Saturday, December 8, 2012

Politics

I actually wrote this back in late October (BEFORE the election), but didn't end up publishing it for some reason. I think I wanted to write a whole lot more, but in hindsight this seems like it's probably enough as it is.

*     *     *

Politics are tricky things.

I grew up in a reasonably conservative Republican-voting family. Some of my non-nuclear relatives are more left-leaning (my grandmother on my mother's side is, to quote my uncle, "so far left, she has to turn right to see left."), but my primary political education came from my parents, who were generally Republican.

Up until I graduated from high school, I'd have classified myself as "Republican." Even though I couldn't vote then, I couldn't imagine ever voting for a Democrat. After all, they were pure evil, right? The unwitting accomplices of Satan, corrupting America with immorality and bad financial decisions.

Once I got a year or two into college and learned a bit more about politics and American history outside my family bubble, I slightly altered my self-label to "Conservative," partially because I began to find discrepancies between Republicans and actual conservative values. After all, Bush cut taxes (half of conservative economic policy) but then also increased spending by a ridiculous amount (the opposite of conservative policy). Literally, he set the government's economic system against itself, reducing government revenue while increasing spending.

Nowadays, I'd say I'm somewhere between centrist-conservative and libertarian, if that makes sense.

Going along with the libertarian view, I believe in conservative fiscal responsibility with mostly social liberalism. "Do what you want as long as I don't have to pay for it," as the saying goes.

To clarify on the social angle:
I have my own beliefs about personal and social morality, but I don't believe it's my decision or the government's decision to tell people what they can or cannot do in most regards. Simply put, you can't legislate personal morality. The fact that Republicans still seem to think they can inspire/force the country to permanently ban gay marriage is ridiculous. That entire issue is a losing battle, done and gone. Even if they do have moral problems with it, they might as well let that issue go; they're not winning any more votes with that stance today. But regardless of the politics of it all, like I said, I honestly don't think it's the government's moral responsibility to dictate that issue.

One social issue that I do have a hard-fast absolute conservative view on is abortion. "It's a child, not a choice" is fitting. I don't really wanna go into that here at the moment; that could be an entire other post by itself.


On the presidential election:

I don't support Obama's fiscal policies. I don't agree with the idea of "spend more, get more." At the same time, I don't think Obama will sink America economically, nor are his fiscal policies wildly immoral and unconstitutional, as some have said. Looking at America's history over the last century, we've survived far more extreme policies than Obama's. More importantly, however, I think Obama is a generally intelligent and competent person. So, on the whole, while I might not particularly like Obama, my view of him as a candidate is only moderately negative.

Romney is almost the polar opposite of Obama for me. He says a lot of the right things, but the problem is that I honestly don't trust him one bit. Romney is a pure politician; a chameleon whose entire goal in life is to look handsome, give charismatic speeches and gain votes by sacrificing personal integrity in order to appeal to a specific support base. And he's not even good at the charismatic speeches part. It's like he doesn't have a soul to actually put into it; he's just an empty shell made of politeness and hair gel. He says he's pro-life, yet in 2002, he heartily endorsed abortion on moral grounds, with the promise that he had no intention of changing that stance. And that's only one of the many issues he's flip-flopped on. He's like a Republican 2012 version of John Kerry.

Make no mistake: this isn't me saying I'm a Democrat now. Far from it. I only mean to say that the 2012 Republican nominee SUCKS, and I don't want a two-faced incompetent idiot like that in the white house.

I'm voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gingerbread Falcon

I went to an annual friend/family gathering today to decorate a gingerbread house. It's been my tradition to never actually build a *house.* Nor a train, nor anything else that is actually considered "normal" or displayed on the box. Two years ago, I made a gingerbread light cycle from Tron. Last year, I made a gingerbread starship Enterprise. This year, I made a gingerbread Millennium Falcon.





The cockpit section broke off somehow, but oh well. Messy as it is, it's the best gingerbread project I've made yet.

More (non-gingerbread-related) thoughts to come later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cortana



Plot spoilers for Halo 4 below.

It's rare that a story ever actually surprises me. I've spent so much time researching the art of plot and story in mythology-inspired stories (which normally covers both fantasy and science fiction) that I can generally predict where something's going.

The creators of Halo 4 joked before the game's release that if you don't at least get a little choked up at the ending, you don't have a soul. Now, I effectively have a heart of titanium. I can count on two fingers the number of times I've ever gotten choked up at a movie or game, and I've never cried at one. But something else happened during the finale of Halo 4.

Master Chief, in past games, was a blank slate, rarely speaking in cutscenes and never speaking during gameplay. But as readers of the Halo novels know, John-117 is quite a deep character. One of the things that makes him absolutely perfect as the primary protagonist of the Halo series is the fact that his personality is specifically attuned to the mindset of a gamer.

People joke about gamers being loud, obnoxious, impulse-driven shallow thrill-seekers, but it's not as true as you might think. Particularly in story-based games (like the Halo campaigns), the gamer's basic mindset is, "Complete my objectives. Finish the fight. Win." That is literally, almost word-for-word, the perfect way to describe John. He is, of course, a Spartan-II, indoctrinated from childhood to be a perfect soldier. However, even as a young child, before his kidnapping and indoctrination, John was intensely focused on straightforward objective-based thinking. "Winning"—especially at childhood games like King of the Hill—was very important to him. However, there's another aspect of John's psyche that's equally important: his intense attachment to friends, be they his fellow Spartan-IIs, Sergeant Johnson, or Cortana. John's "objective" that he so forcefully fights for isn't just to follow his orders, but to accomplish his mission and save every single life that he possibly can along the way. In some cases (the level "Cortana" in Halo 3; arguably much of Halo 4), protecting his friends is his primary goal, even above his actual mission to save humanity.

This nicely parallels gamers, who also develop emotional attachments with secondary game characters. Every Halo gamer loves Cortana, thus every single one of them can feel the same concern for her that John feels in Halo 4. When John reassures Cortana that she'll be alright and repeatedly asserts that they will find a cure for her rampancy, he's acting as the voice of the audience.

Watching the ending cutscenes of Halo 4 was one of the rare times where I felt like I was there; that the main character was speaking my thoughts. As Cortana explains that she's not going to survive, I/John reacted exactly the same way.

"What?!"
"No. That's not... We go together."
"I am NOT leaving you here."
"It was my job to take care of you..."
"Cortana, please... wait."

I didn't shed a tear at Halo 4's ending, but I imagine that John didn't either. He felt a certain level of sadness, I'm sure, but given how little he's normally able or willing to express his emotions, he probably remained stiff and reserved behind his helmet.

When I finished the campaign, I immediately thought, "Well, now I have to wait three years for Halo 5 to come out so I can find out how Cortana survived." But then I realized that I was indulging in wishful thinking; finding ways to rationalize that Cortana wasn't really dead. One of Cortana's lines from the penultimate level, "Composer," where Cortana is on death's door, is particularly striking:

"They'll pair you with another AI... Maybe even another Cortana model if Halsey lets them. It won't be me. You know that, right?"

Part of me is very, very worried that this might be the case. In the novel Halo: Cryptum, there's a minor subplot where the main character, Bornstellar, is separated from his AI. That AI is replaced by another, who does what she can to reconstruct the prior mental relationship to the former AI—but it's not the same. The idea that another copy—a clone—of Cortana could be brought in in Halo 5 is a very real possibility. And knowing the Halo universe and its limitations, that replacement AI will not at all be the same Cortana.

There is hope, however. In Cryptum, the original AI does make her way back to Bornstellar. Perhaps the same thing will happen with the original Cortana: she'll show up alive and well, having somehow survived via some wonky Forerunner deus ex machina. I'm still betting that'll happen. But the simple fact is that I don't know. I can't say for sure one way or the other because 343 honestly crafted a story that's not clich├ęd enough to be entirely predictable in that regard. And that scares me. Not because I think it won't still make for a good story if Cortana is dead and a new Cortana needs to develop a new relationship with the Chief. That's a pretty decent plot, with tons of potential for deep character development. The reason it scares me is that, just like John, I desperately do not want Cortana to be dead.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Musings on Halo 4

This post will make no sense to anyone who isn't a hardcore Halo fan and/or hasn't played Halo 4. So, basically, all of my readers except Shaun. Hey, Shaun.

