Friday, November 07, 2014

Examine Dragons

I'm sweeping off the dirt and dust
I wield a trowel and I use a brush
I'm checking in the specimens

We're clocking out, packing up, then heading back in a microbus
This is it, archaeologists

I'm in the lab, I drill into the bone
Enough to keep my error low
Wonder what's its true age, what's the true age
Gonna find the true age, find its true age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, it's radiometric, radiometric
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, it's radiometric, radiometric

It's in your food, don't you know,
It's a different carbon isotope
It soon decays to nitrogen

I'm cutting off, grinding up, reducing it to a graphite dust
Send it to the spectrometrist

It makes you up, we find it in your bones
And leaves and shells and thatched-roof homes
Helps us find the true age, find the true age
Calculate the true age, learn the true age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, it's radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, you're radioactive, radioactive

One way to know when something died:
The ratio of carbon nuclides

It's breaking up, it lets electrons go
Enough to turn a neutron pro
Helps us find the true age, find the true age
At least within a date range, specific date range
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, it's radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, we're radioactive, radioactive

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Impetuousness of Youth

Dracula slipped silently into the bedroom where Van Helsing lay sleeping. The Count felt undignified, breathing through a gas mask he’d salvaged during the Great War, and hoped that his aged foe wouldn’t wake to see him in such a state. With haste, he stripped the hanging cloves of garlic from the walls and threw them out the window. Dracula removed the unsightly mask and set it gingerly on the floor, then approached the bed.

Van Helsing slept fitfully, his breathing ragged and raspy. He had grown frail with age, and time raced against cancer to claim his final breath. Hands that once were so strong, wielding swords and stakes and silver, were now gnarled by arthritis, and Dracula imagined they could scarcely hold a pencil. He stood over the bed for a long moment, then cleared his throat. 

“Van Helsing.”

The old man stirred slowly at first, but quickly returned to himself. Neither sickness nor age could dull the edge of those steely eyes, which glared at the undead Count in the moonlight. 

“Come to gloat?” hissed the doctor. “Or to finish me off?” 

“Neither,” said Dracula. “I’ve come to help.”

“I’ll not sell my soul for the Devil’s brand of help.”

“I am not—“ Dracula stopped, composed himself. “You’re dying, Van Helsing.”

“And not by your hand, no matter how you’ve tried!” 

“I know,” Dracula said. “We’ve chased each other for…what, thirty years now?”


“And this is how you wish to end it?”

Van Helsing gave Dracula a puzzled look, then stifled a hard cough. “My friends and family are here, Dracula. Soon I will see my wife, my daughter. I am surrounded by love, Dracula. I would not expect you to understand.”

Dracula looked for a long, silent moment out the window at the crescent moon. “Let me turn you.”


“Let me give you back your health, your youth.”

“Go to blazes, creature.” 

“You can send me there yourself! I can cleanse your sickness, give you the strength to fight once more!”

Any angry curse Van Helsing might have uttered was swallowed in a coughing fit. Dracula waited until he finished.

“Van—Abraham—if you could have cured your wife’s illness, if you could have revived your daughter, would not you have done so? Would not you do anything in your power to save them?” 

Van Helsing thought for a long time, and were it not for his labored breathing, Dracula might have thought he slipped away there and then. “Any earthly thing, yes," he said finally. "But I would not save their bodies only to damn their souls.”

“I don’t need your permission, you know,” Dracula threatened. “I could turn you now, and you would spend every night for eternity chasing after me, avenging your own soul. You would never forgive me for robbing you of paradise."

“Then do it, demon.” Van Helsing tore at his shirt, exposing his neck with trembling hands. “Or have your words more teeth than your jaws?”

Dracula felt the rage rise up at the old man’s obstinate impudence. He lunged forward, before sentimentality could blunt his resolve, and had nearly reached his old enemy’s throat when he caught a glint of reflected moonlight at the corner of his eye. Van Helsing swung with all his diminished strength, but the sharpened silver cross found no target, only shapeless mist. 

Dracula solidified by the window, stooping down to retrieve his gas mask. He paused and looked back to his old adversary. Any words he might have said stuck, clotted and dry, in his throat. He dove out of the window in silence, and nothing more passed between them.

Dracula visited Van Helsing’s gravesite only once, and only briefly. A silver-tipped crossbow bolt broke his reverie, sailing past his head so closely that it nearly parted his hair. He spun around, hissing. Dracula was not surprised to see Quincey Harker, who had been expertly trained these last twenty years by old Van Helsing.

Dracula was surprised to see the young boy holding the crossbow.

“Good shot, Bram!” Quincey clapped his son on the shoulder. “But aim for the heart, not the head.”

“Yes, father,” said the child, loading another bolt. “I shan’t miss this time.”

Dracula leapt upward and soared into the air on leathery wings, feeling a weariness that no fresh-drawn blood would ease. 

The vampire withdrew to his estate, staying only long enough to arrange long-term travel to Geneva. More than a century of rumors whispered between Swiss schoolchildren or around campfires had transformed Castle Frankenstein into a thing of horrifying legend, untouched even by those who might seek to tear it down. Dracula was one of few old enough to remember the true story of that house, and one of even fewer estranged enough from humanity to know its sole occupant. That building, once a laboratory, now a hermitage, would offer Dracula the solitude he so craved.

Adam Frankenstein proved a gracious host, and welcomed even what little company Dracula provided. But weeks turned into months, and Dracula spent more and more time in his coffin. He refused to eat, even as Adam broke his exile to retrieve fresh goats and sheep to satiate his guest’s hunger. 

“Vlad, you have to eat something,” Adam pleaded through the thick wooden door. “Come on, it’s still bleating.” 

There was no response. 

“I know what you’re going through, believe me. Come out, and we can talk about it.”

After another moment of silence, Adam unlocked the door and led the goat in. “I’m going to leave this here for when you get hungry.” As he left, he turned back to face the coffin once more. “You can’t spend the rest of eternity locked up like this, Vlad. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

The readiness was slow in coming. Dracula would eventually eat the meals Adam left for him, but never even left the basement chamber anymore. Adam knew what it was like to want solitude, to lose loved ones, even to watch the endless years pass steadily by. But he did not know how to help, so he turned as always to his library. He read for days.

