Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Hy Pro Glo

Really feeling this today. REALLY feeling it.

Hy Pro Glo
By Anthrax

Who, what, where, when, why,
How many ways can you lie
How many ways can you try
How many ways can you die

What am I gonna do
I can't look at you
What are you gonna do
You're no hypocrite

I bash my head against the wall everyday
You'd bash your head against the wall anyway
And then you'd turn around to see if I care
But I can't, and I never did
What'd you expect me to give
You never deserved my respect

How many ways can you try
It burns a hole inside my mind

What am I gonna do
I can't look at you
Can't look like you
I'm no hypocrite

What are you gonna do
You love to look at you
Don't have a clue
You're no hypocrite

You've hgot a hole inside that you have to feed
You've got a hole you'll use to get what you need
And then you look to see if I care
But I can't, and I never did
What'd you expect me to give
You never deserved my respect

You've got that look I wanna know
You've got that look, the hy pro glo

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Take a Moment to Bask in the Genius of Gary Larsen

Good God, I Love This

Yeah, It's a little static, but it's a jam.

Makes me want to jam. I need a drummer!!

I cannot wait to see this movie when the Blu-Ray comes out, and pick up the soundtrack.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The New Tomb Raider Game After a Couple of Hours

On Monday I took writer Adi Tantimedh to task over his comments on the new Tomb Raider game before either of us had played it.

Well, I picked up the game yesterday, and managed to play a couple of hours of it last night. Now, I certainly can't comment on the entire experience of the game, but I can comment on some of the tonality that Adi was pointing out.

The game is very violent. much more so than any other Tomb Raider game has been. I do not, however, feel that it crosses over into "torture porn," as Mr. Tantimedh inferred. It's more violent than I'd like, but it's also not so violent that I'm sickened. Laura is attacked by men, yes, who clearly have bad designs on her, but it's not overt, so far. She is also not "tortured," though she does sustain a lot of  damage from the environment. There are realistic gunshot wounds and mauling by wild animals. It's pretty standard action-adventure gaming tropes, from where I'm sitting. I wouldn't call it a "horror" title, as Adi did, but it's not for kids, as the "M" rating would indicate.

Laura Croft is younger, but still as capable and resourceful protagonist. The story is, essentially, the "origin" of Laura Croft, and, even just a few hours in, I see her confidence and self-reliance growing. That, really, is what's smashing about this game, it very skillfully depicts someone becoming a hero, or "survivor," as the marketing reads. It's pretty masterful at evoking mood and ambiance, as well as letting you get inside Laura's head.

...And Laura is very scared, and racked with guilt, as she lead her expedition into this disaster, when the game starts. The perfomance, by Camilla Luddington, is quite effective at letting us "feel along," as Harrison Ford would say, with Laura. The game binds you to it's heroine, and you feel her peril, and want to see her triumph.

So, while my opinion may change as the game progresses, I don't feel Mr. Tantimedh was really giving it a fair shake in his comments. It's a solid gaming experience, and while some people may want to ogle our digital heroine, or find her getting slathered in blood and gore sexy, it's pretty clear that Crystal Dynamics simply set out to create a intense action-adventure experience for gamers. It seems, so far, they have succeeded.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Adi Tantimedh Comments on the New Tomb Raider Game

Read it here. Then come back.

You can't call it a review, because, by his own admission, he hasn't played the game, yet. Mainly it's a collection off impressions and thoughts from reading other reviews, and various marketing materials. I admire Adi greatly, enjoy his writing, but this piece has a big problem. The problem is that it seems to want to apply a different set of criticisms and rules to this game, because it features a female protagonist. Elements that would either be commonplace, or considered strengths, in a male-centered game, are questioned, just because this game is centered on the female Laura Croft.

For the record, I'm excited about the new game. I've been a Laura Croft fan for many years. Yes, I have to admit, the attractiveness of the character was an initial draw, I am a red-blooded, heterosexual, American male, but I wouldn't have stuck around if the games weren't good. Ultimately, being a life-long Indiana Jones fan, it's the adventure tropes that Laura trades in that keep me coming back. I really like playing third-person games where the main character runs, jumps, and fights through ancient ruins. I love the Indiana Jones games, proper, for the same reason, and I'd probably love Nathan Drake in the Uncharted franchise, too. If I had a Playstation.

