Archive for March, 2017
I had mentioned it before but I was baffled recently by the Academy Awards. The Oscars were always something my family watched year after year, with us little kids trying to stay up to see who won Best Picture. I guess it did not matter that most nominees for that category were not movies for kids. Also, we had not seen even a quarter of the nominees because we were too young and our parents picked movie outings and controlled our Blockbuster accounts. As I grew up, I was content to just read the results in the paper the next day and then online nowadays.
This should not be a source of stress. Seriously.
I am behind on watching movies so I was largely lost when it came to a lot of the nominees. I watched La La Land after the fact recently and I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was because the central message resonated with the trajectory my life has taken. Of course, many people thought La La Land also thought La La Land was a good movie. I also heard that Moonlight was very good but I have not watched it yet. Yet, my twitter feed was filled with people frothing mad at the very idea that La La Land might “beat” Moonlight at the Oscars. Now, the Academy has its problems with race and The Other in general but that is not La La Land’s fault. The people who made La La Land tried to make a good movie and apparently succeeded.
Nobody got upset about Danny Rand in Ultimate Spider-Man. Did they?
Flash forward to last week when Iron Fist came out. People had already been upset because of the casting of a white person in a white role instead of taking a chance and recasting the role to be Asian. I can understand this but I was fine with the casting either way. I feel like this colored the opinions of people going forward and possibly tainted their opinion of the show. As I have stated, I really like Iron Fist so far (and I have since watched more episodes). It is not the best show but it is a good show, in my opinion.
I do understand that it is fun to poke fun at media. Keep it lighthearted, ok?
I love movies and television. I really, really do. I am sure you can tell from Media Update and my movie reviews. You might be able to tell from my Top 11 lists that I like some movies better than other movies. However, I have recently shifted my policy on movies and TV. For the most part, I do not say whether a movie is good or bad. Now, I usually say whether or not I enjoyed it or whether or not I would recommend it. I hate it when somebody says the movie I loved sucked because it feels like they are saying my preferences suck. It is not a crime for a movie or TV show to be not as good or different from something else that is good.
Considering my two examples, I avoid using the word ‘Vanilla’ below.
I feel like people are getting irrationally mad about things. It is like there is a kid at the ice cream shoppe and he/she/they are tired of chocolate ice cream. They ask for strawberry ice cream because strawberry ice cream tastes good but is strangely rare and supporting it is important to keep it going. Then, as they are enjoying their strawberry ice cream, they see people happily eating chocolate ice cream and that makes them mad. If they are tired of chocolate ice cream, why should anybody enjoy it? Because I like a lot of flavors of ice cream and sometimes I really get excited about chocolate ice cream because I like it. So, please do not put down my ice cream and I will not put down yours and maybe we can just enjoy things instead of making it a big problem.
“A metaphorical key?” Marion asked. She pushed her glasses up in front of her eyes. “We are practical people, we deal in things we can observe. We leave metaphor to the poets.”
“I’m not so sure, Doctor,” Warren said. “I always enjoyed a little poetry before bed.” He smiled and Sarah could not help but smile too.
“Maybe not metaphorical, but maybe not a key you can hold in your hand,” Sarah said.
“That sounds like a riddle. What is a key you cannot hold, Sheriff?” Warren asked with a smile. Marion shuddered at that smile and Sarah was instantly reminded that Marion and Warren were feuding and that most people found Warren creepy.
“Please explain yourself, Sarah,” Marion said. “It is getting very late and I need the comfort of my own bed. What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about secret messages,” Sarah said. “Back in the big city, my friend Suzette and I passed secret messages. They were only visible at night. It was a special ink.”
“Interesting but what does that mean to us now. Sarah?” Marion asked. Sarah knew she was getting impatient.
“I think I get what the Sheriff is getting at,” Waren said. He accented the word ‘sheriff’ to remind the good doctor that she should be using the correct honorific. “Let my height be of use for once.” He reached up to the window and pulled the thick shutters open. Moonlight flooded the room from the small window there. Sarah’s stomach tightened as Warren pulled the sheet off the body. All three of them gasped as the moonlight touched the skin and images started to glow.
“How did you know that would happen?” Marion asked.
“I am as surprised as you are, Doctor,” Sarah said. “The special ink we used is nothing like this. That glow is actually kind of beautiful.”
