Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fantasy films

I want to know what they were putting in the water in Hollywood during the mid to late 80s. Virtually EVERY SINGLE awesome fantasy movie I know of came out during the mid to late 80s. Don't believe me? Check this out:

1984: The Neverending Story

1985: LadyHawke, Legend

1986: Labyrinth

1987: The Princess Bride

1989: Willow

They were churning out at least one classic fantasy film EVERY YEAR!

And it wasn't until the first decade of the new millenium that fantasy movies started kicking back into gear with The Chronicles of Narnia, Stardust, and of course, the Lord Of The Rings films.

Seriously, what were they doing back in the 80s and can they do it again? I would love to see MORE movies like these made.

Favorite Series: Belgariad/Mallorean

I'm an avid reader. So much so, in fact, that I usually can never remember how & when I found most of the books I've read for the first time. Despite that, I remember exactly when I found this series. It was the tail end of my sophomore year of high school. I was walking down an aisle in my high school's library, running my fingers across the spines of the books. It was a habit I picked up from another book I had read awhile before. About halfway down the aisle, a book pinched me. I jerked my hand back and knocked the book onto the floor. I picked it up and read the title: "Pawn Of Prophecy" by David Eddings. Thus I started to follow the adventures of Garion as he went from young scullery boy to sorcerer to king as written in the Belgariad.

What has indelibly marked this series in my heart & mind is the cast of characters in the story. They take a fairly typical storyline for a fantasy series and turn it into an incredibly unique experience filled with laughter, sadness, adventure, and love. Over the course of the five novels, each character manages to carve out his own niche in your heart. And while you'll definitely develop favorites, each and every one of them becomes a necessary link in the enjoyment of the story. Oh, and since I know you're wondering, dear readers, my favorite character in this series is Belgarath the Sorcerer. There's just something I find very appealing about the casual mischievousness Belgarath portrays throughout the entirety of the series, while at the same time being a strong force for good. When you read the series, you'll understand. But I love all of them.

There were real pangs of loss when I finished Enchanter's Endgame. It felt like I was leaving cherished friends behind. Sure, I could re-read the series, but that would only enhance the loss when I finished it again. And I spent about a month trying to find another series of books I could move on to, in order to get this series out of my head. Nothing really caught my eye until I noticed this black paperback in a stand near the town library's sci-fi & fantasy section. The back of the book was facing out and I started to read the description and stopped halfway through the first sentence. Garion was hunting Zandramas. My jaw hit the floor, there was MORE! Thus I found & continued to follow the adventures of Garion as he journeyed throughout a foreign land in search of his abducted son in the Mallorean.

Most authors would just re-hash the original story in a sequel series, but Eddings actually CONTINUED the storyline, adding a plethora of new characters, re-visiting others, and creating an even MORE compelling story adding even more emotional layers to his established characters, and fleshing out characters (and even entire societies) that weren't fully covered in the first quintet.

Finally, just because, he wanted to make this one of the most awesome series in fantasy genre, Eddings added two prequels telling the life stories of two of the "eternal" characters in the series Belgarath the sorcerer and his lovely daughter, Polgara.

With these two volumes, the history of the worlds created in the Belgariad & expanded upon in the Mallorean was told to completion, while explaining how two of the most beloved characters in the ten books came to be who they are.

This is a series of novels that I have no problem saying I love. And I'd recommend them to anyone looking for a good read. Reading these novels, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer, and you'll fall in love, just like I did. Read them, and tell me what you think!

CD Compilations

One of the great things about the era of burnable CDs & the MP3 is that it makes easier to indulge in one of my favorite passtimes: creating music compilations. For those of you, dear readers, who are too young to know anything beyond an iPod playlist, a music compilation is essentially a playlist on CD.

Laying aside the issues of piracy/copyright infringement for a later blog post, I've been making music compilations for so long, my first ones were on CASSETTES! You don't know the hassle it was to eliminate the sound artifacts of recording on tape, my dear readers, you really don't.

In fact, when one of my oldest friends got married, and I couldn't afford a decent wedding gift, I gave him a CD compilation. Apparently, he (and his wife) really liked it. They assure me they still listen to it to this very day. The point of this post is to announce my latest compilation!

In anticipation of my getting a vehicle in the near future, I created a cd about cars & driving! Here's the tracklist:

01 - The Breakfast Club - Drive My Car
02 - Coolio - Fantastic Voyage
03 - AC/DC - Highway To Hell
04 - Steppenwolf - Magic Carpet Ride (Crystal Method Remix)
05 - War - Low Rider
06 - Stealers Wheel - Stuck In The Middle With You
07 - Huey Lewis & Gwenyth Paltrow - Cruisin'
08 - The Band - The Weight
09 - Elton John - Tiny Dancer
10 - Will Smith - Just Cruisin'
11 - Roxette - Joyride
12 - Billy Ocean - Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car
13 - Aretha Franklin - Freeway of Love
14 - Rob Zombie - Dragula
15 - AC/DC - Back In Black
16 - Tom Cochrane - Life Is A Highway
17 - Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild

If you can find all the tracks, legally, build your own version of the CD! I guarantee you'll feel strongly about it!! Good or bad, is up in the air.

And if you want a compilation designed, let me know, give me the theme and I'll give you a tracklist!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Insane in The Brain

From a new blog I'm following, Sagan's Brain. And here I was thinking that bungee jumpers were insane. That's NOTHING compared to what THIS guy is trying to do.

According to the post, a Felix Baumgartner, is planning on jumping out of a balloon. Sounds like nothing, right? Here's the trick:


Here's the link to the post on the space jump which also includes a CNN video clip.


For the two or three people who actually read this blog, I have a question. Do you have any ideas for how to make this blog more popular?

I'm working on posting more often, and with different and varied topics. Any other ideas? I value your opinions, dear readers, and I would like to hear MORE of them. Please, speak to me. I, the DilKing, will listen.

The Prince Is Here!

