some Monday links and TV

August 17, 2015

My event at the Tattered Cover two weeks ago was recorded, and you can now listen to the podcast!

And here’s a new Holy Taco Church newsletter!

Current TV watching:  I’ve started re-watching Babylon 5 all the way through. I’ll take as long as I need. I’m only up to season 1 ep. 6, but I am reminded how much I really really like this show. This is my third time through, I think. I also think that criticisms of the show — bad acting, bad writing, bad production values, etc. — are off base. These aspects of the show aren’t any worse than the average episode of 90’s Star Trek, and criticisms of it ignore the incredibly ambitious thematic and narrative scope of the show.  Having seen the whole thing through once, it’s very cool to see the seeds planted early on.  Earlier than you might remember.  Ep. 1.06 might be our first glimpse of a Shadow vessel, though we won’t know what they are for another season yet.  Ep. 1.05 features a side plot where the various alien races give presentations on their dominant religion, and in the middle of the Minbari ceremony Delenn gives this very significant look to Commander Sinclair — and that won’t pay off for a couple more seasons.

Also in that episode, right at the end, Sinclair present the dominant Earth/Human religion — no one knows what he’s going to do, he hasn’t told anyone about the presentation he’s worked up.  Well, this is what he does:  he has gathered together representatives from every different religion he could and introduces them to the alien ambassadors one by one.  And the line of representatives stretches out, dozens and dozens of them.  It’s so earnest and endearing, it’s just great.

Complain about the production values of the show all you want, but that one scene of Sinclair presenting Earth religions in all their astonishing diversity is as great — and more deftly presented — a celebration of human diversity and ingenuity and value as Kirk or Picard ever gave a speech about.


Guys, I’m SO BEHIND on movie watching.  I want to see Jurassic World but I’m not going to get to it in a timely manner.  I’ll confess, the only reason I want to see it is for Chris Pratt and his posse of trained velociraptors.  But you know what?  That’s enough.

This past weekend was my first weekend at home in a month, and I’m having trouble fitting everything in.  I still haven’t seen Avengers: Age of Ultron a second time, and I really want to.  But I did finally see Mad Max: Fury Road again — mostly because I’ve been asked to write a formal review of it, so it was actually work.  Haha, right.  Things I noticed this time:

  • All the names.  After the first viewing, I had to look up the names on IMDB because I didn’t catch any of them, but they really do all get used in the movie.  I’m visual, and often need to see things written down before I “get” them.  This is why I don’t do audio books.
  • You know the blue swamp land with the stilt people, and they’re listening to the creepy crows cawing over and over again, louder and louder?  Those aren’t the birds making those sounds.
  • Who is the main character of the movie, Max or Furiosa?  Well.  Whenever a gun goes off close to Max’s ear, there’s a high-pitched whine in the soundtrack.  Whenever there’s an explosion near Max, the soundtrack goes muffled for a couple of seconds.  The story may be about Furiosa, but Max is absolutely the viewpoint character.  It’s quite a literary detail and I love it.

Being home meant I could finally finish binge watching Daredevil.  Great, great stuff.  It gets even better in later episodes.  Ep. 8, Fisk’s backstory?  One of the best hours of dramatic TV I’ve seen in a long time.  And I want to do a bit of a rant comparing this to Game of Thrones, because Daredevil has as many shocking deaths and as much violence as Game of Thrones — but why is Daredevil more effective than this last season of GoT?  Well, Daredevil doesn’t include any sexual violence.  It also gives its characters time to mourn and reflect.  The deaths aren’t there just to shock the audience — the characters react to them as well.  We can mourn with them.  I have more thoughts, but that’s just off the top of my head.

And one last observation:  So I watched the trailer for the new Fantastic Four again, where they get their powers through interdimensional travel rather than space travel, and I couldn’t help but think that that’s EXACTLY LIKE “The Four” in Planetary.  Which means I don’t think I’m going to be able to watch this movie without laughing.  So yeah, gonna pass I think.

But I’ll probably end up seeing Batman v. Superman for the academic exercise, even though my expectations are very, very low.