“Yes, I suppose it is,” Marion said. She leaned in to study the glowing markings more closely. Sarah was struck by how close the woman could get to a dead body that was really starting to smell. “Some sort of tattoo. Well, a lot of them anyway and they used a special ink.” She looked over her shoulder at Warren and Sarah. “It’s a working hypothesis anyway.”
“Seems like a good one, I think,” Warren said. “As good as any I can think of at the moment, at least.”
The three of them stood there trying to make sense of the images on the skin. Sarah had no idea what she was looking at. The glowing kind of made the edges of the images fuzzy which made it hard to tell what the symbols were or what they meant. Sarah looked at Warren and Marion and she guessed the two of them were having no more luck with the symbols. It was not like she fully expected the two of them to use expertise outside of their field to solve the mystery but they were the smartest people Sarah knew. Just as she was about to give in and tell them to call it a night, Sarah saw something.
“Hey look,” she said. “There’s that pesky key.” Sarah pointed at an image that looked like an old key on the man’s forearm. As she did, the image started to glow brighter and then it started to move. Before Warren could pull Sarah’s hand away, the image itself reared up from the skin and caught Sarah’s finger. She stared in absolute shock as the thing snaked its way up her finger. The sensation was like ants crawling just under her skin. She was afraid to move. Finally, the key centered itself on her palm and the sensation stopped.
“What the hell was that?!” Sarah shouted and Warren put a comforting hand on her shoulder. It helped but only a little bit.
“I would like to revise my hypothesis,” Marion managed to get out. “I have limited experience with tattoos but I do not think they can do that. Are you alright, Sarah?”
“I think so,” Sarah said. “It didn’t hurt and it seems to have stopped but now I have this thing on my hand.”
“And this man was killed for having the key,” Warren said. “That puts a target on your back, Sheriff.”
“Don’t scare the girl, Warren,” Marion said.
“My dad didn’t raise me to scare easy,” Sarah said. “If anybody is going to have the key, it should be the Sheriff. We Redcrosses can take care of ourselves.” She reached down and touched the butt of her gun for a little bit of comfort. There was somebody or something out there that wanted this glowing key.
“Well, that is definitely true. I didn’t mean to imply that you’re defenseless, Sheriff.” Marion used the correct honorific. It sent a clear message.
“We are just worried because there is still so much we don’t know, Sheriff,” Warren said. “This looks like magic.”
“No such thing,” Marion said.
“I’m not so sure about that, Doctor,” Sarah said. “I just stole a dead man’s tattoo.”
“It’s late. We should look into this again tomorrow,” Warren said. He looked tired. Marion looked very tired too. Sarah could only guess at how tired she looked too.
“I must insist that you stay with me tonight, Sheriff,” Marion said. “That way I can observe you if this ‘magic’ affects your health adversely.”
“I won’t argue, Marion. I think we’re all out of our league here,” Sarah said.
Everybody seems to say this show sucks but that is the problem with saying something sucks, somebody out there might actually like it. Marvel has created a lot of good television shows, especially through Netflix. My favorite has been Jessica Jones but Luke Cage and Daredevil have both been great as well. The plan was always to make a quintet of shows and this is the fourth. Iron Fist is Danny Rand, a young wealthy man who the world thought was dead but was instead training in another dimension. When he returns, he is naive about the world and unsure of where he fits in anymore. It is an interesting show as it shows an unshakably honest and forthright character trying to deal with a very dishonest world. Like Daredevil, we get a lot of cool martial arts fight scenes. Some of the coolest fight scenes star the awesome Colleen Wing who is a great character from the comics. In the comics, she often teams up with Misty Knight who was on Luke Cage. I am only a few episodes deep into the season but the show is really coming together. I really like it so far. It makes it a little insulting when other people say “it sucks”. I definitely recommend it. Do not let other people decide what you will and will not like. Check things out for yourself.
Justice League Dark
This was originally supposed to be a project helmed by the excellent Guillermo Del Toro. Unfortunately, that project did not work out because I would have loved to see it. Setting that aside, the animated films that DC Comics and Warner Brothers have been putting out have been really good. The only downside is we get the Superman who is a huge dick but he has maybe two scenes so it’s fine. The show centers on some of the more mystical characters in the DC Universe (a lot of whom came from other companies originally). The central character in the movie is John Constantine who has never really been a hero but often cannot stand by and let the world end. He is joined by Batman, Zatanna, Deadman, Etrigan and Swamp Thing. It is always great to see Batman out of his element, trying to gain his footing but never losing his cool. We get so much of Batman as an unstoppable hero that him being a fish out of water is always interesting. Zatanna featured heavily which makes sense as she is potentially one of the most powerful magicians on Earth. I loved the depiction of Constantine and Swamp Thing’s eternal feud and Felix Faust being a total magic bro. This made me miss the Constantine television show. I definitely recommend it.