First off...I have not played the game. Part of Adi's issue seems to be that Laura Croft endures far more physical punishment and "torture" than any male video game hero ever would. Maybe Laura does endure torture, but the description Adi offers doesn't really seem to be "torture," but "damage." To wit:
Lara Croft suffers enough injuries in the first 20 minutes of the story alone to put a real life person out of action for weeks with PTSD. She should not be able to run or jump after getting a spike through her side, even if it missed an artery or major organ. A twisted ankle would not have let her run or jump minutes later.
He points out how unrealistic it is that Laura could function as she does in the rest of the game with these injuries. So what? I mean, every action adventure movie I see has characters (male and female) shrugging off wounds that would incapacitate a real person for at least weeks. Hell, I just re-watched Skyfall last night and Bond is shot, falls off a bridge, and not only lives, but seemingly does so without medical aid (which I base on the fact that he digs bullet fragments out of his chest later on in the film).

Then there's this:
It takes Lara Croft over an hour of the game, where she’s bloodily impaled, repeatedly assaulted, brutalised and defenestrated before she becomes a relentless killing machine. No male hero in a movie or video game gets put through the wringer as much as she does in this game. 
Really? None? Not one ever? Not only do I think that's unsupportable hyperbole, I think it's probably an outright lie. I MAY BE WRONG, as I have not played the game, yet, and I don't presume to judge it before I do. That said, I have a hard time believing that what Tantimedh wrote there isn't simply yellow journalism. I mean, it's an action adventure video game, isn't the whole point that your character (male or female), not just repeatedly, but constantly being assaulted and brutalized?

I mean part of my love for the Tomb Raider franchise was that, outside of her appearance, Laura's sex was pretty much irrelevant. She was just as capable, intelligent, and strong as any man. She overcame all obstacles, same as any male central character. Just as Adi describes her:
The Lara Croft of the old games had no anxiety at all. In fact, she was so posh and unflappable that she was afraid of nothing. She had no fears, no doubts, no remorse, no hesitation in doing anything. Even in the two movies with Angelina Jolie, you never got the sense that she was ever in any danger. This was great for introducing an empowering fantasy to girls...
Of course it was, but then he takes issue with the idea that the new game makes Laura a bit more, well, human...
The new Lara Croft, on the other hand, is beset with fears and anxiety. If you want to be meta, you could say the old games are fantasies, games that the current Lara Croft reluctantly agreed to lease her name to in order to earn some money to pay off debts, lawyer’s fees and medical bills incurred from her ordeal on the island in the new game.
I fail to see how introducing some human failings and fears, which she has to overcome for victory, into this character is weakening her. Which Tantimedh never outright says, but certainly infers. If the cast-iron, unstoppable Laura Croft was a good role model, couldn't a Laura who acknowledges fear and uncertainty, yet still moves forward, still survives, be equally inspiring, maybe even more so? It's like Rambo vs. Indiana Jones. I wanted to be Indy Jones as a kid. I didn't want to be Rambo. I bonded more closely to Indy, and saw more of myself in him, because Harrison Ford allowed him to be fearful, and then still fight through to victory. It the fear, the human emotion, that allows us to see ourselves in any character.

Plus, who the heck wants to play a game where, to paraphrase Tantimedh, you play with the sense that your avatar is never in any danger?

Then there's this:
In the old games, when you failed and she died, Lara Croft would just lie down like she decided to take a nap right there, even in molten lava, with a disappointed sigh that sounds like she just remembered she left the lights on when she left the house. Now the death animations have the feel of full-on 80s Italian horror movie deaths in all their gruesomeness. They’re truly horrible to watch. We’re talking almost Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci levels of nastiness here.
While I agree with Adi that video games have gone over the pale of good taste when it comes to appeasing the bloodthirstiness of the average gamer, I can't imagine that the death scenes are nearly as horrifying as he implies. It is a problem, going back to Mortal Kombat, but it's also hardly reserved for female protagonists. It seems every game, no matter if they feature a male or female hero, goes to great lengths to make a failure on the players part hurt. Usually with a much gore as can be amassed.

