Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Geek Syllabus and Test


For reasons unknown to me, one of our younger kids at work, a punk rock sort of kid, who finds my permanently raised geek flag both sad and amusing, is curious about the weekly game night hosted at our house. Not in playing, really - but observing what a geek does with his or her spare time. I told her today that she can only visit the stately Wickett manor after certain criteria have been met. To infiltrate our geek ranks, she must become like us.

Indoctrinating someone of the "Hot Topic" generation is a daunting challenge, to be sure - but I look at it this way: either I convert her to geekdom, or I torture her with hours of Star Trek and D&D. Either way, I will have achieved something.

Keep in mind this is only a rough draft of my plans. Please leave comments and suggestions so we can turn this kid to the good side of the Force.

* * * * *


* Read The Hobbit.

* Watch 5 original Star Trek episodes (Space Seed mandatory), then watch Star Trek 2, 3, 4, and 6 (1 and 5 optional).

* Watch any two Mystery Science Theater 3,000 episodes.

* Watch all three Evil Dead films.

* Watch the original Star Wars trilogy (prequel trilogy optional).

* Watch Blazzing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History of the World: Part I, and Spaceballs.

* Read 4th Edition Player's Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons, then create a character unaided.

* Watch Alien and Blade Runner for Ridley Scott. Aliens and Terminator 2 for James Cameron.

* * * *

Geek Test:

1) According to Gandalf the Grey, wizards are:

a) subtle
b) usually pantless
c) quick to anger
d) a and b
e) a and c

2) Name the three standard lightsaber colors. (Bonus question: What color is Mace Windu's lightsaber?)

3) Who - or what - are more than meets the eye?

4) Name the nine "classic" D&D alignments.

5) Fill in the blank: "He's dead, _______."

6) What is the life span of the Nexus 6 android?

7) Do Tauntauns smell better on the outside or the inside?

8) What kind of scenario is the Kobayashi Maru? Who is the only person to beat it? How did he or she accomplish this?

9) At what speed does one successfully "go to plaid"?

10) In a hundred words or less, please explain who is the better starship captain: Kirk or Picard?

* * * *

Send me your thoughts, people.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Clone Wars (Season 1 Recap)


I planned on chronicling one Star Wars fan's highs and lows (especially the lows - face it, the highs aren't funny), with thoughts on each episode of the first season of The Clone Wars. I stopped about two-thirds into the season. Here's what happened:

The week after The Hidden Enemy came out, I had nothing interesting to say about the show. I meant to get around to it, since I liked the episode - but then came the Blue Shadow Virus episodes, which were so amazingly, appallingly bad (even worse than the Clone Wars movie) that I just gave up - not on the show, but spending the time to talk about it. Frankly, I had better things to do.

So here's a very, very quick rant on the end of Season 1:

The season ended decently enough, with only The Hidden Enemy matching the quality of Rookies, Lair of Grievous, or Trespass - the show's best episodes to date. The Ryloth were too disconnected to ever build much momentum, though the action scenes still delivered in that way that only Star Wars can. And the final episode, Hostage Crisis, introduced new characters and a new level of carnage, but then everything circled the bowl when Ziro the Hutt (*) showed up for what seems to be the required annoying character with lame jokes section of the story.

I'll be back for Season 2. I never judge a sci-fi show by its first season. And, hey, I'm that kind of Star Wars fan. I haven't decided whether I'll take the time to post about it, though. That will depend on the quality of the episodes. It'll have to get a lot better or a lot worse to make it worth my time.

* When I heard about the character last summer, I was actually amused by the idea. I never thought of the character as gay (pondering the sexual mechanics/practices of fictional aliens is not something I do with my leisure time - unless I'm posting fan fiction erotica on Livejournal). I just thought he would look like a normal Hutt with a more "Capote-ish" face and voice. Instead, he looked like a tarted-up, two galactic credit Hutt whore.

I should have remembered before seeing the film that Star Wars + Humor - Harrison Ford = fall flat on face. It's not that the character sounds like Capote or is "gay." He's quite literally the Queen of All Gay Slug Stereotypes.

Even worse, he's just not funny.

Now if Mr. Bane had shown up to kill him... That might have made the whole Clone Wars movie worth it.

