Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Avenging Superheroes: II

I feel myself all properly prepared for Avengers this spring. I finally gave in and put a hold on the three newest superhero movies from the library; Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern.

Captain America

This film taught us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, but only if they're genetically enhanced. I would have liked this movie much, much better if the small guy had proved that being small doesn't mean you can't succeed. Instead he proved that being small is useless, but if you keep trying some mad scientist will make you the big guy. The shield should have been superpowers enough. I wanted to see the shortest guy in the entire U.S. Army succeed, and I didn't get that. I was quite annoyed.

My favorite character from Captain America was Howard Stark. Watching this movie made me suddenly more interested in seeing the first Iron Man movie. Geniuses who develop cool tech are my sort of hero. The shield was super cool, but I had a refrigerator moment the next day when I suddenly realized that every time I saw Steve throw the shield I was making an association with Tron. (It's round, you throw it, and it comes back to you.)


Thor was my favorite of the trio! We actually watched this one as a family. It was a little too intense for my little sisters, though. They tend to get overlooked when it comes to whether or not a movie is suitable. I was also gratified, when I looked up my Norse Mythology, to find out that the movie was more or less accurate.

My favorite character was Loki. Loki always has and always will be my favorite of the Norse gods. His character was extremely well developed, and his motivations were both realistic and totally tragic. I feel so sorry for him, and the Avenger Trailers are not changing that for me.

One thing I thought could have been done better was actually in the editing. Several of the deleted scenes cleared up parts of the movie I found confusing, specifically the ones before Thor's coronation. If they needed to make the movie shorter they could have cut out some of the interminable fight scenes that dragged on for absolutely forever.

Green Lantern

I didn't realize, until after I started watching this movie, that it's not Marvel! It's DC Comics, which suddenly makes my brother's friend's comments about a Justice League movie that much more sensible. Although, with Christopher Nolan remaking the Batman and Superman series a Justice League movie starring those two alongside the types of Green Lantern would be a little incongruous.

I got to watch this one with my brother, which means I got to sit there and make all sorts of snarky comments like:

The mask looks like a bird beak, and really doesn't protect against identity.
Any organization that's been in existence this long has big problem.
The entire Green Lantern Corp is a bunch of over-confident wimps.
"The Emerald Energy of Will..." (say it with a whispery, mysterious voice.)

Overall, I actually liked this movie. I liked the green. I liked the random guy factor. I liked the fact that his girlfriend was intelligent. I had serious problems with the scientific plausibility of the source of power of the two opposing factions. And the guardians are a bunch of idiots. It's definitely not your typical superhero story, and that definitely gives it brownie points. The sequel looks promising, but could we please loose the stupid mask?

It is going to be awesome. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Breaking News: Correct spellings are found to increase number of relevant search results

In a study performed today it was discovered that if you correctly spell the search terms in any ordinary web search you are 97.45% more likely to get helpful results.

"It's astounding," representative for the GN* said, when asked about this new development. "Not only does good spelling look better, it's actually more functional."

Participants in today's test were given several words to define using the well known Google Search Engine. Those who spelled the words correctly came up with positive results 150% faster than those who had typos, according to test results. Many of those who used misspelled words didn't come up with any accurate results until they used the correct spelling.

"This study is just proof of what GN has been saying for years," a pro-grammar participant said. "It's amazing to finally see some people standing up and saying "This actually works. This is something we should encourage.""

Opposition to the GN movement had little to say on the subject. Misspelled search terms can often lead to unwanted, or even inappropriate, results. Misspelled words can have similar results in other usages as well. Imagine writing an e-mail to your grandmother and leaving a letter out of "Hello."

"Everyone should learn to spell," GN representative said in closing. "There's no question of whether or not it's worth learning; it is definitely worth learning."

Further studies are in progress, and results are eagerly anticipated by both sides of the grammar debate.

*Grammar Nazis

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pyrrhic Victory

"Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone."
King Pyrrhus of Epirus

"Although it is, I admit
The tiniest bit
Unlike I anticipated
There's a kind of a sort of... cost.
There's a couple of things get... lost.
There are bridges you cross you didn't know you crossed until you crossed!
And if that joy, that thrill
Doesn't thrill like you think it will
Still, Who couldn't be happier?
Because happy is what happens when all your dreams come true.
Well, isn't it?" 
 - Wicked; Thank Goodness

This is one of my favorite, most tragic concepts in all of life and fiction. It's found strongest in stories of anti-heroes, where a previously evil character suddenly finds himself in possession of everything he's been fighting for... and it's not what he expected. In retrospect Megamind had the perfect life. After he defeated his superhero nemesis he lost all purpose in his life. Dr. Horrible achieved his life time goal at the end of the film, but at a price he would have never paid if he had known what he was getting into. Suddenly their innocence, such as it was, is shattered.

"I've been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything I dreamed it would be?" 
 - Rapunzel, Tangled

Pyrrhic Victory is possibly one of the worst things that could ever befall a warrior. It would be better to face defeat, then to win such a victory. How can you call it a victory to finally grasp your crown... alone? How can it be worth the cost to destroy your enemy, and discover that he was your friend?

"You may win this war, Commander, but I promise you, by the time it's over, you will have lost so many ships, so many lives, that your 'victory' will taste as bitter as defeat." 
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - What You Leave Behind

In the bible we are commanded to give up everything and to follow, to earn a treasure that moth and rust will not corrupt nor thieves break in and steal. Pyrrhic Victory is the inverse of this, give up that treasure, to gain everything on earth. Regardless of your religion, the principle is the same. Is the world worth the weight of your soul? Is your pride worth everything you've ever loved?

What do you do when your dreams come true?

"Here lies everything,
The world I wanted, at my feet.
My victory's complete.
So hail to the king.
And I won't feel a thing.
So your world's benign
So you think Justice has a voice
And we all have a choice
Well, now your world is mine...
and I am fine!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Tale of Pirate Shishkabob

For years there have been rumors, vague whispers in the dark, obscure references, and cryptic status messages. Many are excited about it, but for most the question remains: "What is The Tale of Pirate Shishkabob?"

Once upon a time there was a pirate known as Shishkabob. He was a great and terrible pirate. His flag was feared all over the seven seas. 

Pirate Shishkabob is a children's book I wrote two years ago. It came about when my brother, dressed as a pirate, was helping us make shishkabobs one night. All my life I'd thought they were called simply kabobs and it was a startling discovery to find that was a mere abbreviation. It was a fun word to say, and it was a fun title to apply to my pirate brother who loved the dish. Add in the fact that skewers work wonderfully as swords and we had ourselves and entire role play worked out. Thus the character of Pirate Shishkabob was created, and this is his story.

Summer of 2010 I was looking for an illustrator for two children's stories I had written. Shishkabob was one of them. I mentioned this fact on a forum thread, and it was seen by another member. We got to e-mailing, she sent me some concept art, and Pirate Shishkabob walked into full color for the first time. I was completely convinced, and we worked together on an outline. By December she'd sent me over thirty pages of artwork, and the tedious process of formatting began.

My on-again, off-again work schedule slowed the process down considerably, and it wasn't until Summer 2011 that I finally started serious work on Shishkabob again. In the end of November I finished my first in a very long line of interior pdf files, and am in the midst of an ongoing battle with margins, print resolution, and the blurring of blank pages. However, it is looking hopeful that this project will be finished shortly, and thus I present to you what is likely to be my first published work!

The Tale of Pirate Shishkabob is a delightful 45 page picture book that tells of the adventures of some very hungry pirates. Illustrated in vivid colored pencils, it even includes a recipe in the back so that you can make your own Piratey Shishkabobs when you've finished the story.