I should point out, again, I have no played the game, yet. Perhaps Mr. Tantimedh is correct. Perhaps the death animation are as truly horrifying as he claims. If so, I won't be playing the game long.

Then there's this:
What I’ve seen of the game has done its best to avoid sexism but it’s almost impossible to prevent the Male Gaze from intruding, especially when players spend the whole game close up behind and with a full view of her bum whole she moans and groans more than most pr0n videos do. For every Lara Croft fan who celebrates her strength and heroism, there are a lot of creepy dudes who fantasise about seeing her suffering and “getting her comeuppance”. She has been a symbol for both female empowerment and male resentment for as long as her games have been around.
 I agree with Adi in a lot of ways on this, but, listen, he's set up a situation here where game developer Crystal Dynamics cannot win, ever. Virtually every pop culture medium presents their leads in the most attractive way possible, particularly games, where the character is an alternate version of yourself.

Most people, when crafting a wish-fulfillment avatar, like to portray themselves as attractive. I rarely played Dungeons and Dragons with people who specifically set out to create unattractive characters. The Uncharted series Nathan Drake might as well be a male model. The Mass Effect games allows players to choose a male or female avatar, and, while you have a lot of leeway with their appearance, the result is generally attractive, either way. Only HALO, with it's faceless, robotic, Master Chief, really avoids the whole issue.

Yes, there are creepy scumbags out there who will take any physically attractive female celebrity or character and turn her into a object of lurid, violent S&M fantasy. However, I no more blame Crystal Dynamics for that than I blame Jennifer Lawrence that you can find faked porn pictures of her on the internet.

I also feel it's weird that Adi's reaction to a third-person camera game is to fixate on the character's ass. Third-person gaming is actually my favorite format, just because I like the mechanics of it, and I rarely find myself thinking of it in a sexual way. I guess maybe I'm not wired that way, and I refuse to be forced to re-asses something I enjoy because somebody else can't keep his (or her) mind above the waist.

Ultimately, I'm a guy who loves good stories. I honestly don't care if the hero is male or female, but rather if their journey is compelling. I think what bothers me the most about what Tantimedh has written is that it seems to position itself toward the idea that it we have to question, because somebody, somewhere, might be aroused by it, placing a female protagonist in a violent storyline. Personally, I found Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games books a vastly more interesting central character than Harry Potter in J. K. Rowling's series. I think that's in part due to the fact that Collins allowed the violence to be violent, scarring, and to have repercussions on Katniss' psyche.

My point there is that Collins' held her characters accountable for the genre they were existing within, that of the action-adventure. I fully and truly believe that female characters can function in any story, but that cannot be license for critics to question the tropes of those genres. Laura Croft endures pain, danger and vile antagonists because she is the hero of an action adventure story, and what's good for the gander is good for the goose.

So there you have my reactions, as a guy who hasn't played the game, to Adi Tantimedh's, a guy who hasn't played the game. Your mileage may vary.

I Don't Really Believe This Scoop.

That said, IF IT IS TRUE, I'd be very excited. Mainly because Christian Bale is Bruce Wayne, to me, and I think it's STUPID to try to launch a DC Universe on film with a Batman who's not Bruce Wayne. I don't care how popular Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is (and I'm a big fan), but I do not want to see "John Blake" Batman as a cornerstone of a film DCU. Which is also not to say I'm totally against re-casting. I'm not. It's a character thing, not an actor thing, but I am very, very fond of Bale as this character.

Now, that said...I don't see this happening. I don't see Nolan being interested. He was very specific about his Batman films being in a world with no other heroes, and, honestly, despite Marvel's success, I think that is the smartest course of action with this kind of material. Building a world specific to the character you're working on, and allowing that character to be special in that world. As much as I enjoy the Marvel Films productions, there is a generic feel to their world. I've said it often, Marvel Films is making very artful commerce.

Christopher Nolan made very commercial art. I think he said what he wanted to say about heroism and super-heroes in his three films. While I could imagine him finding some interest in telling a story about Superman, being such a diametrically opposed character, I think, based on his other films, shepherding a string of Green Lantern films, for example, isn't going to trip his trigger. Maybe the power running Warner Brothers DC franchise would give him, to do projects he feels more connected to, would. Who knows?

