Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conan: The Musical

Dan Savage on Straight Male Fear

A brilliant insight.



Bonus:

Another great observation.

I've found the most cathartic massage point


The hip bones right above the butt.

I've been massaging this small spot repeatedly with a variety of results from burping to bowel movement, but it always feels incredible. You can tell its working when unpleasant things want to escape from your body.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Internet videos - the party killer

This is a public service announcement.

I know that internet videos are awesome. They allow our atrophied attention span to view things that are too weird, particular, offensive, or just awesome to show up on TV or in the movies. They make a work day go so much faster and I love to receive them in my mail box.

But there is something that needs to be said and acknowledged:

Internet videos can be a real buzz kill.

We have all been there. We are having a good time at a party or casual get-together and someone says, "Oh, you have to check out this awesome video!" Suddenly time slows down as everyone else in the room start to get anxious. They don't really want to see the video, no matter how awesome or funny, but they don't want to be a dick. Someone gets on the computer and the conversation goes to a dead stop as they try to remember how to find the video on a message board or blog that they frequent. When you finally see the video, you are practicing your phoney appreciation for when he asks you what you've thought. You don't want to make the person feel bad, but two minutes ago you were in a good mood and now that mood is gone.

Don't get me wrong. I've been that guy. I have shown the video that no one appreciated but me. I've also shown videos that amazed people. But its a gamble.

Sometimes what is funny in your cubicle at 11 AM isn't funny around your friends at 9 PM. Sometimes you don't have the objectivity to realize that the video is specific to your interests.

Generally speaking, I'd say it is good advice not to show people internet videos in person. If the thought occurs to you while at a party, e-mail it to them the next day. Chances are it will be much better received.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meditation

I'm looking into meditation as a solution to some of my problems... or at least a relief... I hope.

I used to meditate in my teenage years... when I could find no other way to deal with my feelings. This was before I had done any drugs. When life and my thoughts became too much to handle, I would just concentrate on returning my mind to a blank slate. I was pretty good at it too.

One thing about meditation is that it lets your subconscious loose and before long, you don't know if you are talking to yourself or receiving information from... elsewhere. Call them the voice of God, spirits, or the left hemisphere of the brain... It can get a little weird and intense.

It's funny how such a simple thing as clearing your mind has so many techniques and philosophies attached to it, but I like Swami Vivekananda said:

"Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions. The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists. When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself. To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it. Whatever the soul touches ... it has to take its colour. That is the difficulty. That constitutes the bondage."

Small aggrevations

I wake up every morning in a cold sweat with my pillow soaked. What's with that? Do I have some bad dreams that I can't remember? Is my comforter too warm? Is my pillow drooling?

Also, I have a stress pain in my neck that would have impressed the Spanish inquisition... and they are probably the only ones who could work it out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Archvillains for Wonder Woman

I read an interview today from a director who said that the problem with Wonder Woman is that she has no perfect, recognizable arch-villain. She has no Joker or Lex Luthor. I have said the same thing many times myself, but this leads to the question... who could be or should be Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis? So here is my analysis of some of Wonder Woman's current villains or other villains from the DC universe who might make a good match for her.

First, a few of the best examples from her current rogue's gallery:

Cheetah

Who is she? In her original incarnation, Cheetah was Priscilla Rich, a debutant and socialite who suffered from a deep-seated inferiority complex. After having an emotional breakdown, she starts dressing as a Cheetah and then... I don't know. Steals things? Tries to kill people?

This character was changed in the eighties to Barbara Ann Minerva, a British heiress and archeologist who is ambitious, greedy, and neurotic. She goes to Africa and finds a tribe who worship the cheetah and grant her with "cheetah powers." Whereas the original Cheetah was a woman in a Cheetah costume, the current version is a bit more of a "were-cheetah."

What works? I like the idea of that she is a product of upper-class society. She seems trapped by it and in that way, she is a caged animal, much like a cheetah in a zoo. This idea of domestic captivity in supposed luxury really resonates from a feminist stand point, so I like the original interpretation because it makes Cheetah sympathetic.

