especially disconcerted when his squad started to appropriate the Punisher logo and plastered it all over their vehicles and body armor.  I’m a huge comic book fan but using the logo of a character who is morally questionable at best for your banner is a huge mistake.  The idea they kind of implied was that they were trying to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.  Well, bullets and drones do that just fine.  Meanwhile, the people they are trying to help (Iraqis mostly) see men riding down the streets armed to the teeth wearing a heavy metal skull painted everywhere.  No wonder they hated us.

Speaking of the natives, Kyle and his cowboy patrol were absolute assholes to Iraqi civilians.  Sure they were walking around with justified paranoia in life threatening situations but they were still assholes and were never corrected or reprimanded.  They roughed unarmed people up and acted like bullies, forgetting that they were the foreign invaders.  They called the locals “Savages” which was horribly offensive and demeaning.  If this movie is to be believed it takes a special “Bro” mentality to be in the armed forces.  They were racist jerks wielding guns around people they openly despised.  It was disconcerting.

They took a real story and invented an evil sniper so that Kyle had somebody to fight and defeat so he could be a hero.  They did not realize that they already had a villain in the movie even if they took out Mustafa.  The real villain in the movie is post traumatic stress disorder.  The old cliche says that war is hell and it holds true in this movie (and most likely in real life as well).  There is a very realistic portrayal of PTSD in the film and I hope that it is a real eye opener for people.  That this alpha male “bro” could be reduced to tears by trauma is a powerful statement.  Coming back from the brink Chris Kyle is able to become a much better person.  It’s really touching to watch.

Overall the movie is interesting to watch although I hesitate to call it fun.  The humor is not really funny nor do I think it is intended to be funny.  A lot of the people are unlikeable but a few of them are redeemed by the end which is a central theme in Clint Eastwood’s work.  I mean, just look at Gran Torino.  I would classify the movie as uncomfortable.  The action in the movie is adrenaline filled and really got my heart pumping and the resolution was touching and thought provoking.  Bradley Cooper also turned in an amazing performance that I didn’t think he had in him with all of the comedy he does.  I would suggest seeing it.

Now, enough with the thoughtful stuff. Bring on the fake baby.  That was hilariously bad in what should have been a very powerful scene.  Unfortunately it brought me right out of the movie for a few minutes and I had to fight not to laugh.

The Key – Episode 6

February 3, 2015

The Key

It was like like the flicking of a big light switch.  One moment she was was sitting and listening to Kim’s story about her dog while eating pancakes absolutely soaked with syrup.  She was fighting the urge to pull out her phone.  Pet stories were only interesting to their owners.  The next moment Robin was standing in the middle of the adjacent courtyard on suddenly less achy legs.  She felt like a million bucks which was a lot better than what Other Robin had done to her the night before.  The wind had kicked up and she could feel her hair blowing dramatically to one side.

She looked over her shoulder and saw Kim was standing at their table and shout her name. She could see the words on Kim’s lips but she could not hear them.  All she could hear was a faint ringing as if a bomb had gone off.  She looked across the courtyard and saw that perhaps a bomb had gone off.  The corner jewelry store was now a towering inferno and there was debris all over the street and the courtyard.  In front of the towering inferno, the Doll Girl was standing, its body awkwardly twisted in what looked like rage.

The crowd had cleared out between Robin and the Doll as if they had received some subconscious signal or were afraid of fire for some reason. “You should have helped me!” The Doll Girl shrieked, its head tilted once again at an unnatural angle.  Apparently Robin’s hearing had returned just at the right time. Robin didn’t respond to that because she didn’t know how to respond.  How do you respond to a homocidal living doll?  Its happy face was painted on but somehow it looked incredibly angry anyway. “Now it’s too late.  Now I’ll take it from you!”  Its voice sounded like the unwanted child of a tea kettle and and a condor.  Its eyes began to swirl and twist violently.  “Robin Catherine Clarke.  Robin the Wanderer.  I’ll take you apart, discover your secrets and use them to cure myself.  Or maybe I could rule this city.” As the Doll kept screaming, its jaw became more and more unhinged and its limbs flailed wildly.  With halting, unsteady steps the shuddering, shivering doll lurched toward Robin.

Robin wanted to run away.  It was her feet that refused to budge, at least not in any safe direction.  She started to walk toward the raging Doll Girl which was the last place in the world she wanted to go, of course.  The Doll’s jaw was flapping wildly.  Its words were no longer being shaped by lips.  Still, despite the shrieking, they were as articulate as ever.

“No!  Stay back!  You had your chance, Wanderer!  You will die!  My kind will flourish and humanity will die!”  The words rang kind of hollow to Robin’s ears.  If desperation was a scent you could smell it for miles off of the Doll.  Robin kept her mouth shut and kept walking.