Yes, my dear readers, the day has arrived!! Prince of Persia: Sands Of Times hits the theaters today!! If you haven't already seen it, check out the preview:

I can't wait to see this movie!! In the next couple of days, I'll post a blog on the PS2 game it's based on. It's one of my favorite games ever released for the PS2.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Season Finales

This is the time where all my show say good-bye. For some, it's forever. Others, just for the summer. I've made several posts about some shows, but those aren't the only shows I watch. Here are my thoughts on some of the lower profile shows I watch.

- Bones
The finale of this season felt like any other ep, with a couple of extra scenes of people leaving. There were only two questions raised by this finale: Will they come back? Will it be after a full year? Not really urgent questions. This finale left me feeling... eh.

- Vampire Diaries
To be completely honest, this finale was just a sudden stop. There wasn't a slow build up of the stakes on the show (pun intended!) or anything. It was the same old stuff, quick manipulations, short term gambits, the reveal of Katherine, Elena comes home and end. The only I could think was "Wait, what? That's it?" It kind of felt like Wile E. Coyote after he runs off a cliff, just when he realizes the ground is no longer under him. Given some of the high quality finales I've seen, Vampire Diaries left much to be desired.

- Big Bang Theory
I'm of the firm belief that a sitcom's main goal is to make you laugh. Big Bang Theory has never failed in that. With this finale they are in RARE form. By the end of the episode, I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe!! I'd heard rumors that they were going to find a date for Sheldon, but I never thought it would work so well. They actually created a female Sheldon!! But as funny as that was, the best moment came from Howard, when he realized Sheldon & his date were hitting it off.

"My God what have we done?"

What would make this even better if they bring about the female versions of Howard, Raj, and Leonard as the friends Amy puts up with. There's so much comedy to be found there, it could fuel the ENTIRETY of season four.

- How I Met Your Mother
This show always walks a careful balance between overly sappy & over-the-top humor. This finale was just more of the same. It was good and fun to watch, but I miss the style of the first two seasons where I couldn't wait to watch the next ep and laugh. I find myself wanting Ted to finally find the mother of his children, so the show can go into new ground and be funny again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Season Finale: Fringe

Compared to other, splashier finales going on this season, Fringe's season finale is very much subdued. It's not any less powerful or compelling, just more subtle. Kind of like the image I chose for this post. Pay attention to the reflections, dear reader. Cool, huh? In any case, on to the discussion of the Fringe season 2 finale!

The single most important lesson to be learned from the season 2 finale of Fringe is simple: NEVER FUCK WITH LEONARD NIMOY!! It doesn't matter what show he's on: Classic Trek, Mission: Impossible (yes, he was on the classic tv series), Star Trek:Next Gen, or Fringe, Nimoy ALWAYS kicks ass!! Case in point, the scene with the model 77 weapon. It's ONE level up, and it can blow up a CAR with a SINGLE SHOT! And that's not even taking into account the grenades!!

When I found out that these last two eps were going to take place in the Alternate Universe (AU), one of the MANY things I was looking forward to was the resumption of the friendly rivalry between William Bell & Walter. And I liked how they resumed their bickering like no time had passed. It was heartwarming to see them together again, and I INSTANTLY UNDERSTOOD how they could accomplish so much radical scientific inquiry. The scene that got to me was when Walter asked Bell why he removed parts of his brain. The pain & anguish that had always been bubbling under the surface came out in front of the ONE person who could understand what Bishop was, and how much less than that he sees himself now. Bell's revelation that Walter asked him to do it out of fear of what he was becoming, while predictable, was also an amazing moment. Which bring us to the death of Bell. Is it just me, or did you, dear reader, also get a strange echo of the end of Star Trek 2? I know that Nimoy has retired from acting, but it was a bit painful to watch him die again.

As for the rest of the cast of the AU, I loved them all! Agent Farnsworth was a bit freaky in her appearance, but it was cool. Seeing a strong willed, competent Walter was fantastic. Given the flashbacks of our side, I could see our Walter following suit. But the best part of going to the AU was seeing Charlie again!! I'm still of the opinion that the single, biggest mistake the producers of Fringe made was the death of Charlie. Seeing him again was such a cool bit. Peter's reaction to seeing him was great, but the best moment was Charlie and our Olivia in the car and the echo of the conversation she had in the beginning of the series where he brings up some very good points about law enforcement not being able to keep up with the new, more technologically advanced threats without more information. Seeing Olivia's reaction to that conversation was cool.

Speaking of Olivia, I hate to say this but the one sour note was her scene with Peter. Now, I'm not against them being together. Not in the slightest. But, things between them was on a slow burn that I was thinking was going to flare up in season 3. I can understand why she did it, but it just felt like it was way too fast. But that wasn't a big enough issue to damage my enjoyment of the episode. Especially given where she is at the end.

There are a couple of other things that I find interesting about the finale, though. First, I liked how they showed where the encased in amber tech came from and, more importantly, WHY they use it. That was a expertly subtle way of explaining that. It also bodes well for the series that they took the time to actually answer that particular question.

The other interesting thing about this finale is the apparent change in format of the show. Prior to the last few eps of this season, the show was basically a police procedural with a sci-fi twist. Ever since Peter found out he was from the AU, they've slowly stepped away from the procedural format into a more traditional drama style. The change raises some interesting questions. Is the show going to drop the procedural aspect? There's enough of a background in the mythology of the show that they could do that. Or was it just the nature of this particular story that required the departure from the procedural format? Given the infiltration of AU Olivia into our Fringe division, going back to the procedural format would bring some intriguing questions of loyalty.

In the end, Fringe gave a fantastic entry for their season 2 finale, hitting all the right marks (including one minor thing to gripe about) and leaving us primed and ready for season 3. I, for one, can't WAIT for next season!! It's going to be EPIC!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

24 Moments of 24

Once a show ends, I tend to go over the entirety of the show and create a mental catalog of my favorite moments of the show. It's not really an exhaustive list, but it's an outline to make it easier for me to reference the rest of the great moments of the show.

One of my favorite shows ended this past Monday, and as long standing tradition dictates, I've created my list. Here are some of the BEST moments of 24. The funny part is, there's twenty-four of them!!