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (March 27th - March 29th)


Been a slow two weeks. Had family and friends come into town - and it was the wife's birthday this week. So, for the sake of staying in good standing with friends, family, and wives, I decided not to spend all day, every day in my office this week. Though, it must be said, I felt the call all week.

Nothing new on comic script. Only two pages have been added to the screenplay since last posting two weeks ago (I know, I know - I suck). Some solid revisions were done - and, more importantly, one crucial piece of exposition was finally wedged into the story, which has been absent until now because I couldn't get it into the story without the pace of the story coming to a crashing halt. It was actually quite easy, once I saw how do it - merely requiring the tweaking of two different lines in two different scenes. I think it fits naturally enough that it won't stick out as forced exposition.

TV and MOVIES: Nothing planned. Don't have much free time this weekend.

GAMES: Hope to get in some Team Fortress 2 this weekend. It's been a while since I've played the game, and I've logged in about three hours or so this week. Haven't toyed with the Scout much - since the class is still being used too much. This week, I choose to work on my Heavy and Demoman skills. I'm pretty good with the former, decent with the latter - but my performance with both classes still need improvement.

The wife got Super Mario Galaxy and the Wii Mario Kart for her birthday - so most of my gaming this weekend will be with her.

BOOKS: 500 pages into Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell...out of 1,008. Right now, I feel like I will never finish this book. Still enjoying it, though.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Battlestar Galactica (The Original Show and The Wife)


Hey, sorry it's been awhile. Work, writing, Team Fortress 2, and the sudden - and quite unexpected - reemergence of a social life were all contributing factors. I ain't got much today, but I wanted to tell you a brief but quite awesome story about the wife.

I was doing some zen browsing through Netflix's "watch instantly" service on Tuesday and settled on the original Battlestar Galactica - which I had not seen since the early 80's. It was pretty awesome.

Not the show, though, I'm sad to say. The effects actually hold up pretty well, but the writing does not. It's just good enough that I'm going to give it a few more episodes - if, for nothing else, nostalgia's sake.

Anyway, the wife walked in halfway through the first episode, gave me the sour milk face (nothing new there), and then saw that Jane Seymour was in the original TV movie. This, for some reason, made her angry. Very angry. She decried the very idea that Jane Seymour would "slum it on a show like this" and commenced to berate me about her career choices as if it was my fault.

A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sci-Fi to become Syfy


Spent a few minutes this morning trying to think up a joke about this one - then I realized that the new name does a good enough job by itself. It doesn't need my help.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watchmen (Part II)


Last time, I talked about sections of the film that could've been deleted or trimmed to make a more complete film. Some of these scenes were important, but I was thinking of how they work in the theatrical cut, not the "definitive" version that will be released on DVD later this year.

The run time of this film, two hours and 43 minutes, is an odd choice, especially when you consider that, on a movie this big, the credits will eat somewhere between 5-10 minutes of the film. But I imagine this length was decided by the studio to guarantee an additional showing of the film each day on each screen, in an attempt to make more money. I find that notion to be ridiculous and short-sighted, since a more complete, rewarding film would have produced better word of mouth which would have produced better box office returns after the first week. It certainly worked for Titanic and The Lord of the Rings.

A film clocking in at right about three hours (with credits) seems like the perfect length to me. So here's what I would have included to make a longer, more complete film.

Hollis Mason: Either remove him completely or keep him in the movie until his death. His death by the knot-tops is, to me, a vital element of the story, because it's the most painful example of how the superheroes' actions - both good and bad - affect the innocent on a day to day level, something missing entirely from the film shown in theaters.

It would be impossible to wedge in all the domestic squabbles of the characters around the newspaper stand into a film adaptation, but keeping Hollis Mason's tragic ending would represent this small but vital element of the comic series effectively.

Detectives Fine and Bourquin: The two only make it into the film for one scene, and the film works fine without them. But their section of the story makes an effective argument for why the world might have been a better place without any "masks" in it. And during the lead up to the climax in New York City, Detective Fine, who is suspended from the force, decides to break up a fight on the street even though it could get him into more trouble with his superiors. He decides to do this for one reason: it is the right thing to do.