The letters and telegraphs and messengers had all been sent weeks before, and with the night finally approaching, Adam felt an unfamiliar feeling of excitement. His plan was meticulous, and would surely bring an end to Dracula’s depression. The guests began arriving an hour after sunset, with the moon glowing full and yellow, low in the autumn sky. Adam greeted them at the door, each ghoul and ghost and creature, some familiar, some he’d only heard of through stories. Crackly phonograph music echoed through the castle, and Adam wondered what stories the villagers might tell of the strange night when monsters reveled at Castle Frankenstein. 

Adam stood once more outside the wooden door to the basement chamber. “Come on, Vlad. Everyone is here for you. They want to meet the great Count Dracula!” 

“Go away,” Dracula muttered, barely audible over the thumping music from upstairs. 

Adam's enormous shoulders dropped, but he was resolute. “I’m going to go back upstairs. If I don’t see you up there in ten minutes, I’ll drag you out of that coffin myself.” 

Dracula pulled the lid of his coffin closed even tighter, hoping it might seal out the noise, but the acoustics of the chamber only amplified the caterwauling, the unfamiliar rhythms and melodies, which in turn amplified his feelings of isolation. Ten minutes was all he could stand. 

Adam was undeterred by Dracula’s reticence. He had one last card to play, one which relied on Castle Frankenstein’s ancient harpsichord, lovingly restored over these last several weeks, and a piece of 15th century dance music popular in Wallachia during the adolescence of one Vlad Tepes. Adam had merely dabbled with the instrument before, but was sure his skills were up to the task. He turned off the phonograph and urged the guests to be quiet, then sat down at the bench, gingerly playing the instrument with fingers that seemed far too clumsy for such nimble motions.

Dracula threw open the coffin lid, raising a hand in rage. But before the cry could escape his parched lips, he heard a familiar tune, plucked out on metallic strings, and was transported back to his boyhood so many centuries ago. Memories flooded his mind of a time before blood and bats, a time when he could dance in the sunlight on a Carpathian mountainside, a time when he was truly young and not merely ageless, as Adam played a song that Dracula had long thought lost to the mists of history. 

The guests clapped as Adam finished. He backed gingerly away from the harpsichord and turned around to face the crowd, seeing a disheveled, emaciated Dracula standing at the top of the basement stairs, smiling wistfully, with tears in his dark eyes. Adam returned the smile.

“I always wondered,” Dracula said, embracing his hulking friend. “Whatever happened to my ‘Transylvania Twist.’”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mind of Steel

I used to view Superman's super-intelligence as one power too many, a silly relic of the Silver Age, like super-ventriloquism. It's mostly a consequence of growing up with and idealizing the Byrne-era Superman.

The last time I really remember feeling that sentiment was when the power was reintroduced back in "Up, Up, and Away." Busiek & Johns did a great job of making the power make sense, and the more I've thought about it since, the more I think that Superman needs to be super-intelligent.

I think about superheroes a lot, and something I find particularly fascinating is the concept of auxiliary superpowers: abilities that don't show up in the Who's Who or OHOTMU lists, but are necessary for the character's other powers to work.

So, for instance, anyone with super-strength must have some degree of invulnerability, because otherwise their tendons would tear and their bones would break every time they flexed. The Flash must be able to selectively alter friction and relativistic effects, or he'd catch fire and approach infinite mass every time he got moving fast enough1.

Superman's super-intelligence is a similar ability. Consider super-speed: the Flash can shift into a sort of "speed mode," where he perceives everything moving at a crawl. Superman, presumably, doesn't tap into the Speed Force, and we have no indication that he has that ability. In order to accomplish feats at speeds similar to those traveled at by the Flash, his brain would have to have super-fast processing ability. This gives him super-fast reaction time, and explains why he can do things like read and type at superhuman speeds. Without this aspect of super-intelligence, his super-speed would be useless at best and dangerous at worst.

I dislike the tendency to treat Superman's super-senses as things he can turn on and off, though I understand why especially early writers would treat them as such. You can't consciously decide to stop seeing the color red, for instance, or to stop hearing certain frequencies of sound, and I don't know why we'd expect Superman to have that ability either. But what we can do is focus our eyes on certain things in our field of vision, depending on distance, and we can sometimes tune out noises and sounds, especially constant, repetitive ones. So the No-Prize explanation is that Superman has learned to mostly tune out the sounds of insect wing-fluttering and the continental plates shifting, focusing his hearing on the sounds that are less constant.

In order to do this, his brain must have super-executive functions, able not just to process that information quickly, but to make sense of it, assigning degrees of importance and drawing Superman's attention to where it's needed. Part of that process is done by comparing sensory input to prior inputs--to memories.

The process of memory formation is complicated, messy, and dependent on the kinds of memories being formed, but part of the process of changing something from short-term to long-term memory is repeated passes through certain structures of the brain. There is a certain logic to thinking that this process would happen faster for Superman, given his brain's faster processing speed and increased need to sort through sensory input, but I'm no neurologist, and I'm getting into the area where I feel like I might just be pulling stuff out of my red shorts.

The case for Superman having perfect recall is shakier than any other part of his super-intelligence, but that also allows for a little flexibility in storytelling. It's easy to imagine that Superman can hold more things in his short-term/working memory--even if he couldn't necessarily hold more items in said memory at once (and I think he probably could, given the usual attention issues he already has to deal with), his processing power means he could be switching between items in his attention fast enough that it would seem like he was holding more items in his working memory. But as with humans, not everything necessarily makes the transition from short-term to long-term memory. So maybe he doesn't remember in issue #647 how to do a surgery he performed back in #328, but it's the same way you might have to look up the phone number for the pizza place every time you call.

From a narrative and theme perspective, I do think the idea that Superman has perfect recall of everything that happened anywhere around him on Krypton is pretty eye-rollingly silly. Remembering the minutiae of Krypton since infancy robs some of the tragedy of Krypton's destruction, and distances Superman from his human roots2. As much as I've come to embrace the Bronze Age, I'm still a firm proponent of the idea that Superman's powers should grow as he does, rather than having full-powered Superbaby on day one. His memories of Krypton, of his parents, should be fragmentary and fleeting, like any person's memories of early childhood. Krypton, for Superman, should be a place that he's studied, but not one that he remembers thoroughly.

