Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Books of the Noughties: At Last

Oh, my friends, how many Noughties lists I have made this month! And how quickly they will go stale, like Christmas cake left under the couch. But now you'll know what I LIKE while I'm busy complaining all the rest of the year about the things I LOATHE.

It is worthwhile to say that I also loved Stephen King's Dark Tower series, particularly Song of Susannah, and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (who DIDN'T, I ask you?). Honorable mention as well to the Dune books of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson, 'Anonymous Rex' by Eric Garcia, Eoin Colfer's 'And Another Thing..'. I'll stop there. It's a reminder to me that I don't read enough, and that there are many things I never got around to that would probably be equally well suited to this list. But it's favorites, it's subjective, and mine, and it stands.

(Why eight? Screw you.)

8. Why We Suck by Dr. Denis Leary
Just as in TV, I love comedy, and in this case I find it very instructive. A self-help book VASTLY more helpful than that balderdash 'The Secret' (oh yeah, the Universe is so generous that if you just WISH REAL HARD it will just GIVE you any frakking thing you desire regardless of what you deserve. THAT'S how the universe works, sure, right. That's why so many people die every minute. Of starvation, for example. They weren't WISHING TO LIVE hard enough.) And yes, Denis Leary-- more of a doctor than that douchebag Dr. Phil. A balm of a book for those of us sick of the entitled, pompous jerks humans so easily become.

7. Star Wars: Millenium Falcon by James Luceno
I like tripe. So sue me. I've read forests of TV and movie tie-ins. This one was a lot more fun than most, a family adventure exploring the history of the greatest spaceship character of them all. Sorry, Moya, Planet Express Ship, Enterprise. You know I love you all. (Mike loves all spaceships equally: this entry is entirely arbitrary.)

6. Our Inner Ape by Franz de Waal
I love monkeys. Good thing, too, that's what us primates are, at heart. This Dutch dude had plenty to say on the bonobos and their similarities and differences to the human monkey. Most of which stuck when I read it and I find myself interjecting factoids from this book into conversation even (perhaps especially) when it isn't appropriate.

5. Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Tongue-in-cheek detective adventure in a cynical consumerist dystopia. And from Mike Bookstore to all of you this festive season: "Drink Coke, Enjoy Stomach Cancer".

4. Last Words by George Carlin & Tony Hendra
My friend Darrel played some Carlin comedy monologues for me this year, I watched some of his routines on YouTube and HBO. That old dead guy was awesome. Funny, yes, whip-smart, too, and with some vital introspection as well. Farewell, Rufus dude. May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

3. Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters by Mike Nelson
It's a bunch of facetious, meandering anecdotes. By a giant, meaty Midwesterner who talked to puppets for a living. I love it so. Making the pessimism of Schopenhauer funny? Priceless.

2. Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein & Spider Robinson
Another dead guy, plus his quirky acolyte. And one of the better books I've read, ever. I guess after buildings fall, and our world view is shattered, we tend toward cynicism, misery, German sitcoms, and other painful pursuits. And that's probably healthy, I don't know. Nothing wrong with it, at least. This is not one of those pessimistic entertainments. Optimism in the face of disaster sucks. And it's the only choice that makes me happy.

1. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 by 22 lovely people who aren't me... AND ME!!!
Speaking of things that make me happy, three years ago I got to taste the manna from heaven that is being a published author. And I've made precious little progress on that front since. But, what the hell. The best thing about the future is that there's more of it tomorrow, right?

So happy new year! Keep reading, keep writing, keep bumping uglies, and let's make 2010 into something even more awesome than the Roy Scheider movie of the same name.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorite Comicbooks of the Noughties

Two days left in the decade, two blogs of favorites left to tell. Obviously, these last two posts had the most thought go into them, but they were also the hardest to winnow down to a scant eight (except music, music was a bitch as well).
Anyway, I wasn't a comic fan since birth, just since this decade and its stumbling, fumbling, often humbling comic book movies edged me over that way. Superheroes and sci-fi remain my main concern, so this list should surprise no-one. Anywhere. EVER.
I also want to give honorable mention, first to the artists I fail to mention in my top eight, you've done a bang-up job but I don't remember all your names. Also to Gail Simone- she's really damn great and this list came up something of a sausage-fest... sorry. Finally, to neglect them was like tearing out little bits of my soul, so to JSA, Star Wars: Tag & Bink Are Dead, Franklin Richards: Son Of A Genius, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, and every single Boom! Studios Comic I've ever read-- you all rock. And so, skipping the list I intended to make of my 8 favorite things Joe Quesada did to make me stop buying Spider-Man, here is:

(Why eight? That's how many fingers I have left with two thumbs up.)

8. Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Bendis, Mark Bagley, & Stuart Immonen
Making the most of the Marvel movie audience, this comic revamped Spidey's origin and the events of his tumultuous 15th year. For a whole decade (and counting) it's been the only trade series I've bought consistently. Bendis deserves my praise for Daredevil, Alias, and Avengers as well.

7. Amazing Spider-Man by J. Michael Strazynski & John Romita Jr.
Trapped for decades in teenager mode, Spider-Man FINALLY had some stories where he acted like a grown-up. Mentoring and inspiring his students, patching the rifts with his wife, exploring his spiritual side, facing his mortality, sharing the truth of his dual life with his beloved Aunt May, and much more. Splendid art and mature storytelling highlight a series I may never be willing to buy again. (for full details, ask a Skrull named Joe Q.)
JRJR does a wonderful job on anything he's attached to, and JMS's Thor is also quite good. And considering how rarely I give a crap about Thor, that's saying something.

6. Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore
Zounds! It isn't a superhero comic. It's on the list because it's charming, funny, romantic and sexy. I really have to buy this series and read it all, because there are times when superhero comics fail to have the answers to the questions that matter to me. Like the ineffability of the human heart and other poetic crap.

5. Invincible by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
I like everything I've read by Kirkman, no exaggeration of his talents is possible. From Marvel Team-Up to The Walking Dead he always does right by me and it's another series I need to buy and catch up on. There's an alien in it called Al the Alien. I'm really not doing it justice. Just read it, o.k.? Thanks.

4. Green Lantern by Geoff Johns
I wish I liked Hal Jordan more, because everything GJ has done for GL is awe-inspiring. I literally think Johns could start a religion with this 'emotional spectrum' jazz. From GL: Rebirth to the Sinestro Corps War to the astonishingly good Blackest Night I cannot gush enough. Sci-fi superheroics cleverly weaving stories from decades past into richer tapestries. Go, Geoff, go!

3. Legion of Superheroes by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson
They're a good team, Waid and Kitson. The Legion are also a good team.
See Legion Week or any Legion comic ever for details.

2. She-Hulk by Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, & Juan Bobillo
I don't buy as many comics as I want to. I can't afford it. And Marvel comics doesn't need my help anymore. They've got Disney. And Disney NEEDS to give me a She-Hulk movie. I don't ask for much. Just figure out how to expertly balance superheroics, legal drama, and comedy with a metatextual, metrosexual, werewolf-marrying, barfing-on-her-boss green supergal. Actually, considering how well superhero comedy has done historically I'm surprised this lasted as long as it did. Thanks, Dan & Ty.

1. 52 by Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Keith Giffen et al
Bookmonkey said what needs to be said. As far as I'm concerned, this was the best thing superhero books did this decade: in terms of sheer output, art and writing quality combined to make something more than the sum of its parts. EVERY WEEK FOR A DAMN YEAR!

Thanks to these and so many others, I am a comic fanatic for life despite all the continuity screw-ups, cross-over convolutions, crazy-making cost per cover, and kooky Quesadas.
Make mine Comics!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Favorite Live-Action TV of the Noughties

Hope you all had delightful Christmases and will have a New Year of wondrous splendor! Speaking of which, here's what was the best in television in the last decade. Not just my considered opinion, but the god's honest truth. Beg to differ? Blow me. Metaphorically, of course. Then, go write your own blog.

The Top 8 TV Shows that weren't cartoons in 2000-2009
(Why eight? That's how many fingers I have left with two thumbs up!)

8. Star Trek: Enterprise- Because it tried so hard. Because I love the cast if not always the writing. Because it was Star Trek, damn it. You don't stop loving a thing just because it's old and busted.

7. Better Off Ted- You can love the brand new better, though, because hell, you can't top a good laugh. Make mine Octochicken.

6. House- There are actually TWO NON-GENRE things on this list. Could I actually be... (gasp!)
I'm... growing? Opening my mind to new ideas? Seeing the world in an other-than-sci-fi light?
The answer is no. My cerebellum is hopelessly calcified in favor of its chosen genre and there's nothing you can do about it. Again, if you want stuff like that go write your own blog, cretins. But seriously, this is a hell of a good doctor show.

