Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Like You've Never Seen a Cute, Goth Girl Before!

What a pretty smile
And you are even polite
Oh. You're Death? Dammit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Dragonball: Evolution

Right off the bat, I miss DBZ. Just so you know.
When the name Dragonball: Evolution was announced, I was a little disappointed. Dragonball did not need a subtitle, let alone one as generic as “evolution” (X-Men: Evolution, Underworld: Evolution, Darwin’s The Origin of the Species 2: Evolution Reloaded). Then, I saw Dragonball. Not only did it need a little clarification as to what it wanted to do, but it should have had a different qualifier. It should have been Dragonball: Contrivance.
DBE, as a character self-consciously passes as dialog, follows the story of freshly 18 year-old Goku. Goku is an abnormal boy who enjoys learning martial arts from his chicken foot-eating grandfather, imagining hot Asian girls who will later be important to the plot eating strawberries in a field of flowers and, it would seem, shopping at American Eagle. He is also a Senior at futuristic Japan/America High, where he learns what causes a solar eclipse. I guess everyone’s just too busy learning kung fu to worry about science.
On this day when Goku becomes a man, his grandfather gives him a magical dragonball. It helps summon a wish-granting dragon, which is probably the best kind of dragon, mostly because if I had one wish, I might wish for a dragon. It’s already out of the way if the dragon is the one granting the wish. So this dragonball, well, evil alien warlord Piccolo wants it. Don’t ask why. He just hates people. So Piccolo and his worthless, but formulaically necessary hench-chick waylay Grandpa Gohan’s house, killing the old man. Don’t worry. Goku isn’t there, as he was conveniently called away from a family tradition of birthday celebration to the hot girl’s party. Her name’s Chi Chi, but don’t worry about that, because all she’s in the story to do is have big, tan boobs. Sorry, Chi Chi.
Goku comes back, meets Bulma, who gives an account of her backstory/motivation so you don’t have to discover it in pesky narrative, and they go find Roshi to help in the quest to find the dragonballs before Piccolo. Desert bandit Yamcha makes an appearance as a decent character.
While I’m talking about characters, I want to point out how odd Roshi’s character feels. Chow Yun-Fat was the only actor in this movie trying to act; Goku’s “mourning” period for his grandfather amounted to, “I heard your grandfather died.”
“Oh. Yeah. Sucks. Anyway, do you have a dragonball and if not may I sleep with you?”
Thus Fat is the only one acting. But it’s an acting in which he chews scenery as if it were one of Grandpa Gohan’s delicious cooked songbirds. You just have to gnaw and gnaw and gnaw on it. Every other actor is just a set piece, filling up space, moving the plot. I'm going to say Fat did a great job and everyone else let him down. They were just so wrapped up in being nebulous and useless.
Which makes them just like everything else. Everything in the movie is so step-by-step and by the numbers, it only functions under the most artificial plot developments. Piccolo needs to get around, so he has an airship. Goku needs to cross lava, so he builds a bridge out of fallen enemies. There needs to be a love subplot or two, so characters who previously hated each other very suddenly and inexplicably fall in lust. And that’s just to get the plot moving. The combat, which you may recall as the point of a kung-fu movie, gets its share of streamlining. Goku can prodigiously bend air, with the incentive of those aforementioned boobs. Characters don’t use real guns when they actually hit people. None of the main martial artists actually have a martial arts battle.
What made Dragonball (Z) so special was that very violence. DBZ didn’t pull punches, unless Cartoon Network censored it. In DBE, all the violence is stylized and adulterated. And I don’t mean wire-fu stylized, although that’s here, too. I’m talking about how all the important combat is enacted through air bending and ki manipulation. All the good punches, all three of them, were covered with particle effects (a great video game term).
In fact, a lot of this movie seems to have come from a video game. There’s a fetch quest (not a quest narrative. Fetch quest.), leveling up system (jugs=exp) and even video game dialog. There is a scene in which Goku is actually told that there are five unlit lamps in a courtyard and for every one he lights, he gets to step closer to those perky Asian hooters. This is at least a motivation, one worth lighting lamps with chi magic or any other means, but it is also what you expect from the tutorial level of a video game. It’s the part of the level that comes right after they tell you to press the jump button to jump.
And while I’m watching this bad fighting game unfold on my screen, I’m wondering things. I’m wondering things like, “why didn’t they just fly the Humvee the whole way?” Or, “I understand Goku needs to gain muscle, but having him carry the gear for an hour isn’t going to do it. And driving at his running speed is very, very slow. Isn’t there a whole ‘time is of the essence’ thing?” I couldn’t help but ask, “if Bulma only knows about one dragonball, why would she build a radar?” “Why is Piccolo using such a worthless hench-chick?” “Why does Piccolo do anything he does?” This is a diminutive list, rest assured. Point being, I was wondering these things because I was bored. I was bored watching what should have been a grab you by the short ‘n’ curlies violence fest. Instead, it was all so tame: no real combat, no on-screen shootings, no overabundance of kicks and Roshi’s prized porn collection became a swimsuit catalog. It was the Dragonball I knew so well, only less.
Which was hard to believe. I went into this expecting little; very little. But I got less. I got less character, less action, less violence. I wanted to be entertained. If only people had really, honestly beaten the living hell out of each other, I would have forgiven everything. Instead, I’m wondering why Goku’s clothes are indestructible over lava, among other things. That was among so many other things...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blind Cartographer [Destiny]