At least we still have Ant Man to look forward to.


The Flash — 1990

June 19, 2015

Since all our regular TV shows finished for the season, this week for our Monday dinner-and-TV extravaganza, we pulled out the DVD’s of the first Flash TV series from 1990, specifically to watch the Trickster episodes, which some of our party had not seen.  Here, have some opening credits:

So. Much. Nostalgia.

I loved this show when it first aired.  By the late 80’s we were completely starved for any kind of superhero media at all.  The glory days of the late 70’s to early 80’s had dried up, and there really wasn’t anything — until 1989 and the Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movie.  I remember how revolutionary that movie was.  How dark and menacing and awesome.  We ate it up like popcorn.  Now of course, in hindsight, the Burton Batman movie is to the current crop of Batman movies what the 1960’s TV show is to the Burton Batman movie.  So dated.  So cheesy.  Never would have thought that could happen.

The 1990 Flash is direct result of the success of the Batman movie.  You can tell they mined the same aesthetic — the art deco gothic setting, the over-the-top everything, the molded latex suit (I got to hear John Wesley Shipp speak at DragonCon in 2007, and he said they would lysol the suit out at night and it would never quite dry completely by the next time he had to wear it, and it got pretty rank. *shudder*).  The theme song is by Danny Elfman.  And at the time the show really did feel dark and serious and mature and…

Well.  Watching it now?  It’s freaking adorable.  That flying hair trick to show that Barry has left the room?  The new show uses that trick too, but somehow on the old show it’s deeply hilarious.  The whole thing is silly, but the silliness is seamless and the actors manage to play it straight.  It’s lovely seeing John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, and Mark Hamill in their original Flash incarnations.  It’s really lovely seeing all the easter eggs the current Flash has slipped in referring back to the old show with love.  The Trickster warehouse from the new episode?  The costumes?  Perfect recreations.

The 1990 Flash only lasted a season, which is too bad, because I think its heart was in the right place.  It’s dated, but it’s fun, and we enjoyed watching it.

Here’s my big question:  I pretty much believe that Mark Hamill landed the role of the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series because of his stint as the Trickster, where he managed to convey psychopathic evil under the outrageous Trickster antics.  But here’s the thing I’d forgotten:

Trickster acquires a sidekick named Prank.  Prank is a pretty woman who develops a very unhealthy infatuation with the Trickster and devotes herself to supporting his cause, while constantly throwing herself at him.  Sometimes he relents and returns her affections, sometimes he rejects her — all this keeps her coming back for more no matter what.

Prank predates Harley Quinn by at least a year, near as I can figure.

Do any of the comics/superhero wonks out there know if there’s a direct connection/inspiration between the two characters?  Because dang, it’s a little obvious watching that episode now.


Monday update

June 15, 2015

It’s less than two months until the release of KITTY SAVES THE WORLD!  OMG!  I’m starting to ramp up the promotion right now, so you’ll be seeing more about this in coming weeks.

First off:  You still have a couple of weeks to sign up for this Goodreads giveaway.  Get the book before everyone else!

kitty saves the world MM - Copy

I turned on the new SyFy show Dark Matter right in the middle and here’s my impression:  It seems like it’s trying really really hard to be Firefly, but dark, and with no wit or charm. I turned it on in time to see the young woman character explain that she’s actually River Tam.

And I’m finally halfway through Netflix’s Daredevil, a month after everyone else stopped talking about it.  I am intrigued.  And it’s really really violent.  Like, amazingly violent.  But what I’m liking is the dialog, and what they’re doing with Fisk, making him sympathetic by introducing him as this awkward guy trying to ask a woman on a date — right before showing what a maniac he is.  Hey, Vanessa, when Fisk said, “My painting.”  That’s when you needed to get up and leave the room forever.  (And that’s how you do dialog.  Two words, and the bottom dropped out of my stomach.)



June 10, 2015

I’m just back from almost three weeks of adventures, and I had an excellent time, but it’s really nice to be home and back to a normal schedule, walking the dog and eating my favorite cereal and so on.  I have a pile of work I need to get to.  Don’t I always?