Back to the main point, I think the trickiest part of "super-intelligence" is actually figuring out what that means--and that goes for the other smartest guys in the DCU too, like Batman and Lex Luthor and Brainiac 5. "Intelligence" isn't just one thing, but a combination of traits, and I think understanding what aspects of intelligence each of these super-intellects excels at is important. Superman's good at problem solving, with strong lateral thinking skills and an ability to make connections, in addition to having a keen journalistic and scientific mind and enhanced processing power. Batman's the world's greatest detective, brilliant at deduction, reading people, and predicting what's likely to happen in any given situation--usually by gaming out every possibility well ahead of time. Lex Luthor is a cunning manipulator, able to identify and exploit weaknesses in anyone, in addition to being one of the most brilliantly inventive minds on the planet. MacGyver can make a nuclear weapon out of some paperclips and rubber bands; Lex Luthor could turn the same materials into a time machine with enough parts left over for a jetpack. Giving Superman super-intelligence doesn't have to diminish these other characters, so long as we actually understand what that entails. In Coluan terms, Superman is probably somewhere around a 7th-9th-level intellect.

The issue of super-intelligence is an interesting one, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a necessary power, and a natural consequence of other powers we take for granted.

1. I realize that canonically, the Flashes have a "frictionless aura," but that wouldn't explain how they're able to get traction or grab things, or do those tricks with rubbing sand at super-speed to make glass. Hence, there must be a degree of selective control over this ability.

2. I also think it removes some of Supergirl's uniqueness. One aspect of her character that has only really been explored in recent years is that she grew up on Krypton, spent her formative years there, was immersed in Kryptonian culture and society. She's a teenage superhero "A Little Princess," orphaned and left to fend for herself in a strange land, without the comforts of home. She should be the one who remembers Krypton, not Superman.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Outlander and Time Travel

I saw a preview for the new "Outlander" TV series ahead of "Guardians of the Galaxy" at my local theater, and my initial impression was that it was an interesting idea: having someone from the past travel back in time further into the past.

Upon thinking about it for another moment, though, I realized that's how most time-travel-to-the-past stories are, and how all of them become that in time. I love "Back to the Future," and even though I was scarcely two years old in 1985, I still think of it as a kid from "the present" going back to the past, when we're now nearly as far removed from 1985 as 1985 was from 1955. One of my favorite TV series of all time is "Quantum Leap," and while I still think of Sam's home time as the future, 1995 is twenty years behind us.

It's an interesting wrinkle to the time travel motif, that such stories require the reader to do so much time traveling of their own.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: "Superman" (vol. 3) #32

Let's get a few things out of the way to begin with. First, I'm coming into this issue cold; I've intentionally avoided reading any reviews of it longer than 140 characters, and I'm fairly far behind on the other Superman titles (the only DC book I'm caught up on is Batman, I think). I'm also coming into this issue without too much bias. I quite like John Romita Jr.'s art, but the last series he helped relaunch thirty issues into a major reboot didn't exactly go very well. I've been pretty sour on Geoff Johns since a bit before the New 52 began, despite really liking his earlier work on JSA, Flash, and Green Lantern. His Superman comics have been generally well-regarded, though I never cared for how he discarded character development to tell more nostalgic stories. I did, however, re-read "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" recently, and quite enjoyed it aside from that linked Perry White line and Johns's signature move of having someone lose an arm. At least it didn't feel gratuitous there.

So, "Superman" #32. To begin with, the cover is gorgeous. It's dynamic, and recalls other classic images by folks like José Luis García-López. The background color scheme is similarly evocative, specifically of Neal Adams' classic "Kryptonite Nevermore!" cover. Also, it's just kind of nice to see Superman running. It's not something he's shown doing very often.

Let's start with the good: This issue sets up a pretty intriguing story. Ulysses has a cool design, and the mirroring themes of loneliness and loss are played out well. Not surprisingly, the book looks great. A great deal of that is due to Romita and Janson managing to make even the talking-heads pages visually interesting, but Laura Martin's colors really knock this book out of the park. Romita's style can sometimes come off as a little flat, but Martin's subtle variations in shading and lighting make everything pop.

In terms of plot structure, a lot of it feels very old-school. The flashback-to-title sequence bit at the beginning is an artifact of more modern, cinematic comic storytelling, but the way this issue lays down subplot threads hearkens back to the serialized stories of the '80s and '90s. I'm currently working my way through Simonson's "Thor" run, which follows that same style: a few pages of the main story, broken up occasionally (and sometimes suddenly) by checking in on the b- and c-plots. Here, those checking-in moments are more panels than pages, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially in this age of shortened page counts. Much as I love Simonson's "Thor," it's still obviously a product of a pre-TPB age, and sometimes the recaps do get a little tedious when you're reading the run straight through.

Speaking of shortened page counts, one of the things I found infuriating about Johns's Green Lantern comics toward the end of his run was his over-reliance on splash pages in a way that felt like he was padding out a too-short script. We get two double-page spreads and a splash page in this issue, but they're all major action or emotional climaxes. Each one feels earned, which is helped by the way that the non-splash panels change in size, growing larger on average as we approach each crescendo in the story. It's a great example of how aspects of the art that we don't normally think about can impact the feel of the story in major ways.

And hey, J. Wilbur Wolfingham makes an appearance! Who could have predicted that?

In terms of criticism, it's what you might expect from Johns: there's no subtlety to be found here. The parents at the beginning, sending their child into another dimension to survive, could only be more obviously allegorical if their names were Jordan and Laura. This motif would probably work a little better if I hadn't just re-read "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes," which opened with the exact same bit.

Repetition is working against Johns on a larger level here as well. Mark Waid expressed his relief on Twitter that this wasn't the same story as in "Superman Unchained," where the Man of Steel has been battling with another Superman analogue. Meanwhile, "Batman/Superman" began with a plot where the World's Finest team met their Earth-2 counterparts; we just wrapped "Forever Evil," which featured an evil alternate-universe version of Superman taking over; "Future's End" has an alternate "masked" Superman; we're barreling toward a crossover that's supposed to have Earths at war (inevitably suggesting additional Supermen); and Grant Morrison introduced no fewer than three Superman analogues in his "Action Comics" run, with the Earth-23 Superman, the Superdoom "killer franchise," and Captain Comet. That's a lot of Superman analogues for a universe that's not even three years old yet.

It's nice to see a softer Perry White here, even if he's basically an exposition delivery machine. His discussion with Clark is sledgehammer-blunt telling-not-showing, and while it's nice that it allows us to name-drop some supporting cast members (that line about Jackee Winters is so obviously out of place, oy) it probably could have been cut in half and replaced with a little more of the scenes we get on the next couple of pages, where we actually see Clark's loneliness. It's "show, don't tell," Geoff, not "tell, then show." With a bit more attention to showing, and a little tighter editing, we could have been actually introduced to Jackee and Lois, instead of having that single panel at the bar.