I figured I'd write all the random thoughts I have about the story of Halo 4, how it pertains to the greater Halo universe, etc.


*AHEM*


The Librarian claims that she placed gei in humanity's DNA, guiding their evolution toward specific results. It occurs to me that a huge portion of that gei must have inevitably ended up in the brain of Catherine Halsey, since all of her contributions to the UNSC have been almost-direct copies of Forerunner technology.

The Librarian lists "combat skill" as a geas, but it's not certain if she meant humanity's in general or specifically John's. If it is indeed John specifically (which is possible, given that she is capable of creating gei that lie dormant until hundreds or thousands of generations later), then this may explain why John seems to be a singularly capable, borderline-superheroic character. Furthermore, that may be why Halsey picked John in the first place: she inadvertently picked up on his being different due to the geas.

Cortana is said to be another product of human gei, which makes sense considering that she appears as a blue woman, exactly like the Forerunner ancillas did. However, Cortana is stated by the Didact to be "an evolved ancilla," so she may even be something beyond a normal ancilla. Perhaps this is because she was copied from a cloned human brain?

That's another thing. The Composer was supposed to merge the biological with the technological, effectively transplanting a sentient mind into a technological body. Is this not technically what Cortana is? A biological mind transferred and "composed" into digital form?

Given the innumerable ways that the Spartans mirror the Forerunners, the Spartan-II program, I think, was likely Halsey's way of inadvertently fulfilling her geas. That geas being to create a group of immensely powerful humans for the purpose of acting as primary Reclaimers, capable of stopping threats on the level of the Halo array, the Composer, and the resurgent Prometheans.


This is the first time in a Halo game that Master Chief has been treated with actual respect as a character. He's assertive, takes initiative, and is a focal point of the story rather than just someone walking through it. This is exemplified by the fact that he actually speaks during gameplay, something that works really well.

Del Rio is kind of randomly a jerk, but he represents an important idea. Both John and Cortana are caught in a struggle where neither is sure if they are simple tools to be used by the UNSC in service of humanity or if they are truly human themselves. Del Rio vocally represents the cold, pragmatic side of that struggle, while Lasky gives voice to the opposing view. In the end, Cortana and John take a stand for their humanity by standing up for each other. John refuses to let Cortana be destroyed like simple malfunctioning UNSC property, disobeying an order for likely the first time in his life. Cortana later fights against the Didact, saving John and firmly asserting that she's "not doing it for humanity." It's ironic that by denying the things that supposedly define them as servants of humanity, they actually become more human themselves.

At the end, when John and Lasky have their talk about soldiers being "just people," not machines, John almost seems a bit surprised (from what little can be conveyed through the helmet). Not counting anything before age 6, that's probably the first time he's actually thought of himself as human in his entire life. The fact that he takes off his armor for the first time in three months (technically almost five years, but 4.5 years of that were in cryo) is a huge deal, symbolically. I wonder if he'll have the chance to meet his fellow Spartan-IIs that have survived? Or Halsey? How will once again meeting his "family" further his development as a person?


I wonder what the Spartan-IIs and IIIs think about the IVs, who weren't at all picked or trained the same. Heck, IVs are basically just upgraded marines, not at all like the previous Spartans, who were arguably not even human in the same manner.


I may write more later. Or not. But probably yes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halo 4: The Great Journey

Today, I spent several hours of my morning in search of a copy of Halo 4. Specifically, the Limited Edition, not the Standard edition.

Standard:
Limited:

The LE has a bunch of extra stuff and comes in a nice metal case. For a hardcore fan like myself, the Standard edition just isn't an option.

For various reasons, I wasn't able to pre-order the LE before suddenly, about a month before release, every retailer announced that the LE was completely unavailable for pre-order due to a lack of supply. But there isn't any way that literally every copy of the LE was accounted for; that's not how the retail system works with games. Someone had to have a copy of the LE available on launch day, I just wasn't going to be able to pre-order it. Therefore, my only option was to drive around to various stores and try to find an unreserved copy.

This was the route I ended up taking in order to find an LE copy.


I knew ahead of time to avoid Gamestops; they would be the only store that actually would be completely sold out of LEs, and even if they weren't, every other gamer in the area would be heading there looking for the same thing, so it wasn't worth the risk. Better to head to larger stores with less of an emphasis on pre-orders, like Wal-Mart and Target.

Point A: Home
At 7:30 AM, I left the house (Point A) and headed toward Point B, a Wal-Mart. I had one class at school that I needed to get to at 9:30, so it was best to head in that direction.

Point B: Wal-Mart
I found plenty of standard editions, but no LEs.

Point C: Target
Target was the only other store selling electronics that was open at 8 AM, so I headed there. They only had two copies of the game left unreserved, both of them Standards. Someone there told me they were expecting some LEs either later in the day or the next day. I wasn't about to wait around in the hopes that one might show up at some point; I needed to move on.

Point D: TCC
I had to pause my search and go to school for a little over an hour.

Point E: Best Buy
Now that it was after 10 AM and all stores were open, I backtracked to the same general area as the Target that I'd been to earlier and checked Best Buy. I figured they might have more stock than preorders. As it turned out, they didn't. Boatloads of standards, no LEs.

Point F: Toys R Us
It occurred to me that Toys R Us us a store that always gets massive shipments of games, but is mostly separate from the "gaming culture" that focuses on pre-orders. Unfortunately, I didn't consider that they're also not part of the culture that buys special editions of games either. I found dozens of standard-editions, no LEs.

Point G: Best Buy
My second Best Buy trip was no more productive than my first.

Point H: Target
There were literally no copies of Halo 4 at all. I overheard a conversation between an employee and another customer; in the employee's words, "if you didn't get a pre-order, you can't get it."

Point I: Wal-Mart
I'd skipped past this Wal-Mart in my journey previously, mostly because I actually forgot it existed. It's been surrounded and blocked by so much highway construction for so long that I somewhat mentally wrote it off as an actual store. But as I worked my way back towards another group of stores Northwest of my then-location, I remembered that Wal-Mart and decided to quickly check it. As I scanned the lower shelf behind the glass, what did I find?


OH YES. VICTORY IS MINE. NO FORERUNNER ARTIFACT ESCAPES THIS RECLAIMER.
(*ahem*)

After securing my prize, I got lunch, went by Haslet City Hall to vote (Gary Johnson, if you're wondering), and spent the entire afternoon playing Halo 4.

I can't explain just how happy I am with the game. It actually lives up to the hype and even goes beyond it. More on that later.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wake me on November 6th


I am so excited for Halo 4 it's not even funny. I haven't been this excited for something maybe since the last Star Wars movie.





November 6 can't be here soon enough.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Avengers Music Video: The Wings of Icarus

Part of what inspired my JLvA post is the fact that I've been working on this video on-and-off all Summer. I'm decently happy with how it turned out. Fullscreen it in HD if possible.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Justice League vs. The Avengers

I thought it'd be fun to actually write out what would happen if the Justice League and the Avengers battled each other.

For the sake of simplicity, let's go with a smaller five-man team for the League, and the six-man team of Avengers from the movie. The number difference shouldn't matter.

The Justice League
Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Flash

The Avengers
Captain America
Iron Man
Thor
The Hulk
Black Widow
Hawkeye

As the two teams meet in the middle of a deserted street, Superman and Captain America step forward and trade words. Each leader explains his moral stance on whatever issue they're fighting over, and warns that he and his team won't allow the other to continue in whatever they're doing. A final word is exchanged, then both teams ready themselves for battle.

Black Widow sits quietly in a clocktower, sniper rifle in hand. She takes aim at Batman's head, but is surprised when he turns, looks directly at her, then grins. He taps the bottom of his fist, and Natasha flips her gun over to see a bat-tracer attached to the bottom of the grip. Batman has been tracking her for hours. He talks to someone over his earpiece, and the Flash suddenly appears from out of nowhere at Natasha's side, knocking her out with a super-speed punch.

Captain America rushes forward to attack Batman. The two are evenly matched. Captain America is the literal peak of human ability, and Batman has mastered nearly every form of martial arts known to man. They dodge, weave, and strike at each other, neither one able to land a strong blow. Every gadget that Batman throws, Cap is able to block with his shield, and Batman is too smart and skilled to be knocked out by the shield.