I am a few episodes in and I am not sure what to think about this show yet. I am pretty sure I like it although there was some rough going for a while. This show seemed to be a lot of special effects and weirdness without much substance but it has settled down a little. If you got superpowers, would you recognize them as such? Would you just think that you were just going insane? This is where David Haller (unknown son of Professor Xavier) is at. He has spent a long time self-destructing and also hanging out in a mental hospital, thinking he is absolutely nuts. He hears voices and sees things that are not there. However, a lot of those things he sees and hears are the thoughts of the people around him. Also, he can set fires and move objects with his mind. That and so many other powers. One of my favorite parts of the show so far is his weird friendship with Lenny. Lenny is played by Aubrey Plaza who I admire for her work in Parks and Rec and her awkward interviews on television. She plays a role originally written for a middle-aged man so she is wonderfully weird. I look forward to how this one will play out but I have not been fully hooked yet. I recommend it but be warned that it is really weird.
Music of the Week:
Levarslaysdragons – Game Over
– This week’s theme is Comic Book Heroes Without Costumes
– I finished Season 3 of Blue Bloods
– I started watching Lucha Underground from the first episode
– I am getting close to finishing off Haven
– I continued watching Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I started watching a few MST3K episodes I missed
– I kept watching The Crown
Yes, it is once again time to get into gear for April’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge. This is getting to be an annual tradition on this blog as this is year three taking part in the challenge. This is the only event I take part in apart from my beloved month of Halloween. Of course, I only decided to do it again this year after some soul searching. After the founder revealed some unsettling political opinions, I was not sure I wanted to do this. However, this event is bigger than any one person and anyone who reads this blog knows who I am and what I stand for. So, let’s have a good time and bang out 26 blog posts in 30 days!
This is my first year with a theme so let us cut to the chase. This year’s theme is:
This Time It’s Personal!
This month is all about me getting personal with you. I will be telling stories about my past and I will be explaining aspects of my present. The creative writing I do will relate to who I am or how I am feeling. The movies I review will have some personal connection that will reveal a little more about myself. This blog is my labor of love. When people ask me what I like to do in my free time, I talk about my joy of writing. I always want to share that with you and I will do that not only in April but all year long.
There are a few more traditions that I intend to follow but I will let those be a surprise as they come. Some of the posts will be a surprise to me as I have not finished planning the month out. In the next few weeks, I will lock things in and we will be good to go. Outside of the challenge, Media Update will continue on Thursdays as a regular feature. The first A to Z Challenge I participated helped kill the old regular Thursday feature (This Week in Steves) but I will not let that happen to Media Update. It is easily one of my favorite features on the blog.
I am looking forward to participating in this challenge again. It makes me exercise my skills a little more and helps me grow a bit as a writer. Stay patient with me. Not all the posts may resonate with you and maybe none of them will. Either way, I will soldier on. I write because I need to and if people enjoy a word of it, that’s just gravy. So, sit back and enjoy and if you have a comment or question, I will try and keep up with that during the month.
Hak ran through the trees as quickly as he could. At age twelve, he was already over five feet tall and very athletic but that was not strange for a half-orc. He would have had an easy time running except for the tree roots underfoot and the arrows in Hak’s back. Now that his seemingly bottomless rage had run out, Hak could feel the blood dripping down his back even as he ran. He could not stop running or the slavers would catch him again. Two people had already died in the escape attempt, Hak had to make this count or he would join them or he would be back in chains. Both were pretty much the same option.
It had been a long year since Hak had seen the tribe that had raised him. Some of them were half-orcs and some of them were human but they lived together in relative harmony. They hunted together and fought off powerful enemies together. It was here that Hak had learned how to use the rage his blood gave him to his advantage. He missed the grip of the enormous sword he had earned in combat on his sixth birthday. The slavers took the tribe by surprise, using powerful sleep spells to steal away some of the younger members. Hak was shipped far away and put to work. He lived his life in chains now but that was over now if he could just keep running.
