Thursday, June 29, 2006

DC Comics Returns... or Relapses - Part I

Superman Returns opened yesterday to a lot of fanfare. I haven't seen it yet, but it's clear that the film, along with the earlier Batman Begins, heralds a new era for the celluloid Justice League (indeed, the long-rumored Wonder Woman film project has reportedly picked up steam). However, and this is for us closet-geek comic fans out there, what isn't as clear is that the entire DC Universe is getting a nice little "reboot" in the form of its third "continuity cleanser" in as many decades. In fact, the reboot is even felt in Superman Returns, which apparently acknowledges the first two Christopher Reeve (rest in peace) Superman films and completely ignores the last two.

Some of you are probably confused, others of you probably don't give a shit, but in any case, let's back up and start closer to the beginning.

DC Comics, for a long time, has been infamous for its failure to keep continuity clear and not confusing, and equally infamous for its money-making yet ultimately futile attempts at "cleansing" continuity. Once upon a time, DC Comics was (supposedly) totally and completely consumed with telling a good story, continuity be damned. The artistic readers (such as myself) loved this. Good story = sold comic. This "good story" emphasis resulted in several versions of Earth, three different versions of Superman (and other heroes), and a DC History that was so convoluted, nobody could figure it out. Hey, blame it on the Silver Age redux, I say (only us comic geeks know what that is; the rest of you can piss off).

At any rate, the nitpicking technical readers (such as myself) soon grew tired of trying to figure out what was DC canon and what was not. So, in 1985, DC decided to launch its first, well, "relaunch" of the DC Universe. This relaunch was called Crisis on Infinite Earths. To make a long story short, DC killed many of the duplicate heroes, destroyed all of the duplicate Earths, and rebooted DC History to encompass one planet and one timeline.

Fast forward to 1994. Although the one planet thing worked out well, the one timeline thing somehow fell into disarray. I mean, shit, technically all of those multiple "timelines" are happening on the same planet, right? It should be easy to decipher. But it wasn't, so DC launches another, well, "relaunch" of the DC Universe: Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! (apt, isnt it?). Now all of the timelines are set straight and everything is hunky-dory.

Alter timeline (I mean, fast forward) to 2005. Grant Morrison's ambitious "hypertime" concept in the late 90s and early 00s effectively ruined the one timeline and the one planet thing. So, DC decided to launch another, well, "relaunch." This one was called Infinite Crisis and is supposedly a "direct sequel" to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC fanboys are loving it, while casual readers are beginning to wonder whether or not the DC editorship does this kind of thing on purpose. DC universe rebooted; all's well.

Unfortunately, DC's semi-political agenda in this new reboot will undoubtedly lead to another one in about, say, 10 years or so. But more on that later... In the meantime, let's celebrate DC's return to Hollywood glory and drink away the awful memories of the funny but misguided Superman III, the embarassing Superman IV, and the utterly horrifying Batman & Robin.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Grammar War I: Speak English? Write English, Too

Not too long ago, I heard some jackass complaining about immigrants not knowing how to speak English. Yeah, fine, I'm all for having English proficiency a requirement to be a citizen, but for fuck's sake, make sure YOU know proper English before you yell at some poor soul who's trying to grasp our highly illogical language. After all, "Y'all need to learn to speak American" is NOT a convincing argument.

Anyway, the point of this blog is that I'm sick and tired of all the illiterate schmucks out there screwing up my beautiful tongue. So, I'm going to be nice and summarize a couple of lessons in grammar.

1) The difference between "your" and "you're" - YOUR is an adjective indicating YOU as a possessor. For instance, YOUR IQ is very low or YOUR mental capacity is rather pathetic. YOU'RE is a contraction representing the words YOU and ARE. Examples include YOU'RE stupid and YOU'RE a fucking moron. Other than the occasional accidental mix-up, there is NO excuse for fucking up the use of these two words... except that the person making the mistake is, well, probably stupid.

2) The difference between "its" and "it's" - ITS, like YOUR, is an adjective indicating a possessor (in this case, IT). For instance, ITS color is red or ITS crap stinks. IT'S is a contraction representing the words IT and IS. Examples include IT'S smarter than you and IT'S not as stupid as you are. However, given that the rule of possession usually includes 's somewhere, this is a much more forgivable error.