5. How I Met Your Mother- Did I say two? I must have meant two comedies and doctor show, bee-yotches! Looks like I win the slap bet!

4. The Big Bang Theory- Actually, I'm starting to scare myself, now. You'd think comedy was my only criteria for this list! Doesn't Mike like sci-fi AT ALL anymore? Well, obviously and logically I still do. But, I just can't stop laughing when I think of Cylon toast. BSG itself didn't bring any joy to my life or make me laugh since... well,.. ever.

3. Firefly- Fun, adventure, AND sci-fi? Better cancel this one before audiences start to think TV could be more than a flavorless mudder's milk of mind-numbing tedium.

2. The Tick- And cancel this one too! Geezus! You people just hate Ben Edlund, don't you? Arrgh! O.K. it was the purest madness to assume you could make a sitcom this specialized and expensive. But sometimes madness is the sanest choice of all! Remember, there is no magic hubcap. The magic was within YOU all along.

1. Doctor Who- It has everything. I liked the classic series but I love this one. I want to marry this series and have ten miniseries with it. It was fantastic.

Did I forget your favorite? TOO BAD!! Tell me why I suck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Favorite Characters: Green and Mean

Kim Possible is a children's cartoon, which is ideal for me to enjoy as I am a giant mid-thirties child.
I also have a fetish for the green ladies, such as She-Hulk, Orions, and even Brainiac 5's MILF Brainiac 4. Is that wrong? I answer my own question: undoubtedly.
But despite my unwholesome proclivities, the best cartoon villainess of the Noughties (2000-2009) award STILL has to go to Shego as voiced by the lovely and very comically talented Nicole Sullivan.
Never playing second fiddle to John Dimaggio's incompetent but boundlessly determined mad scientist Dr. Drakken, the pair instead became a bickering duo. Never really intended to be used as much as they were either, apparently, but they were just too much fun for the writers and audience alike.
Shego's origin story is very like that of the Fantastic Four: endowed with strange powers by radiation along with her family, she was a member of a high-profile superhero team. Until she got fed up. Surrounded by her dopey, do-gooding brothers she opted instead for the wild and lucrative life of selfishness and villainy. She abandoned the defense of Go City for easy-pickings in Middleton.
And managed to saddle herself with another dope. But at least Dr. Drakken is in it for the money and power. A cad after her own heart. A rotter she can almost admire. But she'd never let him think he was in charge, oh no.
Shego is as sultry a catburgler as Catwoman, as skilled in the martial arts as Mr. Jackie Chan (real or cartoon), and as sarcastic as seven Chandler Bings.
She has very little patience, almost no regard for others, and has made it her life's work to defeat a high school girl. You gotta respect her ability to set attainable goals.
Is it wrong to crush on a cartoon villainess?
I'm almost certain my wife would say yes.
But you married me, lady. It's too late now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Favorite Musicals of the Noughties

In making a list of favorite music of the decade, I discovered if I flaked off songs from musicals and TV theme tunes I could create whole new categories. That's why I am awesome!
There are many other possibilities, of course, but as I do not live in New York or L.A. I have not seen half of the musicals "available". Also, I am not made of cash. Also, I haven't seen the High School Musicals and I find all the characters on Glee shallow, inhuman, and reprehensible. Like Kath & Kim without the warmth. If I wanted to see lizards in human skin singing with artificial voices, I'd make my own TV show. Never mind, no, I wouldn't I'm far too lazy. So rather than waste your time with a list of eight musicals I've never made, I bring you.


8. Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny- Classico alone should earn this admittedly imperfect movie a place in our hearts forever. Or be quickly forgotten. Whichever.

7. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog- So They Say, like the rest of these songs, was finalist for my favorite of the decade. I was willing to trade happy ending for message here, and this HUGO winner was something I preferred to many Hugo NOVELS I've read.

6. My Musical: Scrubs- Friends Forever/What's Going to Happen To Me?
I'm not sure if I'll last with Scrubs: Med School but I love this musical TV episode very much indeed. I well up inside sometimes. In a manly way! And 'Guy Love' is uncompromisingly, uncomfortably hetero and also the gayest of songs. Sometimes you just have to say it: I love you, man.

5. Once More With Feeling: Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Walk Through the Fire never fails to impress me. The whole episode is full of non-expert singers but the music and lyrics triumph anyway. No, I'm not kidding. This is really f@#king good, damnit!

4. Flight of the Conchords the series was the best thing on TV. Is this hyperbole? Is this subjective? Should I just say my favorite? No. It's the best.

3. Hairspray- You Can't Stop the Beat & Without Love are wonderous. My wife played this soundtrack for me, and I still have to imagine the stage play because I've only seen the movie. And I wish they'd let the villainous Van Tussles sing in the movie version because that's one of the most important things I hear in the song: even the villains are allowed to become part of the new world the heroes are singing about. That's what a happy ending SHOULD be.

2. Avenue Q- Schadenfraude & There is Life Outside Your Apartment
The crippling cynicism of modern life coupled with the infectious cuteness of the Street of Sesame was a brilliant notion and I still desperately hope to see this performed someday.

1. Wicked- Defying Gravity & As Long as You're Mine win the best musical of the decade in my book. My wife took me to a performance in London for my 33rd birthday. It was utterly splendid. I was stunned by the ending (having read the book version) but I realised over a bacon and chicken sarnie in a carboard box from Marks and Sparks that I liked it. A lot.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Favorite Video Games of the Noughties

Man, my thumb aches! I spent the morning and much of last night playing Super Mario Wii with my wife and I've contracted what used to be called Nintendo thumb back in the day. So at the risk of alienating my SIX FOLLOWERS (!) (BTW, thanks, all) I'm going to forgo my list of 8 TV hucksters you should feel comfortable sending your old gold to, and bring you this instead.

(Why Eight? That's how many fingers I've got left when I've got both thumbs up.)

8. New Super Mario Bros. Wii- If the Jones' hadn't loaned this to us, I'd have led with Peasant's Quest, which at least deserves a mention because Trogdor and all the doomed fools who dare oppose him make for a really fine PC adventure parody and I've missed those since I last played Space Quest. Anyway, Super Mario Wii, despite the crippling, debilitating thumb pain, is a sheer delight. Newcomer, yes, but I'm confident it will provide us with many hours of fun at varying degrees of competency. Propeller hats, penguin suits, awesome music and graphics, it's like every previous Mario game at once. But I haven't seen any veggies to pluck up and throw. I'll settle for barrels and my team-mate. Sorry, Mario!

7. Spider-Man 2- The Playstation 2 was my go-to platform this decade. I just don't play as much as I used to, so this list was one of the easiest to make: I probably only tried 20 new games in the last 10 years. But I'm not going to leave off the list any game where the training level has Bruce Campbell hurling abuse at you while you plummet to your imminent death learning to sling a web, any size. I've never completed it, which in fairness is true of every game on this list except number one.

6. Mario Kart Wii- It's also a newbie, but I had a hoot and a half trying it out with our pals the Jones'. I spent most of our first session careening into bottomless pits, but I found steering with the nunchuck joystick instead of the wand itself the second time out improved my not-crashing record amazingly. In fact, I think REAL cars, and indeed starships, should be piloted with joysticks. Who's with me?

5. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga- I am a great fan of the LEGO games, never thought I would be but there's something deeply satisfying about the shapes I imprinted on as a child, the detailed environments, the puzzles to solve, and the unkillable nature of avatars made out of plastic bricks.

4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City- A fair few of my traditional New Years Eve parties with Bookmonkey and his family have included this amoral, ANTI-moral, so-sick-it's-well-again kill-fest. I can't tell you how much fun I've had controlling a Hawaiian shirt-wearing, 80's rock-listening, hooker-beating, maniacally vehicular manslaughtering ne'er-do-well through virtual Florida streets. I can't tell you because I'm of the opinion that a year's worth of petty frustrations can be poured into this sort of vicious artificial mayhem and that it prevents me ever actually taking to the streets on a rampage. Of course, there is the school of thought that such games warp young minds and CAUSE real-world violence. Screw you, school of thought!

3. Star Wars: Battlefront 2- Playstation brought me and my then-fiance closer as we exploded one another on the ice plains of Hoth. I have spent more happy hours with this game, shooting droids, respawning, snatching the chance to play as Vader racing at inhuman speeds, saber drawn, cape billowing out behind me, riding tauntauns, crushing my foes with my AT-AT. Ah, good times. Yes, the first 'Battlefront' was a delight. Yes, 'Force Unleashed' would probably rule if I could figure out how to run the insanely complicated force powers. But SWBF2 will always have a special place in my hard, cloned heart.