Flashback time:
At the Justice League watchtower, sometime before the battle, Batman lays out the League's plan of attack. Of particular note is the recommendation that Superman stay away from Thor, since magic, like kryptonite, is one of Superman's weaknesses.
Meanwhile, at Stark Tower, Captain America recommends that Thor tackle Superman directly, since Superman should be weak against Thor's lightning.

Back in the present, Thor rushes to engage Superman, but is quickly blocked by Wonder Woman. Thor looks to the Hulk for help, but Hulk is too enraged to be much of a team player, instead leaping fists-forward at Superman.

Hawkeye sits atop a nearby building, ready to snipe the Leaguers with his arsenal of trick arrows. As the Flash exits the building where he knocked out Black Widow, Hawkeye—with his extremely high level of perception—manages to predict Flash's movements, nocking an explosive arrow and lining up the shot.

Iron Man fires a few repulsor blasts that Hal easily blocks with energy shields. Hal fires back a few energy blasts that Iron Man dodges or is able to take without stumbling. Tony launches a cluster of mini-missiles; Hal creates a mini-gun energy construct and obliterates the missiles in mid-flight with a hail of bullets. Tony gets tired of being blocked and moves in close. Hal's energy aura protects him to a degree, but Tony's punches are actually able to hurt a bit. Hal and Tony wrestle in the air for a while, but eventually Tony gets impatient and uses his armor's chest beam to unleash an insane level of energy at Hal. Hal stumbles back, but then counters with a giant beam of his own. At this point, it's the power of Tony's arc reactor against Hal's power ring. Theoretically, both devices would run out of power roughly at the same time, but the power ring has a higher level of immediate output by an astronomical factor, limited only by the wielders' willpower. Hal overwhelms Tony in an explosion of light, blasting parts of the Iron Man armor clean off and damaging the rest of the suit beyond repair. Tony falls to the ground, unconscious. Hal, exhausted, floats slowly to the ground. A voice echoes from the ring: "Ring charge at 2%."

Hawkeye fires the explosive arrow at Flash; Flash barely manages to dodge it. Hawkeye quickly fires off a series of explosive arrows, each one singing Flash's suit. Flash eventually manages to zig-zag his way closer and closer, finally running and taking a long jump towards Hawkeye. Clint smirks; Flash can't dodge an arrow if he's suspended in mid-air. As Clint fires the arrow, Flash vibrates his body at super-speed, passing right through the arrow unharmed. Before his feet touch the ground, Flash's fist hits Hawkeye's face. Instant knockout.

Flash turns to go help Batman with Captain America. Captain America, however, with his perfectly strategic mind, is able to calculate Flash's exact angle and velocity. As Flash nears the duo, Cap swings his shield, backhanding Flash in the face with a wall of solid vibranium. Flash hits the floor, out cold.

As Thor and Wonder Woman fight, Thor is shocked to discover that Wonder Woman's bracelets easily block lightning. Wonder Woman tries to restrain Thor with the lasso of truth, but Thor grabs hold of the lasso and yanks it, pulling Diana close and slamming her in the face with his knee. Diana recoils from the hit, but isn't injured. As the battle goes on, neither gets the upper hand. Thor is stronger, but Wonder Woman is far more skilled. If Thor could land a full-force blow with Mjolnir he'd win instantly, but Diana is simply too fast. On the other hand, Thor is so tough that Diana can't seem to land an effective hit.

The Hulk grabs Superman by the cape and swings him directly into Wonder Woman, sending them both tumbling across the street. As they both get up, they find themselves facing different opponents. Superman and Thor stare each other down while Wonder Woman prepares herself to fight the Hulk.

Wonder Woman unsheathes the sword at her belt. Tipped with magic, it's something she'd never use against a human for fear of killing him, but against the Hulk she'll need all the help she can get. The Hulk swings at her wildly, but she dodges him and jabs her sword at Hulk's knees and shoulders. The Hulk's skin isn't invulnerable, especially not against magic weapons, and he begins to slump down to the ground.

Green Lantern decides to use the remaining 2% of his power to help Batman defeat Captain America. He fires off his remaining power in one last blast... which Captain America not only blocks, but deflects directly into Wonder Woman's side. Wonder Woman isn't seriously hurt, but the break in her attack is enough for the Hulk to fight back. He pummels her repeatedly until she lay unconscious in a pile of rubble. At the same time, Batman is able to take advantage of Cap's distraction and throws a freeze grenade. Cap is instantly frozen in a large chunk of ice—something Batman finds pleasantly ironic.

Thor knocks Superman back for a moment, then summons an immense bolt of lightning and unleashes it directly into Superman. Superman yells in agony for a moment, but as the lightning fades he still stands. Both Thor and Superman are momentarily shocked, but Superman quickly realizes the truth: Thor's lightning is the same as any other lightning on Earth; it's elemental, not magical. Superman rushes forward, throwing a flurry of punches at Thor. Thor kicks him back, then throws Mjolnir. Superman barely ducks under Mjolnir's path, then leans over to pick up the hammer from the ground. Thor almost chuckles; only the worthy can lift Mjolnir. Superman is more than worthy. He lifts the hammer and slams it into Thor's jaw. Thor is out.

Green Lantern is powerless and Batman is entirely useless in the fight. Superman and Hulk are all that's left. They trade blows, each hit sending out shockwaves that shatter windows and crack stone walls across the city. Superman can't seem to do real damage against the Hulk with his fists; he fires a heat vision blast into Hulk's eyes. Hulk screams in pain and steps back, then opens his now-reddened eyes and roars with anger. Hulk slams Superman with punches that would level entire buildings. Superman coughs up blood, then wipes it from his mouth and decides enough is enough. He flies behind the Hulk, lifts him off the ground, and flies into space. Superman is capable of surviving in space for hours at a time, so long as he's near a yellow sun. The Hulk, however, still needs to breathe. The Hulk gasps for air that doesn't exist, then falls unconscious.

Back in the city, Batman and Green Lantern jump back, startled, when the Hulk falls from the sky and slams into the street below.

Justice League wins.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Quarterback and The Cheerleader

Superman and Wonder Woman are now going to be a couple. Yeah. This is happening.

For some background, here's the gist of the situation. The DC universe was rebooted last year, and both Superman and Wonder Woman's stories were basically put back to square one. Previously, while Superman and Wonder Woman had some minor flirtation and hints of feelings, nothing really ever came of it. (They went on a date once when they first met. It was awkward.) Superman and Lois Lane were married in 1996 (in publication, not in-universe history), and he and Wonder Woman settled on being close friends and co-workers. (At times they've referred to each other as their "closest" or "dearest" friend, which was a little weird for Superman WHO WAS MARRIED AT THE TIME.)
Meanwhile, in alternate universe stories, Superman and Wonder Woman have frequently been a couple. Often times they have a son or daughter who then becomes the leader of a new generation of heroes in the future. But the only reason that was ever allowed to happen was because they were deliberately alternate universe stories with no impact on the "real" story.

Now, in this new rebooted universe, Superman is currently only in his mid-twenties, and although he's always had a bit of a thing for Lois Lane, they've never been together as of yet. Wonder Woman is now secretly a daughter of Zeus and the Amazon queen Hippolyta (making her a half-goddess and Hercules' half-sister, which is sort of cool), and although there've been references to her romantic relationship with her classic boyfriend Steve Trevor, he might be dead now.


The comic, which goes on sale Aug. 29, culminates months of flirty foreshadowing. Writer Geoff Johns hints that some event — possibly tragic — will impact every member of the Justice League, and cause Superman and Wonder Woman to seek solace in each other and move from super-powered colleagues to power couple. This is no one-issue stunt: “This is the new status quo,” says Johns, adding that the relationship will have a seismic impact on all the heroes and villains in the DC universe.


Immediately, comic fans went a little bonkers. Here were some of the responses that came about, just in my immediate circle of online friends:

"That's the straw that broke this camel's back. I'm done [with DC Comics]."

"...so this was the reason they needed to break up Supes and Lois? Really?"

"...this feels like the only reason that they wiped a relationship with 70+ years of backstory out of reality and it's more than a little annoying."