Some new words I learned recently:

askance - with a side glance OR with disapproval or distrust

Eocene - of, relating to, or being an epoch of the Tertiary between the Paleocene and the Oligocene or the corresponding system of rocks

senescence - the state of being old OR the process of becoming old

Have a nice day.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Eulogy for O. Hawkins

I met Omer Hawkins in 2000, when I had transferred from the C Company to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 37th Engineer Battalion. I didn't know what to make of him at first... a short guy, a chain smoker like the rest of us, with a grating voice that reflected his pack-a-day-plus habit.

He loved the Army and what it had afforded him. Maybe a little too much. When we first started talking, he was on his way out. He wanted to go overseas again... he felt that being in the Army was about being somewhere... anywhere but here, I guess. He wanted to go to Ranger School and a ton of other schools, too. For some reason, the Army wouldn't let him. So, he and I usually talked about what we planned on doing when we got out. He's where I found out about the North Carolina small business start-up loans. You see, he wanted to open up a small vintage bookshop. As I'd come to find out, that was typical Omer. He was very interested in literature, history, art in general... a veritable warrior-poet, one could say. Seriously, because of his interests and his stature, you would wonder what the Hell he was doing in the Army in the first place. But that was Omer... a soldier to the last. Art be damned.

His name was Omer, but we called him Tom. I guess that was his middle name. Regrettably, I have no idea. Although I knew him fairly well, it was only because of work. I had other friends, Dan and Tony, who really hung out with him. Through them I knew Tom liked comic books, liked an occasional game of Dungeons & Dragons. He was eccentric. But, like smoking, so were we all.

Tom died on October 14, 2004. He was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb along with two others. Because Tom being Tom, or Omer being Omer, he had reenlisted and gone back to Korea. When he got there, the 44th Engineer Battalion deployed to Iraq. The first time a unit from Korea would deploy in decades. He was a part of history.

I don't know why I'm writing about him now, almost two years later, but I guess it's no secret that those who have served are often swept by a feeling of nostalgia for the military. I guess today was my day to really think about what I had done during my enlistment. That, and I never really got over the fact that I didn't find out about Tom's death until the day before his funeral... I couldn't make it... and I NEVER miss a funeral. It's called respect. But his was to be the first.

I still have friends that won't face his death. It's too real, too close to home. People often think of soldiers as cold-blooded killers, or, at least, as people who are trained to be... but we're no different than anybody else. Death hits us the same way it hits the rest of society. Some of us can take it, some of us can't. Some of us wait to deal with a friend's death for two years, some of us never deal with it. What do you expect?

There's only one thing I know for sure... I wish to God that Tom would have opened his fucking bookstore.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Hollywood and its Overpriced Players

It's no secret that Hollywood is in a state of flux. Declining theatrical attendance, increased piracy, and a tendency for the consumer to want it "now" are killing what was once the untouchable industry. Hollywood's reaction? Misguided attempts at multi-media releases, concurrent theatrical and home video launches, and a regrettable movement away from the smaller "independent" films (true film aficionados know good and well why I put "independent" in quotations).

But has any of this helped? No, not really. Even attempts by theater owners to make the filmgoing experience more enjoyable (by banning cell phones and throwing out the talkative pricks that tend to encourage people to stay home) haven't helped all that much, even though those attempts aren't going unnoticed.

On top of it all, Hollywood is complaining that there aren't enough movie stars to encourage whatever type of "growth" that the studios hope more movie stars will bring.

Okay, so I just made several leaps in logic, but fear not... I am rapidly approaching my point. Hollywood wants to turn larger profits? The quick and easy: slash the salaries of above-the-line talent. I got news for you... NO actor or director is worth $20 million. I don't care what they've done.

So a studio has a certain "star vehicle" that needs a superstar to draw in the audience? Right... NOT. Analysis by most of the major industry trades have PROVEN that high-priced actors actually HURT their films rather than help (although Tom Hanks films tend to show additional profits thanks to his presence). So what should the studio do? Why, hire another actor, of course.

But, as Hollywood would interject, we need our stars. Well, why don't you take that $20 million and, instead of paying one man to play a role, fund a nationwide (Hell, worldwide) talent search and FIND more stars. Do you know how many casting sessions you can hold for $20 million? I'm not sure of the exact number, but I guarantee that it's a shitload (which, in non-French, means "a lot").

With that $20 million, you could inundate Hollywood with stars, rivaling the days of the actual studio system. Imagine, if there are 10 Tom Cruises running around, you're not going to have to pay the real Tom Cruise $20 million just to ruin your movie with bad press. The other 9 Tom Cruises would gladly do that for a simple $2 million. Basically, the average $65 million budget (or whatever it is now) would drop to $47 million, making it A LOT easier for the studios to turn a profit on a film, which makes it easier for studios to greenlight MORE films, which makes Hollywood a power-player, which makes piss-ant nobodies like me happy (because we have more jobs to choose from).

I know that absolutely none of what I've written makes any logical sense, but I don't give a shit... I know what I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code

Last night I finally broke down and went to see The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's novel. I had wanted to see it earlier, but I was hesitant. Generally no-so-good reviews, usually pointing out a horrendously boring ending, and a semi-quiet word-of-mouth just somehow didn't do much to encourage me to go.

But, I went... and, almost surprisingly, I enjoyed it. Is this a positive review? No, not really, but it's not a negative one, either. To be honest, I absolutely hated the film until the appearance of Ian McKellen, at which point, the film became thoroughly enjoyable... if completely predictable.

And this predictability is what I'm going to be complaining about today. You see, I have not read the novel by Dan Brown, but I have read his first book, Angels & Demons and I know one thing for sure... this guy is NOT a good writer. Don't get me wrong... as far as plot, premise, and general research, the man is an enigma. Fantastically interesting. But when it comes to character, dialogue, and just general suspense... well, let me just YAWN a few times and save a paragraph explaining it. His overall writing is so elementary (scratch that, it's downright juvenile), that from just watching the movie one can tell that that Dan Brown wrote the book it's based on. What's ironic is that the dude used to be an English professor, so you'd think he'd be a little, I don't know, "better." So how did this guy get so fucking popular?

I know what you're thinking right now... that I'm some sort of literary "snob." Let me assure you that I am not. I enjoy my Clancy and Crichton, my King and Koontz, and I read a ton of comic books. Despite the fact that I enjoy the occassional classic, a snob, I am not.

My main criticism of Mr. Brown is his blatant overuse of "cliffhanger/reveal." In damn near every chapter of Angels & Demons, someone notices something or something happens that is "cause for alarm" (i.e. a jaw drops, someone gasps, a strange object is found, blah blah blah). But instead of just explaining it, Mr. Brown decides to "cliffhang" now and, two or three chapters later, "reveal" in some bogus manner. Seriously, that works once or twice, but not every three pages. An accomplished writer would find a way to create suspense AND reveal on the same page. The aforementioned Stephen King was once a master of such a technique. Unfortunately, Dan Brown's cheap literary parlor trick is so predomninant in his books, it broke through in Ron Howard's film, resulting in a film frustratingly predictable.

As far as the long, horrendous ending? I actually thought that it felt rather natural in the film, even though I do agree that it was a bit long. The film might have been helped by a shorter ending and a more-developed introduction. However, anyone who's ever read Dan Brown knows that bad endings have little to do with the filmmakers and almost everthing to do with the author. The man simply doesn't know how to finish a story (which may not altogether be a bad thing... like I said, his plots are amazing).

Well, I guess I answered my own question. Dan Brown's popularity must stem from his plots... because his writing sure isn't good enough to attract fans that are old enough to drink.

All that being said, I'll still go see an Angels & Demons film should one ever get made.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

F*** the Troops; F*** Your Petition

Recently there was a petition circulating around MySpace (specifically the military-related members of MySpace) to remove a MySpace group called "Fuck the Troops." This petition went round and round (I, myself, received it multiple times) and eventually succeeded. A group search for "Fuck the Troops" now results in finding nothing except other groups dedicated to removing "Fuck the Troops."

Many of the virtual signers of the petition were military, military spouses, or others with direct connection to the military or with what they refer as an "innate sense of Patriotism." Well, I've got news for you. None of you 1st Amendment-limiting assholes who signed that petition are Patriots. In fact, you're the exact opposite.

Before you get wired up, let me explain...

First of all, the group "Fuck the Troops" was NOT about slandering troops or otherwise giving those who serve this country a bad name. Had any of you bothered to peruse their group page, you would've found several disclaimers (and everyone knows that I love using those myself) stating that they support the troops. The phrase "Fuck the Troops" merely reflected what the proprietors of the group felt that this current administration was doing to our men and women in uniform. In other words, the group would have more accurately been monikered, "Fuck George Bush" (which is, in and of itself, an equally ignorant statement).

Instead, however, we get a group of people who were simply told that a group called "Fuck the Troops" existed, and they overreacted badly. So badly, they didn't even bother to research their "enemy."

Disclaimer: Now, despite what I just wrote, I'm not really saying that everyone who signed it is an idiot... I have plenty of friends who've signed it, but they did so out of reaction. In an occupation where a quick reaction can save one's life, they probably just signed it and moved on.

But you know what? That's not even the point. The point is that everyone who wears a uniform does so to protect the Constitutional rights of Americans. Constitutional rights... of which the first amended right is Freedom of Speech and Expression. The idiots who created "Fuck the Troops" (don't get me wrong, the name pissed me off, as well) absolutely, without doubt, had EVERY RIGHT to create their group. Those of us that wear or wore the uniform should know this. We may not like it, but that's what we're here for... to protect the right to dissent or to complain. Policy is not ours to decide, but to uphold.

In the end, what was done to "Fuck the Troops" was a disservice to the Constitution and a disservice to the military. You may not agree with my train of thought, but the fundamental logic remains. A small piece of our Freedom of Speech was destroyed. Way to go. Some have obviously forgotten what you're supposed to be defending.

The First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Blackbird at Buster's: A Shameless Pitch

I just read a script... and it's pretty damn funny. I don't find myself often laughing out loud when I read something, but this particular script managed to force out chuckles on several occasions. To be honest, it's probably because I know the screenwriter, and I know how he is. Trust me when I say this, seeing him come through his characters is funny in and of itself. But I guess that's why he's decided to direct this particular script himself... he knows what works in the script, and he knows how to make it as funny as it can possibly be. Meat Loaf saw enough in the script to attach himself. So did Henry Winkler. Sure, they're not A-listers, but they're talent, and one made a living out of being funny. I'm pretty positive that Mr. Winkler is a good judge of comedy.

Not only is it a comedy, but it's almost a musical. It should be, after all, it's about a band who robs a bank to fund their demo... the robbery goes off (almost) without a hitch, but the getaway becomes a little, well, convoluted. Through a twist of fate, they wind up hiding out in a record store owned and operated by an old music producer (Meat Loaf). Guess what happens? They record a single.

Now, assuming that this movie is going to kick ass, it's going to need a kick-ass band to do the soundtrack, right? Well, I'm not too sure, but I've heard that Queens of the Stone Age kick ass, and they've sure as shit agreed to do the soundtrack.

The writer's name is Rich Leder, and he'll be directing, as well. Check him out on the Internet Movie Database. He's got a resume, and the personality to go with it. He's also a musician, which I guess helps a bit when writing about music.

Where am I heading with all of this? I'm sure from the title of this blog that you already know, but I'll write it out for you anyway... This little movie, Blackbird at Buster's, is still in the process of raising money. It has a $4 million dollar budget, a drop-dead date of March 2007, and needs your help.

For any of you that have ever even thought of funding a movie, this is probably the safest offer you'll ever hear of. Yes, I know I sound like a salesman, and I apologize, but all of what I'm saying is true.

The producers of Blackbird at Buster's are asking for investment units of $15,000. Yes, that's a decent chunk of change, but the risk is negligible. How? Well, 88% of that $15k ($13,200, to be exact) gets shoved into an interest-earning escrow. The rest is split among Blackbird at Buster's producing team for operating expenses. So what happens if the drop-dead date comes and goes? You get the $13,200 back, plus any interest that it accrued. Basically, you have a risk of less than $1,800 versus a reward in which the sky's the limit.

Interested? Want more information? If film's your thing, you like to invest, and you've got money available, drop me a line.