Thursday, February 08, 2007

Faustian Bargain

Just recently read Minister Faust's _From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain_ and I can't recommend it enough. It's both a brilliant send up of classic comic book superhero tropes, and a serious social commentary on the pathology of therapy and today's political reality. The author maintains a very interesting Afrocentric blog at, and based on replies to some of my comments along with his work, seems to be the very definition of a gentleman and a scholar. I am definitely going to have to check out his previous novel, _Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad_, now.

One thing I truly enjoyed about the novel (the superhero one) was the mention of one of the main characters, X-Man's, childhood idol Maximus Security, a clear homage to Luke Cage, Marvel's Power Man, one of the first black superheroes to carry his own title (and the source of Nicolas Cage's stage name). Faust pokes gentle fun at Cage's old disco hell attire and bizarre version of 'authentic' Afro-speak, but it's clear that there's plenty of love there nonetheless.

I was only mildly disappointed not to see his versions of Black Panther and/or Black Lightning in the mix, but Cage is in many ways cooler, if only because of the time he pursued Dr. Doom to his castle and beat him up over $200! That and the fact that in the aftermath of Marvel's otherwise pretty awful Civil War crossover, Luke Cage is now the leader of the New New Avengers. Although he's not wearing his old canary yellow disco shirt, which is kind of disappointing.

I also read the first issue of New Avengers with Cage in this role, and it wasn't half bad. Although Bendis - are you listening, Bendis? - needs to remember, Ronin (whoever he is, which is a whole other issue) has no call to go around telling Dr. Strange that it's fun to hit people. Why? Because Dr. Strange already knows this *very well indeed*! Clearly, the good Doctor is no stranger to pleasures of punching somebody in the face.

Both of the last two links were courtesy of Chris's Invincible Super-Blog, by the way.

Oh, yeah, Ronin. Here's my official guess on this one. Bendis might be trying to suggest with the new Ronin's speech patterns that this is Clint Barton/Hawkeye behind the mask, rather than Steve Rogers doing a repeat of his whole Nomad riff. However, in honor of Minister Faust's excellent efforts, let me offer another suggestion. Wouldn't it be cool if Cage wasn't the only black man on the team, and Ronin was really Kasper Cole, the White Tiger from Christopher Priest's the Crew? After all, the White Tiger name's been taken by a relative of the original, so why not?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Essential Saltey Goodness

Okay, I'm continuing to badly procrastinate on NanoWrimo, and probably won't make it by November 30 this year, but at least have the seed of an idea for a novel-length work that I think won't entirely suck. So, I'm pretty sure I'll actually get it written, just not within the official national month for doing so. What can I say, life's been busy...

Anyway, after the umpteenth time googling to see if anybody else has ever had the same bizarre thought as me, I decided to post it myself to the Internets for posterity, or just whoever eventually stumbles across it.

Anybody out there remember the plot of the 1960s Batman feature film? This one here -

That's okay, I'll summarize. The main plot of the assembled Bat-villains turns out to be to zap the United World Security Council (an obvious stand-in for the United Nations) with a dehydrator gun they have for some reason, and hold the resulting vials of powder for ransom. Because you can get the people back alive and kicking simply by adding water, so long as you don't scatter or mix up the piles of powder, as Batman demonstrates at the end. That's just how Bat-science rolls, I guess.

Anyway, what was my bizarre thought? Other than watching the 1966 movie again, ever, I mean? Well, to understand that, you need to have read a little Lovecraft, specifically a novella called "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". In this story, it turns out that, "The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated."

So, okay, in Lovecraft's story the process involves a good deal of alchemy and necromantic invocation, not a quick zap with a raygun or the mere addition of a titrated supply of distilled water. But still, the little piles of dust and the admonition about not losing any seems quite similar between the two stories. One wonders if Batman and Robin were just lucky not to revive what Lovecraft called "ye liveliest Awfullness" when attempting to rescue the Council, or what kind of occult influence the resurrected dignitaries would now be subject to...