You might notice that most people were only upset about how it affected Superman; that's because most comics fans actually don't care that much about Wonder Woman (myself not included). It's a complicated thing. Anyway, this was my response:

_______


Here's the deal: I've spent quite a lot of time researching the Superman relationship dynamic. Why he loves Lois, why [his teenage sweetheart from Smallville] Lana Lang is important, how Wonder Woman might fit into it, etc. Superman is my favorite fictional character of all time, and his fairy-tale romance with Lois is very important to me. And I think this is awesome.

Something we need to get out of the way: we all know this isn't going to last. It's NOT. DC knows it and we know it. This is a sidestep. Superman isn't going to marry Wonder Woman and be with her permanently. For Superman's relationships, this is the equivalent of Superman Red/Blue, or any of the other changes in comics that lasted for a few months to a year or more, then quickly got reverted.
Grant Morrison [one of the biggest writers in comics] has written on a number of occasions that the Superman/Lois dynamic is essentially at the heart of the entire DCU; it's basically impossible for the DCU to go on for any prolonged time without going back to that romance. Just because Clark and Lois aren't together at this very moment in time in no way means that they won't be in the future.

As for the "they got rid of the Lois/Clark relationship specifically to do this" thing, I don't buy it. Sure, if you put this under the larger category of "throwing twists into the dynamic," then it fits. If he's going to be younger and single now, why not have some fun with the concept and get him together with Wonder Woman for a time? Do we actually expect that he remained entirely celibate and had no other girlfriends aside from Lana and Lois in his entire life? If this is the Superman story essentially started from the beginning, why is it a problem to not have him be with Lois immediately? And in any case, it's not as though a Supes/WW pairing doesn't actually make sense. They have a hell of a lot in common, both being inhuman immortal sometimes-alienated super-strong flying red-and-blue-clothed members of the Justice League that very specifically believe in the concepts of truth and justice to their very core. I've always said that Superman and Wonder Woman as a couple makes all the sense in the world, it's just not the way things are meant to be. (Lord of the Rings fans: Superman is Aragorn, Wonder Woman is Eowyn, Lois is Arwen.)

Oh, and as for that "relationship with 70+ years of backstory" thing, that's not how that works. Sure, that's as long as Lois Lane's existed, but it's not as though that same story extended through all 70 years. We had a universe-wide reboot in 1986, don't forget, which at the time set the Superman/Lois relationship back to square one as well. That's how these stories tend to work; they continue for a generation or more, then get retold. Meanwhile, those past stories still exist, effectively sealed off for all time like a capsule. Stories like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and Superman: The Wedding Album, huge moments in the Clark/Lois relationship, still exist. Just because the story of the new DCU says that things were "changed," that doesn't matter. No one can go back in time and literally get rid of stories that happened in the past.

As far as Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned, literally all their continuity has been wiped from existence, so this is the start of a new universe entirely for them. Why is that a problem? How is that terribly different from other mediums?
Major spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises:
If the next Batman movie doesn't have Bruce and Selina as a couple (cause, y'know, reboot), is anyone going to complain that they "broke up that relationship" so Bruce could be with Vicki Vale? No, because that's the way these things work in movies and everyone expects it. Comics frequently work the same way, just on a much longer timetable. So we should be happy that we got fifteen years of a married Superman and Lois, not complain that it's not the current story that's being told.

Personally, I actually think that this is extremely cool, both from the silly/fun fanboy angle of Supes and Wondy getting together as well as the fact that now this makes the Superman/Clark/Lois dynamic a hell of a lot more interesting. How is Lois supposed to compete with essentially a female Superman? Why is Superman going to choose to be with Lois (and he will) despite her technically being nowhere near as amazing as Wonder Woman? Yeah, it throws a speedbump in the road for Clark and Lois. But maybe that's a good thing. Do we really want their relationship to just smoothly jump into place with no tension whatsoever?

Sure, DC's going to market this as "the new status quo," but we all know what that means. It's the new status quo for about a year, then it goes back to being the classic thing again. Let's just let ourselves have fun with it while it lasts.

_______


Something I didn't actually mention much in that post because it wasn't relevant to the conversation at the time is that I actually think it's a good move for Wonder Woman. She's always had difficulties with romance, mostly because she doesn't have a romantic interest the way that Superman has Lois Lane. Yes, she has Steve Trevor, but he's nowhere near as important to her story as Lois is to Superman's.

Wonder Woman is, in many ways, a rather difficult character to put into a relationship simply because of who she is. In most versions of her story, she was raised by Amazons who told her all her life that men were corrupt. Furthermore, she believes so strongly in truth (I mean, she has a lasso for it), justice, and the desire to unselfishly help others that virtually no man on Earth can live up to her standards—no one except Superman, that is. Superman is the least-corruptible person in the world. If there were ever someone to disprove the Amazons' sexist belief that men are universally evil, Superman would be the one to do it.

Clark and Diana are also good company for one another, since they can relate to one another rather easily. Their moral beliefs are part of it, but they also both frequently feel alienated, being super-strong inhumans living in a world that either idolizes them or is wary of them, depending on the day of the week. Most men are either intimidated by Wonder Woman or treat her like a sex object, neither of which Superman would do. Superman is frequently treated like a god by women (see Superman: The Movie's horrible "Can You Read My Mind" scene); Wonder Woman wouldn't have that problem. She's literally half-goddess herself now; she'd treat him like a "normal" person.

On top of that, Superman and Wonder Woman actually do make sense from a purely practical standpoint. They don't need to worry about each other getting hurt, neither of them can die from aging (Wonder Woman never ages past age 29 or so, and as long as Superman's near a yellow sun he stays rejuvenated), and as it happens, Kryptonian and Amazon DNA are compatible while Kryptonian and human DNA are not. (because... magic? I dunno.) So they could presumably have a real family together.


So, all in all, while this is a slightly bizarre turn of events, I'm good with it. I'm actually really excited about it. It's gonna be a temporary thing, but it should be fun while it lasts. And hey, y'know what, maybe it'll turn out to be something amazing and actually continue on. Maybe this generation of comics will have Clark and Diana as the definitive romance of the DCU. Whatever's best, really.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Sci-Fi Music

FYI, I'm not gonna continue that superhero series thing; I think I kinda ended it with the last post.

Kinda random, but I figured I'd post my favorite bits of music from science fiction movies, TV, and games.


"Main Title" from Star Trek: First Contact
"Stargate: Atlantis Main Title" from Stargate: Atlantis
"The Doctor's Theme (Series 4)" from Doctor Who: Series 4
"I Am the Doctor" from Doctor Who: Series 5
"Amy in the TARDIS" from Doctor Who: Series 5
"Finish the Fight" from Halo 3
"Sacred Icon Suite 2" from Halo Legends
"A Future for the Krogan" from Mass Effect 3


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Real Heroes

This isn't meant to continue the series of posts I said I'd write about various superheroes; this is a tangent. Though it does tie into Superman.

You're probably thinking that "real heroes" in this post's title refers to the oft-cited "real heroes:" firemen, police officers, paramedics, soldiers, etc. Not to say that those people aren't truly heroes, but this time I mean something perhaps less literal.

For as long as I can remember, I've always thought of Superman as an example. Mark Waid (the brilliant writer of such works as Superman: Birthright and Kingdom Come) said it best:

Here is a guy with the power of a god, someone who can rule the world starting today if he desires. Who can have anything his heart longs for and get away with positively any deed imaginable, all without one single threat of reprisal. But with the totality of time and space subject to his slightest whim... he chooses only to help others. That is Superman's greatest power. When presented with the opportunity, he takes action to make things better — and that's a power that lies within us all.

No, we don't have Superman's physical powers, but that's the entire point of Superman as a metaphor: he's meant to represent an ideal we can aspire to.
Unfortunately, there are some who aspire to other ideals.


So, as I'm sure everyone knows, there was a shooting in Colorado at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The day after the shooting, Robert texted me:

"This is why I have never been comfortable with Joker impersonations."