Season 1:

- When Jack Bauer meets Sen. David Palmer for the first time.
That first conversation set the tone for their entire relationship. They had a bit of bluster as they cleared up any misunderstandings and then got to work!

- The moment when Palmer realizes that his assistant is trying to entrap him by sleeping with him and he turns her down... and fires her.
It was such an awesome moment. Not only is Palmer an honorable man, but he doesn't forgive betrayals easily. This was when Palmer earned my respect and loyalty.

- Nina shooting Terri Bauer.
This was just amazing. The show had already distinguished itself from other action shows by this point, but I was expecting a stand off or Jack being able to save her. When she was shot and killed, my jaw hit the floor. Right then, 24 became the bad ass show that could go anywhere and do anything.

Season 2:
- The look on Jack's face when he hears the White House rep leaving him a message.
You know why Jack isn't answering CTU's calls. He's just not interested in dealing with their crap in trying to get him back. But Jack loves his country, and he personally respects David Palmer. When he hears the rep's voice on the machine,
there's this moment where you could just SEE him thinking, "FUCK, I have to answer this!"

- "I need a hacksaw!"
This scene just totally reminded people just what Jack is capable of. Shooting the witness was bad ass enough. I actually didn't hear this line the first time I saw the ep, cause I was spluttering in shock. But this line just takes it to the NEXT level. Jack goes beyond bad ass at this point.

- David Palmer's speech to the group trying to invoke the 25th amendment.
This speech is just amazing. It truly showcased all the strengths David Palmer had and showed you WHY he was the President of the United States.

- Jack's first foray into politics: Shutting Sherry up with a bullet to the wall.
This was just fucking great! For all the manipulating Sherry worked during her bit on the show, it was awesome to her get shut down so fast. She didn't even finish her first sentence before Jack pulled the trigger.

Season 3:

- Tony's return to leading CTU after getting shot in the neck. IN THE NECK people.
Given the real-time nature of the show, when Tony got shot in the neck I thought he'd be down for a good portion of the season, if not the rest of the season. No one was more surprised than me when less than 3 eps later, Tony was BACK running CTU.

- The death of Nina Myers
I'm sorry, but bitch had it coming. That's all I have to say.

- Michelle's object lesson at the hotel.
I never ever questioned Michelle's dedication to her job. But, I never realized how COLD she could be. It was the right decision, since she couldn't let the guy leave. But it was awesome to see her pull the trigger. No muss, no fuss.

Season 4:

- Jack breaking a witness in under 20 seconds.
This was just funny. CTU was getting nowhere. Jack walks in, 20 seconds later, they got their info. Tell me what I want to know. *silence* *shoot knee out* Secretary of Defense!!

- "The only man I can trust" The return of Tony!!
Who does Jack reach out to, in his moment of need? The only character bad ass enough to take the reigns if Jack Bauer left the show: Tony Almeida!

- Jack, the lamp, and the impromptu torture of Paul Raines, IN FRONT of his current girlfriend, Audrey. Paul's ex-wife.
This was just an awesome moment. Jack will do WHATEVER is necessary to protect his country. Even torpedo his romantic relationships. Jack is right, you can't do this job right and have normal relationships.

Season 5:

- Jack's infiltration of Wayne Palmer's penthouse.
Over 50 agents all in ONE spot, ALL looking for Jack, and he slides through them like a hot knife through butter.

- Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce calling President Logan, "Charles".
For the past seasons of the show, Aaron Pierce was a kind, respectful agent. Loyal to the office of the President. And by the book. How does Logan pay him back? By having him tortured. Then Logan had the balls to try to appeal to Pierce's decency. When Pierce called him "Charles", it was as if he had said "fuck you, you fucking fuckball". It takes a great man to say that with just ONE word.

Season 6:

- Finding out from the Chinese that in his 2 years of imprisonment, Jack NEVER broke.
This was just a powerful moment. Even Jack's ENEMIES give him respect. And it was just an offhand comment.

- President Wayne Palmer!
'Nuff said.

- Jack's return to CTU after seeing the nuke detonate.
Given all the crap Jack has been through, it was perfectly understandable for Jack to just walk away. He'd just been imprisoned & tortured for the better part of 2 years. That alone earns him the right to leave. But, he saw the nuke go off. He knew he couldn't walk away. That's when the terrorists lost.

Season 7:

- Jack's testimony in the Senate hearing.
This was an echo of the crap the media was giving 24 in real life. And Jack's testimony was amazing. Jack does what was necessary at the time. Period. If you don't like his actions, then he'll pay the penalty, but he won't apologize for it.

- The return of Tony Almeida.
Me & Jack were on the same page on this. I did not believe that Tony was alive. Then I rewatched the scene in season 5, and actually listened to Renee's explanation. And it hit me... it was possible.

- The death of Buchanan. While a horrible loss, it was an awesome moment.
This moment killed me. Buchanan proved himself to be a solid man, honest, loyal, and someone who gets stuff done for his people. His sacrifice for Jack was a true Noble Act. I hated that it was needed, but the ex-CTU agents do what's necessary.

Season 8:

- Renee's half smile when she finds out Vladimir's team didn't kill Jack.
This was when I knew she was into Jack on a romantic level. It was the slightest moment, but she LIKED that Jack took down the crew. That such a small moment could convey so much was really cool.

- Jack's attack on Ex Pres. Logan's motorcade.
I still love that cry of fear from Logan. "That's JACK BAUER, he's coming to KILL ME!!" It is just so awesome!! SO AWESOME!!!!

- Jack's final conversation with Chloe.
Chloe getting props she rightly deserved. It was a powerful, and moving moment.

Series Finale: 24

I just finished watching the season, no the SERIES finale of 24. OH MY GOD!!!! This was probably the best series finale I could have hoped for. Aside from ONE stylistic change, this ending was perfect! I knew from the moment the episode started I was going to love it. Right when they went back to an old standard of theirs: Events occur in real time.