As he ran past a tree he reached up and pulled a large branch off of it and carried it with him. If they caught up to him, he would make them pay for every lash of the whip and every boot to his ribs. It almost made him hope they would catch up, even if it would probably mean his death. He was a rabid dog. If he was cornered, he would kill anybody who came into reach. The trees fell away and he was in suddenly in the open which filled his stomach with anticipation. It would not be long now. His heart fell at the sight in front of him. It was a cliff and beyond that was the sea. Hak had run the wrong way.
The men and women who had been following slowed to a jog, forming a semi-circle to make sure Hak could not get away. Hak raised the branch and swung it a few times, showing them that he meant business. He backed almost to the edge of the cliff and growled at the slavers. He tried to access that rage again but it had been depleted. He was just so tired but he would not give up no matter what. A dwarf with a battle ax charged and Hak swung as hard as he could. The branch broke a little on the dwarf’s head, sending the slaver stumbling away. Hak laughed wildly, his eyes wide open.
The tiefling woman to the dwarf’s right did not take such chances. She aimed a crossbow and fired it into Hak’s shoulder. There was a terrible moment when Hak fell to one knee and he felt they were going to take him alive. He tried to push himself back to his feet but he lost his balance. Time slowed down as he realized he was falling over the edge. He could see the disappointed faces of the slavers. He could see the dwarf already yelling at the woman for firing her crossbow. Then they were gone and Hak was alone, falling parallel to the rocky cliff face. At least the slavers had lost. Then came the water and sweet oblivion.
The light came again and Hak held his arms in front of his face. There was the sound of seagulls and the crashing of waves. He realized that the swaying he was feeling was real and not just from his recent blood loss. Though the sun hurt, Hak dared to open his eyes anyway. He was on a ship on what looked like the ocean. Standing over him was a woman with cloth strips tied over her eyes. She smiled in relief as he moved to sit up even though he let out a grunt as he did. She walked down the length of the ship, the ship’s crew took little notice as they went about their duties.
“So you’re finally awake, are ye?” A man with a long beard said. He walked with purpose and authority and Hak knew he must be in charge. He was a human but he was not an ordinary one.
“I am awake. How–?” Hak asked.
“How did you get here?” The man asked. “We fished you out of the ocean. You’re lucky we recruited a cleric a while ago.”
“Lucky,” Hak said. He looked up and could not see the cliff anywhere. “Very lucky. Thank you.”
“We didn’t save you for free. We could use a big lad like you,” The man said.
Hak tensed, remembering how the slavers had put him to work. “You could, huh?”
“Yes. For pay, of course,” the man said with a smile. “You would follow my orders but no more chains and no more whips. What do you think?”
“I have a choice?” Hak asked. He could not hide his surprise.
“Every person in the world has a choice, lad. What are you going to do with yours?”
Hak looked the man in the eye for a long moment. “I will follow you. See what the ocean has to offer,” Hak said at last.
“Good,” the man said. “You look like you could use a drink. Then we’ll see about putting you to work. I’m Captain Trystan but most people call me The Shark. What do we call you?”
“I am Hak.”
The man grinned and patted Hak on the shoulder. “Hak the Hurricane. I like it.”
La La Land
Yes, it is the movie that became controversial in comparison to another movie this year. People turned on this movie pretty quickly when the Academy said they liked it. Anyway, all of the controversy made me want to watch this movie even more than I already did. I like musicals and I like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone so it was probably something I would eventually see anyway. The movie is kind of a throwback to musicals like Singing in The Rain and Melody of Broadway 1936. Of course, those old musicals always had a happy ending. This movie goes out of its way to tell a story where everything is not wrapped up in a little bow. As the movie started, I was not immediately impressed. The movie crept into my heart as it continued and then it set up shop. I loved the jazz score and original songs. I always love Emma Stone and she was great in this. Her depiction of the audition process for theater (and television and film) is definitely what I heard from my colleagues in the theater. The story was definitely about her but Gosling’s story was also important and he was great as a miserable jerk. Both stories were about what you put up with to achieve your dream. I definitely recommend it as it was nominated for a lot of awards for good reason.