At the time, I didn't know all the details. After doing some research, apparently this is how it went down.
The shooter concocted a freakishly intelligent plan. He rigged a timer in his apartment to set off loud music shortly before the movie so that the police would respond to a noise complaint and break into his home. His apartment was booby-trapped with a large amount of explosives. After the explosives went off (doubtlessly injuring or killing the officers there), the firemen and police would be diverted there, far away from the theater. If all had gone according to plan (and there was every reason it might have), the shooter would have been virtually free to slaughter everyone in the theater, and might have even escaped. As it went, apparently the police never went inside his house and set off the explosives, so they were plenty free to catch him—but only after he'd shot 70 people and killed 12. When the authorities found him, he'd dyed his hair like a clown and told authorities he was the Joker.

This guy is a legitimate wannabe super-villain. A literal psychopath murderer who took on the persona of a character that is almost-literally the embodiment of chaos. Now, he's not at the real-world level of a comic book villain. His plan didn't go off without a hitch, and he didn't even know enough to dye his hair the right color to match his supposed character inspiration (one of the reasons many suspect he's faking insanity in order to dodge normal sentencing). But the fact is that he literally is an example of how someone can take inspiration from a simple story and do extreme things with it.

Going back to Robert's point, this is why, in some ways, it's very much not funny when people obsess over villain characters, especially the more sinister ones like the Joker. There really are people as twisted and evil as that out there, and they shouldn't even playfully be imitated.


Earlier this week, I was in a conversation online with a friend of mine while discussing the teaser trailer for the new Superman movie, Man of Steel.

Keri: I personally think Superman is the most overrated superhero out there so I could care less about how much or little the trailer showed.
Aaron: ...Well, if you're judging based entirely on past movies then I can't blame you. But really, truly, Superman is the greatest superhero of all time, and I hope this new film can finally show that to everyone.
Keri: Past movies and comic books. He's too....perfect, and perfection is boring.
Aaron: He's not perfect; he just chooses to do the right thing, just like Batman chooses to never give up. He's not boring if you see the right stories where you really get in his head and understand that he's having to make the right choices in life just like we do.
Keri: Eh. He's not my superhero. I'm a Batman kinda girl.
Aaron: Let's see what you say when the movie's out.

To be clear: I don't mean to say that everyone needs to love Superman, or that Batman isn't still amazing. I love Batman. But what I found poignant is that there are people out there who feel that Superman "isn't interesting" because he's too perfect. In truth, Superman isn't technically perfect; he often struggles with doing the right thing. But the fact that he ultimately does the right thing in the end—rather than resorting to anger, vengeance, self-loathing, or unnecessary violence—is the very thing that makes him special. There are honestly very very few superheroes that do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. Most fight the good fight because they either have a personal interest in the outcome (Iron Man, the X-Men) or because they're driven by guilt or anger over a past tragedy (Batman, Spider-Man). That doesn't mean they're not still heroes, but it does mean that they might sometimes be fighting for the wrong reason. Superman does what he does because, more than anything else, he cares about people. Out of nothing less than unconditional love for anyone and everyone, friend or stranger, Superman chooses to routinely give up personal gain and instead live a life of service to others.

One of the best Superman moments of all time. Click it.

If some idiot can be inspired by the Joker and perpetrate a massacre, we can (and should) do the exact opposite. Superman's brand of heroism is something that's applicable in real life. The "real heroes" I'm talking of are the people who every day, through their every action, do everything they can to do what's right rather than what's easy. Heroes aren't merely people who've been held up as such by others, but people who do the right thing because that belief in selfless action is what they've placed in their hearts.

Help one another. Love one another. Be kind, gracious, and humble, but fight (sometimes literally, if necessary) to uphold truth and justice. Apparently there truly are villains in the world. It's our job, then, to do all we can to follow in the example of heroes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fight as One

As usual, I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about superheroes. Specifically, I've been noting what makes various superheroes great on an individual level. Today, I figured I'd talk about the Avengers.

The Avengers was created by Stan Lee under direction by Marvel to create a team-based book that could counter DC's Justice League of America. So, quite literally, the Avengers are a direct ripoff of the JLA.

However, if there's one thing that defines the Avengers on their own terms, it's the idea that they truly represent the idea of teamwork; of wildly different individuals putting aside their differences in order to help defend the Earth from evil.The opening titles of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes sums it up pretty well.




Always we will fight as one
'Til the battle's won
With evil on the run
We never come undone
Assembled we are strong
Forever fight as one

That spirit of teamwork—that brothers-in-arms resolute determination to support one another and fight on—is what makes the Avengers' story one worth telling. Anyone who's ever been on a sports team, worked on a group-based school project, or even simply had a group of close friends can relate to that.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wha?

I found out today that two friends of mine are dating (well, one's a friend and the other is a guy I sort of know). I just walked into a room at our weekly get-together and their hands were clasped together, romantic-style. Apparently they've been together for a month officially, a couple of months unofficially.

So, this irks me. I don't exactly mind them being together (I sort of predicted it); I just kind of wish I'd known earlier. It just kind of sucks being left out of the loop. I think (not 100% sure on this) that their secretly being together might have been a factor in why she had to cancel hanging-out plans with me a while back.

Oh well. I guess I'll get over it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Nextbox


So there's a ton of new information leaking out about the successor to the Xbox 360. These are the things I hope the next Xbox improves upon, aside from the usual graphical upgrades and whatnot:

Blu-ray Drive
It's silly that something that's supposed to be the media center of the living room can't play the eminently rising home video format. As if that weren't enough, there are already games on the Xbox that take multiple DVD discs; clearly a storage upgrade is necessary.

Kinect
The Kinect sensor isn't sensitive enough. It's a cool idea, but it really needs more oomph behind its level of recognition before it can really be something incredible.

Smoother Interface
The most-used element of the 360's menu system is the guide menu. Unfortunately, the guide is a tad bit sluggish. It takes a second or two too long to bring up when pressed, and moving between sections of the menu (especially when dealing with friends lists and things of that nature) can vary in time taken. Since this is apparently mainly a hardware design issue, it can be solved with an upgrade. Essentially, it just needs to be snappier and less laggy.

Better Quality Hardware
The first 4 years of the 360's life cycle were plagued by the redring catastrophe, something no game system should ever have to deal with. It's totally unacceptable. Additionally, the system itself, apart from design flaws, was simply constructed out of cheap materials.
The controllers' D-pads barely work, and they can't seem to handle power consumption correctly. When a wireless 360 controller is below 1/3rd battery power, it will intermittently shut off for no reason, with no warning. It can easily be reconnected with no problem, but it takes several seconds. So, essentially, your controls just go dead for a long moment, and even afterward they're still in danger of doing so until you replace or recharge the batteries.
What's even more frustrating is that PS3 controllers, while inferior in design, are much better-made than the 360's. PS3 analog sticks and buttons are slightly more responsive and sensitive, and their battery usage is far, far better. PS3 controllers don't even come with an officially-made wired option; wireless is the standard. Futhermore, the system (A) gives you ample-yet-subtle warning when the batteries are getting low, and (B) keeps the controllers running until the last possible second, with no connection problems whatsoever.
So, overall, I just want a system that works and works well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Changing


Things are changing for me.
This Fall, I'll be attending some university; don't know which one yet. I don't know if I've told anyone else, but I think I might want to go to LeTourneau University, which is around 3 hours West of here. Mostly, I think I might go there because I'm going to be changing my major from English to (possibly) aeronautical engineering. That'll be a really huge change; I'll need to live on/near campus, and therefore won't be living at home or near anyone I know for the majority of my time in school for the next 2-3 years. Longer, if I get my Masters' degree.

My beloved bible study group is (sort of) breaking up soon. The leader of the group is going to be taking a new full-time job and one of our other members will be out of state, so we won't have anyone to keep the same structure and all. Tonight we had a cookout/get-together dealie-thing, and I suggested that we just slightly reorganize the format of it so that we won't need just one person to be there every week. I suggested that we could use my house as a place to get together sometimes, and I'm sort of thinking that I might end up being the guy that actually ends up organizing the study week-to-week, even though I don't want to be the "leader." So I left our get-together tonight thinking "oh, hey, cool, we'll still be able to have our awesome group." Then I remembered that I'm likely leaving in the Fall.
Boooooooooooo.

Then it sort of hit me. I might be leaving everything behind. I'm not going far, exactly, but there's a lot of things I won't be able to do for the first time in years. I won't be able to go to my Saturday night family get-together dealie (which I've been to nearly every week since mid-2004), I can't exactly start dating anyone around here for the next few years, and... well, yeah. Things will just be odd. My entire life will likely be entirely different. Which is... a good thing? I think? I've sort of been hoping for this for a long, long time. But still...