What doesn't work? The latter interpretation, by making her greedy and ambitious, she isn't sympathetic. She is just a bitch and there is nothing fun about that. But the big reason why I think Cheetah doesn't make a good arch enemy is because her symbolism does not contrast well with Wonder Woman. As an animal-themed villain, Cheetah seems like she should be fighting some animal-themed hero. As a mythological hero, Wonder Woman seems like she should be matched with a similarly mythic villain.

What could work better? I think the current Barbara Ann Minerva version of Cheetah should be set aside and the Priscilla Rich version should be reintroduced. She has a strong origin in her character, but no one has really explored the causes and unique nature of her psychosis. A delusional woman would make a really good counterpoint to the "spirit of truth." Can even the golden lasso help cure self-delusion? Early Wonder Woman comics had a theme of criminal reform and Cheetah could be the focus to explore that again.

Circe

Who is she? The chick in the Odyssey who turned Homer's crew into pigs. She is an immortal enchantress in the DC universe with a fetish for turning people into animals.

What works? She has a similar theme in common with Wonder Woman in that they are both mythic women of power with connections to the Greek pantheon. Unlike Cheetah, Circe is not deluded but quiet intelligent, so you will often see her as the master planner behind the stage.

What doesn't work? She was ripped wholesale from the Odyssey. There is a big difference between characters who were inspired by historical mythology and those who come straight out of it. Wonder Woman was inspired, but she clearly fits in the superhero world. For me, Thor never quite made the leap into the superhero world, but at least his costume and origin were given a uniquely superhero slant. Circe is just... well, Circe.

What could work better? Basically, Circe just needs more character definition and motivation. I'm imagining a story where she is punished for her hubris by the Gods and loses her powers, then we watch the extraordinary and brutal methods she has of regaining her power. It seems like her character is routed in her need to exert power over people. We've always seen her with power, but it would be more interesting to see how she handles powerlessness. It also works with the themes of submission and domination in Wonder Woman. Maybe we see Circe submit to a dark God or demon, only to usurp their power.

Ares

Who is he? Speaking of dark gods, Ares is the incarnation of war in the Greek pantheon. The original comics didn't clearly distinguish between Greek and Roman gods, so he was originally known as Mars, but in the eighties revamp, Wonder Woman's pantheon was clearly made more traditionally Greek.

What works? As a symbol of war, Ares contrasts Diana's mission of peace. Of course, they also have the commonality of being based in Greek mythology.

What doesn't work? Like I said before, when you just take a character from mythology wholesale, it doesn't work in a superhero context. Ares is the god of war, but what is his motivation? He doesn't need one. He is the incarnation of war. This works for broad metaphorical tales of myth where gods stand for certain ways of living or being. As a symbol of war, Ares is not malevolent, but simply a fact of life. This is the way Greek mythology is interpretted, but superhero confrontations are always about overcoming the enemy. Simple put, you can't just personify war and have Diana beat him into submission because it makes for a very awkward and confusing metaphor; beating war through violence...

What could work better? Again, its tough to say. I think the gods work best when they are not the hero or villain, but rather a state of being that people appeal to. If the gods are scheming, plotting, and then their plots are ruined by the hero, it makes them seem incompetent and less than godly. I think it works better if mortals appeal to the gods for their favor, but then are unable to deal with the consequence. Therefore, it becomes more of a cautionary tale. I don't think Wonder Woman should literally fight Ares. She should hate him, but fighting him is pointless. Her struggle should be with those who beseech him and his power.

Those were the three characters who are currently the contenders for Wonder Woman's arch-nemesis, but here are a few more notable adversaries.

Dr. Psycho

Who is he? Edgar Cizko is a mad dwarf with powers of mind control and an extreme sense of misogyny.

What works? I really like this character. The dwarf (excuse me for not being PC, but I think the word suits this individual character) with wild hair and big eyes seems like he just leaped out of someone's subconscious. As a symbol of misogyny, it also works because he is a small, angry man who feels the need to control women in order to make himself feel powerful. You just position him next to Diana's tall, beautiful, confident Amazonian figure and you can see the self-worth issues radiating off of him.