She did not know what she would do when she got within reach of the Doll. She felt like she needed to know the words but did not know the correct words.  She could feel that sensation again.  She began to burn and tingle all over and for a moment her vision blurred and her steps faltered.  She heard herself let out a little moan.  It was too much.  It would consume her.  It would consume her unless she passed it on. Suddenly doll-like creatures made of debris started to crawl out of the wreckage and shamble toward Robin with a stiff and hesitant gait.  They were all shrapnel and glass and looked like they could tear a person apart in seconds.

Robin tried to will her body to back off and get out of there but she kept walking toward the angry Doll Girl and her Dollettes. Other Robin must have a hell of a death wish. Gunshots sounded with a quick series of pops close enough that Robin wished her hearing was still gone.  One by one the Dollettes exploded back into rubble, seemingly harmless once again.  Robin looked to her right and there was the former Beetleman, standing tall with  a pretty large hand gun.  He turned his head slightly to glance at her.

“Are you alright, Robin?”

“How do you know my name?” Robin said with no small bit of shock.

“It’s a long story.  Are you alright?  You kind of have a job to do here.”  He responded, indicating the Doll Girl who seemed to be practically vibrating with anger.

“Um… right.  Time to do my thing.  Whatever that is.”  Robin said as she stalked toward the Doll Girl with a little more confidence.  Everything had mostly worked out with the Beetle Man so why would this be any different?  Once again she felt energy building up inside of herself and groaned with the pain and desperation of that feeling.  She sprinted those last few steps toward the Doll.

“No!  I will eat your flesh!  I will — ”

Whatever the thing was going to say was interrupted by Robin’s palm impacting its chest.  For a second Robin could swear she saw a dark shape flit down her arm.  There was a huge explosion of energy that threw Robin back into a couple of plastic cafe chairs and nearly landed her head on the concrete.  Beetle Man was there in a flash, holding his hand down to her.  She took his hand carefully and pulled herself up.  She brushed herself off and checked to make sure the fall hadn’t dislocated anything major.  Her head was spinning but with all of the strange goings on, she was not sure if this was a side effect of magic or a concussion.

“Was I that creepy looking when I was under?” Robin glanced away.

“No comment.” Of course he had been but what was the use of telling him that?  “The important thing is that you look good now.”  Which is when she blushed because maybe that was over-sharing.  It was true though.  He was tall, dark and handsome and had hair that was just a little long.

“Thanks.  Shouldn’t we go talk to her?”

“Talk to who?” The tall Indian-looking man who had formerly been an inhuman beetle monster pointed over to what looked like a smoking crater.  It was a smoking crater with a great pair of high heels and some shapely legs sticking out of it.  Robin started over toward the woman.  She power walked because she didn’t really want to go over there but she felt she should.  As she approached there was a familiar cloud of black smoke that made a screaming sound as it streamed into the sky and out of sight. Robin hung back for a moment in case there was anything else coming out of the girl.  She was beautiful and thanks to her recent doll form, she was done up a little like a beauty pageant contestant.  It was a little bit out of place in a crater in the middle of Robinson Square.  Unfortunately, the girl was unconscious but Robin could see her breathing which was a relief.  There was finally the sound of sirens approaching and a fire truck pulled up to start putting the inferno across the street out.  Police cars would not be far behind.

“We have to get out of here.” Robin said, looking around. “I’ll carry her. It’s not really her fault.  She shouldn’t go to jail.”

“Thanks.. um…  I’m going to have to call you something other than Beetle Man.”

“What?” He asked, paused as he bent down to pick the girl up.

“Uh… nothing.  My car’s down that way.” She pointed and he followed her easily with an unconscious young woman over his shoulder.  In the continued chaos of the courtyard they were easily missed.  They slipped away and headed back down Sullivan toward Carly’s apartment.  They arrived at Robin’s car without further incident.  “So how do we get her into the backseat?” There was a cough from behind them.

“Excuse me, but I don’t think you should move her more than necessary.  That makes sense, right?”  It was Kim who Robin had completely forgotten about.  They blinked at each other, both in shock for completely different reasons.

“Kim… I… I was going to say ‘I can explain’ but I really can’t yet.”  Robin said and smiled weakly and shrugged.  Honesty wasn’t always the best policy but it seemed best here.

“This is the strangest day of my life, Robin.  I don’t understand what happened but if there’s one thing I do understand it’s taking care of somebody.  I can take care of that girl for you, keep her hidden from whatever trouble she’s in.”

“Why would you do that?  Why would you get sucked up into my crazy life?” Robin asked.

“Because you’re Carly’s friend… and I’m needed.  Come on, I have Carly’s keys.  I, um, came to water her plants originally.”

Robin exchanged a look with the Beetle Man and then realized she hardly knew him enough for that.  She shrugged and followed Kim into Carly’s building and beckoned for the Beetle Man to follow.  Outside the sounds of sirens were everywhere as you’d expect from a city under attack.

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