Saturday, February 27, 2010

There are many paths to redemption... not all of them peaceful

I once read an anecdote about Robert E. Howard. The person writing the tale stated that he heard Mr. Howard talk about the times that he was writing the story of his most famous character, Conan. According to the tale, Mr. Howard felt the presence of Conan as he wrote, defending him from the evils around him and at the same time FORCING him to commit Conan's story to paper.

It was an interesting bit of trivia that has always stuck in my head. Due to the fact that it reveals more about Robert E. Howard's mental state during his writing of Conan that the author would have liked. Today, I have discovered another character in Howard's gallery of rogues: Solomon Kane.

In the next couple of months, the US will be treated to a major film release telling an original story based on Robert E. Howard's work. I've seen the trailer, and it looks AWESOME!! Like Van Helsing meets Pan's Labyrinth with a touch of Lord Of The Rings. Check it out!!

Solomon Kane is played by James Purefoy (Rome, A Knight's Tale, Resident Evil). And if there's anyone who can play a 17th century Puritan badass, it's James Purefoy. The film was supposed to be released last November in the US, but the release was delayed. It should be out sometime in March or April. I, for one, can't wait to see it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Little known, but GREATLY appreciated

You know what the best thing about my friends? They INSPIRE me to greatness. One of my best friends, David, wrote a post on the cartoons that had a major formative influence on him. His post (to read it,click here) listed some great cartoons. So, now you're wondering what I was inspired to do by this posting?

I was looking at the intros he posted and a thought occurred to me. Everyone talks about the best cartoons of the 70s, 80s, 90s, whatever, right? Because David was talking about those shows that were important to him, I thought about a segment of shows that doesn't really get talked about: the shows that you watched that no one talks about. The cartoons that you watched that no else seems to have seen. For me, there's several.


I hate to admit this, but this was my first introduction to the Native American mindset. I was a kid, okay? But the show was cool in my book. It was sci-fi with a western twist and an element of magic. It appealed to me greatly, but very few people know about this show. For years, I thought I had made it up.

COPS: Central Organization of Police Specialists

I've always liked police officers. Anyone that accepts lousy pay to protect me from crap gets my respect. For me this was, is, and always shall be the ONLY cops show I will EVER watch.

Centurions: Power Extreme

I.... have no excuse for this. There's no merit to this show, except the memory of me running around my room as a kid striking various "Power Poses" and yelling "CENTURIONS... POWER EXTREME!"


I read the comics, and I liked the idea of a team of anti-heroes kicking butt and loving it. They did it because they were getting paid. And they didn't like each other either. This was more than X-Men infighting, and the theme of a non-cohesive unit is so good, the comics industry is STILL using it (look up Thunderbolts). The cartoon didn't capture as much of that flavor, but it was more than was readily available to me at the time I watched it.

Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors

I have had many conversations with people listing their favorite cartoons and this one never comes to mind. Then I mention that I'm a big fan and I get "Oh my god, YEAH!! I loved that cartoon!!" Again, we have the blend of sci-fi & magic (a big thing for me, it just makes stories SO much more interesting) but there's something about a character's search for family that just speaks to me. Normally, it would be the wizard who I would like the best, but in this case I watched the show for Jayce, hoping every episode that he would find his father.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold

This is the greatest cartoon I EVER watched. The story is engrossing, the characters were amazing and surprisingly nuanced. And if I remember it right, it's also the only cartoon of its time to be historically accurate. And that INCLUDES it's portrayal of the Spanish conquistadors and their actions in the "New World". I love it so much, that it's the only intro I'll embed in this posting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Creepy, and Kind of Sad

My sister just showed me a very creepy little animated short. It's by first time director Rodrigo Blaas, and it's called Alma. Check it out:

Wasn't that creepy? And also sad? The cool thing about this is that the short rivals the best of what Pixar has brought to the big screen. I would recommend that you watch it again. You'll pick up on things you missed the first time. And it gets just a little bit creepier. Oh, and one other bit of info:

Alma means "soul" in spanish. Take a guess where the short was made?


Currently, I'm searching for three things.

A Better Job

Yes, I have a job right now. It's a good job. But, I already know it's not for me. I want to be in a job where I have the opportunity to be creative. I want to be writing software. Taking random bits & pieces of logic and stringing them together to create.... something. Anything. So, my job search goes on. I send out resumes. And I improve myself, learning new technologies, trying to keep up with the ever changing industry I chose for my life's work.