2. Rock Band Wii- I think I get more fun out of games I play with groups, at least I've started to feel that way lately. Great times with this one, thanks to the people I've played with as much as the music and the challenge. Guitar Hero may have been eclipsed by Rock Band, sadly, but it deserves to be mentioned because I've also had some amazing moments of total solo bliss with my '80's tuneage, clicking and clacking out the chords to Asia's 'Heat of the Moment'. You probably had to be there. My embarrassed wife was.

1. Katamari Damacy- It's got just about everything I could ask for. The chaos and mayhem of Grand Theft Auto (but less bloody), the color and spectacle and sound of the Mario games, and the fine times of camaraderie provided by all of the above. I have enjoyed the experience, and indeed, the tidy philosophy of this bizarre game: where all problems can be solved by rolling things into an ever-expanding, squirming ball of objects and creatures and hurling them into the sun. Get into the Clump Spirit with the Prince of All Cosmos!

We could all take a lesson from these fine video games. And here's to the wonders of the next decade: I'm looking forward to Star Trek Online, myself. I've never really gotten involved in a MMORPG- but it's probably less awful and more addictive than it sounds.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Favorite Comicbook Villain of the Noughties: Superboy-Prime

No, I'm not kidding.
I was planning a villain to be my character of the week for a few weeks now, but Bookmonkey beat me to the punch! Look at him over there, with his nearly 52 posts. That guy rules, you should really read his blog. Really. READ IT!
So why Superboy-Prime? I genuinely think he's the best new villain in comics this decade. Sorry, Omni-Man, you could completely kick my face, plus as a Viltrumite here to conquer our world and knock up our ladies, you are totally an asshole, no question. (Read Invincible, boys and goils.)
See, I was never that big into DC comics until the Infinite Crisis. In the summer of 2005 Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer, Gail Simone and a whole gang of their co-workers convinced me Marvel wasn't the only game in town.
Although he previously existed as a minor hero, Superboy-Prime becomes a villain in this storyline, and still one of the finest villains going, to my taste.
Hear me, Geoff: ya done good. I may be able to forgive you for 'She-Hulk runs on fear' someday. Don't listen to anyone who says you didn't write a splendid villain.
Clark Kent, (the Superboy of Earth Prime where DC comics are just fictions) thanks in part to extreme isolation and the regrettable advice of Earth-3's zealot Alexander Luthor, has concluded that Nothing that exists Anywhere is Good Enough. Nothing is as good as he remembers it, in fact, nothing ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSES matters except himself. He literally pulls people apart because he thinks they are 'lame'. His thinking has become insane, selfish, and infantile while his powers are sufficient to shatter planets. He's a mad god with a superiority complex and he's the most hurtful thing he could be: a Fan. He's a comic book collector. He's a critic who cannot muster a positive review. He's the villain who could be You.
This, I think, is what sticks in some people's craws.
Even the inestimable Linkara hates him. And I agree with almost eveything that guy spews!
Seriously, Linkara is awesome.
I can't speak to why Superboy-Prime is so badly written in 'Countdown', except that this sentence explains itself. IT'S COUNTDOWN! No, I'm not linking to it. It stinks! KYLE RAYNER is a moron in Countdown. And Donna Troy, too. And the Monitors. It didn't do ANYONE any favors. Chock fulla morons.
Superboy-Prime has a horrifying kill count, including all of Earth-15 and Universe-51. Which aren't as personally hurtful as his callous murders of Pantha of the Teen Titans or Rond Vidar of the Legion. Minor character? Yeees. Still. Awful.
And, worst of all, I UNDERSTOOD his motives. It's all very well to be the Joker and just be Nucking Futs. People are fine with THAT. But Superboy-Prime is looking at the whole of the DC universe amassed since 1985 and thinking what I, Mike, thought: this is NOT a place I want to visit. Wanton, meaningless violence. 'Heroes' as bad as their enemies. Just dark, vicious, endless badly drawn brawls in back alleys and Wonder Woman in a jean jacket.
The difference between little Superdink and I is that I am entirely powerless and hopefully less selfish. I won't be flailing around in anguish because everyone sucks and tearing heads off to prove it anytime soon. But... he does what a villain must: warn us of what we can become at our worst. Superboy-P showed me that needy, embarrassing, whining dark side.
Don't allow yourself to grow so jaded, so anhedonic, so lonely and cut-off from the world that you end up like this jerkus. Choose your friends carefully, but for Mxyzptlk's sake- HAVE FRIENDS! Don't set your standards impossibly high or slack-assedly low. Remember, you are not the only person with feelings. Worlds may not be at stake for realsies, but every individual contains worlds of possibility. So for showing me a face I hope to avoid but find delicious to revisit, thank you again, Geoff Johns.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Favorite TV Cartoons of the Noughties

What up? You'd never know it by reading my blog but by certain standards I've wasted my life. It's true! How many hours of cartoons do you have to watch to decide on your favorites of the decade? A metric crapload, that's how many. And if that measurement makes any sense to you, it's because you ALSO have an overdose of pop culture. So I'll skip my list of the eight kindest characters on The Venture Brothers, to bring you this nugget of wisdom.

(Why eight? Because that's how many fingers I have left over with both thumbs up!!)

8. Azumanga Daioh-
The ever-toiling natives of that friendly island in the sea, Japan, brought me many cartoons in the last ten years. And I hardly saw any of them. I suspect I will enjoy Trigun and Full Metal Panic and probably Sgt. Frog, someday. So with apologies to every anime I HAVEN'T seen, I applaud this entirely NON-GENRE program which wins my heart with the sweet and the ordinary rather than with the flying cars and the alien freeloaders I tend to gravitate toward. Cooking IS so fun!

7. Undergrads -
Out, out brief candle! Cal, may you never learn a thing. Rocko, may your liver hold out. Nitz, may you figure out what you want before it's too late. And sweet Gimpy, may flights of TIE fighters sing thee to thy rest.

6. Batman: The Brave and The Bold -
It hasn't been on that long, and toon lifespans being what they are these days I encourage you to enjoy it while it lasts. Old school superheroin' done right, booey!

5. Teen Titans-
Although Legion of Superheroes never had the chance to mature and improve, (sadly in my mind earning the nickname 'Super-Tweeny Man and the Lacklustre Teens of the Future'), Teen Titans DID have years of practice and was all the better for it. By the end of its run it was complex and elegant, and very heartfelt. Very likely the best theme song of all time, too.

4. Kim Possible-
I heard of it, dismissed it as kid stuff, and when it was done I caught it in the re-runs. And I loved it. I really like the Drakken and Shego relationship. I love to see a little of myself in not-so-super supervillains. Selfish, impotent, and world-weary, but indefatigable. Plus Ron Stoppable is a delight. He's also terrible at what he does, with certain very important exceptions. Kim herself obviously owes Buffy and others a great debt, but the show found its own voice and a fan in me.

3. Clone High-
With apologies to Total Drama Island, which was also quite amusing in its first season, I want this series back. And I'll never get it! Arrrgh! It's just tragic! And as a Kennedy, I'm not accustomed to tragedy. Darkly comic, twisted, inventive mad genius. Plus hearing the catchphrase 'You've got crabs, Ass-Face!' made me fall in love with the woman I now call my wife. Because she IS my wife. That's why I call her that. You see. And she neither has crabs nor an ass-face. Break a leg at the audition, baby!

2. Justice League Unlimited-
I may not have mentioned my affection for superheroes? Anyhoo, this series came the closest to bringing the comic book experience to life for me. The last great achievement from the folks what brung me Batman, Superman, and Justice League. But keep trying to top it! C'mon, I dare you!