I guess I should look at it more as an adventure. I'm starting a new life somewhere else. So... yay. I think.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Star Trek: The Last Generation

I've been marathoning Star Trek: The Next Generation over the last several months. I'm now on the seventh and final season. It's a really weird feeling.

ST:TNG premiered in 1987; I was born two years later in 89. So, with my dad being a huge Trek fan, I was born into and raised in TNG. It really had a huge effect on me. The reason I have a relatively voluminous vocabulary (as opposed to most others my age) is because of Star Trek. The way I think and solve problems is in some ways determined by growing up watching Star Trek.

The interesting thing is that since TNG comprises around 176 episodes and I've never sat down to watch them all in order before, I've only caught reruns here and there over the years, but never seen it all. There's always been another episode of TNG for me to see; some new corner of the final frontier that I've not yet glimpsed. But now I'm actually at the point where I will have actually seen all of it. Like in some ways, a chapter is closing on my childhood.

At the very least, I have three more Trek series (DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise) to work through, so there's another solid 450 episodes for me to watch.

And I suppose the message of Star Trek is that there is always some new unseen frontier; some new event on the horizon. There's a new Trek movie out next year, with some vague plans for a new series as well. I suppose for the ending of every chapter, there's always the beginning of another one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Lately I've been feeling a little down. A bit underwhelmed with life, as it were.

I got two As and two Bs in school this semester. It's not perfect, obviously, but it's the best semester I've had literally in years. Granted one of those years I wasn't even in school, but still. Considering just how far I fell previously, this is a really big victory for me. A stepping stone to greater things, as it were.
But at the same time, it's not quite enough. I can't exactly describe why, but it's not really fulfilling. I'm proud to be back on my academic feet, but it's not exactly filling me with happiness or satisfaction with life in general.

Cut to this morning. I wake up at 9:45, crawl out of bed, take a quick shower and get ready for church. As I'm getting ready to leave, my mom walks in, dressed as if she's about to go out somewhere.
Mom: "You going to church?"
Me: "Yup."
"Cool."
*I notice she's dressed for going out* "You going out somewhere?"
"I thought maybe we could go for breakfast, but if you're going to church then that's fine."
"...Oh."

Now I think about this for a bit. She doesn't normally EVER want to eat out, let alone with me.
Later:
Me: "Well, we could go out for lunch."
"After you go to church?"
"Yeah."
"Nah. It's okay. I just thought we could celebrate."
"...Celebrate?"
"Mothers' Day."
(internally) "O_O... uhh... uhhh...."

Flashback:
Yesterday I finally got a little cash in my wallet, so I figured for Mothers' Day I'd go and get my mom a card on my way home from church. But I forgot about that, and she's bringing it up now.
Back to today:
I somehow got out of that conversation, and my mom gave me her debit card to get groceries on the way home for a nice dinner. I left for church, but got stuck behind a train and arrived 20 minutes late. So rather than just walk in at the middle of the service, I just went across the freeway and went to Barnes and Noble to read Captain America comics for an hour. I also went and got a card for mom, grabbed some groceries, then went home.

When I got home, I gave her the card, then this exchange happened:
Me: "I promise I didn't forget Mothers' Day; I was planning on getting you a card today on my way home."
"Oh, it's fine, don't worry. I believe you. And it doesn't matter anyway."
"Eh?"
"It is a privilege to be your mother, and that's what I'm celebrating. You don't need to give me things."
"... ... ...I think you're doing Mothers' Day wrong."

That was really weird. Like, on past Mothers' days I've dealt with my mother being extremely upset at a lack of gifts and/or appreciation. So this was odd. But still, it left me feeling better about life in general. My mom is literally the only family I have within a thousand miles, so not having her be disappointed in me is a good thing. It's something I'm not used to.

After that, I find out through facebook that my friends are having a get-together at Main Event to play bowling and laser tag. Now, at this point I have very little money left in my pocket, so I write back to the group:
Don't know if I can make it to bowling or laser tag, but if we end up doing something that doesn't require much money, then I'm totally there! (...I may have spent the last of my cash on a Mothers' day card and a bunch of Avengers-related merchandise....) But don't alter plans for me. If you do something awesome then just take lots of pictures. Especially if it's laser tag; I wanna see how that looks on camera.

A few minutes later, I get a message from Jeff:
Jeff: Hey brother if you want to come out tonight don't hesitate, I can cover you! For real!!!
Aaron: Are you sure?
Jeff: Totally!!!!!!!!!
Aaron: :) Oh, you. Being an amazing friend and all. Thanks a lot, man. I'll see you there.
Jeff: Sweet!!!!


I made sure my mom was cool with my taking off to go see my friends (she totally was), then I left. The rest of the night was pretty awesome. We played bowling for around two straight hours, which actually made my thumb a little sore. I don't think I know how to bowl correctly; I haven't even played in maybe eight years.


I played a couple of crappy games and a couple of pretty decent ones. Overall, though, I just really had fun.
Then we played laser tag. These were the player scores; mine are in bold:

Game 1:
Blue Team: 4110 
Player 01: 650
Player 02: 1880
Player 08: 1000
Player 03: 580
Yellow Team: 5370
Player 05: 1830
Player 06: 620
Player 09: 2570
Player 10: 350

Game 2:
Blue Team: 4960
Player 01: 190
Player 05: 1050
Player 06: 1210
Player 09: 2510
Yellow Team: 3340
Player 03: 990
Player 10: 990
Player 04: 1360

I OBLITERATED EVERYONE.
I got the highest score, by far, in both games we played, catapulting our team to the lead. And during the second game I actually had a guy just following me around and shooting me at point-blank for a bit of it. But I ended up crushing him with my laser blasts, so I didn't really care in the end.

What else happened? Oh. I made a sarcastic guess and ended up accidentally finding out that two of my friends are having a baby. That was cool; I'm really happy for them.
Another friend also called me up with a really good lead on a possible new job that I'm probably perfectly-suited for. So hopefully that pans out.

All in all, today was a good reminder that life really can be great sometimes. I got home at 11pm, exhausted, but totally happy. It's very very rarely that I can say I was satisfied with my day, but today was one of those times.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Temporarily Marvel

I'm a DC Comics fan. Always have been, always will be. And although I've been a huge fan of Marvel Comics as well, I've always had a lot of problems with their stories. They often get too dark for no reason, too soap-opera-ey, and seem to follow the creed of "the crappier we make life for our heroes, the more compelling our stories." It's a misunderstanding of the approach of Stan Lee, who always said "the way to make superhero stories relatable is to give the heroes problems." But there's a difference between creating conflict and simply beating the heroes down. One is compelling, the other is cheap storytelling done to provoke the reader. But I digress.

Simply, I've always preferred DC's stories and heroes over Marvel's. Heck, a small part of me wanted The Avengers to fail as a movie just because I didn't want Marvel to have the victory over DC. And yet, at this moment, I'm finding myself more a fan of Marvel than of DC.

You may recall that over a year ago, I wrote about DC Comics relaunching their entire line of comics. Well, it's been eight months since the relaunch, and things, overall, haven't gone well. Basically, several titles in the relaunch have been astoundingly good (Batman, Animal Man, etc), some have been very good (Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, etc) and the rest have varied between "pretty decent" and "terrible." It probably doesn't help that the handling of my favorite character, Superman, has been horrible. After eight months, there's been little-to-no character development for him, his relationships with his supporting cast like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and the Kents are nearly non-existent, and I don't even feel like I know who he is as a person yet. It's a far cry from the last DC reboot, where John Byrne completely laid out, in full, the entire world of Superman in the first two issues, including his origin, his motivations, his powers, and his relationships. If you've ever seen the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, that entire show was based upon John Byrne's Superman story.
The problem with Superman in the new DC universe is the same problem that the entire univers has, to a degree. DC has generally focused on telling action-heavy, in medias res stories, and as a result there's been very little worldbuilding. I can't mentally put myself into the DC universe because I don't really know much about it.