Turning, Unfolding
Pages, stories, final words.
Inert Sisyphus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mister Henry Clay

Light, oily leaf around
Colombian tobacco
Art, burning toward me

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Have to be a Little Obvious, Little Birdie

I've started twittering (or do I also say "tweeting" to clarify my presence on Twitter?). Of course, I know you'll all rush over to your own accounts and hit my "follow" button, but while you're at it, you should also add Neil Gaiman. I did, and I'm a better person for it, but sometimes I'm taken a little off guard.
A few days ago, I was looking over my tweets (or everyone else's. Who do they belong to?), and noticed Neil had posted a number of them, as he usually does. By the way, Neil and I are on a first name basis. If any of you see him, please tell him. One of his posts linked to an article in which were both a woman claimed she had no sexual attraction to the superwriter, and another woman who, essentially, called "bullshit." The other woman, the article read, had written a book on Gaiman's sexiness.
Then, "neilhimself" posted another article. This one was about the possible revocation of his Newberry Award for The Graveyard Book. Having just finished the book, I was more than a little interested. I mean, I was interested in the first article, but only a little. I know how dreamy Neil is. Ahem. Anyway, I read over this new bit of disquieting info: Neil's Newberry was null for nary else than a nefarious librarian needling the rules. One of the book's chapters had been published previously, and this woman claimed this disqualified the work.
I wasn't too upset. I loved the book, sure, but things like award revocations just don't happen that often. In my estimation, it wouldn't happen here. Then, I noticed something amiss: a photo of the plaintiff and two other women. It looked photoshopped, and badly, I might add.
My suspicions had become peaked by the time I got to the third article. It was about the prevailing effort of inducting Gaiman to sainthood. If it were up to me, I might just recommend him, but there was a quote in the piece I thought a little out of place. Gaiman was quoted as saying words to the effect of, "I have to finish a miracle... man comic script. Yeah. Miracleman." And then I knew the whole thing was a sham; Neil hasn't written Miracleman in years.
Also, it was April first.
When you're sarcastic in text, you have to be careful. Even if what you say is unbelievable, someone will believe it. They will believe because people are stupid. Which isn't as easy to quantify as you'd think. One could easily say I was stupid for biting on any of those aforementioned articles, but remember, I'm a satirist myself. Read over the Miracleman bit again. Oh, and I have subtly used language to suggest I have multiple, that is, more than one, readers. Obviously, I'm as full of it as the next guy, so my own idiocy is not the sole reason you should forgive your audience, when you make fun. The real reason is, your supposed subject may be stupid, and your audience cannot plumb those inane depths.
It's happened to me. I remember, years and years ago, an article I came across online reporting the Bush administration banning Final Fantasy VII. It's pretty much my favorite game ever, so I was pissed. As I read, I learned the reason for this was because the game's heroes, members of a group called Avalanche, were environmental terrorists. I was a kid, and didn't know much, but it was my opinion that the Bush oligarchy would do something so despicable. Now, being older, I would probably still believe it. W. is pretty evil.
Maybe it's a video game thing, though. I saw in an issue of Game Informer a letter complaining about how a hypothetical Metal Gear game made by the creators of Assassin's Creed would be an abomination on the face of gaming. Game Informer came back with the usual antipathy they exhibit for their readership (something at which I marvel, and would never do to any of you), lambasting him for his inability to see the obvious kid being made. The thing about kidding is, though, that you have to, humorously, present an idea that just cannot be true. GI is neither humorous, and the idea was pretty tenable. In MGS4, Snake can unlock Altair's costume. That, and I've seen some deficient games in my time, like MGS4, for instance. Just so you know, the sentence immediately preceding was entirely heartfelt.
So much of irony depends on tone. You're reading this with the voice in your head, which is more or less how you hear yourself. I mean, I read in Dr. Farnsworth's voice (Good news everyone! Now you are, too), but that voice doesn't know when and where to inflect for that comedic twist. Good writing has tone, but between my faithlessness in both the general public's (not your) intelligence and many writer's abilities, I can't always tell when there's a snicker or two in there.
The way to fix this is to develop of voice in your writing. And if a reader comes back and makes a for serious comment, be nice. Just don't stop being funny. Or, in some people's cases, start.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Won't Leave You Now