Altogether, it's a positive start. I'm really looking forward to the next issue, especially seeing some development on these subplots. I hope there's some follow-through on the promise of a robust supporting cast; that's an aspect of Superman comics that's too often overlooked to the detriment of the story and the characters. I'd like to see Geoff Johns letting his top-notch artists handle a bit more of the storytelling, especially outside the big action set pieces, but it's just nice to read a Johns comic where no heroes act like jerks and no one has any limbs severed. Definitely the strongest writing I've seen from Johns since the start of the New 52, and Romita knocked this first DC work out of the park. With Pak and Kuder over on "Action," this is arguably the best that the Superman line has been since the last time Johns was writing Superman regularly.

Speaking Geek

I mentioned a few weeks back that I recorded an interview with the Chippewa Valley Geek podcast, and it's up now! Listen to me pontificate, because reading my pontifications was one sense too few!

Friday, June 27, 2014

5 Popular Movies & How They Should Have Ended

5. Man of Steel
The recent superhero blockbuster "Man of Steel" drew a lot of criticism for its unexpected ending. A lot of people offered their own ideas for how it could have ended instead, but they all got one thing wrong.

How it SHOULD have ended: "Man of Steel" should have ended with a closing credits roll acknowledging all the people whose hard work made the film possible, from the writers, actors, and director to the catering staff and stunt doubles. Despite the criticism, this is exactly how it did end!

4. Flicka
The 2006 feel-good film "Flicka" told a touching story about a girl and her horse, based on the 1941 novel My Friend Flicka. In it, main character Katy and her wild mustang Flicka both help save each other's lives. But is that the way it should have gone?

How it SHOULD have ended: A movie as animal-intensive as "Flicka" should have ended with the note "No animals were harmed in the making of this picture" in the credits. Unfortunately, two horses died in the process of filming "Flicka," forcing the statement to be left out.

3. She's All That
"She's All That" was a popular 1999 teen romantic comedy featuring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook. Its classic plot about giving an unpopular girl a makeover was an update of stories like "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady." In the end, Cook and Prinze's characters get together, but is that the way it should have gone?

How it SHOULD have ended: "She's All That" should have ended with me and Becky Holt making out and dating for the rest of freshman year instead of her saying "no I don't want to go to the movies with you, loser."

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The third installment in the blockbuster Transformers film franchise by director Michael Bay continued the story of Optimus Prime and his Autobot warriors and their battle with Megatron and the evil Decepticons, with humanity--and Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf)--caught in the middle. In "Dark of the Moon," we learn that the Apollo missions discovered alien technology on the moon, which leads to an epic battle and ultimately the destruction of the Transformers' home planet, Cybertron. It's a tragic blow to the Transformers, but that ending could have been very different!

How it SHOULD have ended: With a fire on set, tragically killing the director and star.

1. Back to the Future
Everyone knows the classic movie about teenage time traveler Marty McFly and his exciting adventure trying to return to his own time without accidentally breaking up his parents' marriage and preventing his own birth! We all know Marty was successful in his quest, but what you don't know is how it should have ended!

How it SHOULD have ended: Wait, hold on, Michael J. Fox? Two sequels? No, no, this is all wrong. "Back to the Future" was supposed to be a singular cult classic, the movie that led to the Eric Stoltz geek TV renaissance! Something happened, something changed the timestream! I need to set this right, before... before...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blasting from the Past

I'm conducting a minor experiment, to see if anyone ever bothered to change the most annoying things about the Internet. I mean, animated gifs are experiencing a renaissance, far beyond what we might have imagined back in the days of:


(and on my old homepage):

But I found myself wondering today: do blinking text tags still work? Those were always loads of fun.

(Answer: apparently not in my browser)

Of course the best kind of tag was the

Oh! What about rainbow text effects?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

An Update

Things have been, as they often are, quieter here than I'd like. I've mostly been busy with work, and the remainder of my free time has been looking for other work. I'd much rather be writing blog posts than cover letters, but that's where I'm at right now. But now I have a moment or two to procrastinate, so have some bullet points! Spoilers for summer movies ahead.
  • I started reading Greg Rucka's novel Alpha. It's still pretty early in the book, so not much has happened, but I'm enjoying it so far. There are some interesting quirks with how Rucka describes and words things, and I'm trying to determine what's his style versus what's his choice for the narrator's voice. Aside from the way he refers to military minutiae like a seasoned expert, it doesn't feel much like any of the other stuff I've read of Rucka's.

    The lack of pictures may be a contributing factor to that.
  • I picked up "Scribblenauts Unmasked" and beat it in fairly short order. I was going to outline my thoughts here, but I think I'll put together something more substantial shortly. In any case, I quite liked it.
  • I saw "Amazing Spider-Man 2," and was underwhelmed. I quite liked the first installment, but this one was (as I might have predicted) overstuffed and rushed. The Electro plot, Harry's illness, and the mystery of Peter's parents could easily have taken up a whole flick without shoehorning in the Goblin and the bridge scene as well. I frankly would have liked another movie with Gwen in it before the inevitable end, and especially one without the college girl equivalent of being one day away from retirement. On top of all that, it felt like there was just so much dialogue (the entire graduation speech, for instance) that felt too convenient, too on-the-nose, too plot-driven. Sony's clearly on a mad dash to make their own "Avengers," without learning from the mistakes of "Spider-Man 3" or the successes of "Avengers"--specifically, laying the groundwork for that movie over the course of years, through several other films, where the worst of them also happened to be the one that diverted too much of its energy to laying the groundwork for the team film. Argh.
  • Seeing "Godzilla" made me realize that I haven't actually seen a Godzilla movie outside of the last American Godzilla movie. This new one was better by far. I especially liked how incidental the humans were to everything. They set the plot in motion by unleashing Muto, but humanity went mostly unnoticed by the creatures, which followed the basic drives of nature: mate and eat. Including another monster was a smart choice (making it look like the Cloverfield monster: doubly smart), because it shifts the narrative. When Godzilla is the only monster, the plot becomes humans vs. Godzilla, which in the "Godzilla" franchise, can end in a stalemate at best. "We drove the creature back into the sea! Yay, I guess? But, like, he's still right there. In the sea." Pitting Godzilla against a bigger threat makes us root for the titular monster, and just hope the humans don't screw things up too badly.