Furthermore, there haven't been too many good DC movies out in a long time. The Dark Knight Rises is coming out this year, which is cool, but aside from that the only other DC movie coming along is Man of Steel (yay!) which won't hit until next year. Actually, the only DC-focused things that are really holding my interest at the moment are the TV shows Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series, both of which are really well-done. But that's it, basically.

Meanwhile, Marvel has just released maybe the biggest superhero movie of all time, The Avengers, their comics are in a pretty decent place, and they've also got a decent cartoon on the air (Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It's on Netflix; go watch it).

And right now, Marvel is just just a more fun place to be. I mean, The Avengers is a really fun movie that doesn't have any of the problems that normally turn me off from Marvel whatsoever. There's no paralyzingly stupid cynicism and no terrible plot twists. There's nothing but a celebration of heroism and fun.

I kind of feel like DC is a family member that's hooked on drugs and isn't making good life decisions. Until they get their act together, I'm gonna go hang at Marvel's place.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

AVENGERS

I totally forgot that I wrote this on the night of the Avengers' midnight release. Oh well. Here it is, exactly a week late.

11:15pm, May 3rd
Been in the theater since around 8:45. The theater manager came out at around 10 and started asking random trivia questions to members of the audience. The prizes for getting questions right were two movie passes and two loyalty cups (40oz cups the theater sells where they give you unlimited $1 refills).
He asked around eight or so people questions, and I got asked the last one. Probably helped that I had friends furiously pointing at me as I pumped my Captain America shield in the air.
The question: "What is the name of the Avengers' aircraft?"
My first thought: "I know this!"
My second thought: "Wait, why am I not remembering it?!?"
My third thought: "QUINJET!!!!"
Admittedly, not the hardest question for a comic book fan, but decent enough. One of the coolest moments for me as a geek thus far.

4:03am
Too tired to write anything. Bed. Bed now.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm a mess

Over the last month or two, I've felt really horrible. I think it mostly has to do with allergies, but the fact that I'm overweight doesn't help either, I'm sure.

My allergies are the worst they've ever been in my life. Basically, my sinuses and eyes get super-sensitive. My nose runs like crazy, so I'm constantly blowing my nose into whatever absorbent paper I can find nearby. No matter where I am, I have to have tissues with me or I can barely function as a human being. Because, of course, if I can't blow my nose, then my nose gets backed up with stuff and my sinuses get agitated, making me sneeze up a storm and making my eyes water. And once my eyes water, I can't even see clearly. Everything's blurry and itchy.

If I rub my eyes at all, for any reason, they get slightly itchy, and if I don't immediately stop then they'll get extremely red, puffy, and watery. Apparently this is called allergic conjunctivitis.  Earlier tonight, I tried for a good ten minutes to let my eyes calm down after rubbing them for a bit, only to later discover that apparently, in reaction to the allergens, the water glands in my eyes had produced some sort of stringy goop stuff that was sitting under both my lower and upper eyelids and irritating them. So my eyes are apparently attacking themselves.

This morning, I woke up and felt like I could barely move. Part of this might be because my mattress is a little broken and tends to sink underneath me and make a well, but part of it, I think, is that because of my allergies, I'm not breathing right when I sleep. It's really a terrible feeling. I feel like I'm broken or something.

I glance around at my classmates during school and don't generally see them having too many problems, despite the fact that allergen levels have been really high in this area lately. So apparently this is a problem specific to me.

Bleh.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Avengers, Assemble!

The Avengers is about to be released in theaters two weeks from today. This is pretty huge.

Yes, we've seen superhero movies before. The last decade's been littered with them. But this one is very different. It's not just that Avengers is the first honest superhero team-up movie; it's that the superhero team-up really represents something absolutely huge for superhero storytelling.

The one big question that often determines if comic book movies get made is, simply, will the audience buy it?
It's easy to make a movie based around only one hero. You can tailor the entire movie's world around a single character (or group of characters) without having to acknowledge that any other heroes exist. The bright, shiny, romantic world of the first three Spider-Man movies is clearly not the same place as the relatively dark and politically-driven world of the X-Men films. Comics actually work much in the same way. It's easy to have Batman off in Gotham City fighting crime, but once you bring in Superman and the rest of the Justice League, you have to wonder how it all connects. Why is Batman concerning himself with local crimes when there are literally world-ending threats out there? Once you have heroes' worlds cross over, it irrevocably changes the fabric of the overall story. You have to greatly relax the level of suspension of disbelief and hope the audience will buy the fact that such vastly different characters (mutants, aliens, billionaire tech geniuses, Amazons, space cops, etc.) can exist together.

It's something that the film industry hasn't even seriously attempted until now, and with good reason. It's every problem with suspension of disbelief from four different film series all stacked on top of each other.

The thing is, I've never actually bought the idea that suspension of disbelief was actually that big of a deal. With special effects being what they are today, as long as the story is decent there's only one factor you really need to deal with: fun.

There's something impossibly fun about having superheroes meet each other. Whether it's an initial misunderstanding that leads to two heroes fighting each other or a massive threat that requires a team of heroes, it's always fun. It's something we've seen in comic books for over half a century now, but only now do we really get to see it become real.

I mean, look at this page from Thor (2007 series) #3:
Then watch this clip from The Avengers:

Wow. Seriously, this is amazing. I've been lucky enough to have been witness to the entire modern arc of superhero movies over the last twelve years (starting with X-Men in 2000), and this really is a huge turning point for superhero cinema. This is the point where audiences will prove, with their soon-to-be-emptied wallets and handfuls of movie tickets, that they will buy even something this outlandish. And once that barrier's broken, we'll get a ton more movies that won't be shackled by studios' restrictions. Warner Bros. is undoubtedly going to get a Justice League movie made ASAP, Batman is probably going to be fighting more fantastical villains like Killer Croc on-screen, and there's already a huge wave of comic book TV shows set to hit the air within the year.

The floodgates are opening, and it's really exciting.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dreamt

Ever so often, Stephanie will ask me what I dreamt the night before. Usually I say that I don't remember. Last night was different. So Steph, this one's for you. You won't know who most of the people in it are, but whatever.

I dreamt that I was staying at Robert and Jenny's house overnight. There were three small white rubber pegs (like the kind you'd use to plug holes in wooden furniture) sitting on a table in a back room. They were individually demon-possessed. They would talk, and they sort of radiated evil. It was really kinda horrifying. They were waiting for two other pegs to show up, so they could form the five points of a pentagram and summon some kind of ultimate evil.

I tried to warn Robert and Jenny about this, but they wouldn't hear any of it. Thanks, guys.
So I went on a quest where Elisabeth, Daniel and I time-traveled to find a small axe that was previously used by Abraham Lincoln during his vampire-hunting days. The blade was coated in red; I imagine that was the vampire blood. Somehow, this only took around ten seconds. I think I just had to reach really hard into the time vortex with my arm to grab it or something.

Anyhow, we arrived back at the room to see all five rubber demon pegs assembled, with the pentagram fully formed. Elisabeth and Daniel helped me fight the vaguely-defined evil that was flying everywhere, and I barely managed to slam the axe into first the center of the pentagram (shattering the glass magic construct that had appeared there), then each of the five pegs, quenching them of evil.
Robert and Jenny were completely unaware any of this had happened.

Then my fellow demon-fighters and I ended up at Toys R Us, looking at Nintendo action figures. When we drove away from the store, somehow the entire world became like playing Mario Kart on the DS. So, basically, everything became tiny, and we chose Mario characters to transform into. Daniel turned into a Koopa Troopa, I turned into Yoshi, and Elisabeth turned into a sand-colored flat square thingy, Like a magic carpet made out of sand, I think. Which isn't a Mario character. But whatever. Daniel drove off in his kart towards his home; I jumped in the back of Elisabeth's kart and let her drive. I have no idea where we went, other than it being West on 820.

So that happened.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spoilers


Aaron:
I still need to finish Hunger Games, so I'm paranoid about people telling me spoilers

Stephanie:
I will never. ever. ever. ever. tell you spoilers about anything.
Giving spoilers is like right up there with damning people to hell in my book.

Aaron:
I love you. So much.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

3D

So I saw Underworld: Awakening in 3D last week. I haven't really been into this whole 3D movie craze, and I've occasionally wished it would die. An interesting thing happened when I saw Underworld, though. It felt really different. Something about the way the 3D was calibrated seemed deeper, like they'd turned the depth dial up to 100. And weirdly, it worked.