A Roommate

One of the things that I know is I can't support living where I am on the current job I have. I need help paying rent & utilities. More help that my current roommate can provide. Since I now have an empty room, I'm looking for another roommate. It's an interesting thing to think about. I'm looking for a person to bring into my home. I'm actually looking for some stranger to let into my own personal Imaginarium. I even have an ad up on CraigsList. The weirdest thing... there are people actually RESPONDING TO IT!!

A Car

Speaking about CraigsList, I'm also cruising through CL looking for a cheap mode of transportation. I'm low on funds, and even lower on my credit rating. Hopefully, with the addition of a rent-paying roommate, some of the financial pressures will be lifted & I'll be able to afford a slightly better car, but in the meantime, I need a cheap, car. In the parlance of my sister, I need a "beater".


I mentioned in my last entry that I haven't been in a good headspace lately. And it's true. The Year Of The Geek hasn't been good to me so far. First, it was my unemployment and all the worries that it brings. Then losing my car.

Now, I am employed. When I first got the phone call that told me I had a job, I was ELATED. I was no longer a failure. I was no longer doomed to live on the streets with nothing to show for my efforts in life. Then, my mind worked through the elation and started looking at the reality of what I was getting into. My new job gave me the same amount of money as my unemployment check. It wasn't the deliverance or salvation I wanted. And, it added problems I didn't have while unemployed. How do I get to work? How do I get home?

Then the pressures of life that had given me a wide berth returned twice as strong. Can I survive on the pay? Can I cover my responsibilities? This job pays just a sliver above my unemployment, will I lose my apartment? If I can't make rent on time, I'll lose my home. With nowhere to live, and no way to get to work, I'll lose the job.

Should I stay? There are people depending on me. Will I serve them better by moving back to MA and looking there for work?? Leaving here would mean walking away from this job. Where would I live if I go back to MA? How would I get an apartment with no job? This job is the only thing holding me here in Manchester. I have NO SUPPORT here whatsoever. Are my chances truly better in MA as opposed to here? How would I get a job with no car?

Then there's the pressures of the new job. Nervousness swells into fear. Fear that I'll be homeless, that I'll compromise myself and lose the job. Fear that those who depend on me will falter and their lives will break because my support isn't there. The fear keeps me awake, diminishing my performance at work bringing my fears closer to reality.

Then there's the fear of the future. Is this job going to be what I do? Sitting in a cubicle answering phones, repeating the same words with slight variations over & over into the ears of a plethora of strangers with no hope of creativity? Have I reached the potential of my life? Is this all I can accomplish?

And time passes. The first two weeks of my employment are nothing but a blur of fear, despair, anxiety, and depression. Valentine's day, normally a yearly bane to my existence, barely registered on me this year. I stopped talking to friends, and couldn't bring myself to take part in my favorite activities. And THAT'S where my head has been in recent times. Thankfully, the chaotic conflagration of emotions that has battered against my sanity has ebbed. If it hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to write this post. Ironically, the real world that threatened my sanity, comes to my rescue.

In debating my issues, and chewing over my problems, it occurs to me that even in the midst of my personal turmoil, I still managed to make it to work on time for the past 2 weeks. Somehow the grip fear had on me snapped, and I was able to sleep. I discharged the duties of my position and helped people get online to accomplish whatever they needed to get done.

My problems were still there. The doubts hadn't lessened, and yet I was still able to get shit done. My situation hasn't changed, yet I don't feel so daunted any more. Not only will I endure this, but I know I am CAPABLE of enduring my situation. And I also know that when my chance comes, I'll be ready.

Thoughts On.... Unemployment

I started this year unemployed and depressed. The thing about unemployment that no one mentions is that after a little while, you get USED to being unemployed. And that's when the rot starts setting in.

Becoming unemployed is always unpleasant. Unless you're leaving work cause you won the lottery (which is a bonehead move anyway), you're gonna feel depressed, rejected, and despairing about your future. How will you survive? What will you do? This fuels a desperate, frantic job search. You email resumes everywhere, you become a master at writing in-depth cover letters in a blink of an eye, but your efforts are for naught. The vast machine of employment in the country responds to your actions with a deafening silence.

A little while after being laid off/fired (or quitting, if that's what you did), life starts to feel like a vacation. You get to sleep in. The pressure of overbearing bosses is gone. The stress of meeting deadlines evaporates. It feels so good you can almost convince yourself that you pulled the wool over everyone's eyes and have actually IMPROVED your life. As time passes, and your unemployment continues, that illusion fades.