    I think the one thing I would have changed is letting the generic protagonist disarm the damn nuclear bomb. They were setting that up for the whole movie, only to have him stymied by a panel that he could easily have pried off with the harpoon he found there on the boat. It was tough to watch the happy ending reunion scene at the end knowing the radioactive fallout from the detonation of a nuclear warhead just off the coast of California was going to render half those happy families dead from leukemia within a few years. I get that part of the message is that nature points up the folly of men, but at least let some men solve their own follies maybe?
  • I was interviewed this weekend for the Chippewa Valley Geek podcast, where I talked way too much and way too incoherently about some topics regarding canon and comics. It was tons of fun, and I'll post a notice here whenever it gets uploaded.
  • I'm still working on that Superman QuizUp question set, though I hope to finally finish it up soon. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

New Wallpaper

One of the ways I've been busying myself lately is by building a new desktop computer. It's way faster than my last model, and seems way more stable. Hopefully it'll also be able to run games that are more complicated than FTL. It'd become a bit of a tradition among my electronic devices that I give them network names that are Batman-themed, but make the wallpaper Superman-themed. I was having a bit of trouble settling on a new image that I really liked for the wallpaper this time, so I ended up making one. It started with this José Luis García-López image, which I already have on a fridge magnet:

I was surprised to find that on an image search, since I kind of assumed the weird clipart rainbow was added in by whomever made the magnets. I did a little Photoshop surgery, and came up with this nice, minimalist wallpaper background--sized for a 1280x1024 screen. Feel free to use it, if you like.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Huh, for some reason the tags to collapse that last post didn't work. Sorry about that, folks. I've noticed that's been kind of hinky lately, but hadn't seen that particular variation. Looks like I'll be trying to clean up the HTML around here soon.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Soldiering On

Spoilers Ahoy for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"!

Look, I know "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Isn't very good, but it seems like there are easier ways to cancel it.

Seriously, what a movie. "Captain America: The First Avenger" was easily my favorite of the previous Marvel flicks, and this cements the Cap franchise as, I think, the best superhero movie series going. Some thoughts, in my usual bulleted list format:
  • Holy crap, Batroc the Leaper. And with plenty of leaping, too.
  • The fights in this flick were fantastic. I imagine it's hard to keep things interesting in these films, especially since Cap doesn't have any flashy powers to fall back on, but I thought the choreography was well-done, that everyone got a good moment in the sun, and that each fight felt like an appropriate escalation from the previous one.
  • I liked how much characterization Black Widow received. She's largely been the River Tam of the series, quiet and badass, but without much of her own personality up 'til this point, so it was nice to see her open up, be friendly, and show some vulnerability.
  • The same largely holds true for Nick Fury, frankly.
  • I liked the twists and turns that kept this feeling like a spy thriller. I also liked the little nods to Bourne and "Skyfall," between Steve's parkour antics and his plunge into the ocean. In that latter scene, I half expected Moby to start playing.
  • I thought the film did a pretty good job of knitting together several different stories from the comics into a coherent narrative.
  • I also really liked how at least a little attention and lip service was paid to the point that Allied actions in World War II weren't all heroic and virtuous. That kind of nuance gets lost when your film's about superheroes vs. laser Nazis, and the shift to the secret war and shades of gray in this film could have turned into a misguided commentary on the changing times, but I think they did a decent job of making it clear that things have never been quite so rosy.
  • I about lost it when Arnim Zola showed up. Somehow I had both forgotten he was around and forgotten he was announced in the cast some time ago. I love Arnim Zola, and crazy 1970s Arnim Zola is amazing. Though for a second I thought the AI was going to be Ultron.
  • Speaking of last-minute reveals, I'm really curious to see what the legal fallout of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch showing up here is. Conventional legal wisdom had held that whoever got them on the screen first was going to have the rights to them, which made it look like they were a lock for Fox, but here we are. I can't imagine notoriously-litigious Disney letting "X-Men: Days of Future Past" go by without some legal challenge, and I would be surprised if this weren't going to be leverage to reclaim some of those licensed characters. If there isn't a legal challenge, then you'd better believe Sony and Fox are going to be looking at what other characters they can potentially poach, as per precedent. Spider-Woman's a Spider-Man family character, right? And She-Hulk and Black Panther were in the Fantastic Four. It's gonna be an interesting few months.
  • Falcon was pretty great. I liked (and didn't notice until my wife pointed it out) the parallel between Cap's status as a man out of time, and the experiences of soldiers returning from long deployments. The war never really ends, and life moves on without you, whether you're in Kandahar or a block of Arctic ice. It's a great take on the character.
  • Speaking of takes on the character, I really wish we could get a Superman movie like this. You know, one where he's optimistic and inspirational and always doing the right thing, even when the world he lives in would drive anyone else to cynicism and despair. Superman and Captain America should be the unshakable moral foundations of their respective universes, not weepy angsty guys who struggle to be heroic.
  • I love how many hooks the movie left at the end for sequels. Nick Fury running an underground war against Hydra, Cap searching for Bucky and taking down Hydra bases, Arnim Zola doing whatever he's going to do...they could make Captain America movies forever and I'd be okay with that.
Overall, I loved it. Marvel is killing it on the movie front, and it's even getting me excited to see what happens on tomorrow's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Excited. About "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." I know, I'm surprised too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ender Bender 12: Chapter 8, "Rat" (Part 3)


So, as it turns out, it's really difficult for me to motivate myself to read and write about terrible books (on top of the real-life stuff I have to do) when I'm not being paid for it. That said, I'm trying to make writing a bigger part of my life, so that means proving to myself and the general public that I can finish things and meet deadlines.

Just don't ask about Superman Sundays. Not yet, anyway.

So without further ado...

Ender arrives at his evening practice with the launchies, only to find that it's poorly attended. Could it be that he's not the effective leader of men that he thinks he is?
"Haven't you heard?" said another boy, a Launchy from a younger group. "Word's out that any Launchy who comes to your practice sessions won't ever amount to anything in anybody's army. Word's out that the commanders don't want any soldiers who've been damaged by your training."
No, of course it's another conspiracy against Ender! And halfway through the practice, some commanders from different armies came in and took note of everyone there! And fewer and fewer people started coming to practice each night, as the Launchies who did show up were harassed and assaulted.

Hey, it must really suck to be part of a group of people whose existence merits disapproval from those in power, which trickles down to abuse, assault, and harassment in the halls of schools. Good thing Orson Scott Card is the sort of guy who'd stick up for people like that, right?

Ender's ready to quit, but Alai talks him out of it. Who's our protagonist again?