I honestly don't even think that Nolan is all that involved with Man of Steel. I think he lent his name to David Goyer to help move his script forward. Did he look at it and give notes? Sure, but I don't think he was as active a producer as many would like to believe.Will the final product have elements of Nolan's more "real world" Batman take? I would guess so, but I also think that has more to do with the fact that Nolan's Bat-saga was so popular. Not to mention that the same writer (Goyer) was responsible for the original scripts, in both cases.

So, I don't quite believe what El Mayimbe is selling...

But, lets say the WB is trying to circle the wagons, and get the people with a proven track record on board to try to expand the universe. I can't argue that it makes sense from a business perspective, and if Bale is willing to don the cowl again, I'd be happy to see it happen.

I will make this pitch, however...

Just do World's Finest, or Superman/Batman, or whatever you want to call it. I understand that Warners is very high on what Snyder has put together with Man of Steel, if it goes as well as people are apparently expecting, and you bring Bale back, the DC Universe on film is already established. Just by putting those two characters together, the two most universally recognized superheroes in the world (don't even argue - the only thing Marvel has that is close is Spider-Man), you have an epic, event film to rival The Avengers. You also have a cornerstone that you can build from, without eliminating options for the other characters.

IF, in fact, Nolan is actually contemplating jumping into this, I wouldn't be surprised if he was thinking the same thing.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stuck In My Head - Overnight Lows

Overnight Lows
by Peter Wolf

You know, some people are always runnin' away from you, love
Hah, I guess I've been doin' that for a long, long, long, long time
And when I first met you at Audrey's house
Well, hah, you know I didn't think much about it
But then I realized you were lookin' at me and I was lookin' at you
And you were lookin' at me and I was lookin' at you
And all of a sudden we were lookin' at each other together
But baby, now I realize, lovers can never say good-bye
So I was a fool, girl, to let you walk away
I didn't care why -- I thought I'd find somebody else
So I told you, girl, you go on and do your own thing
Now after a while I realized the mistakes I made
You know I can't take back the words I said
And I can't undo the things I've done
But tonight, you know, tonight, I'm sittin' here in the kitchen
Right in the dark, sittin' all alone in my underwear
With a cold baloney sandwich and a confused, confused heart there, girl
And let me tell you somethin'
Oh, listen

Call me
Oh, call me, girl
Yeah, I'm so lonely

(Overnight highs, overnight lows)
(Walkin' around, nowhere to go)
I got nowhere to go, girl
(Overnight highs, overnight lows)
(All goin' down, end of the road)

Oh darlin', I can't find
No love anymore
(Oh my baby, ooh)
Here I am, I'm waitin'
So call me, baby
Oh, call me

Well, here I am, sittin' in the same ol' place we always used to go
You know, I tried to call you, baby, three or four times
It's gettin' kind o' late, the parking lot's empty
(One o'clock)
You know, they're puttin' all the chairs on top of the tables
(Two o'clock)
Yeah, they're sweepin' up the floor
(Three o'clock)
I'm waitin' for you, baby
Are you gonna call me?
(Four o'clock)
Oh, are gonna call me?
(Five o'clock)
(Six o'clock)
It ain't feelin' so good, yeah

I want to tell you, girl
I been so lonely

(Overnight highs, overnight lows)
(Walkin' around, nowhere to go)

Yeah, I'm still waitin' for you, baby
I thought I'd put on some French cologne
And then I'd check out my astrological forecast
You know I'm a Pisces -- we get kind o' sensitive at times
Well, tonight, the signs said you're in for some good shwacking
Yeah, get me a little bit o' love candle
Put it all around my room and fill up the waterbed
You and me, man, get a little hot oil and just do a little rub-a-dub-dub-dub
Put a little bit o' that Grateful Dead on and we'll jam, baby
We'll jam all night long, just you and me
Holdin' each other, I'm talkin about ecstacy, yeah
Oh, we'll be rubbin' a little o' that oil all over our two ch
Oh, baby
Hold it, man! What is that?
I never felt that on you before
Holy damn! No wonder... What happened?
Wait, wait a second
Wait a minute...

I Know I Said I Was Going to Get Back on a Schedule

Buuuut..I didn't. Sue me.

But I am back today with some movie/comic book/general bullshit commentary.

