Monday, June 29, 2009

In Which We Ask An Eternal Question...

Comparisons are at the heart of the superhero geek community. So certain hypothetical situations come to mind, like who would win in a fight? Superman or Thor? Or, alternatively, Which Superhero Would Construct The Most Efficient Bong?

Batman: In his never-ending quest to both understand and subsequently terrorize the Criminal Element, Batman must try and understand what drives these criminals today, with their hip-hop music and their low-slung cars and their LOLcats. He's watched Commissioner Gordon's copy of Reefer Madness about a million times but he still can't get the appeal. And of course this is a guy who makes his own shark-reppellent at home, so Batman's not about to do anything half-assed.

Wonder Woman: Pros--The Amazons have had centuries independent from Man's World in which to perfect the technology necessary for maximum smokage (as I believe the kids are still calling it). Also, you are smoking up with an attractive lady superhero, which is always rated as a plus.

Green Lantern: Pros--Can instantly create some byzantine, elaborate water pipe capable of keeping half a dozen people buzzed and happy.
Cons: As his concentration dissipates, well...

Green Arrow: Pro--He can shoot it from his bow
Con--He shoots it from his bow

Zatanna: Have you ever tried to do the alphabet backwards? Now try to summon up the Demon Etrigan, speaking only backwards (because that's how Z rolls), on a dare, in the middle of the goddamn night, on the top of the goddamn roof in the middle of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. FAIL.

Superman: Yeah, right. Like this guy has ever gotten high off anything other than Vitamin-D milk. Same goes for Captain America, who is clearly more of a 'roids man.

Spider-Man: Also a no-go. Despite his ability to make home-made spider-goop dispensers, Peter stays away from this sort of thing chiefly because the one time he smoked pot in High School he was literally climbing the walls. Then the ceiling. Then the outside walls. Then a flagpole.

Wolverine--does not own a bong. Wolverine does not own a hash pipe. Wolverine has smoked up with Che Guevara, with Mick Jagger, with General Fucking Patton, and you will hear all of these stories, in lurid, lugubrious detail, often repeating himself. Memory problems, you understand.

Jean Grey--There are no pros here. I do not need this woman reading my mind and thereafter burning down my house. No, sir. Not me. Plus there's a nonzero probability she'd bring her husband along and he'd take off those specs of his.

Storm: Pros--Actually watching the weather change, though this is more of an experiential thing than a technological one. Vibranium? Anybody? Vibranium?

Thor: Pros--Actually constructed from pieces of the Rainbow Bridge.
Cons--Impossible to lift.

Hawkeye: Pros--can shoot it with his bow
Cons--You learned your lesson with Green Arrow, goddamn it. How many archery-themed comic characters do we NEED, for Christ's sake?

Iron Man--Tony Stark, you gotta figure, has access to more high-tech defense-level technology than even Batman, meaning the Ironbong must be truly a marvel of technology, but nothing can rival that of...

Mr. Fantastic--The guy's raided the labs of the Mole Man, Anihilus & Dr. Doom. He's been to the Blue Area of the Moon and the Negative Zone. He built a rocket in his basement, for crying out loud. And you gotta figure the man has devoted serious time to keeping Ben happy and mellow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't Get Me Started on The Black Transformer

When I was a kid, playing at Star Wars, I wanted to be Lando Calrissian. I like to think that my childhood self recognized that, even more than Han, Lando represented the lone morally gray character in the Star Wars universe, but really it was the cape. I fucking practiced walking around with a blanket on my shoulders, trying to keep it up on sheer force of awesome. Keep in mind I was, at most, six. I don't still do this. Very often.

Why I bring this up is that the trailer for M Night Shyamalan's adaptation of popular kids' show 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' has debuted, and it's reinspired some ire from late last year, when the casting was announced. Take a look at the below pictures:

The little Asian kid who's the star of the show has been effectively replaced by a cherubic-looking little White kid. As has ninety percent of the cast, except, as it happens, for the main bad guy. He still gets to be brown. Now of course, lots of people are naturally quite up in arms over this, and though I haven't seen frame one of the cartoon, I'm with them.