Hearing that brought a smile to my face, cause I knew the producers of the show put that in as a nod to those people, myself included, who kept talking about how season 8 was turning into nothing more than a re-hashing of seasons 1-7. Was I wrong about that or what?? Then events started unfolding and it just got better and better.

The emotional struggle President Taylor went through was amazingly well done. After season 7, I knew that Cherry Jones could give an amazing performance, but she outdid herself here. That moment when Taylor threatens Dahlia Hussan was awesome. You could SEE the pain behind the mask of anger that led her to say something that terrible. The statement alone went against EVERYTHING that Taylor stands for, but in the moment, you could see EXACTLY why she said it. Oh, and let's not forget Dahlia herself.

That woman stood face to face with the most powerful woman in the world and told her to fuck off. She had earned my respect when she took the post of her dead husband, but she earned my loyalty when she made that statement to Taylor. Then seeing her during the ceremony, knowing that she was about to be signed into a political agreement that had been corrupted into being nothing more than a cage of peace, and that she couldn't do a single thing about it, was heartbreaking.

It's moments like that where 24 really shines. Just presenting the concept that this country is more than capable of cowing another country into submission, and how WRONG that action is, no matter what the motivation behind it, is a RARE thing on American television. And, that's what makes 24 MORE than just some action show. 24 has always been at its best when the storylines are at a perfect balance between the two tentpoles of the show: Politics & Action. It was commented earlier in the season that the show was heavy on action, and to maintain that balance, the latter half of the show was heavy on politics.

Speaking of politics, I can't believe they went so far as to have Charles Logan commit suicide. It was an amazing, and surprising, act of strength on the part of Logan. (Never thought he had it in him.) He killed himself, so Taylor wouldn't find Jack in time to save him. And yet, as it happened with most of the big moves he makes, his death (and the murder of his aid prior to that) pushed him into irrelevancy. It was poetic justice. Logan was always more successful with his smaller moves, for example, his corruption of Taylor.

And then, there's Jack.

I knew when it was announced that 24 was ending AND that Jack would survive it all, that there HAD to be more to it. Given that this is 24, the idea of Jack being out free & clear wasn't going to happen. This show NEVER gives happy endings, just emotionally satisfying ones. When Jack went on his own near the end of this season, I remember thinking, what the fuck is he doing?? In the little bit that they played of his recording, they answered that question. And it reminded Taylor of who she was, someone that takes the law of country seriously. You can't do what she did to her daughter in season 7 and NOT take the law seriously.

For me, the coolest scene was a reference to a movie Keifer Sutherland did during season two called PhoneBooth. He plays a guy who terrorizes people by calling them and sniping them. The scene when he has Logan in the cross-hairs, and calls him was just extra awesome because of that movie.

“I have a 556 rifle pointed straight at your head…which travels two thousand nine hundred feet per second. If you try to move, you’re a dead man.”

But the most powerful parts for me were the conversations between Chloe and Jack. The first one, while Jack was planning on killing the Russian president, was awesome because it showed how loyal Chloe was to Jack. In the end, Jack made the same mistake President Taylor did and let his passion for justice/revenge get the better of him. Chloe brought him back from the edge that Tony jumped off of prior to season 7. Jack's greatest strength has always been the quality of the people supporting him, and Chloe really nailed it.

The phone conversation at the very end, was awesome because it showed that Jack KNEW the friend he had in her, and recognized all the sacrifices she made for him. He KNEW how much he had cost her, and acknowledged that. He was now a fugitive wanted by two out of the three most powerful countries in the world, (China isn't actively looking for him anymore.) and yet he took the time to acknowledge her loyalty to him. Why? Because THAT is the man Jack Bauer is.

And Chloe proved her worth again, with the last command she gives on the show, killing the surveillance tracking Jack and giving him time to disappear. "Shut it down". And like that... he's gone.

And that's my one TINY nitpick. I would have had the clock countdown while Jack's image pixelated it's way into nothingness. I did like that the clock counted down to all zeroes, instead of 4 o'clock. It was a nice touch.

Overall, this season was a great final season and this finale was a fantastic way to bring the show to a close. Tied up everything that needed to be done, and let Jack go. I'm sad to see the show end, and I'm looking forward to any 24 movies they decide to make, but at least they ended the show properly.

Good luck, and God bless, Jack Bauer. Now, I'm going back and watching the WHOLE SERIES from beginning to end!! Who's with me?!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eternal Arguments: Star Trek vs Star Wars

Dear readers, I would pay full price TWICE to see this on film!! The space battle alone would be worth the tickets. But the true awesomeness would be the interpersonal battles:

Picard Vs Emperor Palpatine
Kirk Vs Darth Vader
Data vs.... the Death Star

I have half a mind to start an internet petition to get a grassroots campaign to get the project moving. Who's with me??

BTW, I'm one of those people who supports both Trek & Star Wars. Each franchise has it's benefits. I'm not rabidly for or against either. I love them both!

Favorite Series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

Recently, someone asked me for a recommendation on a good fantasy series to read. The first series that came to mind was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant written by Stephen R. Donaldson. The series is split up into three parts. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant which consists of the following books:

Lord Foul's Bane — The IllEarth War — The Power that Preserves

The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which includes:

The Wounded Land — The One Tree — White Gold Wielder

and recently SRD started the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant which consists of

The Runes Of The Earth — The Fatal Revenant — Against All Things Ending(TBR) — The Last Dark(TBR)

The books follow the story of Thomas Covenant and his adventures in the mystical realm called "The Land". Thomas Covenant is a writer who contracts leprosy. The progress of the disease is arrested, but Covenant is shunned by the society around him. Embittered and with a deepening sense of cynicism, Covenant is transported to "The Land", a world whose basic, accepted realities prove to be an assault on everything Covenant knew to be true.

What makes this series so fucking awesome is the underlying psychology of the story. Any good series has an allegorical component to it. That's what makes a series relatable to so many people. With most epic fantasy series, though, the allegory is on a societal level. Things like whether or not societal progress can be halted and reversed, or whether the pursuit of scientific advancement is detrimental to a society. With the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the underlying allegory has to do with ONE PERSON.