1. Futurama- Maybe this is a cheat. It's either the last great prescient cartoon of the Nineties or the first awesome retro cartoon of the 30th century. And thanks to all that hard work and determination, it was all drawn by a single Australian man. A solid core cast of abominable wretches who loathe each other battle monsters and encounter creatures as diverse as the Robot Devil, the Widow Pac-Man, and the Yarn People of Nylar Four. Find your favorites below!For anyone out there still watching TWENTY DING-DONG DAD-BLASTED F@$KING years of the Simpsons, I humbly apologize and exhort you to watch the four seasons and four movies of the gut-bustingest thing the Groenigverse and its minions have ever accomplished. And remember, when push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love, even if it's not a good idea.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Favorite Songs of the Noughties

This was so much harder to determine than I'd imagined! What ARE my favorite songs from the decade 2000-2009? How, for example, to be fair to They Might Be Giants' latest album, since 'My Brother the Ape ' is very much a favorite right now, but it's got the advantage of being brand new. I love it NOW, but will I love it years later like TMBG's 'Experimental Film'? (See what I did there, I mentioned them anyway.) Will I still love Flight of the Conchords' 'Carol Brown' & 'Friends' when I'm 43 instead of 33? Only Mike 2019 will be able to tell me. If he is still on speaking terms with me. I should fire up the time-viewer and we'll... nah, that's a lot of bother.
So I've skewed the list towards songs I've listened to over and over for years, some growing as hard and stale as overchewed gum, abandoned, then rediscovered under a chair and stuffed back in my mouth to find I still appreciate them. I've even split off unwieldy finalists into favorite TV themes and favorite songs from musicals for later listing. But one further honorable mention should go to a song I didn't hear until recently: Joel Plaskett's 'Nowhere With You' which I heard first covered by my favorite acapella group 'Apocalypse Kow' at my friend's wedding this summer. It's plaintive, sincere, just wonderfully romantic. I wanted it here but fortunately it's more Their song than Mine. Whew! Just 8 songs left. And it only took the entire week to choose...


(Why eight? That's how many fingers I have left with both thumbs up!)

8. 'She Is Beautiful' by Andrew W.K. (2002) This song kicked my face. I even went when he played in Edmonton. Andrew W.K. was the perfect musical antidote to what I perceived as the whiny, wallowing, character-devoid, Nirvana-junkie Nineties. (I'm sorry if you like Nirvana. No, really. I'm so, so sorry.)

7. 'Steal Your Heart Away' by Fleetwood Mac (2003) I really love the album 'Say You Will', listened to it for most of that year at my job. This YouTUBE cover is sweet, too. It still serves as a reminder to me that "Alone We Suffer". Fortunately, I have not been alone for years. Thanks, wife. You are the best.

6. 'Synthesizer' by Electric Six (2003) I have no means to justify this song. Historically, I am no great fan of dance music, mostly because I believe I dance like a spastic with a low-level charge running through the cerebellum. Only more white. But it seems the lyrics are correct when they assert "you can slay the wicked beast, but you can't ignore my techno")
"Be all that you can be, just as long as you are Free."

5. 'White & Nerdy' by Weird Al Yankovic (2006) It's my anthem. I live it, I love it, I bought the T-shirt.

4. 'Robots' by Flight of the Conchords (2007) Let it stand. I love 'Bowie', 'Rambling Through the Avenues of Time', 'Hurt Feelings', 'Mutha'uckas' and so many more, but let one of the first ones I ever heard at Kirk's place on YouTube remain my favorite. Much kudos to the Hiphopopotamus & the Rhymenoceros.

3. 'Fett's Vette' by MC Chris (2001) A hip-hop loving white kid created the best high-speed, foul mouthed tribute to Star Wars' most-eaten-alive bounty hunter. I have never mastered this nerdly tongue-twister and I will never stop trying.

2. 'Tribute' by Tenacious D (2001) This song is the very definition of Awesome Sauce. I think my favorite part except for every f*@king stanza is the idea that it is not itself 'the greatest and best song in the world' (debatable) but is 'just a tribute'.

1. 'What Aboout Everything?' by Carbon Leaf (2004) I do not think I have much poetry in my soul. Cobain-lovers are agreeing with me. Or plotting my death. (It was just a joke! It was all fer a laugh!) Yet this song, which I first experienced coupled with a YouTube Dr. Who music video, continues to stir my heart, not just with the simple loveliness of the tune, but also the bittersweet poetry in the lyrics. It is hands down my favorite song of the decade.

But I guarantee you I'll bang my palm to my forehead in a few days and say 'I wish I'd mentioned (insert best song ever!)'. Just like how my 8 favorite movies list is missing 'Year One' and my 8 Best Unreleased DVDs didn't mention 'Duck Dodgers' or 'Muppets Tonight'.
So, these blogs are, at best, nuggets of the moment. Kind of like songs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Favorite Character of the Noughties: The 10th Doctor

From two thousand to two thousand ought-nine fiction has brought out plenty of new characters, many of whom are very appealing, and will surely be covered here someday anon. For today, though, I'm going to skip my detailed plans to list the top eight attractive Sea Devils, and bring you this instead:
For the last five years, actor David Tennant has put his unique bio-stamp on the longest-serving TV alien of all time: the formerly obscure and now ubiquitous Doctor from the dead planet Gallifrey. The BBC in Wales began throwing great writers, excellent actors, and scads of cash at Doctor Who in 2004, and the program (about a strange man who roams time and space in an old phone box) soared once more.
It's a really, really, really, REALLY exceedingly damn good show. Running continuously since 1963 (with a minor 15 year long exception) Doctor Who boasts the unique and brilliantly clever device of regeneration, allowing the alien Doctor to genetically 'reboot' and take on a whole new appearance and persona each time he meets with death in the pursuit of saving the galaxies from horrible monsters.
The ninth incarnation was really fantastic. I'm rather partial to the seventh and fourth as well.
Everyone has their favorite. Mine is the tenth.
He is splendid. It seems like he's run the entire gamut of emotion in the last 5 years. He's taken down villanous scarecrows and hideous stone angels. He's saved the human race in the year 5 billion. He's loved a human girl and lost her over and over. He's even been copied into a half-human form which finally managed to... well, spoilers. Also, he eats peanut butter out of the jar with his hands.
His companions are brilliant. Rose, Martha, Jack, Sarah Jane... I almost made this post about Donna, frankly. And Donna's granddad Wilf as well. Oh, they're so brilliant! See, good writers, great actors... Yeah! Just, yeah! This is the sort of thing that brings out Gushy McFanboy. The Doctor's tenth incarnation has so much to admire. Running about, healing crowds of zombies, kissing girls, hamming it up while metabolizing poison, weeping at the death of his greatest adversary. A great pacifist, the Doctor, but also a fighter of evil in any form. He's very funny. Very, very silly. Then he'll suddenly turn quite serious, indeed. He's a great one for contrasts. I'd venture to say he's all things to all people. A lonely little boy. A tired old man. A wild-eyed optimist. The universe's cruelest cynic. A romantic. A heartsickened fool. Skilled beyond all reason and hopelessly lost as well.
It sure doesn't hurt that he's handsome. You won't catch my wife ogling the seventh doctor (Sorry, Mr. McCoy).
The 10th Doctor has over 900 years worth of experiences in all the galaxies and all the time that has ever been and some parrallel worlds as well. He has a vast reservoir of love for all living things, and a giant hurt at the loss of his people, his home, his planet. I admire this character for bravery and the strength of his intelligence. For his love of life.
And after so many have come to love him back, this Christmas and New Years we all will have to watch him suffer and die.
His character may be tested, but I have much faith in him.
He's saved us from our nightmares and ourselves countless times before, I'm sure he'll keep right on doing it until The End of Time...
Uh, oh. That's what this next one's called.
Oh, dear.
Long Live the Doctor. Splendid chaps, all of them.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Favorite Movies of the Noughties: A Study in Mainstreamyness

My friend Carlos assures me we are NOT approaching the end of the decade. As there was no calendar year "0", the year 2001 was the REAL start of the new millennium. Therefore, 2011 will be the start of the second decade of the millennium.
But I am FAR more interested in being able to refer to the actual decades of my life as 'the seventies', 'the eighties', and 'the nineties' etc. Because that's what everybody else does.
Sorry, Science! And Carlos.
Therefore, as my lovely wife suggested, I'll do a bunch of posts this month summarizing my impressions of the pop culture of the Nifty Noughties. My favorite movies, comics, TV shows, books, cartoons, and songs.
Why 'Favorite' and not 'The Best'? Because I don't have to justify the word favorite. I also see no reason to justify things that are probably already covered earlier in this very blog.
So today I'll forgo my list of Andrew W.K.'s most soothing lullabies and get right to:


Why eight? That's how many fingers I have left over with both thumbs up!

8. Watchmen- You bet! My only regret is that I saw it just once. Of course, there's every possibility that over time it will slide down the list, past Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lilo & Stitch, Shrek and its sequel, Clerks II, Titan A.E. and so on, spiraling down into obscurity. I like to believe it has staying power, but, well, time makes fools of us all (as Phillip Fry once commented when a hat full of curdled milk was discovered in his locker).

7. Serenity- There are so many things wrong with Joss Whedon's Firefly being cancelled half a season in and Dollhouse getting two seasons! Grreh! I can't let it stick in my craw forever, because at least I got some resolution to the series in this splendid effects-laden adventure romp. I loved these characters. I loved this story. Yes, even more than Lord of the Rings. Because at least my wife will watch this with me again.