Because I feel insulted. I feel insulted to learn that Corporate Media doesn't think I, or kids anyway, can empathize with and root for someone who isn't white. It insults me and every time I played Star Wars or pretended to be Mr. Sulu in Star Trek because he got to FLY the ship and every book I've read that doesn't have some White lead or every movie I've seen not starring John Wayne.

This is Cherry Chan, Me-Make-Pee-Pee-in-Your-Coke, flat out racist. And further it perpetuates the myth that we can't get along, that we have nothing to say to or learn from each other, that we're incapable of seeing anything of value in the experiences of another race or culture--not even that! That we are somehow so stunted that the random adventures of an Asian-looking, Buddhist-inspired kid in some mythical Earth THAT ISN'T EVEN THIS PLANET somehow has to be sanitized.

Note, of course, that nobody thought it was a good idea to make Boromir black or Pippin Indonesian or give Legolas a wheelchair. That movie had more white people than a John McCain rally.

I hope this movie dies a death so momentous and unmourned as to serve as an example to generations of film students and Corporate Heeewers that some bullshit comes at too high a price.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I've been reading a lot of Douglas Adams lately

So, apologies to his estate, and all that.

The Val'Ahr'Ahrin of Trepanis V are a willowy, telepathic people who are unique in the universe as they are the only alien race known to eat poetry and excrete literary criticism. This is to say that their highly developed telepathic brains draw sustenance from rhyme and meter, metaphor and simile, image and verse. This is to say further that as a byproduct of the process of digesting poetry, the Val'Ahr'Ahrin excrete a substance which is entirely indistinguishable from dogshit.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It Was The Bondage That Did It

Back up. Let's go back in time. Twitter apparently has some kind of ace word-search function where you can follow someone if they mention casually in one post a word which coincides with your interest. I don't really see the point of this, but since my own twitter feed is entirely facetious and fictional, I suppose I can't really complain. So, the way-back:

Dateline April 8: My fictional alter-ego returns from The Hell That Is Sweden, mentions bourbon, gets followed by bourbontwits, a sort of robot/cocktail enthusiast.

May 16, I run in to the Greater Orange County Beautification Society, a pack of socialites who run around shooting people up with botox and nearly drown me in liposuction fat. Net result? "Free Plastic Surgery is now following you on Twitter." Some time after this they stop following me because come on.

Occasionally some little robot or other will pop up and start following me for a day or a week before disappearing. I don't generally get rid of them because the beautiful thing about twitter as opposed to other social networking sites is its one-way nature, which suits microfiction well. I can keep doing up my output and hoping that somebody happens on to my feed who might actually appreciate my circus of the weird.

The keywords are a bit odd, though, as I can't for the life of me figure out why a Tampa Tourism Robot is following me (I really hope it wasn't the joke about the joke about prison rape). Then, dateline June 18, I make an idle comment after escaping the chains of A Mad German Physicist, a comment about the chains, and suddenly I have no less than three bondage-themed twitterbots following me. Which, again, I don't mind. I do need people to read this, it's just odd. Likely it's a nascent form of something the website will develop later, an unsophisticated manner of finding out if people hold your interests. In my own case I throw a lot of words around. I can't imagine any of them being really all that helpful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Things Which Irritate Me

I realize having a blog is essentially howling in to the void, and I realize that these things quite often become simply repositories for meaninglessly personal drivel, but there's something I just have to get off my chest:

PEOPLE! (Especially journalists, especially reputable journalists) STOP USING THE WORD "WAY" FOR EMPHASIS! I don't know where it started, or when it started but it needs to stop. You sound unprofessional. It's infuriating. Nails on a chalkboard. "So and so have cut way back on their donations to flood relief" or some other damn thing. I wish I could come up with concrete, specific examples to support this rant but every time I'm driving and I hear this on the radio I'm too busy shouting. It's as bad as people who use "literally" for emphasis, the next one of which I swear I'm going to metaphorically, figuratively fucking strangle to death.