What doesn't work? The problem with Dr. Psycho is that he just isn't impressive or imposing enough to become a genuine threat to Wonder Woman. In a way, that is good. It allows you to tell the story in a different way, but he is too psychotic to be an intellectual threat to her and too weak to be a physical threat. He works well as an emotional threat, but you need a bit more than that in an arch-nemesis. Furthermore, he is more of a... well, freak than a supervillain.

What could work better? I'd like to see Dr. Psycho as more of a supporting character than an outright villain. I'd love to see him in a more legitimized and untouchable position in Wonder Woman's life so that he is more of a constant threat, much like Lex Luthor is to Superman.

Dr. Poison

Who is she? Originally called Princess Maru (for some reason), Dr. Poison was a fairly simple character whose hooded mask made people mistake her for a man. I'm not sure what the significance of her "crossdressing" was. Probably something about unattractive women gaining power by being more male. Oh, and she poisons people.

What works? The name works and the bondage theme in the outfit really works. The bondage theme calls up associations with the original bondage themes in Wonder Woman. Since it is still not socially acceptable to talk about sexual bondage in mainstream comics, Dr. Poison allows you to explore the psychology of the lifestyle through a villain. The eccentric nature of villains can be useful for exploring complex and uncomfortable ideas. The "poison" aspect of her character makes me imagine her as a frequent drug experimenter, but only with custom designer drugs. It is the extreme nature of this character that really appeals to me.

What doesn't work? She has no other character to speak of. The current incarnation doesn't even have an alter-ego, she is just the granddaughter of the original. The writers haven't really explored her motivation. Her look is frequently haphazard. I don't care for the hideous Joker grin or the black medical scrubs. They seem to be taking the "doctor" part a little too literally.

What could work better? I would go more for the "sexy chemist gone mad" angle. Ben Caldwell did a version of Dr. Poison as a sexy Japanese bondage girl. I'm imagining a story about a brilliant young pharmacologist who likes to take drugs, dress up like a fetish doll, then go cause some trouble. With a little work, this could be a popular spin-off character.

Giganta

Who is she? In the original incarnation, Giganta was a gorilla who was artificially evolved into a beautiful red-headed strongwoman. In the modern incarnation, she was a woman with a blood disease whose mind was put into a gorilla and then later into a woman with size changing powers. Pretty dumb, huh?

What works? The 50 Ft. Woman. Don't ask me why it is a cultural phenomenon, but it is. There is just something incredibly interesting about giant human beings. When it is a giant woman, there is this connotation of a reversal of power that I think we find attractive on a deeply subconscious level.

What doesn't work? The whole origin is dumb... and size changing is a pretty simple trick. There are not a lot of different things you can do with it. Giganta will never be arch-nemesis material, but again, it could work if the audience understands and sympathizes with her more.

What could work better? I would rewrite her origin from scratch. I'm imagining her as a shy, awkward girl whose accidental exposure to something causes her to become powerful, confident, and big. The bigger she gets, the bigger her ego gets and the more entitled she feels. Again, it works because there is strong symbolism there.

I think to find a true arch-villain, it will be necessary to either create a new one (very difficult to do) or appropriate one from elsewhere in the DC universe. Here are a few I would recommend.

Poison Ivy

Who is she? Pamela Isley is a popular Batman villain since the sixties. She is an eco-terrorist with a twisted obsession with plant life. She wants to return the Earth to the control of mother nature. She has no compassion for humans, but is genuinely hurt when witnessing any harm toward plant life... even so much as picking a flower.

Why does she fit Wonder Woman? Like Diana, Poison Ivy is a social activist at heart, but unlike Diana, she lacks compassion and so decends into terrorism. She also has a prominent sexuality including implied lesbianism which should play well against Diana's own sexual ambiguity. Furthermore, her powers over plant life makes her transcend her human roots into virtual godhood. This runs perpendicular to Diana's own arch. Diana is an outsider trying to educate the world while Poison Ivy is an insider corrupted by the world and set to destroy it.