6. Shaun of the Dead- Comedy trumps effects. Who knew? And a horror outweighs a sci-fi? Who would believe it? But it's true, this movie can't die. I love it to death. It shambles in to the number six spot, forcing me to wonder if I wouldn't have been better off with a standard Top 10 list. Well, too late now...

5. Spider-Man 2- Marvel dominated the celluloid decade as far as I was concerned. You can keep your Batmans and your terrfyingly ill-considered Supermans Returnses and just keep trying to give me superhero movies that are more like this. Also, develop a way to make every movie my first date with the love of my life. Is that too tall an order?

4. The Incredibles- Not even Marvel could make my favorite super-hero flick in the last ten yar. Because Pixar made it already.

3. Revenge of the Sith- It's not your regular wall-to-wall special effects prequel space opera tragedy. That's how I justify my atypical abilty to love a movie with an unhappy ending. However, technically, this movie only makes the happy ending of Return of the Jedi happier!
So there. The circle is now complete. If watching 'Fanboys' with my friend Anthony this weekend taught me anything, love for Star Wars is the strongest love of all.

2. Star Trek- Except for Star Trek.

1. WALL-E- Utterly unable to quantify whether I was more enamored in the long term of Star Trek or Star Wars, I picked a neutral party to top the list and quell the roiling confusion in my soul. (Also, it's just a bunch of movies. Of course my love for MY WIFE is the strongest love of all. Right, hon? Right? Aw...)That's correct. That's Mike's favorite movie of the Noughties. Unless you ask me point blank sometime when I haven't given it any thought and I blurt out something else even more honest, surprising me as much as it does you.
And if I feel any shame that they are all mainstream American genre blockbusters without a single obscure low-budget wristslitter I sure as hell won't tell you lot. The word Favorite means never having to justify your pedestrian choices. Yea, bo!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Gorn Blinks! HE BLINKS!

I have been a nerd for a very long time. Face of Boe long. I am beginning to worry that one day I will no longer have the ability to be surprised or impressed by science fiction. That, in essence, I have seen all there is to see.
The V-make didn't grab me. I don't have much patience with Smallville. Dollhouse, Lost, Fringe and Heroes barely seem to qualify as science fiction. I think the Stargate has dialed out as much as it can for now and my beloved Doctor Who isn't on again till Christmas... it seems like 100 Trillion years away!
Thank the near-sighted geek gods-among-men and their tiny light pens over at CBS back in 2005! Thank them as I do for Star Trek: Remastered, now airing on the Space Channel.
For 3 minutes each weekday, I can watch new special effects inserted into the old Star Trek! And isn't that what man has dreamt of since first he ventured blinking from his cave?
Now, when the Enterprise warps back in time around the sun, you SEE the thing.
Each strange new world IS looking a little strange, and a LOT less like Basketball (a peaceful planet).
Fleets of ships aren't just in the dialogue and the imagination, landing gear retracts on shuttlecraft, space cities stretch to the horizon instead of the edge of the matte painting.
Is this what's known as Gilding the Lily? I mean, Star Trek was, let's face it, just fine the way it was. If the stories were good (and they usually were), then who needs new-fangled FX?
(Breathe, Mike, breathe, just breathe. Where's my medication? )
I love what Lucas did to Star Wars. Jar Jar and Greedo shooting first and everything. Well, shooting at the same time was actually my favorite. Why? Because it's FUN! New effects are PART of the fun, but mostly it's SEEING SOMETHING NEW!
What I mean to say is, if I can still get jazzed when a 40 year old rubbery lizard blinks at me in a brand new way from his 40 year old show, then the V-make should've been a whole lot better, and IT HAS NO EXCUSE. You have budget, decades of experience & hindsight, and you are literally making something SOMEBODY ALREADY MADE! Why is it so damn slow? Not to mention irrelevant, tedious, and shallow. Why has nobody stated what the Vs are after, and most importantly, EAT THE DAMN GUINEA PIGS OR GET OFF THE SCREEN!
Oh, it's not me that's jaded, brother. Not yet!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Favorite Characters: The Greatest Hero You Never Heard Of

It's my 47th post, which also happens to be my favorite number. So I'll bypass my list of the Top 5 Great Apes to bring you a post about my favorite DC comics superhero. Booster Gold.
Michael J. Carter is always a delight to read about and I'm glad he has his own comic these days. Created by Dan Jurgens in the mid '8os, Booster embodies the most venial, greedy, self-serving qualities of that decade (and today). And yet... well, that's why I like the guy.
He appeared out of nowhere, all style, no substance, and instantly turned himself into a celebrity. Then, just as quickly, into a complete sell-out. The people of Metropolis jumped on the Booster Bandwagon and then quickly off again when they realized he was less a hero than a man out for fame, chicks and bucks.
Booster's big secret, known only to his robot, Skeets, is that he was not exactly a self-made man. He wasn't born with powers like the Kryptonian. He didn't hone himself or build his strengths like the Bat. Booster had everything it took to be a great hero, but that was only because he'd STOLEN it.
In the year 2462, Carter had been a twenty-year old failure working museum security. His shining Gotham City high school football career had tanked when he was caught betting on his own games. His future was looking like total crap... but his PAST, mind you... THAT was wide open.
Booster stole a museum time machine and headed for a history when no one would know his reputation. In the 'primitive and gullible' 20th century, his museum-piece costume and artificial powers would enable him to become a famous, and fabulously wealthy man. He even stole Skeets to be his stooge... er, sidekick.
In the Silver Age, that origin story would have made him a Green Lantern villain in 60 seconds.
And the morally upright Justice League DID see right through him. Superman even took his cape away, telling the bounder that he 'just wasn't ready'.
So Booster ended up in the B-grade Justice League later known as the Supperbuddies, with the other misfits, making a best friend in Ted "The Blue Beetle" Kord. Well, best friend and dubious partner in various get-rich quick schemes.
With Skeets forever urging caution and propriety, and Booster forever ignoring him, it was a swell time for all. And even if they never got rich, they never ran out of Oreos.
And then most of the Supperbuddies died. Especially Ted. (Poor bastard!)
Booster's sometimes almost creepily literal whoring himself out hadn't made him enough cash to save his pal's life. For once Booster's complete lack of knowledge about history wasn't even a little bit funny. He dragged himself home to the future in despair.
Then, over the last few years, he began using time travel for good.
He's even saved the universe a time or two, and most importantly: he doesn't insist on taking credit for it. Much.
The world at large thinks Booster Gold is still the toothpaste-selling, car-hawking, soda-poster smile-with-a-tan jerk he always was, and only a select few know the truth. He battles evil throughout the timestream, intervening in historical DC events, becoming the hero he always pretended to be. Perhaps the change in Michael is another victory for Ted Kord, who has racked up rather a lot of them posthumously.
Maybe Booster's sense of greed and entitlement will never go away completely. It certainly makes it easy to relate to him. But there's plenty to admire, too. Loyalty, spirit, an easy smile, periodic self-sacrifice (especially if there's a cute girl involved), and MUCH less cowardice than one might imagine.
Here's to everything the future holds for Booster Gold... everything that isn't nailed down.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Are We Deprived of Such Glories?

There are a million wonderful things in this world. Two million. At least.
Like my friends Mark and Kathleen have a new baby girl, Kara. (Yea!)
Like Doctor Who had another t.v. special (Space channel will play it on December 19.)
Oh, fill in the blank! Let's face it, I am NOT deprived...
Where, my buddy Ron might ask, is 'Maverick'?
Why, Daryl has queried, is 'Night Court' coming out on DVD so slowly?
And, where the f@#k is 'Rockula'?
(That one was for Kirk and Kayla.)
But this is my forum and my grievances. Thus...


8. Farscape- I lied. This one IS out. FINALLY. The complete series. Why the hezmana would you release a series 2 or 4 episodes at a time? That's just farbotzd. Oh, and BOOM Studios makes a really world-class comic book based on this. Like the man said, it's sex and drugs and muppets in space. What's not to love? Zitch, that's what.

7. Doctor Who 'The Happiness Patrol'- Under that link is an image of a killer cyborg made of candy from a corrupt civilization where being miserable is a terminal offence. Kandy Man scared the dickens out of me in the '80s. Is he still scary? Well, thanks to YouTube I know how much I still want to own this one on DVD. A lot.

6. Rockula- My friends really deserve this, don't they? C'mon, Universe. Surely my whining will help somehow...

5. Space Precinct- The Brits really know their stuff. Thanks to Ron I saw one of these for the first time in 13 years. It's a precinct... in space. And, no offence to CSI but that's EXACTLY my cup of tea. Why have a boring old police procedural if you can have the Thunderbirds guy giving you flying cars and three-eyed psychics versus squishy green mobsters? I don't think I even need to dignify that rhetorical question with a response.