And what's better is that the person whose psyche the author chose to explore is NOT a nice person. Due to years of enforced isolation due to the stigma attached to his disease, Covenant is (to a certain degree) mentally unbalanced. Add to the mix a healthy dose of self-hatred, anger, depression, a tendency to bottle up emotions, a loss of the sense of touch, and a sense of self-preservation honed to a nearly obsessive compulsive edge and you have a dangerous, dark persona to deal with. This doesn't make him necessarily evil, but it does make him a loose cannon and unpredictable.

A sentiment which is echoed, ironically enough, in the events of the First & Second Chronicles. (I'm still reading the Last Chronicles, so I can't say that it applies there, but its a VERY strong theme there as well.) Upon his arrival in the Land, Covenant is branded the re-incarnation of the hero Berek Half-hand, whose appearance will either "save or damn the Land" which essentially translates to saving or damning himself, given the similarities in the issues afflicting the Land and those affecting Covenant himself.

The events that occur in the Land mirror Covenant's internal psychological struggles with his self-hatred, his leprosy, loneliness, and despair. And as he has struggled to maintain a balance between himself and the disease in the world, he must now struggle to maintain a balance between the traits that allow him to survive in the world and the changes he has to make in order to survive in the Land.

This series of books, more than any other I've EVER read, truly reflects the awesome power within a single individual mind and the terrible consequences that can come from using that power AT ALL, let alone irresponsibly.

While this series holds a special place in my heart for reasons I won't go into here, I ended up not recommending this to the person who asked for my recommendation. Frankly, this isn't a series to be read when you're in a good mood. Covenant, to me, represents the quintessential anti-hero. But, I love this series and I'm eagerly awaiting the third book in the Last Chronicles. If you want to read this series, you'll definitely enjoy it, just know. The Land isn't Hogwarts, and Voldemort ain't got crap on Lord Foul The Despiser, or for that matter, on Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last night's ep of 24

If you haven't watched last night's ep of 24, stop reading this blog RIGHT NOW! Go watch the ep and then read this.

Did you watch it? Good! You're now cleared for the rest of this post!

I remember this scene in season 2 of 24 where Jack Bauer and Shelly Palmer actually meet in person again. Jack talks to her in that no bullshit, all business style of his and she starts to give him some shit about respecting her. In true Jack Bauer style, Jack shuts her up by shooting a bullet into the wall (or floor) beside her and yelling for her to "SIT DOWN!"

After all the shit Shelly had put people through in the first two seasons of 24, she deserved it and that scene was one I thought Jack would NEVER top.

Then came Charles Logan. That ass has been causing Jack Bauer issues from when he was first introduced as the United States VP in season 4, straight through until NOW in season 8. Slimy, manipulative and corrosive, Logan just becomes more and more like political DEMON with every appearance he had on the show.

And some of my favorite scenes have been at his expense, starting with Secret Service agent Aaron Pierce's verbally stripping him of his title and just calling him "Charles".

But NOTHING beats this last episode of 24, when Jack, in a uniform which included a mask that made me thank God Jason Voorhees wasn't a military brat goes after Ex-Pres Logan. I was RELISHING the fear on Logan's face as he yelled, "Th- th- that's JACK BAUER! He's coming to KILL ME!!"

And to make it even better, Jack's interrogation of Logan was PRICELESS!! PRICELESS!! I couldn't stop laughing, it felt so good to see Logan finally get some of what's coming to him. The pure terror in his eyes when Jack put the gun to his throat was AWESOME!! But, I have to give credit where credit is due. Despite all the completely justified fear Jack inspired in Logan, the slimy politician kept enough of a presence of mind to immediately shield the involvement of the Russian President. Despite my fervent hopes that he wasn't involved.

After all, I like Russia. They have Vodka, a great and rich cultural heritage, and some of the most GORGEOUS WOMEN on the planet. But, there's not going to be much left after Jack is done... I'm gonna miss Russia.

Speaking of Russia, I found it really interesting that the ep didn't show anything except for the opening moves of what happened at the Russian Embassy. Not even the producers of 24 themselves were cleared to know exactly what happened! But, you don't really have to see it to know. When Jack put away the shotgun and pulled out his trusty handgun, for the guards, just plain GUARDS mind you, at the elevator, any fan of 24 knew it was all over but the dying. There are few people that are more dangerous armed with a handgun, than with a shotgun. Jack Bauer is one of these people. After it was all over, I knew the Russians would be needing a new diplomatic delegation to the US.

And while the events that occured in the embassy will probably never come to light, the pole through Novacovich was a clear & POINTED statement: NO ONE crosses Jack Bauer and lives.

And as we're about to find out, that "no one" includes soon-to-be dead Russian Presidents.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hidden Treasure: Poetry

One of my many talents (as showcased by this blog) is writing. My preference has always been writing prose. For some reason, it just seems like the proper way to write. In my mind, it just makes more sense. That being said, it doesn't mean that I haven't tried my hand at poetry. In fact, I just found a file with a bunch of poems that I have written. Here's one of the better ones:

A Rose Uplifted

I wait for one, a rose uplifted
Expecting one’s journey is properly swifted
A gift yet to be opened
Words yet to be penned
Treasure waiting to be found

I stand dark waiting for light
Food waiting for mouth’s bite
In valley biding time
Until journey’s climb
Music holding for sound

I wish up “Away”, for clouds drifted
And I wait, for one, a rose uplifted


Season Finale: Supernatural

This past Thursday, the season 5 finale for Supernatural aired. Of all the finales coming up for me, this is one of the MOST anticipated for me for a variety of reasons. I was interested in seeing how they would wrap up such a large storyline in just one episode. I wanted to know how the story ended. I wanted to know who the producers would reveal as God in the show. And so many other reasons. One note before I go any further, this posting assumes you, dear reader, have actually SEEN this ep and consequently will be revealing many MAJOR plot lines. If you haven't watched it yet, STOP READING NOW and GO WATCH THE SHOW!