Vandal Savage

Who is he? Vandal Savage was a caveman fifty thousand years ago. After being exposed to a mysterious meteor, he gained superior intellect and immortality. He has since fought to accumulate power and control. He helped to sink Atlantis and formed the Illuminati out of its demise.

Why does he fit Wonder Woman? The main reason is that Vandal Savage is a fantastically imposing character with a rich history, but he doesn't have a heroic counterpart. He was originally created in a Green Lantern comic, but has since appeared in the Justice League, Flash, Superman, and virtually every title. I think it would be the easiest thing in the world to attach him to Wonder Woman. Because he is an ancient, powerful male, he represents and symbolizes patriarchy past and present.

This is the only character I've seen who I can imagine becoming a true arch-nemesis to Diana. Physically, intellectually, and emotionally, he is a challenge to her. He represents something she has been fighting for her entire fictional life... female empowerment versus paternalistic control. Even better, he already has a history and respect within the DC universe, so you wouldn't have to build him up. The only trick would be seamlessly tying him to Wonder Woman in a way that makes him seem like he's always been there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Deadpool movie

So the rumor that hit the web today is that Robert Rodriguez has been offered the chance to direct the Deadpool movie.

I'm not a big fan of Rodriguez. To me, his action is really over the top... so much so that it loses the emotional intensity as it becomes more of a farce.

That said, I am a fan of Deadpool and I am really hoping this happens because those same qualities that I dislike about Rodriquez would work perfectly in a Deadpool film.

The trick will be conveying humor, particularly if Deadpool is faceless. In the comics, his face is hideously scarred, which is why he never takes off the mask. His character's flavor comes from the fact that his insanity is a mixture of genuine humor and genuine horror. He is a psychopath, but he is funny.

I have no strong feelings about Ryan Reynolds, who played the role in the Wolverine film, so if he doesn't reprise the role, it is no big deal. Personally, I'd like to see the role go to a comedian. My pick is Dane Cook.

I don't know if my audience hates Dane Cook or not, but I think he gets a lot of undeserved flack because (A) he is cocky and (B) he is popular with a dumb crowd. I don't think either of these are particularly good reasons. But I think the intensity, physical build, and the emotion in his voice would perfectly suit Marvel's "merc with a mouth."

Then there are a few other things to think about, like who would write it? Tough to say. I'd love to see Joss Whedon write a script, but I could say that about any superhero. Whoever writes it, I hope they pass the script to Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith to add one-liners. Smith could probably write a brilliant Deadpool script, but I don't think he has the balls to commit to it.

What about the plot? There aren't any legendary Deadpool plots upon which to base a story. It would probably loosely follow Joe Kelly's run where he lives with a cranky old blind woman named Al who is his hostage and a computer geek named Weasel as his backup/weapons designer.

But every Hollywood movie needs a villain and a love interest... For the love interest, I would go with the shapeshifter, Copycat. One of my favorite things about their relationship in the comics is that Deadpool would have her shapeshift into superheroines in order to live out his depraved fantasies.

For villain... I don't know. You might want to go with an old Wolverine villain like Omega Red. I doubt they are going to do a movie about him and you could say he was a Russian super-soldier who went into the mafia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Tie it into Weapon X somehow. Maybe there is some sort of... competition between these super-soldier assassins and they are all out to kill one another. That could be fun. A lot of cameos, colorful characters, and little explanation necessary.

Just food for thought.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oh god, I figured it out

Do you remember that post I made about X-Men day and the new X-Men title and how it is all about vampires versus mutants and made absolutely no sense? I called it "Fuck you very much, Marvel Comics?"

I thought this was just a result of a serious ether binge or someone's cousin was made an editor.

Well, it gets more retarded than I could have possibly imagined.

Marvel Comics is trying to cash in on Twilight mania with a "vampire epic."

I can't even stand to read the article. It is making me sick. Why? Because this kind of shit becomes continuity and it makes the title even more inaccessible than it already is.