It's a small but important element, and the omission of it completely changes the tone of the story. It certainly doesn't make Watchmen an upbeat story, but the fact that several characters like Fine and Dr. Long spend the last moments of their lives doing something decent and selfless makes for a far richer story - with at least a glimmer of hope. And that is what separates Watchmen from almost all of the "dark" comics that've been released in its wake. Any glimmer of hope or decency is lost in Snyder's adaptation.

The First Bar Scene: Shortly after The Comedian's death, Rorschach goes to a local dive, seen late in the movie for one scene, to muscle some information out of the goon's that frequent the joint about Blake's murder - most of whom are terrified of him. That first scene, where Rorschach breaks some fingers, isn't needed, but the whole joke of the entire bar turning to the one hood who has information on the "mask killer" late in the movie is almost completely wasted without this first scene.

More Moloch: Two of Moloch's three scenes make into the film. I can't think of a better actor for the part than Matt Frewer, and it's a shame that his other scene didn't make it into the film. The movie works fine without it, but his scenes with Rorschach were some of the most interesting moments of the original story

* * * *

One more rant coming... maybe.

End of line.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (March 13th - March 15th)


WRITING: An odd week, to be sure. Not a single word added to the B.F.R. comic, which was pretty much writing itself last week. Hitting a wall there, I turned my attention back to the screenplay. I don't know why, but the script on the new version of Celtx weighed in at 54 pages, eight pages less than the previous version. That was actually a comfort, since 60 pages should just about equal the halfway point, and I'd say the story itself is only about a third of the way done.

Finished a long scene and started another long one. Was at 63 pages, and spent most of this morning trimming the fat from the scene descriptions, which were far too dense and detailed. Back down to 61 pages. Like to get it to 70 by next Friday and/or finish the first draft of the first issue of the comic.

TV and MOVIES: Still got Love Liza and the two horrors movies from last week, Dog Soldiers and The Zombie Diaries, to watch. If I get time, I'm going to watch the first episode of Castle, which I will be watching just for Nathan Fillion. Watched Absolute Power and True Crime this week, two Clint Eastwood movies I'd never seen. Both were pretty good, predictable thrillers. Both routine stories were elevated by Eastwood's direction and amazing casts. Loved Ed Harris in Absolute Power and James Woods in True Crime. And both films really show what Clint Eastwood can do as an actor.

GAMES: Picked up Street Fighter IV and started the challenges. Only played an hour or two so far, but being a Street Fighter novice, I'm getting my ass handed to me every time. It's good enough that I have no regrets buying it - but it's no Soul Caliber, either.

BOOKS: Absolutely amazing week for graphic novels at work. The Complete Persepolis, Marvel Zombies 2, The Injustice League, and The Goon: Vol. 1 came in. Starting with The Injustice League, 'cause that's the only one I didn't buy. It fits snugly in a larger continuity that I'm not familiar with, not being that big a DC fan (Batman being the obvious exception), but looks to be fun. Starting it later today.

100 pages into Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I started listening to the unabridged audio version on a road trip two years ago, but after almost 20 hours on the road, round-trip, I was only halfway through this very long novel. Never finished it because I didn't want to just listen to it around the house, nor did I want to start reading it after listening to first half. Weird, maybe - but I either want to read the whole thing or listen to the whole thing.

Right now, I'm devouring the book, even though I know this section of the story. I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the best novels that I have ever read. I usually don't go for English social comedies set in high society in the early 19th century, but you add magic to that and, suddenly, I can get behind it - going as far as to say aloud when reading, "Oh, you didn't just reject a party invitation for Mrs. Goodbridge. You just don't that, dumbass."

* * *

That's it, people. Stay warm and go see Watchmen if you haven't already.

End of line.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen (Part I)


Finally got to see it last night, once I recovered from this damned sinus infection.

What did I think of the film? Well, to borrow a word - well, a grunt - from Watchman's Rorschach: hurm.

To say it's a bad film would be untrue, but the theatrical cut is messy and flawed, and Zack Snyder's vision (not to mention tweaks) of Moore & Gibbon's story is brutal, uncompromising, and often frustrating. He proves to be alternately both completely right and completely wrong for the material, depending on which character and/or plot line he's following.

Judging from the articles and interviews I've read about the film, Snyder seems to view the theatrical cut as something he has to put up with until the full film - including The Black Freighter story, the theatrical cut's most welcome omission - can be released on DVD.