Okay, welcome back. Amazing episode right? I have to say right now, I LOVED this ep from soup to nuts! It was amazing to see everything play out in such an emotionally turbulent yet satisfying way. First off, I have got to give props to the writers! I never thought they would be able to cover so much ground in so little time and STILL be able to do the story justice. Mr. Kripke and your staff, I salute you!

There was some talk saying the show would not continue with it's standing tradition of using Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son" given the decline of classic rock in the show due to budget cuts. Thankfully, that was not the case. Once again, I marvel at the inspired choice of Wayward Son as the unofficial song of Supernatural. It's just so fitting to the themes & events of the show. I also like how given the budget cuts, the show references classic rock in other more interesting ways. For example, my personal favorite moment of this ep was Lucifer's quoted from "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". That moment just set the tone for the rest of the ep for me.

"What do you say, Sam? A fiddle of gold against your soul says I'm better than you..."

As always, Mark Pellegrino plays Lucifer beautifully. The writers stated that for every appearance of Lucifer on screen, they wanted to make him the character you most liked. The danger of that goal is one runs the risk of turning Lucifer into an ingratiating, sleazy used car salesman if the actor doesn't deliver perfectly. And from the moment when he assumed the role in the beginning of season 5, Pellegrino has done exactly that. Deliver Perfectly. He gives Lucifer a deeper weight of true remorse for the actions he has to take which makes his likability more reasonable. At the same time, he keeps a touch of arrogance and malice that leaves no doubt in your mind how dangerous he really is. No single scene showed this more than his conversation and subsequent killing of the archangel Gabriel. Like him as much as you want, but always remember Lucifer's a monster.

But Mark Pellegrino's signature as Lucifer is how casually he delivers the most VICIOUS acts. Castiel's gruesome death by explosion delivered with just a snap of the fingers, Bobby's death with a twist of his wrist. Much more chilling than any grand gesture.

Season 5 has seen a great deal of personal growth in both Sam & Dean Winchester. The show has always been about the relationship between the two brothers and their evolution as people. The first three seasons reflect the cavalier nature of men in their youth. Season four showed how that devil-may-care (no pun intended) type of attitude can have grave consequences for you and those you love. And in season five, the story showed two good men taking responsibility for the mistakes they made and take the actions necessary to make amends and fix their mistakes. And it was the BOTH of them that needed to step up. It was Sam AND Dean that set in the motion the events that let Lucifer out. Dean started it by breaking the First Seal and Sam finished it by breaking the Last Seal. And it was Sam AND Dean that put Lucifer back in his cage. Sam started it by taking Lucifer into himself and Dean finished it by showing Sam that he still loved his brother and allowing Sam the opportunity to return that love and take back control long enough to jump back in the pit.

But it wasn't just the mistakes that lead to Lucifer getting out that needed to be handled. There was also the personal wrongs each brother did to the other. Sam confronting his own darkness and taking responsibility for the anguish he caused his brother started the process at the beginning of this season. And in this ep, Dean completed the process by finally recognizing that Sam is an independent person and not only letting him make his own choices but also backing that choice against his own judgement. That was a powerful moment for me, and watching the results of that growth finally coming home to roost was awesome.

I also loved the reveal of the prophet Chuck as God. It felt like a grander version of Gabriel's "witness protection" in the role of the Trickster. Kind of like God's tip of his hat to Gabriel's idea. Taking the time to really think about it, Chuck is the perfect God for the Supernatural universe. He was all knowing, compassionate, yet faithful to what other around him wanted. What also adds to the perfection of Chuck being God is looking back at all his appearances in previous episodes: the fact that the book series he writes isn't widely popular, but has a strong cult following; Sam & Dean's intimidation of Chuck into not publishing any more books; His struggle with his attraction to Becky, not to mention his sitting there as Becky made googly eyes at Sam; and let's not forget the toilet paper conversation in the five years in the future ep!! Not to mention my personal favorite line of his, "I am the prophet... Chuck!"

The ending of the episode was fantastic in so many ways. The most interesting angle comes from Castiel's last statement to Dean. Dean got exactly what he wanted. Freedom to do what he wants. Life on Earth going on as it has. He was dying for a family, and to not be in heaven reliving his "greatest hits". He got it that too. The cost: Not being with Sam.

And Sam got exactly what he's wanted his entire life. He's on his own. Away from the "tyranny" of his family and the control & legacy of his father. He can be normal now, and not a freak. The cost: Not being with Dean.

They got what they wanted, as payment for their services in putting Lucifer back in his cage. But like so many things in life, what they wanted didn't make them happy. That's why I think it was truly Sam Winchester standing under that light at the end. (Which burned out due to whatever mode of transportation got Sam there) It highlights the fact that the things the brothers SAY the want, even if they can fool themselves into believing they ACTUALLY want those things, aren't what they REALLY want. And that expression on Sam's face is due to the emotional turmoil of wanting to be with his brother but not being able to anymore. The one thing I did notice upon re-watching the episode was the sound of thunder in the background as the camera closed in on Sam's face. It brings to mind Bobby's catchphrase for the show. "Looks like there's a storm coming. And you boys are smack dab in the middle of it."

As for season six, I'll be right there on premiere night waiting with baited breath for the show to restart. What can they do? Lots of stuff. Since this season was about taking responsibility for your actions, it makes sense that season six deal with the second part of taking responsibility, accepting the consequences of your actions. This is heralded by Adam's storyline in the show. Here he is, someone not connected to the world of Hunting in any way save for his father being John Winchester, yet he is pulled into that world with no warning, training or any other sort of preparation. Now he's stuck as the vessel for the archangel Michael in the pit with Lucifer.

Dean is most likely going to try to make a life with Lisa and most likely get to the point where he'll allow himself to be happy with her. But his father's hunting has given the Winchesters a long list of enemies. Add to that the enemies he and his brother have made in their hunts and it's easy to see how they've racked up a HUGE list of enemies. Plus, now that they've beaten Lucifer, they could also have to deal with a series of challengers, including those supernatural baddies that want to take down the ones who put Lucifer back in the box, and the "true believers" of the demon world who will want to take revenge on the Winchesters for locking up their "god".

