Monday, September 23, 2013

The Hugos: Redshirts

Over the past two years, I split my blogging self in two like those darn urSkeks in The Dark Crystal

One half contributed (barely) to THIS blog, falling impossibly behind in Hugo Award reviews and disturbing insights on Robot Porn (or whatever it is I do here) while the other half devoted every single day to a certain Paramount Pictures sci-fi property which this summer celebrated its 47th anniversary and highly profitable 12th motion picture.

That selfsame SF property is very much at the heart of the 2012 novel which won the 2013 Hugo: Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas by John Scalzi. As just about everyone already knows, "Redshirt" is a jesting term for the poor devils in Starfleet security who so often find themselves stuck halfway down the business end of an acidic space amoeba.

In the 25th century, Andy Dahl learns a little too much about the life expectancy for those of low rank aboard the space cruiser Intrepid. Dahl and his new friends live in terror of the day their number will be called up for an exciting away mission alongside the handsome, impossibly lucky bridge officers. But it is when they resolve to do more than cower- when they actually seek the source of their tribulation- that the real adventure begins.

Redshirts was my favourite book of 2012. Hands down. 5 stars out of 5. I read it twice as fast as my usual speed, and resolved to find more stories by this author post-hence. His Old Man's War series is really fantastic, as my good chum Bookmonkey will attest. And realized the author'd been one of the minds behind the blink and you already missed it Stargate Universe I was enjoying. But I imagine Mr. Scalzi found the Hugo more rewarding than any of my thumbs up.

As a distant relative of John Wilkes Booth, John Scalzi is therefore distantly related to fictional FBI Agent Seeley Booth from Bones! You would certainly benefit immeasurably by contemplating his insightful blog Whatever or becoming one of his 52,700 stalkers on Twitter!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Half-Assed Musings: Gender Roles in The Dark Crystal

You probably don't care that 'The Dark Crystal' lately re-ranked as my 26th favourite movie, or that something different strikes me about it with each viewing. NONETHELESS!

A case can be made that the Skeksis and the Mystics symbolize the state and the church, respectively. All male, few in number, with either bad intentions dulled by selfishness or good wishes blunted by non-interference. When they have an impact, is it usually for the WORST!

The Mystics ARE peaceful, gentle, kind, well-meaning, sure. But it must be noted that 999 trine and 1 trine of virtual inactivity is not terribly helpful. Whatever magic they weave has not stopped the Gelfling Genocide, just for an example.

Looking up from their navel-gazing long enough to raise Jen, the last male Gelfling, the Mystics imparted to the boy three useful things: writing, music, and a sense of peaceful contemplation. Jen is otherwise totally ill-equipped to function outside of his valley! He has no understanding of his mission beyond what is laid directly in his path, an unfortunate side effect of a culture that respects self-worth more than any actual achievement. The most you can say in praise of Jen is the most you can say in praise of his guardians: they're not actively making things worse...

The Podlings who have suffered the most under Skesis misrule (unless you count all the roast nebrie) have managed to instill greater pragmatism, natural skill, bravery and gumption in the only surviving FEMALE Gelfling, Kira. Which is a good thing, because it is all too easy to imagine Jen without Kira: falling down over his own feet and never getting up again, let alone saving the world.

It is Kira who provides insight, transportation, trip planning, and saves herself from the essence-draining dungeon. It's a good thing the only phrase of Podling Jen knows is 'Thank You'.

Also, Thank You is more than Aughra gets, even though it is her study, foresight, and talisman-preservation skills that saved a fair chunk of the day. These ladies are the sort of thing TV TROPES refers to as 'Positive Discrimination'.

It is time and past time for Kiras and Aughras to set the standard as leaders. As our patriarchy crumbles or fades, either moving on to higher pursuits in another dimension or screeching and clutching their symbols of office on their filthy deathbeds, the time of the Great Conjunction has come. Change is here, and if you don't have wings like a girl you better know a pair or grow a pair.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Perfect Panel Project #4

One of those things I should have gotten around to telling you about LONG ago is
JL8 by Yale Stewart. My friend and co-worker Tessa actually introduced me to this webcomic two Augusts ago! Sorry. I've been a bit monomaniacal lately.