This almost calls for a story to be written. What parts of the Mythos would the four dastardly villains correspond to? The Penguin is most likely a partially transformed Deep One hybrid, and Catwoman of course an avatar or acolyte of Bast, but the Riddler and the Joker... hmmm. Perhaps that wasn't actually a mustache the Joker was hiding behind white pancake makeup?

And then of course, there's the question of the real motivation and origins of Batman and Robin. Batman does seem to be a champion of the status quo, working hard to avert or possibly just delay the End Times. What entities would have a vested interest in his cause? Two thoughts occur - one, Nodens, if not exactly friendly, at least seems generally opposed to the plans of the other entities of the Mythos. Perhaps Batman's outfit is actually patterned off a Nightgaunt rather than a mundane bat? Either that, or perhaps the Great Race of Yith sent two of its brightest minds back to this era to preserve the timeline, albeit with an imperfect understanding of human culture and norms.... We could call the true story, "Bat Out of Time".

And that's all, folks.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Okay, saw two movies with my son this weekend. About the second, Barnyard, well, I have nothing to say about the udders that I haven't seen in a dozen reviews already, so I will only say that it was both distracting and disturbing to see what were obviously female cows speaking in male voices and courting other cows - not that there's anything wrong with that! (Obligatory Seinfeld reference).

It was the other that stimulated some real thought, though: Zoom, the superhero/kid's movie Tim Allen vehicle. Overall, quite cute, although somewhat incoherent with regard to both the characters' motivations. Does Zoom want to help the kids? Wouldn't the best way to keep them from danger be to train them well from the beginning? The General really thinks it's a good idea to blast more kids with the same radiation that resulted in the main threat going bad? It's one thing to not care about the safety of six year olds, it's quite another to risk having a supercharged six year old menace to contend with in addition to the existing threat...
And is Chevy Chase's scientist character meant to be a good guy, or just a sniveling toady? We're never quite sure.

But the main thing that bugs me didn't occur to me until after we left the theatre - Zoom is yet another whitewashed movie. Okay, there are a few characters of color on screen, and some of the kids 'auditioning' for a place on the team are of varied ethnicities, but that last actually exacerbates the problem - all the kids of color get *rejected* because their powers are deemed not useful. The final team is all about as whitebread as you can get.

Actually, this bugs me worse than the nearly complete whitewashing of Metropolis in Superman Returns earlier this summer, as pointed out by Christopher Priest and others. At least there we're talking about already established characters with established ethnicities, and the absence of blacks in the crowd scenes, while odd, at least also means that no ethnic group is specifically being demeaned. In Zoom, they had to actually write and cast the scenes with various kids demonstrating their powers and vying to get onto a team, which means somebody had to actively choose to give all the cool powers to the white kids and stick the black kids with comic relief abilities like giant snot bubbles or rapid fire spitwads. I doubt that anybody was consciously trying to send a message other than, "look, funny useless powers", but it sure makes for a suspicious subtext.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

She-Hulk is a Lousy Lawyer

Okay, this is not going to be a regular comics blog, but Civil War: Front Line #5 just requires the following observation:

Jennifer Walters, aka the Savage She-Hulk, is a lousy lawyer. Either she doesn't know what she's doing, or she's willing to lay down for the prosecution when she personally agrees with their position. Either way, if you're a character in the Marvel Universe, do not hire her as your defense attorney on any account.

Unless it's some alien trial by combat or something, of course.

Why do I say this? Well, throughout this series so far, she's been representing Robbie Baldwin, aka Speedball, the sole survivor of the New Warriors and official government scapegoat for the Stamford disaster. You'd think some blame would accrue to Nitro, the guy who actually exploded and took out all the civilians, but it appears that everybody but Wolverine has forgotten about him, and I hear (not reading that series) that it appears the USG doesn't actually want him caught.

In any case, Jen has been devoting most of her efforts to getting Baldwin to accept one of the plea deals she's managed to get for him. Only problem is, like all plea bargains, these would involve an admission of guilt. Baldwin doesn't feel that he's the guilty party in this case and refuses the deals. I can see why she wouldn't want to go in front of a jury with this case, but if her client doesn't want to plea, I would think she'd spent a *little* effort coming up with an actual defense strategy.

Okay, up to that point, she's maybe a little lazy as a defense attorney, but still apparently competent. Then comes the latest issue.