I think I've figured out what's annoyed me so much about the 3D trend: most movies just use 3D as a way of slightly altering the picture, giving you a tiny bit of depth. Objects that are miles away seem like they're a few feet behind the screen, and objects that are in the camera's face feel like they're a few feet in front. Underworld does something different, though. Scenery that's miles away actually looks miles away, while stuff that's close to the camera still stays comfortably close to the screen. What it does for the film is give the illusion that you're not staring at a movie; you're actually there. Peter Jackson recently said something similar about filming The Hobbit in 3D at 44 frames per second (twice the rate of normal films): that it's like "pulling back" the screen and looking directly into the film's world.

From now on, I really hope that more films go all-out with their 3D instead of watering it down. I'd actually like to see more 3D that has a real function.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not Enough Time

I seriously do not have enough time in the day.

Let me list off all the things I have to do, both for personal hobby and for school.

For School:
Re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (309 pages)
Re-read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (352 pages)
Re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (448 pages)
Finish reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (752 pages)
Read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (870 pages)
Read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (652 pages)
Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (784 pages)
Re-read Huckleberry Finn (384 pages)
Read a ton more random stuff that I haven't looked at yet

For hobby:
Edit a pre-recorded Harry Potter podcast (1 hour long)
Edit a Smallville podcast (1.5 hours long)
Finish writing an epic 50-part story
Read The Hunger Games (384 pages)
Finish watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (approximately 120 44-minute episodes to go)
Start watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (176 episodes in total)
Start watching Star Trek: Voyager (176 episodes)
Start watching Star Trek: Enterprise
Read Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (300-something pages)
Read Halo: Glasslands (300-something pages)

It's entirely too much. Bleh.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Only Facebook Friends

You ever have an awkward moment where you run into an old friend and realize that they don't really think of you as a friend anymore? Maybe you make a joke and they respond flatly as though they really don't care at all? You're happy to see them, but they don't seem to care one way or the other about you?
Yeah. That happens to me every now and then.

Facebook doesn't help. It keeps me in contact with people who I otherwise wouldn't see, but for all I know it's one-sided. I'm seeing other peoples' posts, but what if they have me removed from their news feed? Or what if they just don't care?
I try to make a funny comment or say hi, and often times all I get are flat responses or nothing at all. Usually (always) this happens with girls. Guys don't do this; I'm not sure why. I like to think it's because us males are less emotionally wishy-washy, but I have no idea.

There comes a point in most of my friendships with girls where I realize that we're no longer friends; we're only "Facebook friends." Acquaintances, really, who are only friends on Facebook because we met each other once. We're Facebook friends more out of politeness than anything else, and because it might be nice to know when someone is getting married or turning 21, not because we're actually supposed to communicate.

I'm not really sure why it happens. As near I can figure, it's because people move on with their lives. I don't really associate people with points in my life, exactly, but I understand that other people do. For other people, I'm part of their "high school" life or their "college freshman year" life, and have no purpose in the present. Thus all previous emotional ties are cut—from one end, at least.

It's hard not to feel a bit inadequate when this happens. Was I not good enough to keep as a friend? Not fun enough? Not sensitive enough? Not attractive enough?

It feels sort of embarrassing, too. Like I'm accidentally being rude and overemotional, when I didn't really do anything out of place. I just didn't get the memo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inferiority Complex

A little over three years ago (November 2008), I wrote up a random not-in-any-order list of 25 things I wanted to do before dying.

1. Bungee jump
2. Get a sport motorcycle
3. Finish my book trilogy
4. Publish my book trilogy
5. Be a consultant on the films that will be based on my book trilogy
6. Use the money from my books/movies to build a house with its own secret cave, skylit tower, and moat.
7. Kick someone's boyfriend in the face (I'm not picky; anyone will do)
8. Figure out how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop. (the world will soon know!)
9. Figure out what String Theory and Quantum Theory actually mean.
10. Chart theoretical 6th-dimensional continuum on a 2-dimensional graph.
11. Send a terminator back in time to assassinate the person who created "Survivor."
12. Dig Captain America out of the glaciers of the North Pole.
13. Learn Northern Shaolin Kung Fu.
14. Actually start watching Lost.
15. Quit watching Heroes.
16. Sky dive.
17. Catch someone trying to steal a lady's purse
18. Rescue a kitten from a tree
19. Invent a viscous, elastic molecular adhesive.
20. Put someone's stapler in Jello.
21. Jump off a railway on a three-story building. (and not die)
22. Tape someone's cellphone to the ceiling so that they run around the room trying to find where the ringing is coming from.
23. Get a Great Pyrenees dog. (those guys are awesome.)
24. Get invited to Skywalker Ranch.
25. namin meleth (wouldn't you like to know! :P)

A lot of that is still true, actually. Anyway, after I'd posted that on facebook, one of my blunter female friends commented: "Really Aaron, you have an inferiority complex." Knowing her, it wasn't sarcasm.
Thing is, she wasn't wrong.

I'd imagine she was looking at these specifically:

6. Use the money from my books/movies to build a house with its own secret cave, skylit tower, and moat.
7. Kick someone's boyfriend in the face (I'm not picky; anyone will do)


13. Learn Northern Shaolin Kung Fu.
17. Catch someone trying to steal a lady's purse


Lemme see if I can rewrite those with less clever covering.
6. I want to achieve more.
7. I wish someone wanted me to be her boyfriend instead of someone else as usual.
13. I wish I were more special in some way.
17. I want to do something worthy of being called heroic, mostly so I could feel better about myself.

Ever since I was twelve or so, part of me has always felt a little inferior or inadequate. In a few things, I was always the best. Writing. Knowing things about Star Trek. Playing Super Smash Bros.
...Okay, so I was good at writing.

Thing is, I always kind of felt like I was less important or less wanted than everyone else.
When I was fourteen, my best friend and I both liked the same girl. I think she (kind of) liked him, but she deliberately didn't reciprocate his affections because she didn't want me to feel bad. (and because she didn't want a boyfriend at that age, but that's another thing)

Later, when I was seventeen, a similar thing happened, only it ended up way worse. I came pretty close to being heartbroken. Suffice it to say that I definitely felt like the pathetic boy that no one wanted but everyone felt bad for.

When I took one-night dance lessons for my Senior Prom, my friends and I were in an odd-numbered group, and I think the entire crowd of students there was odd-numbered as well. I managed to quickly grab one of my female friends so I'd have a dance partner, but after a while it was time to let her dance with someone else, so I was left with... no one. Literally, no one. Out of maybe 300 kids, I ended up as the only person leaning against a wall and trying not to look like I wasn't totally dejected.

Once I got into college, most of my friends stopped talking to me for no reason other than they were just moving on with their lives and didn't have much interest in me anymore. And the more I tried to keep in touch, the more they got annoyed, until finally I became a blubbering mess of twisted emotion (rejection, mostly) and they ended up basically writing me off as an over-emotional crazy person.

And all the while, since my teen years, I've gradually gained more and more weight. Fortunately, because I have pretty broad shoulders, I don't look AS overweight as I actually am. But that doesn't make as much of a difference as you'd think.

I used to spend a ton of my time fantasizing about swordfighting, to the point where I'd imagine ridiculous battles where I'd epically defeat some random jerkface, and the girl he'd been dating would suddenly realize how great I was. My iPod was filled specifically with songs that had epic dramatic rock moments that I could mentally choreograph with those fantasies.

Things are better now. I don't listen to a lot of the same music that I used to because it just seems too dark and angry now. I generally prefer to listen to music that makes me happy. I can't really force my brain to fantasize about those epic battles the same way it used to; I'm a little too rooted in reality now and there's no girl I'm swooning over. I have friends now. Not a lot, per ce, but enough. Thing is, I still have little hints of that stupid inferior feeling. If I see this one girl on facebook, it's sometimes hard not to still feel bad because I know there's probably nothing I could do to make her ever think of me as something special. I kind of feel a bit ashamed of the fact that I was in such a bad state a couple years ago that I actually flunked out of two college semesters in a row, and most of my friends (even the ones younger than me) are already graduating while I'm still a couple years away.

So yeah. Inferiority complex. It's something I deal with.