Far. How's "far" for you people. "The reach of health-care reform might far exceed its grasp." Doesn't that sound better than "way exceed?" Doesn't that sound patently not like you're twelve fucking years old?

Howling in to the void. Man oh man oh man.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Digital Projection

Today is the day TV stations across the United States switch their signals from analog to digital.It's pretty much a nonevent as events go: most people I know have cable and there's been a slow stream of PSA's about this thing since at least the middle of last year. It was originally going to be February, now gets settled in to June 12th, destined to be a footnote against what I can only hope are positive election results in Iran and the less important (but no less potentially incendiary to Things I Own) results of the Red Wings game.

What makes this date special for me is that it was a deadline of sorts, now passed. Back in 2008 I was still struggling along, lost, making no headway, uninspired, unfinished, unhappy. Then came the beaming, beneficient visage of Miss Lisa Edelstein.

This is nothing new. I watch House every week, after all. But this time, this time Lisa was telling me that in February of 2009, my cozy old analog TV signal would be replaced with a slick new digital one, and I had to update or I'd be left out in the cold, Entertainment wise. Well. Not MY signal. Somebody's.

This Gave Me an Idea and got me writing again, and I made a personal deadline for February...25, I think, to be done. And when that didn't happen it didn't quite matter because they pushed the digital switchover date to June 12. And now it's June 12, and I'm still not finished. I'm closer, however, and I have something relatively coherent that passes from point A to point Z without skipping too many letters.

Here, instead of nothing, is the scene I wrote:

She left Ann Arbor before five and arrived after having to double-back several times along dirt roads, at the transmission tower at eleven. She parked the car just off the road and tested her camera in the dark. Goddamn cameras. So many settings and preferences and balancing options to do what her eyes did naturally. How to play this? Hover just out of sight and get photos or confront them out right? The police would eventually cotton on to this whole thing. She wasn't exactly their target demographic. Only the violently old and the impeccably paranoid would have refused to or simply not be bothered to switch their antennas to digital receivers, as offered free of charge by the Government. But somebody somewhere was going to do what she did and stumble on to this transmission and Get An Idea. And that's what she'd tell them. Somebody is going to tell your story. Either it's the unfeeling smiling news anchor of the all-digital eleven-o'clock news or it's me. Grinning, confidant, she made for the tower.

The gate was rusted and permanently cast open. In the dim starlight the place looked like some lost relic of an ancient civilization. Vines consumed the side of the squat brick building. The tower itself was unlit, its lonely spire a dimly visible silhouette against the stars. The sounds of a gas generator could be heard just beyond the flat bulk of the building. Decades ago this had been a network affiliate, a piggyback for signals from New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. She wondered about the generator and its dull percolating roar. Zoë tried the door. Locked. So they weren't so hopelessly naive. Time for some good old-fashioned Lois Lane action. Zoë allowed herself a few moments reflection on just what a bad idea this was before she launched in to it. These jokers were not going to be happy when they were barged in on. This was clearly their little secret and if she thought they'd just go along with her and tell her their story, she'd have to be out of her mind. Conspiracy nuts, alien nuts, crazies. They were gonna hang her, strap her to train tracks, throw her in the basement and ransom her. She let all the possibilities metastasize in her mind before deciding on which window to try and force open. The night air was damp and cold. She walked the circumference of the building. The generator was surrounded by a fence capped with rusted, aging barbed wire. So it was the windows then. There was a precise, measured delineation of this thing's stupidity. The people inside were murderers, rapists, psychopaths. Not interested in press.

The perfect woman. It's what Mal called her. She wasn't an idiot, she knew what he thought. All bright and smart and sweet. Like candy or something. That's how everybody saw her, all the time. Ooh, poor you, she mused for not the first time. The windows were just out of reach and almost obscenely narrow. It was, in fact, exquisitely awful to be adored by everybody constantly. Not a bed of nails, mind you, certainly. It made her job easier. Men and women, everybody seemed to respond to her. She was absolutely, positively going to break a nail doing this, which bothered her more than she cared to admit. She backed up, loosened up, brushed her finger against her nose in a subconscious gesture which had meaning only because she'd seen it in TV, and bolted for the wall.