Alai stopped him. "They scare you, too? They slap you up in the bathroom? Stick you head in the pissah? Somebody gots a gun up you bung?"
As an excuse to stop reading this book, I decided at this point to look up what awards Ender's Game has won. Turns out it picked up the Nebula in 1985 and the Hugo in 1986, as well as earning a spot on Amazon's Best Books of the Millennium poll.

Think about that for a minute. Think about the books that have been published since 1001 C.E. Let's assume that we're omitting plays, thus kicking out all the works of Shakespeare. That still leaves Things Fall Apart and A Brief History of Time and Newton's Principia and Dante's Divine Comedy. It still leaves all the works of Jane Austen and John Locke and Charles Darwin and Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson. It leaves Candide and Gulliver's Travels and 1984. Le Morte d'Arthur! Paradise Lost! Frankenstein! The entirety of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the modern age, and that's just the last half of the millennium.

Ender's Game held the number 32 slot. "Somebody gots a gun up you bung?"

I...I don't know that I was ready for this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

QuizUp, Up, and Away!

So, for the past almost-a-week I've been addicted to QuizUp, a game that scratches a trivia itch that I'd forgotten I had. I've always been kind of a trivia buff, growing up on Jeopardy! and the like, excelling in Scholastic Bowl in high school, and spending way too much time among the top spots of a comic book trivia game on an IRC channel back in college. I've been rising up the ranks in a few categories (I beat the guy who's ranked top in the world in Superhero Comics!), and reporting the occasional inaccuracy and spelling error along the way, because the only thing I'm better at than trivia is pedantry.

But early on I noticed the fundamental unfairness that Batman gets his own category under "Literature" and Superman doesn't. So I submitted fifteen sample questions for a Superman category, and they seem to have gone over pretty well. A content editor at QuizUp sent me back their guidelines for submissions, and I've been working on expanding that list. I've got my Superman Encyclopedia, my Official Superman Quiz Book, and The Chronological Superman open as references and inspiration right now, not to mention years and years of sponging up this information instead of something useful.

So here's where you can come in (it's okay, the content editor said I could enlist friends!): submissions usually consist of 100-300 questions, and I'd like to be on the high end of that. I know I could probably break the bank just on minutiae from the post-Crisis-pre-Flashpoint era, but I want to have some variety and some other super-brains involved. So if you're a Superman enthusiast, feel free to toss over some questions, fun facts, or other bits of content and/or inspiration that you think could be helpful. There's no deadline, but I'd like to submit within two or three weeks. There's also no apparent difficulty limit (though after playing through one too many "who said this random line" questions in the "Star Wars OT" category, maybe there should be), and I figure the softball questions will be the easy ones anyway. So get obscure with your bad self and let your multicolored freak flag fly.

In terms of question content, here's the scoop:
  1. Questions are multiple choice, with three incorrect answers and one correct answer.
  2. I'll be submitting everything on their Excel template. You don't need to worry much about formatting, but if you do send stuff in Excel/table form, lovely.
  3. Questions can't be longer than 130 characters, including spaces. Answer options can't be longer than 30 characters, including spaces.
  4. All answer choices should start with an uppercase letter.
  5. Try to avoid questions that involve choosing the one answer that's incorrect. If you do one of these, make sure "NOT" is in all-caps. For instance, I have "Which of these has NOT been a location for Superman's Fortress of Solitude?"
  6. Any titles within questions should have double quotation marks (") around them. Titles in answer choices don't need any special punctuation.

I've already contacted some Superman Superfans of my acquaintance, but if you know someone I missed, feel free to direct them this way. You can leave stuff in the comments here, or e-mail me at tfoss1983 [at] gmail.

Oh, and if you want to challenge me on QuizUp, my username is tfoss1983, but the display name is Tom-El. Friends are very welcome!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guessing Game

I watched a movie today. The screenplay was written by a critically-acclaimed filmmaker who had previously worked on Batman films. The protagonist was a dark-haired guy, played by an actor from the British Isles. As a baby, our hero was sent away in a ship to a new world by his dying parents, carrying with him their hopes and dreams for a better future. He was raised by simple folk, who were nonetheless wiser than they seemed. He grew up yearning for Justice, wondering where he came from. As an adult, it turned out that he had special abilities not shared by mortals, and that he was part of a greater destiny. He fell deeply in love with a red-haired woman from another land, and in a secluded sanctum in the frozen north, she helped him find his true purpose. But there were other forces at work, forces of evil, forces who stood against the hope represented by our hero, and who would stop at nothing to remake the world to fit their ideals. The hero fought his nemesis to defend those he's sworn to protect, and in the end, he killed his foe with an injury to the neck, and saved the life of the red-haired girl. He then flies off into the sky, and it's said that others will follow him into the stars. I had wanted the movie to be really good, but in the end it was kind of dumb and overlong.

Oh, and Russell Crowe was in it.

Do you know the movie?

Naturally, it was "Winter's Tale," an urban fantasy-tinged romance that was released this week. Parts of the story were quite good, and the special effects (when they showed up) were quite nice. There were some nice, moving moments, but the attempt to turn what should have been an interesting, character-driven story into an epic battle between good and evil--right down to having Lucifer himself involved--fell flat. There were a couple of characters whose brief appearances lead me to believe there's more of them on the cutting room floor or in the book that this was based on, leading them to become little more than magical black man and mystic Native American stereotypes. The film ends with a bit of narration that seems overly concerned with justifying the logical implications of the metaphysics suggested by the plot, and it fails mostly in that it calls specific attention to those shaky metaphysics in the first place. If it had toned the scales down a bit, and been more confident in its central romance and characters, it might have been quite good. As it turned out, it's the third disappointing movie with Russell Crowe I've seen in the last year and a half.

And it would have been greatly improved with someone being pursued by a bear, but that's true of most films.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Problem of Doomsday

Apparently there's talk about DC redoing the Death of Superman story for the New 52, which shouldn't be entirely surprising. They've spent the last year redoing Batman: Year One, so naturally they'd look toward their most successful single story as another greatest hit to replay (Heaven forbid they try to make new stories; the New 52 is about repeating things that worked in the past). It's just a shame, because Doomsday is so completely played out. Doomsday has been played out since the last page of "Superman" (vol. 2) #75, which frankly should have been the last time we ever saw him.