She's talking with Robbie as they transfer him to a facility in the Negative Zone run by robots, with no medical care. Let's not even get into the legal problems with that, especially for prisoners still awaiting trial. But what's actually worse is what she tells him on the way there...

Speedball asks her if this is for his court date. She says she's working on it, but the *appeals* process takes a while, especially for someone who's refused a reasonable deal. Okay, fair enough... wait a second.

Jen, why are you talking to your client about the appeals process? He hasn't been convicted yet.

That's how bad a defense lawyer she is - she apparently thinks that rejecting a plea deal is the same as a conviction. She's not familiar with little things called due process and the right to a fair trial. She's talking about appeals when she should be trying to get bail instead.

Okay, maybe one can infer that the trial occurred between issues and Baldwin was found guilty. However, there is no dialogue to support this conclusion, and if that's the case one really wonders why the title of the story is, "The Accused", not "The Convicted". If I'm wrong about this and Speedball has gotten his trial without it being shown or talked about - then only one conclusion is possible:

Paul Jenkins is a worse writer than Jen Walters is a lawyer.

I Wonder What Jane Goodall Would Say

My wife and I have been enjoying the new series Eureka on Sci-Fi, although my personal favorite this summer season has definitely been Who Wants To Be A Superhero (probably more on that later). Last night's episode was no exception, but it did raise some questions in my mind.

For the uninitiated, the premise of the show is that Eureka is a town secretly set up by the USG to be the site of all really advanced technological research, leaving Princeton or Area 51 in the dust. In other words, it's a town full of mad scientists; the pilot involves someone breaking the space-time continuum. And our primary protagonist is the new sheriff in town, formerly a US Marshal.

One major plot thread of last night's show, which I won't spoil in detail, involved a demonstration of a new technology using chimpanzees as test subjects. Again, I won't say exactly what was supposed to happen to them, but it wasn't good.

So, here's my question - do any of the research establishments in Eureka have ethics committees? I mean, sure, the research in question appeared to be for military application, and that frequently means somewhat looser standards than in civilian research - just look at what the Navy's always being accused of doing with dolphins in the name of mine detection. But still, even in those cases they supposedly try to look after the animal's welfare to some degree.

If the test in question had been successful, it seems like most of the animals would have been injured or killed. Yet nobody even seemed to question whether this was the best way to test the technology, whether it was ethical, or even just how many members of an endangered species they were prepared to sacrifice. Okay, it's no Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (Google it if you've never heard of that one), but it still doesn't seem like the writers are aware of the standards scientists in the real world are expected to meet. Any university or other institution doing any kind of human or animal experimentation generally has an ethics committee or review board that would nip this sort of thing in the bud.

Or maybe that's the advantage in being a town of *mad* scientists. It's all supposed to be ultra-secret, so they don't need to worry about being picketed by Jane Goodall, although since scientists are as varied in political/social viewpoints as any other group, you'd think they'd have some internal PETA-type problems at least. Only if they're that cavalier about animals, I wonder just how long it can be until the sheriff's morals run up against some type of experimentation they're doing on humans.

Actually, that would be a pretty good plotline, come to think of it.

Wasting Time?

Well, it's been a long time since I've updated this thing, hasn't it?

One reason, I suppose, is that since January, whenever I've felt the need to express myself, I've actually been writing fan fiction. Yes, fan fiction - the shame! Not only that, but it's actually Buffy crossover fan fiction.

Actually, it looks like I went through a brief 'creative' period back in January, from the 5th to the 10th, during which I wrote over 20,000 words in a handful of weeknights, and then I've done about another 40,000 words since mid July. Maybe the latter has something to do with having more time at home, since my son Vincent has been spending his summer with his grandmother.

Still, it strikes me that that's a pretty good clip to be producing prose, assuming that it's not all crap. I'm telling myself that this is all just good practice in writing dialogue for different characters, while my wife is insisting that this means I should get off (or rather on, I suppose) my ass and start work on a novel or at least some short stories I can actually submit for publication.