4. Reboot- Where TRON left off, the first and best CG adventure cartoon of the nineties began. So, Canada rocks and all, which goes without saying, but why isn't it on is? But... just one episode at a time? Not season by season? That sounds like an impossibly expensive and time-consuming way to have to track down a series... I guess I MEANT to say:
4. Deadly Games- Was there some sort of curse on 1995? Why all these short-lived-but-awesome genre shows that never made it to my digital media player? I not only want Gus Lloyd's antimatter escapees from a video game in my hot little hands, but an actual revival of this series. You just know after the V-make tanks they'll have to start on the 1990s.

3. ALF the Animated Series- My old flame from the eighties, the mirthful, matted, Melmacian got his just desserts 3 years ago when they put out NINE of his 26 cartoon episodes. Just the first nine! Grrr. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'll take 'em. I bought 'em. WHERE'S THE REST?

2. Droids the Animated Series- I loved this show. Recent YouTube viewing convinced me I still do. And if no one corrects Wikipedia, I will. This series was NOT aka BUTTS! Geez! That really grinds my crankcase, Artoo.

1. Earth Star Voyager- When I was 12 the world was rad. I guess my wife would agree that nowadays I would call it splendid. But my uncle and cousin, thanks to my multiple repeat viewings of this VHS tape at their place know that 1988 was Disneyriffic. Only available in the UK, I guess, or so amazon might have me believe. It certainly deserved better. It deserved to be a series. It probably cost somebody a jillion dollars and their jobs and minds. But the 'usual bureaucratic boondoggles' resulted in a gritty (for Disney) improvement on 'The Black Hole' and a darn sight better flick than 'The Black Cauldron', too. I STILL want to know if 'the good ship kindergarten' evaded the cyborg slaves of the Outlaw Technology Zone and made their generation-long round trip to find those pollution-bedeviled Earthlings a new home on Demeter. We better hope they did. It didn't work out for those poor saps on 'Earth 2' or 'Virtuality' either.
Celebrate Green Week by recycling sci-fi plots and use the tailings to make me my DVDs!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Favorite Use of Music in Movies

Further pursuant to ideas about musical lists from Music Listography by Lisa Nola of, here's some now!


8. The final shot of 'High Fidelity' is punctuated forever in my memory as Rob Gordon begins making a 'perfect playlist mixtape' and the end credits run with Stevie Wonder's '(I Believe) When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever'. It's listy genius for people who love and people who list.

7. Enya adds the right dreamlike, magic quility to the movie 'L.A. Story'.

6. Danny Elfman has scored basically every movie I have ever liked, probably. At random I choose the opening credits to 'Mars Attacks!' because I just love it, damnit. Box office failure, indeed. Retro saucers whirl and theremin wails, it's visually and musically awesome. Thanks, Danny, for this and about 80 billion other songs.

5. James Horner probably needs his own list, too. I've given a tie to the soundtrack for Bicentennial Man and the Klingon battle theme from Star Trek III, apparently because marauding aliens make for great percussive music. I like me my drums!

4. I can't begin to defend my affection for 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension'. That movie is a wonderful, glorious, splendid mess. And the end credits with the cast striding purposefully over Michael Boddicker's synths is firmly 1980's rad.

3. Star Trek (2009)- It's all terrific, thrilling, and tantalizing. Specifically, when George Kirk is just about to die saving his wife, child, and crew, Michael Giacchino's musical strains add the Cry Frosting on that little Moment Cake. Every time!

2. WALL-E- Thomas Newman's score brings the characters to life, providing their 'voices' like an old timey silent film. Michael Crawford's 'Put On Your Sunday Clothes' from the musical "Hello, Dolly" has excellent, appropriate lyrics for WALL-E's pursuit of 'the world out there' as well. Peter Gabriel's end credits 'Down To Earth' should be a hymn for the new millennium. I just keep on harping, but this movie keeps being SO good!

1. The Fifth Element- I may have say the whole frelling thing. Beginning to end. The soundtrack is sweet, melodious, and ass-kicking. Eric Serra rocks. The pulse-pounding taxicab chase music is not on the soundtrack and it's called 'Alech Taadi' by Khaled from his album N'ssi N'ssi. Apparently. The Diva Plavalaguna's pop-opera or "Pop'ra" as the kids will surely call it in The Future is sublime. 'Little Light of Love' is end credit heaven. Also, perhaps especially, my wife loves it, too. She may not be an alien, but the way she sings makes my heart soar.
Yeah, yeah. I'm sappy. Get over it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Favorite Characters: A Martian Paisan

J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5 was a brilliant and beloved piece of television writing, and picking one favorite character took a bit of thought, since I liked just about everyone on that show. Today, I bring you Michael Garibaldi, station security chief. Jerry Doyle seemed like kind of a Bruce Willis type actor, (I also bet he gets sick of hearing that comparison) in that he's the ideal Ordinary Joe caught up in a difficult situation. His Garibaldi was just right. He's from twenty-third century Mars, but in every way that matters he's an Italian guy from the Bronx. I think Garibaldi wanted to be eveybody's friend, and the universe just kept screwing him over to the point where he developed a crust of paranoia and mistrust. Hands down the easiest human character to like on sight, I just responded to his fierce loyalty, snide sense of humor, and especially his hobbies. He once claimed watching a Duck Dodgers cartoon was his second favorite thing in the universe, and whether he meant TV and popcorn, cartoons, Daffy Duck specifically, or parent company Warner Brothers in general, I find myself in total agreement!
Like everyone on Babylon 5, he endured a lot of crap in the turmoil of his life: betrayal, becoming the betrayer, physical anguish, emotional heartache, yadda yadda bing bing blah. But I never felt like it was overwrought or false. The drama was REAL to me then. I could empathize and relate. Garibaldi wasn't perfect, but he was a hard worker doing a dangerous job in space. He knew how to put in his hours every day, find the right lady, and maybe build a motorcycle for a joyride in the hallways.
I admired him as a joker, a buddy cop, a force for good and justice, and a teetotaller. I was miserable with him when he fell off the wagon. And I was as surprised by how his life story turned out as he would have been. Michael Garibaldi: prime example of the triumph of the human spirit now and in the distant futures of the imagination.
Damn, but I want to watch that series again!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nerd-A-Long: The Romulan War

I finished reading Star Trek: Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing by Michael A. Martin this weekend. Therefore, you should expect a post from Gushy McFanboy. But I just can't muster one.
From the unwieldy title there are three colons, perhaps appropriate to the length of, and patience required to, digest this work.
From the first year of this decade I had looked forward to what the TV series Enterprise might tell me about the enigmatic Earth-Romulan War. The conflict hinted at since 1966's Star Trek episode Balance of Terror had been a topic of much ballyhoo among the nerdlingers of my high school crowd.
When was it? Who was involved? Where did it take place?
This novel answers many of these questions. But with very little in the way of thrills along the way.
It does not have a beginning, per se. I guess you need to have read Martin's 'Kobiyashi Maru'.
It does not have an end, per se. The Romulan War, fans have long believed, lasted four years and this novel covers only summer 2155 to 2156. Although it is rather long and dry, so you might not say 'ONLY' by the end of it.
Again, 'Kobiyashi Maru' may have covered this, but why on God's Grey Earth would ANYONE recruit Trip Tucker as a covert agent? I love Trip, don't get me wrong. But why go to the trouble of faking his death, surgically altering him into a Romulan and inserting his butt behind enemy lines? Weren't there any number of Vulcans or at least TRAINED SOCIOLOGISTS or any one of a million people NOT needed in the war SHIPBUILDING effort? Or, as my friend Kirk suggested, a linguist like Hoshi? With Trip's accent and natural gift for languages he must surely have been noticed seconds into his visit to the capital city of Romulus, strolling down Dartha Avenue snapping holophotos, grinning at everyone, and asking in loud American English whether anyone had any grilled catfish.
And somehow Travis Mayweather survives three starship crashes in this book but anyone with the last name Stiles is apparently under a Romulan curse! Three Stileses are killed in this, the first year of the war. One can only conclude that in Romulan (or Rihannsu, as the case may be) Stiles is the most insulting thing you can say to a guy.
It is not a bad book. I must stress this. Trekkies like myself, especially with a touch of OCD, will not be able to stop appreciating the sheer volume of planet and character name-checks from the various TV series, alien society continuity, series cameo appearances, and date-by-date run down of the progress of interstellar war. With front-line journalists and behind the scenes political intrigue, it seemed like any minute it was going to get exciting.
And I must admit, I loved the character of the 18th Dalai Lama. She seemed to be the only one in the book thinking rationally. But she's only on three pages.
I really, really, REALLY wanted to love this book.
At least I have the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon. When THAT seems simplistic and repetitive I can comfort myself with the 'pchoo-pchoo' sounds and brightly flashing lights.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Favorite Characters: A Lovelorn Loadlifter