I've got nothing against extended cuts. I haven't watched or missed the theatrical cuts of The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Wrath of Kahn, or Hellboy since the extended versions came out on DVD. But every one of those films, as released in theaters, told a complete story - something this movie fails to do.

Nor do I have a problem with adapted screenplays changing or streamlining the source material. The problem with the current cut of Watchmen is not that too much was omitted, but that the wrong things were cut or left in.

Let me go through a quick list of where the movie stumbles, merely from an adaptation standpoint, starting with scenes and characters that should have been cut or received less screen time.

The opening fight: Awesome. I'll give Snyder one thing: he can film a fight. He uses angles wide enough to take in the action and holds on an image long enough to comprehend it. It's astonishing how rare that is these days. But the exposition before the fight and the fight itself could have been half the length and still retained the same power.

The opening credits: Best part of the movie. It's actually the perfect length, with the one of the few music cues that work. But it was just so awesome that it deserves some praise. It has the single best image in the movie: Silhouette grabbing a random woman in the streets of New York during a WWII victory celebration and kissing her, recreating one of the most famous pictures from the era. Fucking brilliant, that was.

Hollis Mason: In the theatrical cut, he exists for one purpose: to introduce the second Nite Owl, the Keene Act, and Richard Nixon. He could have been excised from the story entirely, since all of those elements are presented in subsequent scenes. It would be a painful cut, since the two Nite Owls were my favorite characters in the graphic novel (I identify with boy scouts - go figure), but if the filmmakers aren't going to complete his story, then he shouldn't be in the film.

The scene could have started with Dreiberg saying a quick goodbye to Mason and leaving his garage - as a quick shout-out to fans - and heading directly back to his home and a confrontation with Rorschach.

The Comedian and the Pregnant Vietnamese Woman: Another hard cut. It's an ugly scene (not meant as criticism - just what it is), but one of the most powerful moments in the original story. But the two important beats in the scene - how much of a bastard the Comedian is, how Dr. Manhattan is losing touch with humanity - are established in other scenes. The attempted rape of Sally Jupiter and, you know, assassinating John F. Kennedy clearly establishes The Comedian as someone you wouldn't want to have milk and cookies with.

Drieberg's "What Happened to the American Dream?" Line: Wow, that one was almost as bad as Darth Vader's "NNNNOOOO!!!!" (which, to be slightly off topic, didn't stick in my craw the same way it stuck in the craws of others). It's a scene that needs to be in the film, but the final version is so awful that it needed to be cut, trimmed, or re-shot.

Ozymandias's Alexander the Great Speech: Almost every mistake that Snyder and company make in adapting Watchmen involves Ozymandias. Between Matthew Goode's "I need to see your papers" accent, his constant menacing stare, and moving the Alexander the Great speech to the first half of the movie, the character now screams "Villain!" in a way he did not in the graphic novel. Here, he comes off like a classic Bond villain instead of a tragic character who is willing to do evil things for the good of humanity (if you choose to see it that way). The speech could have been removed entirely with nothing lost and a lot gained.

Rorschach's Origin Story: I knew there wasn't time for the full origin story, but this section doesn't feel right, even though the writers cleverly condense the emergence of the full Rorschach personality while keeping Alan Moore's original dialog. In the film this sequence comes at a point in the movie when the very last thing that's needed is another flashback.

Personally, I wouldn't have even told his origin story, only keeping the first half of the scene where Rorschach lies to the psychiatrist about the images he sees in the ink blots, cutting each time to what he really sees. We would get the gist of his origin (the trauma of his childhood and the psychological toll of looking evil straight in the eye) through just a sequence of images. Also, it would further illustrate that Rorschach will not compromise his integrity no matter the personal risk, an important beat to establish for the end of the film.

Bubastis: I imagine this is the only complete "what the fuck?" moment for those unfamiliar with the source material. In the theatrical cut, the creature serves no purpose, except maybe to show what Ozymandias is willing to sacrifice for his beliefs - which doesn't work, because there's no established emotional connection between the two. The character's other function is to foreshadow the graphic novel's big-ass squid, which isn't even in the film. So why keep it in?