Meantime it's all really wacky, convoluted stuff, with enough cameos and references that I did footnotes in one story. It's also got spoilers for the new Dr. Who Season 2 and some of this summer's movies, like Superman Returns, so you have been warned - but in case anybody's interested, here's the link:

Monday, December 19, 2005

Weird Clive Lewisvic

This has been sticking around in my head for the last week and a half, so here goes.

Saw the movie version of Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe weekend before last, and younger brother came with. He's far more musically inclined than I, and a big Weird Al Yankovic fan (which his wife didn't find out until well into their relationship). Therefore, I shouldn't have been too surprised to hear him on the way out of the mall going "Narnia, Narnia!" to the tune of Gloria, upon which we started riffing with further lines such as "where it's always win-ter", and so on.

I asked Rob (who as I said is much more talented than I) to consider completing the spoof, but as I doubt he'll have time, I decided to tackle it myself. Without further ado...

Narnia (to the tune of Gloria)

Like to tell you ’bout our Lucy, you know she went around,
All ’bout the mansion from the turrets to the ground.
You know she went and found something special, all right,
She looked inside a war-drobe, she found there quite a sight.
And its name is n-a-r-n-i,

N-a-r-n-i-a narnia
N-a-r-n-i-a narnia
Where it's always Winter narnia
Where there are Talking Beasts, narnia
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.

We went around, played a game of hide'n seek, ha
Till Lucy hid inside the war-drobe, that's why she was first to see the light.
Goes a-pushin’ past the coats, then she goes on through the trees,
She found herself the door and then she found the other side,
Yeah an’ she found the lamp post's light,

N-a-r-n-i-a narnia
N-a-r-n-i-a narnia
Where we're gonna join the good fight narnia
Against the evil of the White Witch, narnia
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah,
Where we'll meet Aslan narnia
With whose might, we'll be saved narnia
By his right, be crowned.

I know I had to cheat on a couple of lines, and I could never sing it myself, but I know the way people sing this song they can rush a little where necessary to get things to sort of scan... feel free to comment or suggest further stanzas.

First Post, Last Word on the Da Vinci Code

Seeing previews of the movie version has brought up the spectre of the Da Vinci Code again, and I thought I would share what I thought was absolutely the funniest and most comprehensive trashing of DVC and Dan Brown's other book, Angels & Demons, I have seen to date. It's a thread of comments on the Making Light blog, which is great for the occasional check if you surf the Web *at all*. But first,

Caveats & Disclaimers: No, I haven't read _Code_ myself, so according to my usual standards for criticism, I suppose I haven't got any grounds for comment or even forwarding comment. Nor am I likely to read it in the near future, given the number of other books I *want* to read that are already on my shelves, once I'm back on my thyroid medication and able to concentrate for a couple hours consecutively once again. However, people keep mentioning the darn thing and arguing about it, so I'll share some reasons it's very, *very* low on my list.

1) From even the back cover synopsis, it seems like a rip off of Baigent et. al.'s _Holy Blood, Holy Grail_, of which I was already aware through the RPG-oriented writings of Ken Hite. So, I'd know the whole san greal/sang real twist going in, no real mystery for me (or you, either, now).

2) In the overall genre of conspiracy theory novels, I doubt anything'sgoing to top Umberto Eco's wonderful deconstruction of same from years back, _Foucalt's Pendulum_. Given a choice, I'll probably reread Eco -twice - before bothering with Brown.

3) Every time I hear a new snippet about the Dan Brown books, or public controversy over them, I hear something that makes them seem more... well, dumb. Please understand that I don't mean to say that anybody who *has* read and enjoyed them is dumb, although I might suspect some slight detuning of one's critical faculties while actually reading them. But please understand that this is not intended as a slam on anyone, other than possibly Dan Brown.

That said, here's the link for the discussion thread at Making Light.

Favorite quote:

My personal favorite is when the "renowned curator" is dying, and he's writing all these anagrams in his blood, and WALKING AROUND the museum to leave them all, and then, just as you think he's finally going to expire from shock and blood loss, decides to strip naked and contort himself into yet another "clue." I said to husband, "I just want you to know if I'm ever gut-shot, I'm planning on screaming, "Oww!" and expiring immediately."

That's all, folks,