My favorite line from scanning the article:

"We wanted Dracula to be cool. We wanted Dracula to be bad ass and not sort of rehash the same old thing. We wanted to preserve the 'vampire-ness' at the core that is Dracula but still give him a good, hip, cool, bad ass look."

I repeat: Fuck you very much.

Great Artists Have Trouble Selling Out

Mark Millar has a new comic coming out that has almost certainly already been optioned as a movie. I can't remember the name of it.

I used to love Mark Millar. I first came to his work when he replaced Warren Ellis on The Authority and I actually thought he had surpassed Ellis. I followed him onto Ultimate X-Men where he had an awkward, but creative run. However, his best work was probably The Ultimates. Even so, I followed his smaller creative owned work like Chosen, which was an... ironic but genuine telling of the second coming of Christ. (I'm being intentionally vague. Its one of those stories like The Sixth Sense that is ruined if you know what it is really about.)

He also did another comic at the same time called Wanted. It was an incredibly graphic and brutal depiction of a man joining a league of supervillains who have been running the world secretly for years. I never saw the movie because when I found out they were a guild of assassins rather than supervillains... well, to me the "cool factor" just plummeted.

Nowadays, Mark Millar is releasing creator-owned comics as fast as possible and marketing them even faster. The movie Kick-Ass was in production before the first comic was released. In order to keep his profile high and continue his working relationship with Marvel (who have extensive ties to Hollywood), Millar has continued to write stories within the Marvel universe, but they are increasingly shallow.

If you haven't read my review of Marvel's Civil War, check it out, but in a nutshell, Millar wrote a major Marvel crossover based on real life political issues then totally chickened out by stacking the deck and having an ending that didn't resolve anything. His recent Ultimate Avengers started with an introduction of the Red Skull as Steve Roger's illegitimate terrorist son... which to me signals that he no longer wants to expose themes that have worked for decades and instead wants to indulge his own ego. That's a perfectly fine choice for a writer, but he lost me as a fan in the process.

It made me think of some of my favorite comic artists and how difficult it is for them to sell out... like Grant Morrison or Sam Keith or Alan Moore or Terry Moore. Of those, only Alan Moore has had his comics adapted to film and this was done without his approval or consent.

But my very favorite artists write specifically for the medium they are in. By that, I don't just mean that they write dialog, characters, and a story that use the strengths of sequential storytelling (and they do), but more than that, the material is geared to a particular audience that is both child-like and mature. Comic fans indulge in fantasy escapism, but we also become accustomed to incredibly complex and meaningful symbolism. The more comics engage us on this level, the more complex future comics are libel to become. It is the inflation of expectations.

Now, I don't particularly want these artists to sell out. I just want them to be well compensated for work that I think is more deserving than whatever masturbatory adolescent fantasy Mark Millar has managed to crank out this month. I mean, I can't imagine any Sam Keith comic that would adapt well into a live action film, although I would love to see some short animated films based on his work.

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe the mainstream hasn't caught up to the maturity of comics. They think animation is for children despite brilliant adult works works such as AKIRA, Fantasia, or The Triplets of Belleville. They also think big expensive blockbusters work best when they are geared toward a teenage audience that they treat with contempt.

I'd love to see a live action Invisibles movie (preferably set in the '90s because I think the fashion was period specific), but I honestly think the biggest impediment to that is Lord Fanny, the transsexual shaman. Hollywood can't include that character without the risk of alienating teenage males who are insecure about their sexuality... and they can't exclude her without alienating fans of the comic. It's a form of discrimination normalized by corporate greed.

Like I suggested in my previous post, I think TV is a better place for comics because they aren't trying to put everything in a two-hour "sink or swim" film. They are trying to keep people watching and encourage more people to watch, so the material is richer and more organic.

How about a Strangers in Paradise HBO series? I would pirate that in a heart-beat.

Its hard for a real artist to sell out. There are reasons why many of the best artists died poor. They had true talent. The kind of talent that cannot be easily marketed or reproduced in other media.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

MC Chris

Just watching some MC Chris videos on YouTube today.











Props for the Gen13 and Danger Girl references... even though Danger Girl sucked.