My reader recently voiced a complaint that I hadn't updated this little journal in a while. I don't think that's a fair statement, but who am I to argue? I must respond.
I was running one night, this was when I was still living in DeKalb, and an SUV pulled up beside me. From it, an occupant ordered that I "eat his asshole." Similar things have occurred to me, and the result is always the same: I lose faith in humanity and the offender drives off. Cowardice does that, yes, but maybe it's a matter boorishness. Maybe it isn't about fear.
It's not so much that these people are afraid of me: I like to smile. People just like sniping from an unassailable position. They like it. It makes them feel safe. This explains my recent flamewar on YouTube. I made a considered comment, and got reprimanded. I offered an explanation, which was ridiculed. I then proceeded to tear into this guy on terms of his illiteracy. He responded with liberal application of variations of "fuck."
Looking around, I see a lot of people who deserve to be put in work camps, as they are obviously too inept to be allowed in regular society. Not that I'm saying we should do that, mind you. I just like the thought. When I realize this plan will never come to fruition, though, I get to the next thought. Which is, "this world is terribly, terribly boned. Hard."
I know it's not a new observation, but this place is unfair and ignorant. I think the extent to which our society has become an idiocracy is newer, but it's been around for some time. We're embracing views pretty blindly, simply because someone might have told us something one time, and that equals truth. You know, Truth!
It was an adherent to Truth I was listening to when I was driving to DeKalb one day, and I paid him mind because he was reviewing Watchmen. My excitement for the movie was palpable (I enjoyed it a lot, by the way), but I wasn't expecting to enjoy the review. I'm not a big K-LOVE fan. The reviewer described the movie as "pornographic" and claimed it looked like The Dark Knight. While the first assertion did not, at least, surprise me, the second was clearly incorrect. I came across another Christian review for Watchmen earlier tonight. One reader comment claims "without storyline, it is like a castle without a story." I have no damn clue what in the hell that even means. These people are idiots, the very kind of people who make us targets for the dreaded "liberal media" and terrorists. And, assuming the increasingly cacophonous voice of these people, I might learn Arabic.
All this comes to me at a time when I am not particularly pleased with God. I still believe the Gospel, and that I need Christ. Actively need him, that is. I just have been unsure if I want Him around. I've been thinking about some things, like His killing of Egyptian children, revoking His promise from Moses, and allowing AIG CEOs to continue breathing (Look! I'm topical!). Of course, a lot of this is my jockeying around frustration I have in my life, but I can't sell a single piece of writing while He allows Dan Brown to publish, and Hannah Montana to release a movie. To clarify, I just think both produce crap, no opinion on personal outlooks withstanding.
I look at where I am now, and of course I'm angry. And then I think about how we are to know that the evil in the world is our fault, but everything from God is good. Well, I have a little problem with this one, as I don't think it should be so easy to have it both ways. If I took this concern to a pastor, I would be told, "God can do X, but you can't do X because if God does it He's right and if you do it you're sinning." "X" can be things like being jealous, revoking vows or killing. I understand the theology, but it's still maddening.
It bothers me because I don't even get the chance to argue. The statement I want to debate rides away in an SUV with "DON'T BLASPHEME!" printed on the side. I just can't approach "eat my asshole" or "God's always right" safely. One might get me run over, the other could accompany threats of eternal damnation. Again, I know I'm saved, but I've been questioning how much I want to be associated with all of this, this Christianity.
But tonight, I got my answer. I remember why I need to identify with Jesus. I read a Christian review for Coraline, a book and movie I adore. Read it here. Go ahead, I'll wait. I hope you're sufficiently raging, because I'm going to continue, now. I look at something like that, and remember: my problem with God is not nearly as important as other people's. Some people look at bits of writing like that, and cannot understand how someone so ignorant, confused and downright mean could possibly be right about the big mystery. Michael Karounos's problem with God is having turned Him from a tower of refuge into one from which you can pick on people. To be fair, this guy has it right. But the idiots, they don't understand Christianity, Christ, either of those entities' place in our world or said world. If I walk away from Jesus, saying, "I've gotten all I need from You, but You and your Father, well You're just too difficult," I'll let these fundamentalist fools poison the minds of people who might need to see Jesus instead of JAY-sus. That's JAY-sus as in, "JAY-sus heal this poor woman... and while I have your attention, good job on that whole AIDS thing. Faggots had it comin'."
If I stop running the race just because something that doesn't sit well with me comes along, I lose, anyone I could help loses, and that's unacceptable--especially since these are both criteria, really, in which I win. Sure, God has a plan for me I won't always like. And He doesn't think He needs to let me in on it, let alone ask for input. Even so, I think that's reconcilable in terms of, you know, avoiding eternity in Hell. His is the kind of forgiveness that teaches me to not kill stupid people for principle's sake alone. I still need Him, and even though He might not need me, these jerks do. That's three links, by the way.
So, I'm going to go back to God, say I'm sorry for my tantrum, and continue to pursue the de-idifi...unstupi... I don't want people staying dumb. Watch out, YouTube commenters, car-yellers and hardliners. I'm back, and I'm armed. With knowledge.