This week my subject is the titular character of Disney-Pixar's Wall-E. Quickly rising to the top 10 of my favorite films and remaining there with excellent staying power on many repeat viewings, I cannot gush enough about this movie and Wall-E himself.
I have always been fascinated by fictional robots, and particularly those robots who are eccentric or broken, robots whose initial programming is not their primary focus. It's all very well to have a well-programmed machine that does exactly what its designers intended. In fact, in real life, I think that's probably for the best. Far too many robots who supersede their instructions proceed to run amok on deadly killing sprees. (I'm looking at you, Skynet)
But some robots have wormed their way into my heart by choosing different paths than those they were built to follow. A small, rusting, 700-year-old garbage mashing robot on the environmentally ravaged Earth of 2805, Wall-E is one such beloved character.
He is generally practical, efficient, methodical. He's performed his repetitive task well beyond his design limits (the other Waste Allocation Load Lifters of the Earth class have succumbed to time)
He's steadfast, even brave in his lonely job. He's uncomplaining in his mission to clear the debris of the culture who created and abandoned him. But he's long past the single-mindedness of his early centuries. Like myself, he enjoys collecting and surrounding himself with junk and trinkets. He likes musicals, as I do, or possibly just one musical, I'm not sure. Certainly he likes to dance.
And when the opportunity arises, and a sleek, young, driven new model robot, EVE, arrives in his life he pursues her with the same sense of purpose he had previously poured into his work.
I admire a robot who knows what he wants and goes after it. (again, not talking about you, Skynet).
EVE does not have eyes for WALL-E at first, she is devoted to her own directive, plant detection. But our hero is determined, he does not give up, and, as you may imagine, their purposes intertwine and robot affection is born as a new hope for the planet is kindled.
Golly gosh, oh gee. I swear to God, I'm a real sap sometimes.
Wall-E is a robot short on words, but long on matters of the heart, and I love him, just as I love his ancestors.

If our robots can be kind and loving when they break away from our programming, perhaps our world will be in good pincers when we leave it behind. Or perhaps if we continue in our douchbaggery, they'll just sing over our graves. Either way, I'm glad SOMEONE will be cheerful.
(Thanks to my wife for the picture of Number 5.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lyrics I Live By

At the bookstore where I work we're gearing up for Christmas, and many of us are bracing for the arrival of Christmas MUSIC, which has a 50/50 chance of driving somebody into a clock tower before the season is through. Be that as it may, I am VERY grateful for the ipod my lovely wife gave me, and the 361 songs I have loaded into it. Nothing makes the hours go faster than a personalized list of my favorite stuff, screwball novelty songs being a personal preference.
So, tangentially related, at my work, I spotted a cool book called Music Listography by Lisa Nola of .
It contains many ways to make short playlists of songs you enjoy, more off the beaten path ideas, not simply a rote list of best to worst, or what-have-you.
Thanks to Ms. Nola, I present a topic I enjoyed thinking about, and a list by no means complete:


8. 'Take on the situation but not the torment. You know it's not as bad as it seems.'
- Fleetwood Mac, 'Think About It'

7. 'Here's hoping all the days ahead won't be as bitter as the ones behind you. Be an optimist instead, and somehow happiness will find you.'
- The Kinks, 'Better Things'

6. 'Baby, you should know I am really quite a sweet guy: When I buy you bathroom tissue I always get the two-ply.'
- Weird Al Yankovic, 'Whatever You Like'

5. 'Say what you Mean, Mean what you Think, and Think Anything. WHY NOT?'
- Cat Stevens, 'Can't Keep It In'

4. 'It's time to create. Time to grow if you feel right. The world, yea, she's changing, don't it make you feel alive?'
-The All-American Rejects, 'The Future Has Arrived'

3. 'Three Hams will kill him. Three Hams will kill him. You must not feed him three hams.'
-Thundercles to Brak (instructions on goldfish feeding Brak fails to heed.) 'The Brak Show'

2. 'I'm a little lost, let me find my way. I'm a little dead, let me live. I've been living in the past, let me rise today. Led a selfish life, let me give.'
-Lindsay Buckingham, 'The Right Place To Fade'

1. 'When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love; even if it's not a good idea.'
- Hermes Conrad, 'How Hermes Got His Groove Back', Futurama

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Final Sacrifice

No, not the Mystery Science Theatre 3000-reviewed Canadian film travesty. We will not be talking about the Ziox today. Just a title for my last Legion of Super-Heroes post (this week) to close out my Klordny week.
It's a fun comic, lots of flying about and kissing and fighting. But, the thing is, you don't get to live in a Utopia, (well, probably at all) but certainly not without work, strife, and loss.
And the L.O.S.H. has always understood sacrifice.It's corny of me to admit how moved I was by the willingness of ALL the Legionnaires to risk their own deaths by unproven lightning rod mysticism in an attempt to resurrect their friend Lightning Lad. It's so desperate, so illogical, and so beautifully human.
That image from this '60's story is iconic to the Legion, and it still gets play today.
Pain, Death and Resurrection are constant themes in all superhero comics, and LOSH is no exception.
War between Braal and Imsk left psychological scars on Salu Digby and Rokk Krinn when they were drafted and forced to turn on each other. Color Kid was blinded by the speciesist Justice League of the year 3008. Kid Psycho died in the first Crisis. Lightning Lad tends to lose his arm, the first time to a space whale in a reversal of the Moby Dick story, urging the value of forgiveness over obsession and revenge. Triplicate Girl's extra bodies leave the trauma of their passing on her psyche when they perish.
They wouldn't be heroes if they didn't suffer and die. And (most of the time) unlike other superheroes, they don't come back.


5. Condo 'Chemical King' Arlik- Fate touches all of us, even those with the power to enhance chemical reactions. Thanks to time travel, the reader saw Chemical King's death monument before they saw him join the Legion in the sixties. And sure enough, in a Paul Levitz 1977 comic he perished to stop World War VII, just as his gravestone had said. It didn't matter to me that he was essentially a characterless Star Trek redshirt. That's just chilling, like those poor cyclopses in Krull.

4. Rond 'Green Lantern' Vidar- Son of the villainous world conqueror Universo, Rond was the last Green Lantern of his era. Never a major character, to be sure, but a very noble death from Geoff Johns and George Perez. Died while helping his teammates escape the Legion of Super-Villains, when the petulant Superboy-Prime snapped his neck. Yeeuurrghh. Grisly.

3. Candi 'Monstress' Pyponte-Le Parc III- Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's 'Legion Lost' storyline saw some of the team stranded in distant space. It also cast poor Element Lad back to the dawn of time, which drove him mad primarily from loneliness as he lived all those eons, becoming a tyrant god to an evolving alien culture. Sweet and physically Hulk-like Candi bore the brunt of his wrath, vaporized for no sane reason, leaving only her forlorn shoe.

2. R.J. Brande- Take Uncle Scroouge McDuck and make him richer on a galactic scale, generous backer of the teens who saved his life, and a jovial shapeshifter trapped by illness in human form. There you have long-term financeer, builder of planets, democratic supporter of the United Planets, (and secret father of Chameleon Boy) R.J. Brande. And now we don't. But his assassination on the senate floor in Perez and Johns' 'Legion of Three Worlds' with 'Don't ever quit' and 'Long Live the Legion' on his lips as they reverted in death to the alien body he'd been denied so long in life... Damn. I still can't believe it. I was overcome. And he's a DRAWING! That's damn good writing, right there. That's the power of fantasy to really draw me in.

1. Andrew 'Ferro Lad' Nolan- Although Lightning Lad may have been the first to die, Ferro Lad's was the first death to stick. Andrew was very shy, a mutant with an inhuman face and the ability to turn into living metal (a decade before X-Men's Colossus. The Legion, folks... only the Pulps did it before they did!) It is always easy to be overlooked in a group as big as the LOSH and it must have come as a shock to the readers, as it was a brilliant surprise to me, when Ferro Lad suddenly clocked a weakened Superboy from behind, and took his place on a suicide mission. He carried the bomb into the heart of the Sun-Eater (it's just what it sounds like) and died activating it. He saved Earth and everything else that would have been eaten (i.e. suns.)

It's all a fiction. It's all a lie. But when the lie is told so well... I am still touched. The deaths can be made to seem real to me.
They make me want to embrace my own life, my own WIFE, and eventually (WAY after the year 3000!) face my own death with that kind of courage.