Finally got to see Looper the other night. Terrific film, I was very excited about it, due to my love of Rian Johnson's previous effort, Brick, which was a truly wonderful film noir pastiche, set in a high school. That film also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and it truly blew me away. Johnson has a way with tone that is really interesting. I've not seen The Brothers Bloom, but after loving his other two films so much, I will be checking it out.

Looper, I think it's fairly well known by now, is about time travel, and I was particularly impressed with how it's used to warp the the storyline. It allows some pretty fun leaps away from traditional plot structure. In much the same way that the Back to the Future series set it's rules for time travel, and then allowed them to be exploited wildly, so does Johnson with his film. Though, of course, BTTF is primarily a comedy, and Looper primarily an action film, making the way each exploits the concept vastly different.

Mainly, I wish I'd seen Looper before I picked my top ten for 2012, because it would've made it. It's a really smart and entertaining sci-fi that is almost literally dripping with ideas. It sets it's rules, and hews to them. To top it all off there's winning turns from Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and a really quite stunning, and pivotal performance from child actor Pierce Gagnon. Rian Johnson is the real deal, and I can't wait to see what he does next.

So, they killed off another Robin. It seems like it's almost becoming a joke, like it wasn't already, "Robin, the Boy Hostage" and all that. Still THIS time it's Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son with Talia Al Ghul. Yes, the daughter of one of Batman's most fearsome foes, Ras Al Ghul.

I have to admit, despite a general liking for Damian, that this whole thing left me cold. Mainly because the writing on Batman Incorporated, by Grant Morrison, especially in the 8 issues since the series restarted as a part of the "New 52," has been...less than interesting. Or even coherent.

Grant Morrison has a tremendous imagination, when it comes to conceptual writing, he is unmatched, and I think he has one of the clearest visions of what our comic book heroes should be out there. (The panel where he lambasted a fan who suggested that Batman should carry firearms was amazing, "then he's just a soldier, and the last thing we need are more soldiers!") However, the execution of those ideas, especially since his run on the Batman book began in 2006, has become very, very abysmal.

What started out as a rather fun, if not altogether to my taste, working of the "James Bond"-style Batman, complete with ninjas infused with the Man-Bat formula (Giant Bat ninjas are always cool), ended up unfocused, rambling, and, at times, incoherent. In each of the last eight issues, I have had moments where I felt that pages must have been left out. The plotline simply made no sense, action scenes had no logic, and Batman was acting in ways that simply didn't flow from what I had read on the previous page.

Had the writer not been Grant Morrison, with critical and commercial accolades to back him up, I simply doubt an editor would've allowed this mess of a story to see press. Oh, I'm sure that there are folks out there, the Morrison converted, who will tell me that it all makes perfect sense. Y'know, what? You're right. The overall story does make some sense, it's the individual moments that don't flow logially from one to another. I'm also very much aware that Morrison isn't all that concerned with that.

Which is fine. I don't begrudge anyone who loves his stuff, I've loved a lot of it, too. His early Batman stuff is very fun, even if I prefer Batman not as a jet-setting Bond-type. I really enjoyed All-Star Superman, even while I think it's been overrated. His voice is absolutely unique, and that is precious.

I just think his voice is so unique as to upend good storytelling, sometimes. Damian Wayne, who Morrison created (or should we say Mike W. Barr?), is, in my opinion, been written better by the other writers on the Batman books currently. It's Scott Snyder's and Peter J. Tomasi's Damian that I will miss, not Morrison's.

So, Damian's time as Robin comes to an end, and we'll look for ward to Robin #6 (in continuity - if we take all of them into account we're probably over 10) shortly, because it doesn't look like they're cancelling the Batman and Robin book.

Peyton Place opened on Tuesday, so, for the first time in a good, long while...I am not in rehearsal.

I'm really not at all certain on how this show will be received. One review was very appreciative, but that particular critic tends to love shows more often than not. He also spelled my name wrong, but...pfft!  The other published so far was nice to the cast, but critical of the show. So, who knows what the consensus will be? I don't really care. I'm having a good time, and I enjoy this cast.

So, you should see it.

Outside of that, my main goal in the coming weeks to to get some real work done on these songs I've been playing around with for....well, years now. I re-strung the Les Paul last night, and I am ready to get it on.