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: