Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Here are five things I expect from Solo: A Star Wars story

With the announcement by Ron Howard that the Han Solo movie would simply be called "Solo," it got me to thinking about what I actually expect from a movie about the most famous space smuggler there is.

1) I think that we should see some kind of Heist. I mean...what kind of movie would it be if good ole Chewy and Han weren't making money pulling the wool over someone's eyes?

2) Han should be arrogant. He was pretty full of himself in the original Star Wars (as well as a womanizer) so we should see some of this on display.

3) Lando Calrissian. If we don't see a young Lando and Han playing a game of sabaac, I will be incredibly disappointed.

4) We need to see whatever the Kessel Run is, and it needs to be run in twelve parsecs. This needs to be clearly explained as "impossible" in the movie to do (as well).

5) We'll get a meeting between Han and young Jabba. We already caught a glimpse of him in the Star Wars prequels, but this will be better done because technology and C.G.I. has advanced so much since the early 2000's.

Anyone else caring to take a stab at what we'll see when it hits theaters in December of 2018?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Star Trek Discovery is a dark science fiction take on traditional Trek only with actual cussing and gay characters.

Spoilers Ahead. Please be aware :). Season 1, Episode 5 called "Choose your Pain" was one of the best episodes aired yet, which is to say a lot since this series has got extremely high production values and solid actors. Last night I was caught off guard twice in one episode. For one, the characters dropped the "F" bomb twice. I had to check myself and then realize, hey this is online and a paid subscription at that, so they must feel they can get away with more, and I really like it. Then at the end of the episode, we learned that the doctor and the engineer are a gay couple. I mean...that's just awesome. It's never been a real thing in a Trek show until now. On top of all that, the gay character saved the ship, so yeah he's brilliant and a hero.

But pushing past those two barriers to examine the episode, there was lots to be proud of in the vein of those who like Trek. Roger Carmel's portrayal of Mudd (who we met in the original series) seems to work pretty good. I never really liked the character of Mudd, as he was pretty much an asshole. This new actor carries that role pretty well, reprising the smug trader with no scruples. He says, "I sure as hell understand why the Klingons pushed back, Starfleet arrogance." This probably means that there's more to him than just being a trader in goods. He also has dark political motivations. A possible villain, maybe?

We also learn that Captain Lorca (as if we didn't suspect this already with his commitment to do whatever it takes) is essentially a terrible person. He confesses that he blew up his last command ship so that he could save his crew from the hands of the Klingons. What a way to justify mass murder. The guy's got no moral center whatsoever.

And I also love the spinning ship effect. It's just really cool when they make the jump using the tardigrade and the spore drive. However, what's not cool is that they kept using the tardigrade, even when Burnham kept telling Saru that the spore drive was killing a sentient creature.

Star Trek: Discovery is just a different kind of show. It's dark and gritty with an over-arching storyline and a kind of Babylon 5 or J.J. Abrams reboot kinda feel to it. I wonder where it's going with all this. Maybe the mirror universe? I kinda got that hint from the episode's last scene. Thing is, the last time we saw the mirror universe, everyone had mustaches and strange goatees. That should still be a thing. It really should.


Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm in love with Riverdale's beautiful darkness and suffering. Let me tell you all about it.

There are spoilers in this post!

Riverdale is back. I love this show because everyone has a motive for murder. And even if they don't eventually end up dead, it's just enough of a fantasy to buy into. I mean...could there be a whole small town of sex-crazed young (exceptionally gorgeous) people bleeding all over the place as they damage and traumatize one another, while listening to great music and leaving a good looking corpse? Maybe not, but who knows? IT COULD HAPPEN IN EDGY-VILLE.

This year's mystery (last year was Jason Blossom's death) is apparently "Who shot Archie's dad?" Played by Luke Perry, I was legitimately thinking a couple of times that they might just bump him off while watching last night. But they didn't, and I think the series is stronger for making this decision. The bit near the end though where Archie stands vigil over their house with a baseball bat to attack any intruder makes me think that they should have just invested in a home security system. It wouldn't have had the same impact though. And although that scene was very dumb, I got an earlier one where Veronica joins Archie in the shower. In that scene, he's watching blood swirl between his toes and thence down the drain. That scene was as hot and steamy as it was intended to be. But...Veronica did get into the shower while Archie was trying to wash his dad's blood from off his skin so yeah...a little dark but I still liked it. Eh...Veronica is not in the series for her ability to comfort people.

You would be mistaken too if you thought that a simple request for help from the local gang wouldn't produce some good helpings of trauma too. Jughead asks the Serpents to help uncover some information they might have about the possible masked shooter, and it results in a bloodied man being delivered to his trailer. They wanted to make sure their effort did not go unnoticed by Jughead. Makes sense, I suppose, in a psychopathic kinda mindset kinda way. I mean, there'd always be that nagging doubt: did they actually look into it?

Finally, Cheryl was a big winner in the premiere. She puts her mother (who's in the hospital with third degree burns) in her place, even squeezing the oxygen tube so that she's gasping, and then telling her that she's in charge now. Wow, go psychopathic teen. She also had the best line of the night in Fred Andrews' room at the hospital: "You gave me the kiss of life Archie Andrews, now I've given it to your dad."

Oh and Jughead ate a burger in the premiere. It's about time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The porgs are here! The porgs are here! Here's ten questionable facts about porgs that I could have made up.





PORGS ARE HERE! So you might as well know the facts (via io9 and then stuff I made up about them because I is funny):

1) Porgs are residents of Ahch-To, which is the mysterious planet where Rey finds Luke Skywalker. They are here for a reason, and it is not to sell merchandise. Or maybe it is to sell merchandise, but please realize that this is in no way "selling out." It's just fleshing out a universe so that it feels more realistic.

2) Luke Skywalker must be a fan of porgs.

3) They build nests.

4) They can fly short distances.

5) Their babies are called "porglets."

6) They are sea birds. Their coloring varies. Males are slightly larger than females. They're also inquisitive.

7) They're based off puffins, which are eaten in Iceland. So they may be better smoked to balance out the oil. However, because this is a fictional universe, a porg may in fact taste like chicken.

8) They may be low in saturated fat and high in midichlorian content. The reason why Han Solo was on Tattoine in the first place was because he was dropping off a shipment of porgs, which is the food of choice for slave labor on that planet.

9) Gordon Ramsey thinks they're delicious.

10) I suspect that Chewie will work through his grief over losing his lifelong friend by collecting porgs the way an elderly widow collects cats.

Now you are prepared to truly appreciate the porgs. You are welcome. And in case you haven't seen the theatrical trailer, it's below :).


Friday, October 6, 2017

I seriously would like a pair of these free posters being given away at New York Comic Con.

You'd be hard-pressed to find anything "Free" that's as cool as this.

Bottleneck Gallery has teamed up with Warner Brothers to give out some frickin' awesome Blade Runner 2049 posters at New York Comic Con. Man oh man, I wish I was going. These are gonna fetch some serious cash on Ebay. Check them out:

Sigh. I need more high quality free stuff in my life. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

No I have not slipped any personal information into my characters either accidental or otherwise.

Today is the first Wednesday in October, not to be confused with the first Monday in October (a designation reserved for the new term of the SCOTUS). This means that it's time for a new Insecure Writer's Support Group post. The website for the IWSG is located HERE, and it's a great way to start making friends in the writer community. In fact, I can't really recommend beginning anywhere else so yeah...if you write...start there first.

This month's question from the desk of the IWSG is as follows:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Unfortunately no. I can say that 100% of everything I've written about, scene-wise and action-wise, is completely made-up. I wish that I led an interesting enough life (even in small snippets) to include in my stories but the fact is that it's just not true (for me at least).

And maybe there's a lesson in this question: in order for you to be a great writer, you should strive to live an interesting life because it will improve your writing. Makes sense, right? Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in World War I, a bull runner, and a heavy drinker all of his life. He married four different women, was almost killed in two plane crashes, and went on safaris in Africa.

Oscar Wilde dared to be a promiscuous homosexual in the puritanical Victorian era. He was in and out of courts on scandalous accusations, sentenced to hard labor, and was publicly humiliated. And of course he drank absinthe. All the great writers did.

Mark Twain was a gold prospector, steamboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, served in the American Civil War and was friends with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. He died one day after Halley's Comet came closest to Earth, as he had predicted.

Anyway, history is replete with examples of great writers living vibrant, fulfilling lives. It doesn't wax poetic about the schmuck that is middle class and works a 9-5.

So maybe the IWSG is trying to tell us all something this month: live a life that makes you want to slip personal information into your characters. I suppose you can take that to the bank.

Monday, October 2, 2017

This week Blade Runner 2049 comes out and its gonna be talked about for years to come.

This week the world get to see a sequel to Blade Runner that has been promised, withdrawn, promised again, and teased for several decades. The original film has had many cuts: director's cut, the "we found footage cut," the "this isn't quite it but we're getting close" cut, the "superior" cut, etc. In all of them, it is a slow-burning noire detective story swirled together in a science-fiction dystopian vision of the future (which essentially describes the entire cyberpunk genre). It's also (supposedly) pretentious as hell, because "pretension" just means artsy. There are those of us out here who welcome pretension in Ridley Scott movies. For lack of a better explanation, a dumb viewer needs to be self-aware that it's their stupidity that holds them back. After all, it's not the responsibility of every art object to make itself understandable to halfwits. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 promises to be all this and more.

Say what you will about Blade Runner, but it was a movie that accomplished many things. For its star, Harrison Ford, it broke the typecasting he might have fallen victim to (Mark Hamill was never able to escape this bear trap). And the sequel may also be significant in one way: Ryan Gosling might have to change his facial expression at least once. I kid I kid! I love Ryan Gosling, but you have to admit that he does have a remarkably unchanging facial expression at all times. And even in "stoic face" gosling is a pleasure to look at (I know the ladies will at least agree).

And there are Blade Runner purists out there a plenty, but early reviews have basically pegged the sequel as being a masterpiece, so I expect criticism to be few and far between. There will always be those that insist that Blade Runner should have been laid to rest, allowed to bask in its enduring glory forever, untainted by sequel, prequel, sidequel, upquel, downquel, or diagonalquel. But those people need to shut up now. The original was a film that continues to infect the thoughts of many long after the final credits rolled. This means it was good enough to warrant caring about what happened, but complex enough to require some actual thought to fully understand what we all saw.

So that you can be prepared for Blade Runner 2049, here is a run down via Comic-Con San Diego that was posted back in July (that details the events that occurred between the original Blade Runner and the monster sequel due out this week).

2019: Blade Runner Rick Deckard flees Los Angeles with a replicant named Rachael (obviously there's going to be questions answered like, "what has Deckard been doing with Rachael all this time?" I doubt it has been doing origami).

2020: The Tyrell Corporation introduces a new replicant model, the Nexus 8S, which has extended lifespans.

2022: An EMP detonation causes a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world.

2023: A Replicant prohibition is put into effect.

2025: A new company, Wallace Corp., solves the global food shortage and becomes a massive super power.

2030: Replicant prohibition is repealed.

2049: Life on Earth has reached its limit and society divides between Replicant and Human.

I gotta admit. This has got me excited guys! Anyone else planning on seeing it?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Here are five things that I absolutely loved about the Star Trek Discovery premiere.

My friend Kevin Long asked me on Wednesday (via a comment) how I liked Star Trek: Discovery. I suppose I thought the implication that I liked it a lot was in there somewhere, as I went to a lot of trouble to get it to show on my LG television. But since my viewing, I've thought about exactly what I liked about it, and I'm going to tell you. Oh and Kevin, if you're reading this, you should send me an email because I lost your contact info in my last move. WARNING: There are spoilers for the first two episodes in this post.

1) Powerful female characters and strong diversity. The captain was Chinese, the first officer a black woman, and both roles predictably dominated over everything else. I liked that these Starfleet officers operated (essentially) without any reference to their sex whatsoever. There was no hint of fear of the Klingons, they did not get distressed or histrionic, there was no "standing down" unless it was done by threat of being shot, and the threats on their existence were taken very seriously and intelligently. The two women in the pilot (at the center of everything) are Captain Philippa Georgiou (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Commander Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green).

2) It's definitely Trek. I think the feel of it lies as a mix between Deep Space Nine and Voyager with punched up graphics, Aaron Sorkin-esque rapid fire dialogue, and combat/space battle front and center. It feels darker, grittier, and very serious. The best of Trek was always in the space battles and wars. The makers of this show know this and they threw it in the pilot episode. Fantastic.

3) Michelle Yeoh blew my socks off. I loved hearing her accent, and it felt refreshing for some reason. Maybe it's the fact that in the real world, we are almost on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea and that our only hope to reign them in peacefully seems to be through the actions that China may or may not take. Michelle Yeoh spoke her lines with every fiber of her being. It was great hearing such conviction and it is disappointing that she died in episode two.

4) The show is taking big risks. The first two episodes introduced us to a captain that was at the center of tremendous conflict (that was at times an edge of your seat thriller). Then it killed off that captain in a deadly battle that proved how big the stakes were. Multiple ships, including the Shenzou were essentially destroyed. A federation admiral was killed. A war with the Klingon empire was started. And the other main character, Michael Burnham, was sent to prison on charges of treason, conspiracy, and mutiny (essentially for the rest of her natural life). Where the hell do we go from here? If we continue with Michael's story, we will be rooting for a criminal.

5) The finishing touches are incredible. There's an alien on the bridge of the Shenzou that has amazingly detailed skin, to the point that it looks almost iridescent. Whoever is doing the makeup is a maestro at their job. The bridge looks super polished and awe-inspiring. The computer generated graphics are (at times) rather mind-blowing. And the vistas of alien worlds and the shots of the universe out through the main projector screen are stunning. In practically every screen there's an opportunity to say, "wow."

So there you have it. If you watched the show, please share any thoughts you may have in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Star Trek Discovery was obviously worth the trouble for me to watch but its a big pain in the ass.

I have technology fatigue. I work in technology, and I live in a smart home. Getting all of that set up took time and money, and it works beautifully. Everything should be seamless, but Star Trek Discovery gave me the huge middle finger last night. Like a lot of people who enjoy Trek, I recorded the first episode. I have an X1 Xfinity DVR with voice control, I have a 4K LG television set mounted above the fireplace, I have all of the HDMI and optical cables routed through the wall, a pioneer surround sound system for great sound, and I have fast Wi-Fi speeds. My 4K television and my X1 DVR both have apps. On X1 I can switch over to the Netflix app seamlessly, although I rarely do this because the broadcast isn't in 4K. Usually when I want to watch Netflix, I use the apps on my 4K television from LG, which is essentially like having a tv with a built-in Roku. I bought it for this reason. I didn't want to have more and more devices. I wanted technology minimalism, as it were.

On my LG television I can watch Amazon, Hulu, Crackle, and countless other apps. However, there is no CBS All Access app. Trust me, I looked. I went online and looked it up, and it turns out that CBS declined to make an app for the LG television. Okay fine. I have Xfinity too. So I went onto Xfinity's app store that has apps like Netflix on it, and nope...there's no CBS All Access. Xfinity on their forums even went so far as to say that this will never happen, as this streaming service by CBS is viewed as direct competition.

Okay, so I went to my small devices, i.e., my iPad and my iPhone. On the support page of CBS All Access, they proudly tout that you can watch these shows on the small devices. Keep in mind that I don't want to watch the show on a small device unless I'm traveling, and that it actually pisses me off that a company uses "This show is made for viewing on a small device" as one of its selling points. Those should be available, yes, but they shouldn't be the main goal. I guess CBS All Access didn't get this memo.

So when I view things like YouTube on my small device, an icon pops up that I can tap that will throw the show onto my television set so everyone can watch it. It's because my Apple and LG are compatible to each other and they are both set up through my Wi-Fi. This was not a coincidence by the way. I selected this compatibility through research when I purchased my electronics. However, the CBS All Access app doesn't produce the icon. It's not encoded on it, so you can't actually transfer any CBS broadcast through the small device onto the LG television. Needless to say, my patience is wearing thin here.

I decide to view the CBS All Access through a web browser built into my LG television set. I type in the web page, enter my sign-in information, and click play on the Star Trek episode. A beautiful commercial for Verizon plays (after which Star Trek will start) and the sound/everything is working as intended. Once the commercial ends, Star Trek starts and plays for two seconds and then stops. It errors out saying that the video is not compatible with this web browser. ARE YOU F*CKING KIDDING ME? I can watch commercials but I can't watch the program?!?

What finally worked was a mockery of everything that I went to the trouble to avoid. I broke out my laptop, connected it to the side of the LG television with an ugly black HDMI cord that dangles down on the side with the fan of the laptop clearly humming, and then used the laptop to view the next episode of Star Trek Discovery, which was now visible on my big television via a hardwired connection of the HDMI cord to input 2. After all this trouble, I will be paying $5.99 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery in this frustrating manner AND it will be filled with commercial breaks. It really was a big middle finger to all of the trouble I have gone to (and all of the expense) to make my house a beautiful zone of peace. It was a big "Oh...this is nice...too bad YOUR SH*T A'IN'T GONNA WORK WITH THIS HERE PROGRAM! HA!" **spits on my face** "YEAH YOU GONNA EAT THAT SH*T UP, BOY!" Those were the words playing in my mind as I looked at the ham-fisted way I solved my Star Trek Discovery problems.

There's part of me that's incredibly angry with CBS. It's like they made no attempt to make life easier for anyone. They didn't make deals with other companies, they didn't design apps well, and it was all because "zero f*cks were given." It must be nice to live in a world of "zero f*cks."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle was a delightful sequel to the ever popular Secret Service.

I watched Kingsman: The Golden Circle this weekend, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as I did the original. There are spoilers ahead in this post, so if you plan on seeing it, you should probably stop right now.

Of course, there were a few things I didn't like about this sequel. The first of these was that I felt that Merlin should have lived instead of Harry (played by Colin Firth). Merlin was a character that I was more interested in for the longevity of the series. And then (of course) I felt they killed off Roxy (a.k.a. Lancelot) in a manner that didn't speak to any of her contributions and hard-fought placement in the organization in the first show. It felt like they were trying to axe solid female characters and go with a "bro" organization.

The things that I did like about the show far outweighed any of my criticisms, however. Any scene with Elton John was pure gold, as the singer mostly poked fun at himself and took (with great stride I might add) the indignities that Poppy (Julianne Moore) inflicted upon his person. As an "over the top" villain, I appreciated the remote location of her world-ending drug operation from a volcano. Her dash of homesickness that led her to reconstruct a 1950's diner in this volcano and equip it with robot dogs and robot spa attendants was nothing short of brilliant (and just screamed "capable supervillain"). And I do like the gushing "Quentin Tarantino-esque" bits of gore from grinding people into meat to make hamburgers for the grill...to slicing them in half with an electrified whip. Those are things I lived for in this sequel.

The plot was pretty fantastic too. How could you go wrong with a main character that ends up becoming a prince at the end (and marrying a princess)? And the Statesman were every bit as cool as the Kingsmen ever were (with a decidedly American "hillbilly" flare).

One thing I noticed: There have been two movies within a month or so of each other that have featured (strongly) the song "Country Road" by John Denver. They are "Lucky Logan" and "Kingsman: the Golden Circle." Additionally, both movies starred Channing Tatum. I think that's one of those coincidences that you can't make up.

If you saw the movie this weekend, what did you think? I look forward to reading your comments.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Four things I know about the Kingsman franchise ahead of my viewing of The Golden Circle

With Kingsman: The Golden Circle ready to take on It at the box office this weekend, I thought it would be nice to do a post for all you peeps out there that don't know much about the "behind the curtains" stuff of this franchise. Namely, there's four things that I know:

1) Colin Firth wasn't supposed to be in the sequel. The popularity of the character virtually demanded it be done though, and I guess I'll know soon enough how it happens.

2) It's loosely based on "The Secret Service" comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. I've never read the comic book myself (I bet Pat Dilloway has), but I do like that it's "over-the-top" like a comic book movie. I think a lot of the spy genre stuff that's come out these days is too grounded in reality. I want to see fantasy mixed in with these super spies. Like fantastic crazy stuff...unbelievable stuff. Not a string of gun-kata martial arts maneuvers that goes on for about an hour and a half (with some dialogue dribbled here and there in a half-assed attempt at cobbling together a story).

3) Colin Firth did 80% of his own stunts. I'm really surprised at this because a lot of the stuff that his character "Harry" does is really impressive. Maybe not Tom Cruise impressive, but Tom Cruise is kinda crazy in my opinion.

4) In real life, Taron Egerton (who plays Eggsy Unwin) is scared of dogs. I actually share this phobia to some extent. I was attacked by a dog when I was eight years old. I see that dog oftentimes in my mind whenever I look at someone's pet. I feel like people don't realize how much of the "vicious animal" still remains inside their beloved family member. But it's there...always lurking.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is epic fantasy fiction written by men just a red pill wonderland?

I think the true "Wonderland" is the internet. It's a strange place because the psychology of people is strange, and when you get so many ideas being shared, you are bound to run into anything that you can imagine and a few that you never could. One of the things that I've discovered/run into on the internet is a whole community of "Red Pillers." These are an enormous group of men who essentially co-opted the scene from the original Matrix wherein Morpheus asked Neo if he wanted to take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill. Men who are "Red Pill" are referred to by this community as being ideal men, with strong alpha masculine traits. Divorce is referred to as "wealth extraction," and liberals (because of a strong connection with modern feminism) are truly hated/loathed. Contrary to what many may think of me, I find their discussions among each other to be fascinating. Lurking under the surface of every man in this online community are extremely embittered feelings that have no outlet. To say that these men will never trust a woman again might even be an understatement. Rather, to say that these men actually have contempt is what's really going on, and the real struggle with these people seems to all center around one basic idea: how does a modern man feel masculine, powerful, and respected (sexually--it's always about sex) in settings (whether they be at bars, parties, raves, or at home having dinner) that are ultimately dominated in sexual tension. These men even have their own vocabulary consisting of words like "beta cuck." All of this rests (of course) on an underlying principle that men need to embrace in order to get around to the idea that men need fixing to begin with, and it's this: young attractive women have all the power in relationships and men are dogs begging for scraps.

It's a fascinating premise, and I have no idea if it's true or not. For some people it probably is, for others it probably isn't. Sweeping generalizations never seem to work out just right, but I've often discovered that buried within a generalization might be a shred or two of some truth. And this again may depend entirely on belief. In other words, what a person believes may actually make some thing true, which is not to say that it is "factual." I'm saying this now because "facts" and "truth" are oftentimes confused and used synonymously, but they are not the same thing. But I digress. No, what all this "red pill" stuff got me thinking about was the genre of "fantasy fiction," which is more or less dominated by "Game of Thrones" right now. But there are other examples aplenty, and I (for one) love both to write and to read fantasy fiction. It wasn't until I started to read all this "red pill" stuff online though that I truly started seeing how a lot of fantasy fiction written by men is filled with "red pill" qualities. So (for that matter) are video games like World of Warcraft and other such things.

In these fantasy worlds, which oftentimes are based in some kind of world that is similar (or borrows strongly from) the medieval periods of Europe and Asia, you can read exceptional tales of fictional lives that are literally filled to the brim with something lacking in a lot of lives: meaning and purpose. What a concept, right? In many of these stories, women (for the most part) need to be saved a lot, whether it is from rapes from monsters and other such evil creatures, or from tyrants or other such bad agencies. I suppose that a lot of fantasy (in fact) rests on the trope of good vs. evil, but even if it doesn't (such as that presented by George R.R. Martin), it does need to have constant conflict between groups (think the warring kingdoms of Westeros) because only in conflict can men really prove how masculine and mighty they are. I started to think that this may be a reason why games like World of Warcraft and the fantasy genre (typically awash with nerds) are so popular with men as are gaming and comic book conventions (which also have a greater percentage of men than they do women). In other words, I started to think that because our country is so safe (let's face it peeps...in comparison to other countries the U.S. as a whole is a pretty darn uneventful place to live). To clarify, I'm not saying that the U.S. doesn't have its problems with crime and punishment, inequality, justice, etc. What I'm saying is that we are not war-torn, nor do we have a widespread problem regarding access to food and water and other such necessities. Americans for the most part, have the ability to enjoy a concept called "free time," which means that (as a society) some of us even experience boredom on a regular basis. But a side-effect of all of this free time is that a lot of young people no longer have purpose and meaning.

Enter in the epic fantasy, whether it be presented as a role-playing game, a video game, a fictional book of a thousand pages written by George R.R. Martin, or some virtual reality thing that I have never yet seen, and I suddenly realize what's going on here. It's a "red pill" dreamland. In these entertainments, men feel powerful when (I'm beginning to suspect) they don't feel powerful in real life anymore. In other worlds, in our society there's no one that really needs to be saved anymore in some "dramatic" way. There are no dragons to slay. The modern way of "saving" someone is to get a job and turn over a paycheck, which has far less appeal than raiding the horde of an ogre.

Anyway, all of this collapsed into an idea that popped into my head about why boys don't read fiction anymore (for the most part). Sure there are still some of us out here that do, but it got me to thinking that if publishers want to have boys read fiction then they're going to need to make stories wherein (when a boy reads it) he feels powerful. It sounds pathetic, right? Why do men need to feel powerful? But it is something I'd like to open for debate to see if anyone else has noticed this. In any event, we live in interesting times.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Game of Thrones animated series launches December 12 and it packs a lot of information even if the CGI is bad.

In the gulf that exists between now and whenever the final season of Game of Thrones arrives on HBO, we now have a storybook-style animated series called Game of Thrones Conquest & Rebellion. The first episode, which is about four minutes long, actually explains A LOT about Westeros that I never got from the books or from the television series. It's probably been explained by George R.R. Martin at some point in his encyclopedic books that he's put out, but I've only purchased those as gifts for other people and never for myself. It's one of the things I plan to change in the near future.

So, I watched the first episode. The animation is clunky but the narration is pretty great. It's narrated by actor Harry Lloyd whom (if you remember the first season of GoT) played Dany's brother Viserys who received a "golden crown" of death from Khal Drogo. For what it's worth, Harry Lloyd has excellent pronunciation, and I think I could listen to him for hours narrating word after word.

The whole mini-series is 45-minutes long and is available as a bonus gift for pre-ordering the Game of Thrones season 7 blu-ray. I think I'm going to just try and track the others down online and see if I can watch them.

You might be asking, what did I learn in this first four minutes that I already didn't know?

I learned a little more about the Doom that came to Valyria, and that everyone apparently could just fly around on dragons. I thought it was something that only the noble houses of Valyria could do. I also learned that the Targaryens somehow knew that the Doom was coming, and they fled ahead of it to the isle of Dragonstone. That was interesting. They brought with them the know-how to build the fortress and then Aegon and his two sisters surveyed the nation of Westeros from the sky in order to commission a gigantic map (you see it in Stanis's war room in Dragonstone). I also learned the names of the ancient great houses. I didn't know that the Starks were the oldest house. I suppose I could have put that together, but I never did. I just knew they were a powerful house and ruler of the largest kingdom of the seven (if not the most sparsely populated).

The episode is definitely worth a watch, and I've embedded it below for your convenience. Who knows? If it's popular enough maybe HBO will explore it in live action through another Game of Thrones-esque series in the same world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The theme for Star Trek Discovery does not build into anything grand yet...it shows promise.

This is the new title theme from Star Trek: Discovery. For the record, I liked all the themes from the various Star Trek's with the exception of Enterprise. I just found the electric guitar and vocals to be too jarring for me to fall in love with the Rod Stewart-esque beginning for Enterprise. My favorite beginning is the one for Deep Space Nine. 
If you like music, you should click play and listen to the whole thing. Seriously, just do it. Here are my thoughts after having listened to it:

1) It shows promise. For Star Trek, I want the main theme to draw me into the grandeur and wonder of the world of Trek. I want to be immersed. And yes, Enterprise didn't do this for me.

2) The theme needs to be memorable. This particular one is not as beautiful as DS9 or Voyager's, but I think it'll do. It may grow on me.

3) I'm not completely sold on the trombones at about 1:58. I think they'd be better served at the beginning and not the end. Just my opinion as it is the classic Star Trek theme.

4) Does it seem to have a Game of Thrones influence from about 1:11 on? Listen and let me know.

5) Overall, it seems a little choppy. To clarify, the opening notes give way to a small ostinato which you expect to build to something but doesn't. And then the Alexander Courage fanfare (original Star Trek theme) just cuts it off. But really, it's hard to do better than Dennis McCarthy.

Now if you have time, compare the above theme to the below theme from Deep Space Nine as played by the City of Prague Philharmonic and as composed by Dennis McCarthy. Needless to say, I have always loved the DS9 theme because it has trumpets! It has power! It has majesty! Anyways...this new one is going to have to grow on me. Sigh...I suppose I'm a music snob.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Orville is basically a polished version of Star Trek minus any dignity

Dignity is probably over-rated anyway. If you disagree, you probably won't like The Orville. I, however, did end up liking it quite a bit. Living modern seems to lack all kinds of dignities these days. Even minus a president who will say anything that comes to his mind, we have a culture where it is no longer considered "crossing a line" to just ask people how much they make or spent on something (even if you don't know them), to ask them if they masturbate, or to air entire arguments between couples on Facebook (or for that matter broadcasting it on Facebook Live) So The Orville seems particularly timely because it does all of those things, refusing to back away from its crew needing to "take a piss" or from talking about a messy divorce that's broadcast over the loud speakers. Truth be told...I don't particularly like the fact that nothing is taboo in our culture anymore. For one, I kind of liked it back when people had manners and said "thank you" or used the word "please." But it is what it is, right? Maybe all the grossness of life being aired like it is on reality television is the remedy for a culture that (otherwise) might tend to glamorize life. It's the "anti-glamorization" movement so to speak. And I think it found a good representative in Seth McFarlane.

Seth is an interesting guy. A creative genius he no doubt is, but he also seems to have some incredible clout with Fox. He was the one that got Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot miniseries of Cosmos to get made, and it doesn't surprise me that Fox clearly threw a huge budget behind The Orville (as well as giving it a coveted Sunday night air time). The powers that be seem to love Seth McFarlane. The Orville looks very slick and polished too. It has a big budget feel to it, putting to shame any Star Trek series's special effects that I've seen to date. We'll see how this fall's Star Trek: Discovery measures up. However, I have a feeling though that they'll be fairly comparable as far as visual effects go. I just hope Star Trek: Discovery is more nuanced, takes itself seriously, and has a slower pace. I miss a slower pace guys...everything these days seems to be made for people with attention deficit disorder. With The Orville, I felt a little breathless as every scene seemed to be jam-packed with action.

As far as an homage to Star Trek goes, I liked it a lot. But The Orville does go where Star Trek never did: it dared to poke fun at it's own crazy ideas. We get introduced to an invention which has the ability to create a bubble of time wherein everything else inside that bubble gets aged a hundred years. As a scientist points out...the implications are huge in that you could grow crops in a single night for a city of starving people or other similar uses. But they use it to age a banana into dust and to grow a redwood tree mixed with tardigrade DNA (so that it can survive in space without food or water) to destroy a spaceship. It works but again...without much dignity. It's funny of course. I just wonder how long they can keep it up before the slapstick becomes kind of tedious. Can you imagine the reception audiences would have given forth if the "Genesis project" had been treated with such abandon?

And this makes me beg a question to the public at large: is a theme of space any fun over a long haul when it is done tongue in cheek? Humor kills drama, and drama is the bread and butter of any traditional one hour television show. Would Law and Order have any of its impact if all the scripts were performed in such a way as to be slapstick and without dignity? I'm not sure that it would. So it'll be interesting to see how my feelings toward The Orville develop over the course of the season. Will they deepen or will I be glad to see it go?

Anyway, what did you guys think of it (if you watched it)? Are you going to continue with the show on Sunday night? Or did it just rub you the wrong way? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.

Friday, September 8, 2017

These Studio Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning and I want them all.

These Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki prints are just stunning. I really want some of them, but getting things custom framed can really break the bank. I recently had one oversized picture triple matted and framed with museum quality glass and it weighed in around $800. It's totally worth it...but there's only so many of those a man can afford. And if I can't afford to get a picture framed, I might as well not even have it at all.
"Night Falls on the Spirit Realm"
The Forest Spirit
Atop the Camphor Tree
Gutiokipanja Bakery
If you are a fan of Miyazaki's work, check out the prints on THIS PAGE.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

For today's insecurity I confess that I have a bad romance for first person perspective.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, so it is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group day. As usual, I'm going to tackle the question which is:
Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in??
The answer is "Yes," and I surprised myself when I wrote a story in first person. I didn't think I'd like it, and (at the time) I actually really got into it. But then with time, I fell out of love with first person. Is it okay to have a "bad romance" with first person? There are days when I'm so on board with it, and then there are days when I really can't stand it. I'm not sure what's my deal I suppose.

And it's that way when I'm reading too. For example, I loved first person in the Iron Druid series, and then I fell out of love with it and stopped reading the books. At some point, I'll probably go back to them, but by then I might be in love with first person again. Ugh. I totally don't make any sense. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Warner Brothers is making a streaming service and a live action Teen Titans series is on the slate

I know I've railed against everything having its own streaming service, and Warner Brothers starting their own just added one more rock to the pile. It would be tempting to say that there's nothing that Warner Brothers has right now that would make me want to subscribe to their streaming service. However, at some point in 2018 it has been announced that there is going to be a live-action Teen Titans. The only actress I know who has been cast is for the role of Starfire, and that goes to Anna Diop.

Starfire was never my favorite character. However, she was pretty dang cool with orange skin, an asymmetrical costume (a lot of artists get this wrong), and the ability to channel really powerful blasts of energy through her hands. We're talking Cyclops (from the X-Men) level energy blasts...enough to level buildings or destroy other such landmarks. She also could fly, and the way she was drawn, her jet stream just kind of emitted from her hair (it sounds silly now but it actually looked pretty cool in the comic book panels). For most of the comics that I read, she was in love with Dick Grayson, a.k.a., Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin from the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin. She was also known as Princess Koriander, which I thought was a really nice-sounding name.

My favorite character of the Teen Titans has always been Raven. The daughter of Trigon the Terrible, she is a follower of Azar's teachings (a goddess that was killed by Trigon). Azar was basically a comic-book version of Buddha and Raven was always trying to suppress the evil that was inside her (and was of course inexplicably linked to Trigon the Terrible). Raven had some very unique powers. For one, she had a soul self that was black that she could use to carry people and things in (like a massive handbag to an alternate dimension). Anything inside that soul self was subject to her full mind control powers. In one comic book, she even had Starfire inside waiting to surprise a villain that Raven captured (and they ended up fighting in the expanse of Raven's soul). Raven could also teleport around and she (of course?) had mind control similar to Jean Grey.

With that said and out of the way, yes I'm very excited. However, I want to rant about streaming services yet one more time. This is yet another streaming service that I will have to pay for to get a single TV show. I sincerely hope that everyone trying to manage their own streaming teat is going to have negative results, forcing them to realize that it's easier and more cost-efficient to just let Netflix or Hulu handle it. I don't love paying subscriptions to a billion different streaming services (and I think there are some people who are also in my same basket of thought about this).

If anything is to blame, it's because too many people bitched about cutting the cable and wanting everything a la carte. So yeah...that's what we're getting stuck with. I think some people will figure out that when you want everything that the a la carte menu offers, it ends up costing the same as just buying it whole, but without all the hassle. In the meantime, I guess I'll just plan on going broke trying to manage streaming services.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let's talk about all the ways Viserion and the Night King and the army of the dead can meet their end.

Viserion.
After Viserion's death from a magic ice javelin thrown by the Night King in the episode "Beyond the Wall," I think everyone knew that this was a game-changing moment. The shocking death aside, the fact that Viserion could make the wall crumble in upon itself with such efficiency was both beautiful and terrifying. Dragons are incredibly powerful, and I gotta say...highly unappreciated by the army of the dead. At least a living army would have experienced awe. The dead? Not so much. Anyway...I've been talking with friends (naturally) about the season finale, and here's what we came up with on the ways that Viserion might die.

1) Qyburn's scorpion (obvious).
Assuming that Gendry (the blacksmith that so conveniently showed up to run a marathon in "Beyond the Wall") can craft javelins/arrows/spears with dragon glass tips, and engineers can make one of Qyburn's scorpions...I think this is an obvious solution.

2) Melisandra of Ashai (less obvious, but really cool).
In the third episode of the seventh season, Jon Snow arrived at Dragonstone and Varys walked out to speak with Melisandre who was standing on the island's cliffs. She revealed to him that she was heading to Volantis (which is a free city in Essos that is the location of a prominent Red Temple), and she made an ominous declaration to him, "I will return, dear Spider, one last time," she said in reference to Westeros. "I have to die in this strange country, just like you." So it makes me ask, "What is so important that Melisandre would need to come back to Westeros to do that ultimately leads to her death?"

So here's the thing...and please bear with me on this...it doesn't look like to me that Viseryon was turned into an ice dragon. He's not a "different" species, although his fiery breath weapon is now blue instead of fire-colored. But if Viseryon is in fact a dead dragon brought to life through the Night King's power, there is nothing to stop Melisandre from bringing a dead dragon back to life through the power of the Red God.

Perhaps this is the part Melisandre has yet to play in this story. I'm thinking that she comes back to the Great War at a very dire point, and that she uses the power of R'hllor to bring Viserion back to life, snapping him out of the Night King's control and allowing the dragon to turn on its former master at the last second. And this is probably how Melisandre dies too.

Priests of the Red God R'hllor revered the dragons as "fire made flesh." I can see no greater insult to the red god than to have a dragon be enslaved to serve the Great Other (in the beliefs of Melisandre's faith there are only two gods...one of ice and one of fire. The one of Ice is referred to as 'The Great Other'). Anyway, it makes sense to me that R'hllor could use his priest to wrest control of the dragon from the power of the Night King.

The Night King.
1. Arya Stark. 
I like to believe that there are reasons for everything in a well-scripted show like Game of Thrones. So why does she have a dagger made of Valyrian steel? Hmm. Was it so that she could cut Littlefinger's throat in the season finale? Or is this some profound foreshadowing? In other words...we know that White Walkers are vulnerable to Valyrian steel. The dagger also has significance in that it was promised a death (Brandon Stark) but that his mother stopped the assassination in season one. Could this also be foreshadowing? Either way you look at it, the event of arming Arya with the dagger is probably significant...more so than just using it to cut Littlefinger's throat. There are a couple of ways she might possibly be able to do this.

She might be able to use her face changing powers to get close to the Night King, although it seems unlikely she would be able to actually get a face from one of the White Walkers as they burst (inconveniently) into shards of ice upon death. But I'm not exactly sure how her powers work, so I'm going to say that it may be in the realm of possibility that this happen.

The second way Arya may kill the Night King comes from a rumor that Brandon Stark is actually the Night King (which seems to be hinted at strongly in the show). Here are two clues that this may be true.

They wear the same style of clothes.

The season finale showed the army of the dead in an aerial view that looked a lot like the Dire Wolf sigil of House Stark (as they walked past the shattered wall).

Here's how the theory goes: Bran uses time-travel abilities to go back to the moment that the Night King was created by the Children of the Forest in order to intervene, but gets trapped within the body of the zombie lord instead. So, once people figure this out (namely Arya) it seems killing Bran will kill the Night King as the two are linked somehow. In which case, Arya fulfills the death that was promised to the dagger (and thereby satisfies the god of death whom she worships).

2. A dragon kills the Night King.
Either a resurrected Viseryon brought back by Melisandre (as stated above) or one ridden by either Daenerys or by Tyrion Lannister.

3) Jon Snow kills the Night King (obvious). This showdown has been brewing from season one. The White Walkers were always Jon Snow's storyline. Now that the White Walkers are an apocalyptic force bent on destroying all of humanity...what better way to take out there king by none other than Jon Snow himself.

The Army of the Dead.
1) Dragon Fire.
Daenerys still has two dragons. If she can teach them how to dodge ice spears, they could decimate a hundred thousand soldiers pretty quickly with dragon fire (especially given that wights are flammable). The problem (of course) is keeping the Night King from shooting them down with ice javelins.

2) Thousands of arrows tipped with dragon glass arrow heads.
This is what I'd do. I'd make so many dragon glass arrow heads and train people to just shoot high in the sky and have the rain of arrows come down on the army. Fill the sky with so many that it blots out the light of the sun. I think that'd take out a lot of the army of the dead in huge swaths.

3) Kill the White Walkers.
We learned from the episode called "Beyond the Wall" that the magic of animating the dead stems/flows from the one that did the animating. A lot of the animating has been done by the Night King. Kill him and probably 90% of the army will just fall to pieces.

Conclusion.
There are six episodes left, and they are all rumored to be of feature length (around the two hour mark). This may mean that we've got a lot of epic stuff in the works coming down the pipe from HBO. However this ends...will it be an apocalypse? or will it be a last ditch effort thrown by the living to conquer the dead? I'm sure it will be entertaining television. But it's clear to me in writing this post that the living does have many options to deal with what's coming for them. They just have to get busy and actively work to put their differences aside.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Is Game of Thrones going to end with an apocalypse?

Guys, in the Dragon and the Wolf, the season finale of the penultimate season of everyone's favorite tv show, I gotta say that I had hope. I had hope that Cersei somehow (either because Tyrion said the right things or because she had thoughts of the welfare of her unborn child) saw the light. That she recognized the threat of the army of the dead and the Night King. But when she turned around and decided to back-stab the alliance, renege on her promises, and threaten her brother Jaime (who might have just escaped King's Landing with his life), that little bit of hope I was feeling got snuffed out.

How are the living going to defeat the dead? Their army just keeps on growing, and they have an ice dragon now that took down the wall (kudos to my friend Kevin who predicted as much on my post on Friday). As a side note, I'm kinda wondering what's up with Viseryon's breath weapon. Is it fire or ice? Blue fire? Cold fire? Whatever it was, it sure made quick work of that section of the wall. And it looks pretty cool. I'm not certain why Viseryon's wings are all tattered now though (other than it looks cool that way). I'm just not sure why they would be so tattered after being pulled from the lake, but maybe all the undead knocked holes in them or something.

I'm not quite in full despair mode for the next season (rumor is that it will be two years from now with six episodes each two hours long). Here are things I really was pleased to see that give me some glimmer of hope:

1) Littlefinger's dead. I was kind of thinking that Bran was telling the Stark girls what was up with Littlefinger and making sure that they didn't fall into his trap. I was surprised when they turned the tables on him, and it felt good to see Lord Baelish finally die. At this point in the story, he was completely useless, conniving and scheming while an army of the dead was marching down on them all.

2) It was great to see (finally) that Jon is not a bastard and that his last name is Targaryen. That's going to make the last season very interesting as he's the legit heir of the iron throne. I always saw Jon and Dany sitting in King's Landing when it was all over. But now, I'm pretty much thinking that everyone is going to die. There just doesn't seem to be a way to defeat the army of the dead without Cersei (I'm thinking of Qyburn's "scorpion" invention here). They need that tech to fire dragon glass arrows at the frickin' ice dragon or they are all going to die quite fast.

This season was a pretty wild ride. The final season will soon be upon us, and I suppose the whole world will be tuning in to watch. But is it too much to ask that the world doesn't end in an apocalypse? 

Friday, August 25, 2017

We need to talk about the Beyond the Wall episode of Game of Thrones.

So let's talk about that episode of Game of Thrones that aired last week. It was called "Beyond the Wall," but there's really only one thing that anyone is talking about: the mutha-f*ckin ice dragon. My friend Jake has been yammering about an ice dragon for over a year now. He even showed me a picture of the Night King sitting on top of an ice dragon that he claimed was from this season of the show. I told him it was a fake. Now I'm not so sure. Jake seemed to think that the ice dragon would come from inside the wall itself (which I thought was ludicrous), but now that I know it's Viseryon, I kinda wish it had come from inside the wall. I kind of liked Daenerys having three dragons. I suppose if one of them needed to die, going by way of the Night King was about as epic a death as you could hope for. And boy is the Night King ever powerful. He took out that adult dragon with one throw! As a side note, I love that Drogon dodged the second throw. He's obviously learned something from Qyburn's "scorpion." So what does an Ice Dragon mean exactly? Let's think about this....
1) The Night King didn't turn Viseryon into a mindless undead. He turned him into one of them. That means that Viseryon is an intelligent undead (not mindless) and can make his own minions (just like any of the other White Walkers). It also means that he's invulnerable to anything except dragon glass and Valyrian steel.

2) The Night King can now fly around. This means that he can be everywhere just like Daenerys. One moment she's in the south where Dragonstone is and in the next moment, she's north of the wall saving Jon Snow (and the travel time between them appears to be essentially the time it takes liquid water to turn into ice at around the freezing temperature). So in the time it takes to make ice cubes in your freezer, the Night King could be anywhere he wants to be if only for that wall thing....

3) Prediction for this week: The wall is coming down. It has to. With only six episodes left in the final season, the wall as a plot device to separate the north from the south has run its purpose. Either that...or it will be rendered useless as Viseryon freezes the ocean with his breath to allow the army of the dead to walk around the damned thing. And for what it's worth, I've been frustrated that the army of the dead appears to be stopped by water. If the Night King brings the cold with him, why isn't he freezing the lakes and oceans so that his minions can walk on solid ground?

4) Second prediction for this week's season finale: Cersei dies. Her story is just about up methinks, and I don't think she's capable of allying herself with Daenerys. Jamie's going to need to take over (he's already the Kingslayer folks!), and I think he'll take Cersei out so that we can get down to business: the seven kingdoms uniting behind Daenerys and Jon Snow to fight the Night King.

5) Prediction for the final season: Viseryon will be killed by a dragon glass spear hurled from Qyburn's "scorpion" invention. That's why we were introduced to it in this season. It's an invention that will come in useful to unseat the Night King from his ice dragon mount. That is (at least) how I see it.

6) Question: Can Bran warg into an ice dragon White Walker? He's already established that he can enter the mind of a living human like Hodor. What's to stop him from taking control of Viseryon?

7) My fear: The wall will come down because Samwell makes it back to the north with Gillie and has brought the horn of winter with him. The Night King kills Samwell, takes the horn, and brings down the wall. That would be terrible. I really like Samwell Tarly. He's the only truly good person in the entire series (which unfortunately means he has a target on his back).

Anyway...I'm sure the season finale this Sunday will give us lots to speculate and talk about for sure. See you then.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The total eclipse of 2017 was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen.

I had plenty of time to reflect on the great solar eclipse of 2017. Leaving Idaho Falls, Idaho where my father still lives, it took us four hours to go fifty miles because the traffic on the interstate and every back road and highway was so clogged with people trying to drive south. Once we hit Pocatello, we drove about fifty miles per hour on average to Salt Lake City, with a few places that was bumper to bumper for miles on end (and traffic proceeding at a crawl). My friend summed it up best when she said, "Eclipse traffic is real folks." Yup...it sure was. Was it worth it? Yes.

"Totality" was the most spectacular natural phenomenon I've ever seen. Just prior to it, as the sun was rapidly disappearing, there were waves of light racing across the ground, separated by dark bands. I learned later that these are called "shadow snakes," and they are incredibly rare. The sky to the west got dark and hazy, the temperature dropped, and the colors became intensified almost like a 4K television set. I'd never seen anything like it. Then (of course) the sun disappeared behind the moon and it looked like a black spot in the sky. I was in a twilight world where the only light came from the ring around the sun.

It was the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. When the sun's corona exploded into view behind the moon, it lay gently against a backdrop of midnight blue. The sky around it was filled with stars, and this midnight blue faded to a green and yellow and red on the horizon in every direction. There was a sunset no matter which way I turned, 360 degrees, and it was incredible. It was otherworldly, and the experience left me awestruck. I felt small, insignificant in the universe, and it was a good feeling because it took me away from any thoughts that I had and made me live in the moment. 

What an incredible experience, and I got to share it with my dad, my friend Meg Dolan, and some people that I work with who drove up for the event. Did anyone else take the time to watch it? Below is a picture that my boss took of it from up on a hill. He shared it with me, and it's better than anything I took.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm dreading the eclipse but I'm still going to try and watch it.

I've decided that I'm heading to the zone of totality for the eclipse that's scheduled to pass over the United States on Monday, August 21st. So I'll be pausing my blog until Wednesday of next week. You may wonder why this wasn't a "set" thing, and it's because I've been dreading the eclipse the more and more I hear about it. Driving there is going to be a real conundrum.

My hometown is in the zone of totality, but it's a town of only 50,000 people. And they are expecting half a million to try and drive from Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls this weekend. The local news has been saying that porta potties are going to be available on interstate 15 for the first time in history. Why? Because apparently the traffic jam is going to make Los Angeles traffic look heavenly in comparison. Reports are saying that people may run out of gas on the interstate (idling) as it were and that you should take food and extra gas tanks just in case. The trip to I.F. normally takes about three and a half hours. They are saying on the news to prepare (just in case) for something that takes twice as long.

Additionally, in my home town, the grocery stores sold out of food. Milk, groceries, bananas, you name it... Crowds hit the grocery store hard on Monday in a panic. Lines went around the block at every food outlet and gas station. All because of a solar eclipse and people questioning whether or not they will be able to get supplies.

This may be one of the worst decisions I've ever made. But I'd like to see the eclipse, and I already have glasses for it. I want to see the sun's corona live. I think it will leave me with a sense of awe. I hope it doesn't cloud out. If the weatherman says it will be obscured by cloud cover, I'm going to stay home. I bet there's a lot of pressure on the local weather people here to get the forecast for Monday just right.

Anyway, to anyone else out there that's trying to make the trip, I wish you good luck. See you on the far side of the shadow.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Five assorted musings regarding the Eastwatch episode of Game of Thrones

"Eastwatch" as envisioned by Ted Nasmith. It actually looked a lot like this in the episode last night.
This week's episode of Game of Thrones seems to have set up a pretty strong White Walker episode. And for what it's worth, it was a good episode in its own right. Here are my assorted musings that I took away from the episode (and feel like pointing out):

1) I thought for sure that Jaime Lannister had his goose cooked and drowned last week when he fell into that lake. How Bron saved him other than it being "plot armor" is beyond me. But I suppose that Bron has proven himself time and time again to be an incredibly valuable resource to the Lannisters. For what it's worth, I think that the showrunner of Game of Thrones understands George R.R. Martin very well. George typically cliffhangs something in the books, making you think that something important has happened (Arya being blind for instance). And then when the tale resumes, it's just a minor thing and resolved within a couple of minutes.

2) I was pleased to see that Drogon didn't die from a poisoned harpoon. I'm also not really sure why Tyrion and Varys are making such a big deal of Daenerys burning her enemies when they clearly chose that fate as opposed to bending the knee. I would have bent the knee immediately, but then again, I would find little honor in allowing myself to be burned alive by dragonfire. There's bravery and then there's just plain stupidity. I did like how Dickon stood with his father though. They held hands at the end. That was a nice touch.

3) I'm not sure what Jon Snow hopes to accomplish with his little band that are headed north of the wall to capture a wight and bring it down to a meeting between the queens. They may find that the magic that animates the wights doesn't work over a great distance from the Night King. I think that someone should have at least mentioned that possibility...that it might have some kind of range they don't know about. Also, it's strange that the maesters at the Citadel still have such a hard time swallowing Samwell's tale about the Night King and the army of the dead. Are learned men really that skeptical in a world where dragons are real?

4) Cersei has nothing to win by helping out Jon Snow to take on the Night King. I'm not sure why even trying to convince her that an invasion of walking dead men is real is even a strategy. If she admits that it's real, then she loses any support of locals in Westeros who will march north to fight the army of the dead with Daenerys. How does that at all solidify her position? It doesn't. It only weakens it, which means that even having a meeting with her is at best a waste of time and at worst, incredibly dangerous.

5) Littlefinger knows Arya is following him and manipulated her into finding that raven message. My guess is that it's from season one, when Sansa was forced to write to Robb to try and get him to bend the knee to King Joffrey. Splitting up Sansa and Arya (sowing doubt between them) is in Littlefinger's best interest as together, they are too strong for him.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Do you have any assorted musings you'd like to share in the comments below?

Friday, August 11, 2017

I shouldn't have to pay to see the new Star Trek series airing this fall and yes this is a rant.

I just want to say once and for all that cord cutters, greed, and the twisted idea that monopolies are somehow inherently bad are (in the very near future) going to nickel and dime the middle class to death. A man (or a woman) should be able to subscribe to cable and get all the channels. It should be easy. That's it. Done. One bill. Yes, all monopolies are not bad people. Sometimes monopolies can get things done efficiently and with government regulation, can make it so that they aren't too powerful.

But in this country of "greed is good" where everyone is punching each other's lights out to fleece the middle class, I am now faced with the following dilemma:

1) I need to subscribe to cable so that I can watch episodes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Legion, Better Call Saul, Shameless, and American Gods live (as they air).

2) I need to maintain an Amazon subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Man in the High Castle."

3) I need to maintain a Hulu subscription so that I can watch shows like "The Handmaid's Tale."

4) I need to maintain a Netflix subscription so that I can watch shows like "Luke Cage" and "Jessica Jones" and "The Defenders."

5) I will need to maintain a CBS All Access subscription in order to watch "Star Trek: Discovery" this fall. This is complete bullshit by the way. I should be able to get this from CBS for free.

6) I will need to maintain a Disney subscription because they just announced that they are going to have their own streaming service and are pulling all of their stuff off Netflix. Why the hell not? Everyone else is making money with their streaming service, I'm surprised it took Disney this long. So I guess for any new Star Wars series or Indiana Jones thing or Pixar or just plain old Disney movies, I'll need to have a streaming service for it.

Sigh.

Everything (AND I MEAN EVERYTHING) is going to this model of pay as you go. The problem is, this will keep you on a treadmill forever. You will never get ahead with pay as you go. Ever.

/End Rant

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Here are two burning questions I have about the Spoils of War episode of Game of Thrones

This last Sunday, the fourth episode of Game of Thrones' penultimate season aired called "The Spoils of War." As episodes go, it was a really good one with (spoiler alert) a battle that "set the Guinness Book of World Records" for most people set on fire at once. The last twenty minutes or so of the episode are thoroughly entertaining. But having watched those last twenty minutes over again, I have some questions (or maybe it would be better to say "observations" that are certainly open-ended and just waiting for some answers). So, I'll share them with you:

1) Why is the harpoon chucker that got Drogon in the shoulder called a "scorpion?" A scorpion has a poisoned tail as most people know. Was the ballista harpoon poisoned with one of Qyburn's deadly cocktails? He's already demonstrated quite the skill at manipulating and recreating poisons. I can't believe that the whole parade in front of the Dornish queen in the dungeons of King's Landing was simply to showboat how Cersei intended to kill one of the Sand snakes. So, are we about to see Drogon sicken and then die? I would hate that, but she does have two more dragons, and I suppose there's an irony to being wounded in the shoulder and then dying the same as his namesake, Khal Drogo.

2) Why did Arya end up with the Valyrian steel dagger? If she was going to kill more people, she hardly needs a Valyrian steel dagger to do that. Just about any dagger will do. The thing about Valyrian steel is that it's useful against White Walkers. Guys...I think this detail in the show is important. I think we've just seem some foreshadowing that Arya is going to kill the Night King and most likely take his place as the leader of the White Walkers--a "Night Queen" as it were. What do you think?

Anyway, those are my two questions/observations I had regarding the episode. I'll be interested to see what those of you (who watched it and care to respond) have to say. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Comic artist George Rottkamp gives us a snarky look at how the characters in Game of Thrones have changed in seven seasons.

Game of Thrones season 7 is on the downhill slide to its finale now. My friend, Meg Dolan, sent me a group of comics drawn for Dorkly by artist George Rottkamp. They feature everybody from Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow to Daenerys Targaryen, and if you're a fan of the show, then you'll probably smile. It's odd to see just how the characters have changed in seven seasons, especially when taken in this kind of context.