Here’s one of the pictures from Florida, where I went last week, to do some diving out of Key Largo.  Can YOU find the iguana?


And a review:

Game of Thrones:  I gave it a couple more chances but I’m done now.  This past episode, I turned it off in the middle when I realized what was going to happen.  I thought, “Surely they won’t go through with it.”  Then I thought, but this is Game of Thrones.  I just knew I didn’t need to see that.

I also realized something about the show:  for all the tragedy and mayhem, I don’t think I’ve ever cried.  There have been so many sad deaths — and maybe that’s why I haven’t cried.  Sad death is the normal baseline for the show.  What’s more, the show is about shocking the audience. And each shock has to be bigger than the last.  The thing is — shock value is not the same emotional engagement.  Shock value will not make me cry, and will not make me care.

At this point, I might as well be watching demolition derby.

I’m finally caught up on The Flash and now I’m going to talk about why I liked that finale so much.

And it’s not just because I actually had to leave the room to pull myself together after that one scene, because my friends were there and I was blubbering incoherently, and I usually only do that when I’m by myself.

So last week I spent six days reading unpublished short stories and novel excerpts and critiquing them.  All the writers at this workshop are published, accomplished writers, but one issue comes up over and over again, and that’s pacing and tension.  Are things happening too quickly, not quickly enough?  Is the reader looking forward to what happens next or just plodding through?  Is there too much information or not enough?  Is the tension genuine or contrived?  Get any of these points wrong, the piece usually fails.

And then I come home and watch this episode.  This was actually a sedate episode, action wise:  Barry is going around and asking advice about what he should do.  These all turned into really big conversations about fate, relationships, meaning, regret.  And they sparked conversations among all the secondary characters about the same kinds of things.  One of these conversations led to an instant wedding which was just fantastic and I cheered.

Any one of these conversations could have anchored an entire episode of another show, and I thought it was brilliant that The Flash put them all together — not just that, but each conversation triggered the one after it.  This led to such a build up of emotional energy, that by the time the one big action sequence actually starts — Can Barry run fast enough?  Will he survive? — the tension is almost unbearable.

And then when we think he’s made one decision, he changes it.  It’s unexpected, but not in hindsight.  In hindsight it’s perfect, and all that emotional tension breaks.  And that’s why this scene, which could have been too sappy and maudlin (and maybe was for some people) became so freaking powerful.

And then just when we thought it was all over, there’s one more big astonishing action free-for-all, and I kind of lost it, even more than I already had.

Pacing.  This episode built tension with a bunch of conversations, and every one of them was necessary for the pay off.

AND THEN CLIFFHANGER ARGH!  The only other thing I have to say is that helmet better go somewhere and not just be a throwaway easter egg.



May 20, 2015

The latest Holy Taco Church newsletter is out.  Sign up for book giveaways and recipes!

So many ideas buzzing around my brain today.  And it’s still raining here.  I’m sun activated, so this is really getting me down.  It’s not supposed to be gray and mucky on Memorial Day weekend.  I’m tired of being cold.

I keep running into other peoples’ posts that insist that Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t have a story and isn’t really feminist.  While I have an urge to argue with people over this. (How can any movie that has the Vuvalini, where the entire point is to overturn a patriarchal nightmare with a more egalitarian system where everyone has agency, not be feminist?  What?)  But I have decided for my own sanity not to engage in these arguments.  I should be writing instead.

Speaking of feminist, I’m one of those people who might be bailing on Game of Thrones after this last episode.  For me, it’s mostly that they were setting Sansa up to be one thing — she was figuring things out, she was conniving on her own, and telling people off.  But then the show just subjected her to the same old same old violence.  Overall, the show is exhibiting many of the same traits that are the reasons I don’t read multi-volumn, multi-p.o.v. epic fantasy.  How much longer am I going to have to wait for a Brienne episode?  And on a TV show I can’t skip chapters to get back to the characters I like.

And I think I’m coming down with a cold. WAAAAAAAAAAAH.



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