I love the Death and Return of Superman storyline. It's bloated, it's tied into a huge mess of early-'90s subplots that make the story difficult to recommend to new readers, but it's better than a lot of people give it credit for, and it's a pointed commentary on the '90s trends toward younger, edgier, more violent versions of heroes. Given how DC has embraced those trends wholeheartedly with the New 52, it's again unsurprising that they'd want a version that was free of such uncomfortable subtext.

But I don't love Doomsday. Doomsday was never a character; he (it?) was a tool. Doomsday was designed to be a mindless force of nature, an unstoppable creature of death and destruction made incarnate, something that could believably kill Superman, without making Superman's sacrifice entirely anticlimactic. Doomsday was also a creature who could die in the battle without triggering all our uneasiness over Superman killing, since Doomsday was barely even alive in a conventional sense. There are probably other ways to read that battle besides Superman fighting against popular sentiment, against the idea that he's outdated and no longer has a place in the world, but I think that's the reading that makes the most sense given the rest of the story.

Just like that notion, Doomsday just won't go away, no matter how many different ways he's disposed of. I've talked before about my distaste for General Zod, and the problem with Doomsday is perhaps even worse. Zod, at least, has a personality. Zod can be reasoned with; Zod can form plans and have nuances to his character. Doomsday is pure, unrestrained, unthinking brutality, which makes him kind of a one-note character, inasmuch as he even is a character. And while Zod can presumably be killed for good, Doomsday's actual power is that he can't. Ever since his second appearance, his ability has been that whatever kills him only makes him stronger, so you can't even have the out of breaking his neck.

Doomsday's appeal, in addition to his presence in the top-selling comic story of the last twenty-five years, mostly has to do with his unique (if frequently ridiculous--bike shorts?) appearance, and the fact that he presents a physical challenge to Superman. There was a time when recurring physical villains were a fairly small part of Superman's rogues gallery, mostly consisting of Metallo, some Apokoliptians, a rotating cast of Phantom Zoners, and arguably Parasite and Bizarro. Over the course of the last thirty years, that roster has grown somewhat. Lex Luthor got a bodysuit, Brainiac got various upgraded bodies, Atomic Skull was altered into a more physically threatening form, villains like Conduit and the Eradicator and Mongul were introduced, but the number of villains who routinely go toe to toe with Superman is still rather small. The problem is that these are the villains who are largely perceived to be Superman's A-list, I think. It's understandable that artists want to draw (and audiences want to read) Superman hitting things--I'm certainly among them--but there's a way to do that without having him constantly in fisticuffs with his enemies. Superman's been fighting robot henchmen for most of the last 75 years, and I honestly think that's more satisfying than seeing him avoid hitting a battlesuit-clad Lex Luthor in the unarmored head.

So Doomsday keeps popping up, because people keep looking through Superman's rogues gallery for villains he can get into a decent fistfight with, and running out of options. There have been some valiant attempts to make him interesting, and I'll readily admit to reading and rereading every panel of "Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey" more times than I can remember. But even that story recognized that Doomsday alone is an uninteresting villain; he only worked in concert with the Cyborg Superman and (to a lesser degree) Darkseid. His next outing was as a pawn (and host body) for Brainiac, which was the last story creator Dan Jurgens told about the monster. Then we got the inevitable (and ridiculous) Superman/Doomsday team-up against Imperiex, then "Superman" #175 which gave the creature intellect (and wrapped a bow around the villain's entire existence), then we got the Reign of Doomsday nonsense with variations on the creature and I've kind of tuned that out.

A lot of this would be avoided if writers would stop feeling so beholden to the idea that every Superman story needs him socking the villain across the jaw or punching someone through buildings. Relying on Superman's strength rather than his intellect gives us diminishing returns both in terms of repetitive storytelling and serious limitations on threats and enemies. He's never going to be able to have a satisfying fight with the Prankster or Toyman or Mr. Mxyzptlk. There's a reason most of Superman's villains are more intellectually challenging, because it requires more clever storytelling than "who can punch harder?"

Failing that, they could at least dig a little deeper for a Vartox or a Titano or a Rampage, rather than giving us another unnecessary spoonful of Doom. Or, you know, they could invent new characters and try to tell new stories, but I suspect blame for that falls more on the shoulders of the editorial staff.

All that needed to be said about Doomsday was there in "The Death of Superman." All that reasonably should have been said was done by the time Jeph Loeb finished up his issue with the character. And yet he continues to stick around, because he has evolved beyond the ability to die. It's just a shame that he can't seem to evolve into something interesting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Some thoughts on Doctor Who

I've been on a big Doctor Who kick since a little before the 50th anniversary special. It's been slightly obsessive, to be honest. So I figured I'd do something productive (sort of) with it and pop out another bulleted list of incoherent thoughts. Spoilers ahead for things that have been out for months now.
  • Night of the Doctor: I think Paul McGann might be my favorite Doctor, so it was incredible to see him back in live action--and with his own hair this time! That they actually acknowledged the companions from the audio adventures was a beautiful little cherry on top. I'd love to see more mini-episodes with past Doctors like this, and I hope BBC is thinking really hard about it. This made me run out and find "The Brain of Morbius"--well, this and the fact that the Eighth Doctor Audio sequel to that story was coming up in my listening rotation.
  • The Eighth Doctor Audios: It had been so long since I listened to any of these that I kind of forgot where I left off. I started up listening again with "Immortal Beloved," which was familiar enough that I know I'd heard it before, but nothing else seemed familiar until "Max Warp," which I distinctly remember listening to while mowing the lawn several years back. So, no idea what exactly ended up happening there. I'm most of the way through Series 3 now, and kind of holding off because I know the finale is a sequel to "Planet of the Spiders," which I haven't seen yet. And I've been holding off on watching that because I feel like I should watch more Third Doctor stories before seeing his swansong. And that's led into me watching just a ton of classic Doctor Who whenever I have the chance. Anyway, the EDAs are great (even if I don't like Lucie Miller quite as much as Charley Pollard), and I'm particularly excited to dig into "Dark Eyes."
  • The Day of the Doctor: I thought the 50th Anniversary special was just delightful. Lots of nods to the past (though I'd forgotten that Kate Lethbridge-Stewart had been introduced previously), with a fun story that gave all three Doctors a chance to shine. While I kind of wish Christopher Eccleston had at least done something with it, I frankly think John Hurt's War Doctor fit better in that role, and did wonderfully. I hope that (if Hurt is willing) the BBC is working on getting him to do some other media. I'd love to hear some War Doctor audios, even if they were done by BBC Audio like the "Hornet's Nest" releases and not Big Finish (as I understand there's some weird issues with the rights).