JL8 (rumoured to have been renamed from Little League not because of objections from DC Comics but because of objections from the baseball people) follows the amazing everyday adventures of grade-school superheroes and the social awkwardness they endure and friendships they grow together.

There are 142 strips to date. Each is to be treasured, if you ask me. The author is one talented chap! Mr. Stewart has several years of contributions posted to the website deviantART. He also owns a comic called 'Gifted' which you now know as much about as I do, because I only just heard of it right now while doing my usual spotty research.

In the final panel of the 108th JL8 strip, Diana gets fed up with the antics of the pre-tween Dark Knight. Her ire, while understandable, is of course, rather unfair. Lil' Bruce is acting up in a desperate attempt to spare the feelings of almost everyone at the Amazon's party. Bruce's BFF Clark has a crush on Diana, while Diana's BFF Kara secretly loves Clark! The Bat Boy hurriedly advises the Boy of Steel to forgo the gift of a flattering 'Wonder Girl' story Clark wrote for Diana on the advice of comics guru Neil Gaiman. Complicating matters is the BatLad's own burgeoning affection for Kara...

Got all that? Well, read it, I say! Skillfully illustrated, touchingly written, with multidimensional playgrounds of heart and humour. I recently laughed my butt off at a cameo appearance from naughty Booster Gold and Blue Beetle making a run for it when caught firing spitballs. It's nonsense, but it's totally in character, too. Not to be missed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Move Review: Robocop Trilogy on Blu-Ray

Just in time, too! Nothing like an up-to-the minute movie review, and this is nothing like an up-to-the minute movie review. I probably owe you, my beloved followers, an apology for abandoning this blog for so long...

Then again, being Robocop means never having to say you're sorry!

This weekend when my sweet wife was away overnight I dug into my newest Blu-Ray acquisitions and re-watched the 1987 Paul Verhoeven-directed, Ed Neumeier-penned original film of corporate greed, urban decay, and a horrifying war machine that can't negotiate stairs.

Robocop is still my 22nd favourite movie, and hero in crisis Peter Weller is really great at this biz called show! A trio of baddies from Miguel Ferrer, Ronny Cox, and Kurtwood Smith are, by turns, smarmy, corporate cutthroat, and literally cutthroat. Upright cop Alex Murphy is shot into chunks by gangsters in what is either 1992 or 2044 Detroit. Soulless corporate giant Omni Consumer Products resurrects Murphy as a gunmetal cyborg with a heart. A Nissan heart! When a man is reduced to a few pounds of internal organs and most of a face to suck baby food through, what is left to make him a man? Find out with plenty of bullets, car chases, and fiery explosions!
The next day I re-watched Robocop 2, written by Frank 'Sin City' Miller and directed by Irvin 'Empire Strikes Back' Kershner. Which isn't quite as good but which DOES have John 'Daniel Clamp' Glover hawking a car security system that murders thieves but doesn't drain your battery! Both sequels rely a little too heavily on child actors, which especially in R-rated Robocop 2 is a head-scratcher. But I must grudgingly admit that Robo's SFX battles with the drug-addled messianic/maniac cyborg Cain are technically superior to the first film's ED 209 FX.  But when it comes to ED, you never forget your first murderously malfunctioning enforcement drone.

Finally I re-watched Robocop 3, which has Steven 'Macho Business Donkey Wrestler' Root and CCH 'Amanda Waller' Pounder (I think she pronounces it "ccch"?) as freedom fighters, a little girl hacker moppet, and Josh 'Bradley Whitford' Lyman pre-West Wing. In which that pesky partner Anne 'Nancy Allen from Carrie' Lewis dies a contractually-obligated death in a Frank Miller-obligated church. Also it has ninja androids and a jet pack. (For some- a deal breaker. For me- the whole point.)

Since the returns do diminish sharply, I'd prefer to think of this purchase as $15 for the first movie, $7 for the second, and... Robocop 3... "Well, I'll buy THAT for a Dollar!" Although 3's director Fred Dekker DID bring me Night of The Creeps and some Star Trek Enterprise, so he's o.k. in my book.

I'll probably look up the cheesy TV series and cheesier cartoon, all in preparation for a 2014 re-boot that will almost certainly fail to please and will very probably be the re-make equivalent of a two-hour kicking of my ball sack. (That new black suit really stinks.)