All this badness will start coming at him AND Lisa AND Ben. It won't take long for Dean to come to the conclusion that he can't stay with her because he's always going to be a target.

The other thread that I see coming up in season six has also to do with the "things never really end" bit of Chuck's speech. Just because Lucifer is back in the box doesn't mean all the evil in the world is gone. The good fight does go on. The Winchesters took down Lucifer, and faced up the consequences of their mistakes. But there are still demons in the world, some of which were released by the Winchesters at the end of season two. There are still poltergeists, wendigos, werewolves, ghosts, cursed objects, and much, much more. Cue the scene with the brothers standing at the trunk of the Impala. Dean tosses a gun into the trunk, and as Sam slams the trunk shut, Adam says "We've got work to do."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eternal Arguments: Marvel Vs DC

While there are many different comic book titles in print, the bulk of them can be traced back to the Big Two of the comic book world: DC Comics & Marvel Comics. With so much of the comic book world under their influence, it's only natural that the two companies would start some friendly competition. The fans, on the other hand, have (at times) gotten to almost Blood Feud levels over the rivalry between Marvel & DC. It's almost as bad as Alliance vs Horde in Warcraft. As soon as I run into a fellow comic fan, it is inevitable that I get asked which side I'm on Marvel or DC. My answer has inspired reactions from stunned silence, through endless hysterical laughter, to heated argument. Whose side am I on, Marvel or DC?

Both, and neither.

I'm completely serious on this. It has nothing to do with being indecisive or any derivation of the term. The reason I like both comic companies has to do with WHY I read their comics to begin with. Over the course of my life, I have found that people learn a great deal from stories. They tell stories to explain ideas, to teach others, and to have a good time, of course. Comics are unlike any other medium in that they use both visual and written storytelling to convey their meaning which gives them an awe-inspiring level of power and a unique manner in which to USE that power.

I am a logical person. In logic, it is usually necessary to distance yourself from the subject you're examining. You do that by creating constructs of real world objects that have the properties you're interested in studying and then examine how those constructs interact. This is where DC comics come in. The characters there represent people in a world far away from ours and the belief systems these characters express and the resultant consequences are a good learning experience and test for my own personal beliefs.

For example, my favorite comic character, Batman, makes a choice to act like a criminal when chasing criminals, except for one cardinal law. He will not kill. Taking that kind of choice and analyzing it from a logical, and ethical perspective is an interesting intellectual exercise. Can he really be responsible for the future actions of a criminal he didn't kill? Isn't the criminal responsible for his own actions just as Batman is? Can Batman be an agent of good if he commits evil acts such as murder? Is his personal sense of good worth tarnishing for the greater good of society? Can a society be good if that society is made up of such tarnished people? Is a society whose laws repeatedly put proven criminals back out into the population truly worth defending?

These types of questions are best contemplated in the dealings of DC comics. They are separated enough from the real world to make these questions provocative without getting buried in real life details. From these musings one could forge a potent set of ideals that one could live their life by and paint a picture of the world they want to live in. Even if it will only exist in their own mind.

While I am logical, the universe I exist in has a much more powerful logic. Unfortunately, universal logic is more epic in scale and a great deal more vicious than the clean, simple world of human logic. The clash between the cold logic of lofty ideals and the real world's red hot passion is more accurately portrayed in Marvel comics, where people who believe in those ideals and try to live by them are faced with the type of challenges only the real world can dish out. For example, my favorite group of heroes, the X-Men show the world what only an outcast feels. They show the delicate balancing act most people have to go through at some point: controlling their own emotions, while keeping a buffer between the "normal" world and theirs. So many different communities deal with this same balancing act that the X-Men can represent anybody. Think about it. At some point in time, EVERYONE goes through a period of feeling like an outcast in society, homosexuals, minorities, the handicapped, young people, old people, rich people, or poor people. The X-Men can be shown to represent any and all of them. The broad accessibilty of Marvel brings home the issues that Marvel presents in a manner that is just as provocative, but more germane to your immediate life.

You say you won't kill, but what about to save the life of your child? Why stand up and defend humanity when they hate you for what you are and will never accept you? When given power, can you really use it wisely? Why do you care if killing someone takes something away from you, when so many people will be saved by that person dying? Why are you more important than they are?

These types of questions are best contemplated in the dealings of Marvel comics. They are close enough to the real world to make these questions important because they have to be answered in the world we live in. From these musings one could see the effect the ideals one clings to could have on their life and paint a picture of the world they most likely will live in. Even if it's only for a little while.

In the end, both schools of thought are worthy of my attentions, and I find both useful in many wildly varied ways. I love DC comics. I love Marvel comics. I don't place either on a higher pedestal than the other. They are both ESSENTIAL to me, like Yin & Yang, Chaos & Order, Life & Death. Both have their place and both are cherished for what they inspire in me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Music Remixed

In most of my day-to-day music, I listen to dance & techno. As an aficionado, I know that a large portion of that music comes from remakes of pop music. Those remakes are so common, in fact, it kind of slipped my notice until recently when I got in to a discussion about a particular remix of Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer". A friend heard my remix and started on a rant that initiated with the "Paralyzer" remix, but ended up encompassing all remixes ever made. The gist of the rant was that a remix of a song does nothing but destroy the power of the original song, by dissecting the elements that make the original appealing, and break it down into a mush of bass beats and mainstream acceptable fluff. While I agree that a remix can have that effect, I don’t necessarily think that should automatically preclude any and all remixes ever.

Making music, like any other creative endeavor, can be an all consuming fire. In fact, most times that’s exactly what happens. The artist is consumed with the idea of creating a particular sound, or conveying a particular message with their music. They are so consumed that they ignore other avenues that could be explored while creating the song being worked on. I can't count how many times I've heard a song and thought, "it would have been cool if they had added a trumpet here" or "why did they put that guitar riff there?"