    One of the guys at my LCS said "The Day of the Doctor" was everything he wished "Man of Steel" had been, and I think that works really well. Not only was it fun and reverent of the past while giving a good new story, but it also featured the Doctor doing what the Doctor does (and what Superman usually does): finding a better way to win. And not just when it comes to averting a human-Zygon war, but also with regard to the Time War.

    I've seen criticism about the retcon, but frankly I think it's misguided. I understand the desire to keep the new series' driving tragedy for the Doctor, but it hasn't been mentioned much--if at all--since before "The Eleventh Hour." It hasn't really driven the series in a long time. Moreover, the more we learned about the Time War, the less sense it made for the Doctor's character. Like, it's one thing to know that there was a Great Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, in which countless worlds (including Gallifrey and Skaro) were destroyed, and in which the Doctor made the impossible choice to destroy the Time Lords and Daleks once and for all--well, except for the Master and the Daleks, both of whom made it out all right. But it's another thing to think about what that actually means. The Doctor committed genocide. Twice over. Yes, we're assured that by the end, the Time Lords were as bad as the Daleks if not worse, but...really? All of the Time Lords? Even the children (we know there are Gallifreyan children, thanks to "The Sound of Drums")? Even Romana and Susan? It just doesn't hold up.

    It all runs into the same problem that Superman had in the Silver Age. There's a great line in the Wizard Death of Superman Special (I know, I'm surprised too) about how, after awhile, it seemed like the only people actually killed in Krypton's destruction were Superman's parents and a few close neighbors. At least Superman got the people of Kandor, Supergirl, and the Kryptonian Super-pets out of the selective survival deal. Seems like only the evil people survived the Time War.

    And when the Doctor is one of those survivors and has double genocide in his past, it's hard not to wonder if he might not be an exception.

    "The Day of the Doctor" didn't undo the fact that the Doctor was driven to desperation such that he'd be willing to push that button. It didn't undo all the other terrors and atrocities of the Time War, like the destruction of the Nestene and Zygon homeworlds and the disembodiment of the Gelth. What it undid was the notion that he'd try to save Davros of all people, but destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor doesn't do genocide, not even for entities as bad as the Daleks. That's been established for a good long while. It doesn't even negate the remorse felt by Nine and Ten, since he had still been driven to the point of committing that double genocide, even if there ended up being another way. Whether or not he pulled the trigger, he'd been willing to do something that otherwise would have been abhorrent to him, and that would give anyone cause for remorse and reevaluation.

    So, yeah, I generally thought that "Day of the Doctor" was the best that "Doctor Who" has been in awhile.
  • The Time of the Doctor: But the next installment? Hoo boy. What a sharp drop in quality there, as Steven Moffat tried to cram half a season of story into a single episode, and pretend that it had all been planned that way from the beginning rather than being hastily assembled in a rather slapdash manner, which it clearly was. The dinner with Clara's family deserved a full episode (a la "The Power of Three") rather than being the quickly-dropped introduction. Ever since the mystery of Clara was solved (in a way that also didn't make a whole lot of sense), it's become abundantly clear that they've never really bothered to give her any characterization beyond it. Rose, Martha, Donna, and Amy have all had lives and families outside of the TARDIS, and that's helped to give them a sort of grounding in reality (and conflicts to motivate them and create drama). Clara was created as ungrounded initially and intentionally, and as a result the most we've seen is that she's a babysitter who likes to make soufflé. A sitcom episode with her and the Doctor would have been a great way to correct that, but instead we get the unnecessary and weird nudity stuff and hop out into space for the most nonsensical adventure in quite some time.

    There are too many ideas in "The Time of the Doctor," and too few of them are any good. Others have pointed out quite accurately that it doesn't make sense for the technologically parasitic Silents to be confessional priests in the space-church, and also that there's not much point in confession if you can't actually remember doing it. The truth-field is fun, right up until the Doctor lies about having a plan and punches a great big hole in the plot. It'd be nice to have some female characters who aren't instantly and secretly in love with the Doctor, though that goes back to Davies. Then again, at least Davies had Captain Jack also in love with the Doctor, as a small bit of balance.

    And then there's the regeneration. I saw people complaining that he was using regeneration energy as a weapon, and I don't really mind that. It was strong enough to devastate the TARDIS in "The End of Time," so it's not entirely out of the question that it could blow up a Dalek ship or two here. The problem I have is with the unnecessary and wasteful bit where Eleven is actually Thirteen.

    I say "wasteful" because it throws away an interesting dynamic and source of drama without getting anything in return. The Doctor who knows he's the last incarnation is a story we deserve to see (even if we know he's not really the last incarnation). What does he do differently when he knows that the end isn't just the end for this body, but the end, period? It gives the search for Gallifrey a sense of greater urgency, since we and the Doctor know the Time Lords have ways of granting additional regenerations (they did it for the Master, after all).

    Instead, we cram all that angst into a single brief scene in a single episode, for no reason except that Moffat wanted to cram the Time Lords into this episode as well, shoving them behind the crack in the universe that never got much of an explanation and wasn't helped by the throwaway attempt in this episode. It was a dumb choice, especially hinging it on a fairly brief scene in a show that aired six years ago (okay, five and a half when "Time" aired). Dumb, dumb, dumb, and that kind of dumb choice making really muddied what should have been a heartfelt and tearful goodbye to Matt Smith.

    And that's ignoring the constant wink-clever metatextual dialogue, the eye-rolling bowtie drop, the unnecessary (and weird-looking, I imagine because of the wig) Amy, and the plot that was done better in "Orbis." I've liked Matt Smith's Doctor a lot, despite some of the writing choices along the way, and he deserved a better sendoff than he received. "The Night of the Doctor" was a mess.

    And it won't get cleaned up until flipping August.
Wow, somehow I wrote all that and didn't even get into my classic Who binge or the ebooks and comics I've been consuming. I guess I'll have to write up a part 2...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh Snap

From "Absolute Power," the 47th episode of "Superman: The Animated Series."

CETEA: We may have our wars and our factions, but we are not the barbarians Jax-Ur portrayed.

SUPERMAN: Even so, I can't fight him, Cetea.

CETEA: You must! You're the only one powerful enough.

SUPERMAN: If I do, your planet will be the loser. A battle between us would cause more destruction and bloodshed than all the wars that came before.

CETEA: We're willing to risk it.

SUPERMAN: I'm not. Not that way.