Your friends have no time for you. They still have to get to work in the morning. Your severance pay is exhausted with the bills that you still have to pay. Unemployment insurance barely allows you to live. You spend the bulk of your days looking at job postings you don't have a prayer of qualifying for, but you apply anyway. Pandora's cruelest gift, Hope, driving you forward. You hope for a miracle. You hope that someone, somewhere wants to talk to you. You hope that you'll get a call, or get an appointment for an interview. And until then..

you wait.

Life Update

It's been a little while since I've blogged. I do apologize, but I haven't been in the right headspace to blog. Now, I have to catch you up on the current events.

First off, check out my description over there on the right. Did you notice anything different?? Look again... Still no? I updated my little descriptor blurb regarding my new status. I am once again an upstanding and productive member of society! Yes, that's right folks, I found a job. Doing what?

I'm now one of the newest Level 1 Tech Support specialists for Single Digits, Inc. Sounds really important, doesn't it? Basically, I answer phones and help people connect to the internet from their hotels. Granted, it's not my IDEAL position. (that would be writing software) but it's paying the bills (barely) and learning some more detailed networking & troubleshooting can't exactly hurt.

I'm also working on learning VB.NET, which is the latest version of Visual Basic. It seems that my knowledge of VB6 isn't enough to get me a job, so I have to get "back to school", so to speak. Visual Basic 2008 (VB.NET with a friendlier title) is extremely interesting and I have some projects in mind to help me get into it. I love learning so this will be fun.

Last bit of news: one of my roommates has gone off to the Old World to explore and enjoy life. While I'm happy that she's on a new life adventure, I'm sad to see her go.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...

I first heard about the animated version of Dante's Inferno by the purest accident. I was doing a web search and saw a link for the trailer. I watched it and was blown away! But that was nothing compared to watching the actual anime. This anime will stand as one of best features ever created.

EA tapped six of the best directors in anime to bring one of the greatest literary works of all time to life. It may have started as a mere companion piece to EA's video game, but through the talents of each director, The Animated Epic has surpassed a mere video game tie-in and become a classic itself.

The animation is nothing less than top-notch. Each of the six segments is distinct & masterfully drawn, yet they all blend virtually seamlessly to convey the power of Dante's Inferno with awe-inspiring style. Granted, the anime makes a great deal of departures from it's literary namesake. The original work was more contemplative with Dante's journey slowly opening an awareness of Dante's sins through conversations with damned souls in the nine circles and the memories these talks awaken in Dante. This adapation, however, has an exponential increase in overt violence as it focusses more on the actions Dante takes throughout his sojourn in hell and the battles he must overcome, creating demons and fights that lend themselves to a video game, but aren't part of the original poem. However, the core themes Aligheri presented in the original work still hold strong in this adaptation: Dante's recognition of his own personal sins, his eventual acceptance of his own part in causing the plight of Beatrice, the power of true repentance, and giving oneself over to will of God. These themes play a great part in the events of the anime.

The voice acting was incredible. I have to give much props to Graham McTavish who voiced Dante. It can get tiresome hearing someone yell over and over again during the course of a movie. (See Braveheart) Yet, McTavish never went over the top and kept me interested in all Dante had to say. That being said, the one who stole the show was Steve Blum, who voiced Lucifer. He put charm, anger, resentment, love, hate, and fear all in one voice. Always interesting, always powerful. The man could have read the phone book and made it compelling. It went beyond acting. In fact, I would not be surprised if he had actually been channeling the fallen angel itself.

Literary scholars and die-hard fans of Aligheri's work will find much to disect in this anime, but I see it as a fantastic introduction to the original work. Like the movie Se7en did for the seven deadly sins, The Animated Epic is a great way to introduce the themes and basic points of the original poem. A powerful first step towards further understanding Dante's Divine Comedy.

If you want to watch an all out, no holds barred, heavy-duty anime, pick up Dante's Inferno: The Animated Epic. You'll have a good time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vampiric Goodness!

It's getting exponentially difficult to find good vampire stories with all the vampire mania going on in Hollywood these days. Most will get one or two aspects right, but screw the pooch on all the rest. Because of this I find myself going back to my personal favorite Vamp classics. Stoker's book, Anne Rice's Chronicles, Robert Lumley's Necroscope series, etc. For film & tv, there's one series that I was reminded of just recently, and as it turns out, is back on sale on DVD. The series was a short lived one; only thirteen episodes. It was called Dark Shadows. I first heard about it when it aired on tv in the early 90's. But that's not where the Dark Shadows story begins.