That's the artistic source of musical remakes. Getting inspiration from an original work, and then modifying that work into something different. Something that appeals to a greater audience, or a different audience than was intended, or even presents the same message in an entirely different context. For example, Pink released a song called "You Make Me Sick". It's a song about a girl succumbing to the charms of a guy that she finds repulsive. In the original version, the song is slow and gives the message of someone being slowly corrupted into submission. There's also a remix of it that I particularly enjoy that speeds up the tempo and adds a driving bass beat. When combined with the lyrics, it gives the song a quality that makes it seem like inhibitions lost in a whirlwind of sweet words and desire. Both versions are appealing, but in the remix the song takes an entirely different and equally compelling context. That's what the best remixes do: take the essence of the original song and shift it or enhance it to create a new, yet equally great song.

I remember watching an interview with Jennifer Lopez where she was talking about a time when she was filming a video and in between takes, her music was playing. Someone switched the music to a remake, and at first J-Lo didn't know why anyone would take off her music on HER video shoot. As she paid attention she realized that it was a remix of her song, and to her surprise she LIKED IT. Consequently, she decided to film several versions of her video, one of which to match that remix.

That is what remix is supposed to do, enhance your enjoyment of the original by providing a different context for you to enjoy.

Movie Review: Iron Man 2

With every sequel, there's always the smallest doubt. Will it be as good as the original? Iron Man 2 stirred up even more doubts with the casting change for Rhodey as Terence Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle. I remember thinking, is that a sign? Will Iron Man 2 fall into the seemingly endless sea of intolerably agonizing sequels? I can honestly answer that question with a resounding NO! From its first frames, Iron Man 2 picks up where it left off and does what Tony Stark himself would do: go faster, go bigger, and do it with flash & style.

Speaking of style, in true Marvel style, all the successes of the first film have had negative consequences, and just when you're exposed to one bad thing, another six show up to make life complicated. The movie starts with the revelation that Tony Stark's latest more powerful chest piece that is keeping him alive uses a material that is killing him. Add a villain holding a grudge with access to Stark's tech and a thing for whips, further issues from the still new S.H.I.E.L.D, the US government trying to wrest control of Stark's Iron Man tech using a rival corporation as a cat's paw, and more relationship issues with his assistant Pepper Potts, and Iron Man 2 could be construed as overwhelming. Yet somehow, director Jon Favreau manages to dance the audience from one issue to another, never letting the story become dull or boring.

At the same time, the movie does bring in some real world issues about the viability of the Iron Man technology and whether or not such a powerful tool should be under the sole control of one individual. There's even a slight touch upon the issue of relying on a single person to police the world with or without a super suit, as well as a touch of the dangers of relying too much on technology.

Robert Downey Jr. picks up the role of Tony Stark as he did in the first one, with effortless style, portraying arrogance, genius, obsession, narcissism, and playboy cockiness with the charm that refuses to let you feel sorry for Stark or get mad at his antics. Gwyneth Paltrow returns to Pepper Potts with a great sense of frantic energy built up from excessive exposure to the insanity of Tony Stark and the endless frustration that builds in that situation. And Don Cheadle turned out to be an inspired choice for Rhodes, infusing the character with an air of menace that was lacking in the first movie.

The real gem of the movie was, surprisingly enough, Mickey Rourke. Despite being behind the scenes for most of the film. His appearances were the most compelling, one of my favorite scenes was the short interchange between Rourke & Downey Jr. in the prison cell. As a final note on the cast, I have to say I was violently opposed to Scarlett Johannsen as the Black Widow. At the time, I felt that she wouldn't be able to credibly portray the lethal nature of Ms. Romanov. All I can say is I was DEAD WRONG! She did a fantastic job, and I owe her a huge apology.

All in all, Iron Man 2 is a worthy sequel to Iron Man and enjoyable experience. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll definitely enjoy this film. Oh, and stay through the credits, there's a mini-clip at the end.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thoughts on... Movie Remakes

In the immediate wake of the release of the remake of one my favorite horror movies, A Nightmare On Elm Street, I started thinking about my attitudes toward movie remakes. I tend to be in a minority in this topic mostly because no matter how much I'm into a movie, I'm always open to the idea of a remake.

Take the Nightmare remake for example. Nostalgia aside, the original Nightmare on Elm St was a landmark release in the horror genre. In a time when most horror was about supernatural monsters and demons, Nightmare came along and gave you an entirely new beast, a supernatural monster that was just a normal guy, attacking you in an entirely new arena, your dreams. The concept broke ground, and gathered a strong faithful audience. They made more movies, & tV series, but time passed.

And with the passing of time, film-making techniques became more advanced, enhanced technology allowed for alternate worlds to be presented in near photo-realistic quality. At the time Nightmare was released, movies on the scale of Avatar or the new Clash of The Titans just weren't POSSIBLE to make properly. I don't know about you, but in an era of technological brilliance, I always look back and wonder what my favorites of yesterday would look like if they had been made with the same care & genius as before, but with access to today's technology. The answer to that question is simple: they'd be FUCKING AWESOME!!!

The trick, in re-creating a film is to tap in to the well that made the original great, while at the same time updating the little bits, gags, and tropes that have not withstood the test of time. And that's where most remakes fail. The people making the new version seem to think that just the name and re-iterating the same shots and dialogue will make for another success, or that dumbing the concepts down will make it more appealing to audiences. And they fail, time & time again.

For example, Ocean's Eleven (with George Clooney) was a remake of a low-rent Rat Pack film. (If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say Rat Pack, look it up!) The makers of the new version, took the main concepts of the original movie: a man using a theft to flirt with his wife & everyone fantasizes about getting one over on a Las Vegas casino, and updated all the rest. They gave the casino a personal face (Benedict wasn't in the original movie) and other such modernizations. The result was a much more engaging and intricate film than the original.

Basically, if a remake is being done, don't start hating on the idea right away. Check out who's making it, and if they do good work, give them the benefit of the doubt. They might pull off a great movie. I have a great deal of hope that they don't screw up the new Nightmare movie. This particular remake is of a film that enjoy a great deal. The people making the movie have some good stuff under their belts. And they picked a solid guy for Freddy Krueger. Yes, it could turn out to be a royal suckfest, but the potential for a fantastic new take is enough for me to check it out.