Also, it's pointless CG, which must have cost a shitload of money with absolutely nothing gained. I'm sure the character will have a proper introduction in the extended cut. This is the worst example of the "oh hell, it'll make it to the DVD" mentality that runs through the entire movie.

Way Too Much Nixon: Seriously, what the fuck is up with Nixon in this movie? I can't imagine any way for this character to have been more miscast, for the makeup to be any more cheesy, and for it to generate any more unintended laughs. Even in the comic book, Moore and Gibbons wisely kept him in shadow or in profile, to help keep the idea of Nixon in his fifth term as something you could see as both deathly serious and darkly humorous.

Like the "American dream" bit, trimming, deleting, or redoing the Nixon bits would've made a stronger film. Nixon in his fifth term is a joke...but it's very, very scary joke. And it's not in the least bit scary here.

* * * *

Done with this rant for now. More coming soon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (March 6th - March 8th)


WRITING: I've been updating less and less these days. Three reasons why:

1) All the kick-ass games that came out last month.

2) Stupid, stressful events at work. (I know, I know: boo-hoo. What with having a job these days - and a pretty good one, to boot.)

3) The scripts are coming along.

There are some things I've wanted to write about here, but the scripts come first. And I've decided to add updates on the scripts as part of this weekly post.

Still stalled on the screenplay, which is at 64 pages (the average screenplay is around 120 pages). It's a fusion of genres that I love, but the two genres mix about as well as oil and water when it comes to pace. Frankly, I still don't have a final act for this story that I like. It is, in part, a horror story. And very few horror stories that start strong end strong. I don't want to blow the ending. I've come up with a few ideas, but none of them are right. Not yet. Wrote half a scene that I liked this week, but it's a bit further along in the story. It's the first time I allowed myself to do this since starting this script last summer (I don't like writing things out of order - don't know why), but the idea came to me fully formed on Tuesday. The scene is half finished, but it's a nice little intimate scene between two characters. Don't have an ending for it. Endings seem to be in short supply with this story.

Started a new script for an original comic miniseries. Tentative title: Big F***ing Robots! Halfway through the first draft of the first issue, with 13 of 25 pages scripted. Probably turn out to be around six or seven issues long. Frankly, I have no idea where the story is going, but it's intended solely to entertain. Lots of big robots, lots of action, lots of humor - the exact kind of story I would have wanted at fourteen, when I thought there was nothing better in this world than Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Army of Darkness. This one is supposed to be fun, for me to write and for audiences to (hopefully) read. Anyone know any artists or how to break into the comic book industry?

TV and MOVIES: Look forward to the second episode in The Clone War's "Ryloth" trilogy, especially since I think we're free of the tyranny of Ahsoka - at least in large quantities - for the rest of the season. Could be fun.

Have The Forbidden Kingdom, Dog Soldiers, The Zombie Diaries, and Love Liza checked out from work. Will probably knock out one or two of those this weekend. Once again, that's an eclectic mix - but eclectic is how I roll, baby...

Watchman on Sunday. Still more intrigued than outright excited - but the buzz from friends and critics has been positive, with minor to moderate complaints. Probably post some thoughts on it early next week. Let everyone have a few days to see it and digest it.

GAMES: Going to go easy on the games this week. Burned out from all the marathon sessions of The Lost and the Damned and Dawn of War II in the last two weeks. Probably do a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 if people have quit being retarded with their achievement whoring. I'm not kidding when I say that, for the first few days after the Scout update debuted, half the players on a server were playing as a Scout, without any knowledge of how to play the class or desire to play the game with the team's goals at heart. Very frustrating. But it should be back to normal soon.

Lousy goddamn achievement whores...

BOOKS: Finished The Big Sleep last week. Almost put it down in the middle, due to a very ugly scene involving Philip Marlowe doing some gay-bashing, both literally and figuratively. I stuck with it, enjoyed the book, but that bit did sour the experience. Started Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Halfway through, and I don't think I'm going to finish it. Not a fan of Dick's prose and the story is nearly impossible to follow in several key bits.

Going to finish Watchmen before Sunday, before I see the film and so I can pass it along to my brother. Don't know what I'll read after that. I'll have to do some zen browsing through my library for a new graphic novel and book later this weekend.

End of line.