Like Grig said of the fallen in 'The Last Starfighter' "I prefer to think of them as battling evil... in another dimension."


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Love In the Year 3000

As the B-52's put it so well: We're in the spandex spiral vortex now.
I wracked my brains for things that make the Legion of Super-Heroes different, unique or special. And I came up with something I found kind of fascinating. Let's hope you do, too.
There are so many successful romantic pairings among the L.O.S.H. that I'm certain it holds the record for super-groups finding romance in the workplace.
The Justice League? Green Arrow and Black Canary, John Stewart and Vixen. Anyone know any others? I'm gonna say 2 couples.
The Fantastic Four? One couple.
Gen13? One couple. Unless Roxy and Grunge split up or somebody else got together. I haven't read any this century. Gail Simone's writing it... it's probably really good. Ahem. Off-topic.
The Avengers? Zero. Hank and Jan were a disaster. And Wanda and the Vision... oh, dear, no.
The X-Men? Zero. Sure, there's a million hook-ups and break-ups, but nothing sticks. Scott and Jean are hardly a success, nor, sadly, Kitty and Colossus who cannot seem to stay alive at the same time long enough to lock in...
No, sirree, hands down it is the Legion that is the clear winner here. In half an hour of mulling while I should've been working I tabulated 16 couples. And if I bothered to research it I guarantee you I'd find more. So here then,


7. Drake 'Wildfire' Burroughs & Dawnstar- So he's a bodiless energy plasma kept in in human form only by a containment suit. So she's a winged Native American from space who may or may not be gay. Who says they can't make it work? Well, they never exactly have, but damn, if I don't keep rooting for them! It's a freebie, really, as they're constantly together but they're probably not a couple... yet. I'm looking at you, Paul Levitz. By the by, thanks for coming back!

6. Chuck 'Bouncing Boy' Taine & Luornu 'Duo Damsel' Durgo- Every fat guy who fantasizes about the good kind of three-way can see why this (couple? trio?) is here... Yes, (sigh), he's a beach ball and she splits in two, but I first met them as marrieds in Levitz's original run and that's always what they'll be to me. I think they're sweet, not just freaky-deaky.

5. Gim 'Colossal Boy' Allon & Yera 'Chameleon Girl' Allon- Unlike Johnny Storm, this guy knows a good shapeshifter when he marries one, and he knows not to let her get away. Of course, it probably helps that he is 'Colossal Boy'. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.

4. Shvaughn Erin & Jan 'Element Lad' Arrah- The reason I like them so much is a massive spoiler from L.O.S.H. #31, 1992, from Giffen and the Bierbaums. The spoiler is in the last paragraph here. For everybody else, it's a desperate love between a human and the last Trommian, and most importantly it stands the test of time. And maybe even dimensional reboots.

3. Thom 'Star Boy' Kallor & Nura 'Dream Girl' Nal- The bland Superboy rip-off from Xanthu and the flaky precognitive gal from Naltor dated, married, divorced, and, for all I know, got back together before a bad trip (through time) left him stranded and schizophrenic in the twenty-first century. Now, the addled but wonderful Star 'Man' of the Justice Society is on a quest that could well take him back to the future. Does his Dream Girl yet wait for him? Tell us, Geoff Johns!

2. Garth 'Lightning Lad' Ranzz & Imra 'Saturn Girl' Ardeen Ranzz- They rank highly for me because in at least one dimension they married AND reproduced. That's a hell of a feat in comics, as Peter and MJ Parker of the MC2 Universe may attest. Everybody knows you can't keep secrets from your telepathic wife, but there was a secret (spoiled in the sixth paragraph of the link at the end of this sentence) about Garth's long-ago resurrection which sure was an eye-opening surprise to me... Still, I don't mind if SHE doesn't mind. Oh, Proty. And there's a whole other tragedy (and spolier) in what Darkseid did with one of their twin babies...

1. Querl 'Brainiac 5' Dox & Kara 'Supergirl' Zor-El-
The last daughter of Krypton and the descendant of the monster with a hand in destroying it. IS there a better coupling for symbolic happy endings? Well, they're still free agents in most dimensions. But I like them together. Not least because this pairing made possible what I still vote as the best Legion appearance on TV, in 2006's Paul Dini-penned episode of Justice League Unlimited: 'Far From Home'. There have been other Legion cartoons, but so far, that one had the most heart.
L.O.S.H. isn't really a romance comic. There's a lot more attention devoted to prison breaks on planet Takron-Galtos or robot swarm invasions, but when it comes down to it the Legion looks more like a love-in than anywhere else in the capes-and-tights scene. And I'm enough of a softie (or Big Girl's Blouse as it is known overseas) to enjoy that sort of thing more than the fistfights.
As Steven Moffat would have it on 'Doctor Who', there's a whole lot of 'dancing' to be done in this big, wide cosmos of ours.
Or, to put it yet another way using the crudest of sweet sentiments from Kevin Smith, in his deeply romantic Clerks II; "It's called Interspecies Erotica, F@#ko."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Favorite Characters: The Biter from Bismoll

This week being Legion of Super-Heroes week, I'm going to showcase my all-time favorite Legionnaire- Matter-Eater Lad.
I know, I know, but the thing of it is there seems to be an army of M-E Lad fans. Par example, this guy has a fantastic post in support of Tenzil Kem: the 30th Century's answer to Jughead Jones in space. I doubt Jerry Siegel and John Forte suspected what they had unleashed when they added him to the Legion's roster in 1962.
Thanks to a deadly microbe that poisoned the food of planet Bismoll, the inhabitants either evolved over eons or were bioengineered within a thousand years (depending on which reality you prefer) to eat ANYTHING. If it is solid and he can fit it between his harder-than-diamond teeth into his acidic digestive system, Tenzil Kem can devour it. In seemingly limitless quantities.
He apparently takes a lot of flak from people who think this is patently ludicrous.
Which it is.
See how he battled Atlanteans on holiday in Tom & Mary Bierbaum & Adam Hughes' 1993 story:
Tenzil Kem emerged from fevered Silver Age brains and chomped his merry way right into my heart. In a good way.
It is not easy to take Matter-Eater Lad seriously. And, this is critically important: you're not SUPPOSED to.
But what are the objections, after all? His power isn't that good? Frankly, eating ANYTHING is the BEST survival trait of all history. Ask the dinosaurs. Why else be afraid of a T-Rex?
You don't think it's so good on the offense? Ohhh, it's Offensive, all right.
And just think how much money you'd save on groceries if a handful of gravel was as palatable as popcorn!
Plus he can eat Kryptonite. Nuff said.
But really, I just love this guy's attitude. Fun-loving, masticating, skirt-chasing (o.k. so he's not exactly like Jughead) he's the funniest LOSHer and one of the best for morale. He brightened up the generally lackluster LOSH cartoon series for me immeasurably just by being there.
My utter favorite issue for Tenzil is LOSH#11, September 1990, by the Bierbaums, Keith Giffen, and Craig Brasfield. This occurs during a period where things are as bleak for the Legion and their realm as it ever got. Following a terrible interplanetary civil war (where two Legionnaires even fought each other on different sides of a brutal jungle skirmish) Earth's government has grown bloated and fascist, with the caste-obsessed alien Dominators behind the scenes conducting grisly human experiments. The Legion is wounded and scattered. The innocent Tornado Twins are publically executed. There is no hope in sight and month after month every issue was revealing how dark and depraved the future utopia had become.
Along comes Tenzil and he really gets to shine. He's been drafted into his government, hating every minute, and has funnelled his wealth and popularity into what could best be termed an 'Enhanced Reality Show' staring himself in outlandish adventures, as an archeologist, private eye, and well, action-lawyer.

His old Legion buddy Brek 'Polar Boy' Bannin has languished in prison for two years on charges of conspiracy, and Kem gets to free him with his greatest weapon: his mouth. Pleading diplomatic immunity, he becomes Brek's public defender and FILIBUSTERS his way to victory, improvising an air-tight case mostly by accident.
A single life saved, in the middle of all those horrors, and I don't think any other character would have been better suited to RULE that moment. Kem simply flabbergasts everyone and walks out with his friend. When any overt action would've called down swift and terrible reprisals, Matter-Eater Lad bests a lumbering beaurocracy at its own twisted game, at least partly by being Completely Unexpected.
I've read Mark Waid suggesting that one of the best things about being a LOSH fan is feeling like you found a character NO one else knows about. 'No one else loves Shrinking Violet or Element Lad but me.' Or so you get to think.
So for me and all the other M-E Lad fans, wherever you're hiding... ugh, this stuff I'm drinking tastes like old crankcase oil. Is it too much to ask for a pot of FRESH crankcase oil?