Her first attempt was not a success.

Zoë was going to be a dancer. That was her mother's dream for her. She checked her nails, instinctively. Safe. "Maybe somebody heard inside and they've got pitchforks or something. Or worse, they'll kill you with a fucking Theremin." This was getting undignified. All this sneaking around. The front of her jacket was grimy now and her hair was coming undone. She shrugged. Knock? "Why not?" She ran more grisly situations through her brain. Imagine the worst. Give it length and breadth and height and a name and set it loose on your mind so when the kooks inside turn out to be very pleasant kooks, you can be Pleasantly Surprised. Zoë's mother was probably the only person in Christendom who didn't believe Zoë personally ate sunshine and farted rainbows.

"So," she reasoned, approaching the door, "As long as mum isn't in there, how bad can it be?" She knocked on the door.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A few years back I caught about half of a documentary on...The Sundance Channel? I think it was the Sundance Channel, so this was of course back when I had so many channels they could afford to be named after Western characters. At any rate, the film in question was Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy (which, by the way, came out a full three years before the similarly-titled Anchorman and is also, like I said, a documentary.) The last half of the film more or less devotes itself to Jeremy's attempts to break in to mainstream cinema with meager success. The man was (and is) a household name, but in trying to get parts in Hollywood pictures he wound up playing himself or some Ron Jeremy-type (or, in the case of The Boondock Saints, a cameo where he gets quickly murdered). Eventually he went back to the thing he does best, though taking time to pop up occasionally at three in the morning for bizarre infomercials about MALE. ENHANCEMENT.

He wouldn't be the last to try and make the ascent. Traci Lords (okay, so I have a hard time telling who among these are household names and who I just know) had a brief stab at a Legitimate Television Career when she starred in the (reputedly quite fucking lame) SciFi Channel series 'First Wave' back in the 90's and has been slumming it (well, that's relative...and gee, there are a lot of parentheses, aren't there?) in B-Movies and occasional TV bit parts.

And so now there's Sasha Grey. Grey's coming along at a time when porn and porn culture is at an all-time high in terms of visibility, when niche cable outlets like G4 devote segments of their shows to the industry and send news teams to the Adult Entertainment Expo. Premiere Magazine sent David Foster Wallace, of all people, to the Adult Video Awards. Grey's starring in a film by Steven Soderbergh, who is nothing to sneeze at. So is she a bellwether? Or just a canary?

I'm thinking this over because I saw the movie this evening. It was good. Sasha Grey, while by no means Meryl Streep or anything, avoids the cliche of the Porn Actress Who Really, Really Can't Act to Save Her Life or the Lives of Others. She plays Chelsea as a guarded, vulnerable person trying to navigate a world where everyone wants a piece of her, and the one time she lets her barriers down, well...wouldn't you know it.

But as Soderbergh pictures go, this isn't Oceans 25 or something, this is one of his smaller pictures, and Grey, let's face it, is playing it pretty close to type in the role as a professional escort. If she was starring opposite some giant robots, for instance, then maybe she'd have a chance, but this has all the potential to be a mere flash in the pan, a historical footnote in America's long dark back-of-the-cupboard relationship with its sexuality and depictions thereof.

Though to quote porn-industry blog fleshbot (link NSFW)

"If anything, we suspect that Sasha is attempting to remake the notion of what a mainstream star is, and does-much the way she's remade any notions of what an 18-year-old pornstar looks and sounds like .... it's also possible that Sasha could rise to fame in the mainstream cinema while continuing to work as an adult star-perhaps completely remaking our notions of what it means to have crossover appeal."

Time will tell. But giant robots surely would have helped.

Repurposed Image #1*

Twilight on Titan, beneath the terraforming mists. Perpetual, unending twilight that casts no shadows. They were together, once.

*picture from a professional skywatcher, attempting to catch the apparently newfound 'asperatus' cloud.