I first heard about the star of this show (Rachel Bloom) when she lent her voice to a Starbomb album a while ago as the singing voice of Princess Peach. I had not heard of her before but I thought she was a great singer with a good sense of humor. Flash forward to a year and a half ago when I saw that this show was a thing. I read the premise and dismissed the show as not my thing and moved on. Recently, Kate Leth started watching the show and tweeted about it and I was intrigued and decided to try it. The show is about a top-earning lawyer who meets her ex-boyfriend from when she was fourteen and has a crisis moment where she realizes she is not happy in her life. She decides to chase her ex across the country to California. The premise sounded kind of trashy and weird but the show is very self-aware. The character realizes how crazy she may be and the show is more about more than its premise. It is also a musical comedy that likes to address the realities of being a woman in the modern world. For me, a lot of the humor comes from how deep into the crazy Bloom’s character digs and then how hard she has to work to dig out of it. The characters are both likable but also terrible people who end up being a lot of fun. I definitely recommend it.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe is a famous figure mostly for the worst reasons. She was an outrageous woman with real problems but also amazing victories. Until Monday, I had never actually seen her act in anything. I had heard the recording of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend (which comes from this movie) but I had not seen her act. I had seen more parodies of her acting. In this movie, she adopts a very breathy acting style. Her character is a sweet girl who happens to be obsessed with money but is not a bad person. She comes off as dumb but is actually very intelligent when it comes to certain circumstances. Jane Russell contrasts as a very brassy woman who constantly speaks her mind and defends her ‘dumb blonde’ friend. The two of them are very funny together with consistently clever wordplay, great singing and funny line deliveries. The movie is supposed to be PG but, if you read between the lines, it flies a lot of stuff past the censors. After watching it, I can definitely see why people champion Monroe as an actress and why people kept working with her despite her difficult reputation. I definitely recommend it.
Music of the Week:
The Agonist – Business Suits and Combat Boots
– This week’s theme is “Musicals Centered on Women”
– I watched more Haven Season 5
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 3
– I kept watching The Magicians Season 2
– I watched some more of The Crown
– I watched some old and new Conan
– I liked Amy Schumer: The Leather Special
– 3/16 says I just watched some stuff
Because you don’t want to be lucky, you want to be good at what you do.
Phillip Brooks (better known as CM Punk) has a tattoo that says “Luck is for Losers”. That phrase has resonated me ever since I saw the tattoo. As I have stated in the past, I am a skeptic. As a skeptic, I am picky about what I believe in. I believe in science even if it does not need me to believe in it. I believe in gravity, genetics and free will. I believe in a lot of forces of the universe but I do not believe in luck. I do not believe in a magical force that pushes outcomes one way or another based on the whims of the universe. Who or what would control such a force? Believing in luck feels weird and wrong.
But seriously, don’t buy too many lottery tickets.
I do believe in chance and probability. When I was in high school, I took a probability and statistics class. I learned all sorts of practical things. I learned that if you buy a lottery ticket, it is best to pick numbers that are not a day of the year. You do not raise your odds of winning but you lower your odds of sharing the prize if you happen to win as a lot of people play birthdays, anniversaries or other significant dates. I learned that specific numbers (like 666) can pop up at any given time and they do not mean anything. I learned about the chances of owning a mentally ill dog, a concept that had never occurred to me. The mathematics made sense to me.
I missed and everybody watched it happen.
Of course, I started playing tabletop roleplaying games a while ago and my beliefs were challenged. Lately, this has really started to bother me. On Saturday, our group once again met to deal with dungeons and/or dragons. Our adventuring party (including my character Bron) set out to deal with some bandits that were plaguing a small town. While we made mistakes, we would have done fine if we had not consistently rolled low when it counted. When you are rolling dice, the house always wins eventually but in a tabletop game, 7 people should be able to cover for low rolls. This was barely the case.
Oh Wil Wheaton, bless these dice!
Of course, we have all had bad streaks of rolling dice. One of the things I like about the group is that we are all huge nerds and geeks. The group is mostly made up of people of science. Vets, patent researchers, and IT professionals. As a former theater guy, writer and legal professional I guess I am comparatively a ‘poet’ in the group. They are all also very creative people but we all love science in our own way. And yet, we do a lot of superstitious things. We talk about ‘blessing’ dice with good luck or ‘cursing’ dice with bad luck. We switch dice after a horrible streak of dice and we retire dice ‘responsible’ for particularly bad numbers.
I thought about smashing my dice but I just watched this a few times instead. Therapeutic.