Back in the 60's, the television geniuses at ABC came up with an idea for the only soap opera I would EVER consider watching. Dark Shadows had EVERYTHING, ghost stories, vampires, zombies, and even TIME TRAVEL!! I mean come on blending fantasy horror and sci-fi time travel on ONE SHOW!!! Fucking Amazing!! The only drawback was as it was a soap opera they had to have romance in it, but at least it was goth!! After seeing the 90's revival of it, I went back and checked out the original, but given the craptastic production values and what passed for acting in the 60s, I couldn't bring myself to continously watch it. But I loved the idea, and the revival in the 90s was amazing!

The portrayal of the vampire has never been static. It always reflects the deeper, darker impulses that general society only dabbles in behind closed doors. That's the point of the vampire archetype. In today's media, the vampire has lost that Victorian edge of restraint that gave the monster a sense of nobility in favor of random wanton indulgence of every desire. The interesting thing about today's vampire is the concept of the "good" vampire. Heroes like Abraham Van Helsing & Jonathan Harker have slowly been supplanted by vampire heroes like Lestat, Angel, and Blade.

Dark Shadows brought back a great many of the classic traits within the vampire archetype. The casual arrogance of the alpha vampire that gave it an air of sovereignty. The veneer of old school manner & behavior that is only matched by the awesome cruelty of the vampire's violence. And yet, the revival blended the old school archetype with a modern mentality and gave proper respect to BOTH. It was awesome to watch!!!

The story follows the vampire Barnabas Collins, who is released from his tomb on his estate, Collinwood Manor, in the first ep after being trapped there for 200 years. He promptly assumes the role of a relative from England and starts romancing the new governess, Victoria Winters. Near the middle of the series, something goes wrong with a seance and Victoria is teleported to the year 1790 and immediately runs into Barnabas. During her adventures in the past, Victoria finds out that Barnabas is a vampire. And at the end of the 12 episode run, she is returned to present day. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled at that point, so there's no real resolution to the story.

And just to make it cooler, a couple of my favorite actors made appearances on this show before going on to their own lead roles: Michael T. Weiss, who later took up the mantle of Jarod: The Pretender, and Adrian Paul, who later gained a different type of immortality in Highlander:The Series. Now that it's on DVD, it's on my wishlist. One day soon, I will purchase it!!

Bonus news: It looks like Johnny Depp is also a fan of Dark Shadows, and is working on the big screen version with Tim Burton! Click this link to check out the details!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I have to admit it's been awhile since I've read comics directly. I have up with major events through reading of certain graphic novels and talking with friends. One of the more amazing series in the Marvel Universe was the Planet Hulk saga. And now the writer of that saga, Greg Pak, brings you the animated version.

While the movie is fairly faithful to it's comics origin, there are some departures. It doesn't cover the entirety of the events of the Planet Hulk saga, choosing instead to drop the viewer into the action giving more immediacy to the start of the film. It also stops short of the ending of the saga which would lead the viewer to assume the creation of the follow up to Planet Hulk in the comics, World War Hulk. Another departure is that the Silver Surfer's appearance is taken over by Beta Ray Bill. These departures, and others not listed, don't hurt the animated film. Instead they give it a tighter, more complete presentation. If they never present World War Hulk in animation, Planet Hulk will still stand stong as a complete stand alone story.

The story line reminded me a great deal of two of my favorite movies, Chronicles of Riddick and Gladiator. Blending the characterization of Riddick with the events of Gladiator, essentially removing the weaknesses of both those films. Planet Hulk presents the idea of a monster is only a monster if it chooses to be one in a much more subtle way than Riddick ever did and the intense action and terseness of the Hulk kills the over sentimentality that weakened Gladiator.

As always, it's cathartic to see Hulk in animation. Seeing him live out the raw destruction and fury society would never let us enjoy will forever be fantastic to see. Some of my favorite moments in this feature are the "Woah!" reactions from the other characters seeing Hulk's power for the first time. Although I do have to say, my favorite part of the Hulk story is the tragedy of Bruce Banner's life and it was sad to not see Bruce in this at all. In lieu of Banner's emotional grounding, Planet Hulk provides Caiera, who through the events of the film presents a new, and powerful tragic story that helps connect the viewer to her world, the planet Sakaar.

The one drawback for me was the animation itself, specifically of Hulk. After watching Hulk Vs, and seeing how well Hulk was drawn in Vs. Thor, I was expecting a better drawing style for him. In Vs. Thor, it looked like they drew more frames to smooth out the animation, whereas in Planet Hulk they were going for more efficient animation. It's not a major drawback at all and didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. As one of the first feature-length animated movies dealing exclusively with the Hulk, it is a fantastic effort. The voice acting was awesome, the writing was engaging, and I'm growing to enjoy the Marvel animated movie releases a great deal more. If you're in the mood for some good action and a strong story, I recommend Planet Hulk.