Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Geek casting

In Movies, Television, Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I heard the other day that Jamie Bamber, Apollo on Battlestar Galactica, is going to be on the final season (I assume final) of Dollhouse.  Coupled with Helo, this is another BSG alum moving onto another geek show.  I feel like Dollhouse is becoming a bastion for geek actors from canceled shows, as Summer Glau is making her way to the house straight from the terminator show, which she was on after The 4400, right after her Firefly days.  Joss Whedon’ regulars, Ronald Moore’s people, various people from various Scyfy (or however they spell it now) programming and USA shows all work in the same geeky circle and continue to over and over.  How does this happen?  How does Katie Sackhoff end up on The Bionic Woman?  How does Tricia Helfer end up everywhere?  She was on Chuck, Supernatural, Burn Notice, and Warehouse 13 along with work in video games (Command & Conquer, Halo: ODST) and cartoons (The Spectacular Spider-man, Green Lantern: First Flight) in the last two years.  I mean, who does this casting?  How does this work?

Well, it probably has a logical answer.  It seems in Hollywood, people get caught up doing the same kind of thing and have a hard time breaking from that mold.  If someone becomes a fan-favorite on a geek show, that becomes the audience they can appeal to.  Therefore, they end up doing similar types of shows or movies for years to come.  While maybe Johnny Depp can get away with picking strange, eclectic roles to challenge his abilities, most mid-level, TV star celebrities don’t have that advantage.  They happily take whatever work is there to make a good living.  The funny thing must be those people whom have no interest in geekiness but keeping falling into those type of gigs.  Is Summer Glau a geek?  For her sake, I hope she has some interest in that kind of stuff because I see a long, Walter Koenig-like convention career when the world realizes she can’t act and her hotness (personally, not a big fan but I guess I’m in the minority) fades.

Summer, these guys have a seat all warmed up for you.

Summer, these guys have a seat all warmed up for you.

Another answer might be that some actors enjoy working on geek projects.  The best example I can give for this is Christian Bale.  Bale is considered a solid, respected actor with a resume of interesting, adult roles.  So what does he keep doing?  Equilibrium, Reign of Fire, Terminator: Salvation, Batman Begins. During the span in which he made these flicks, he has made plenty of non-geeky, perfectly respectable pieces of cinema.  He clearly likes being in movies where he gets to wear outrageous outfits, wield bizarre weapons, and fight all kinds of science fiction adversaries.  I say, good for him.  I’m glad he keeps appearing in our type of flicks, though the Batman-voice is getting pretty goddamn old.

I’m glad that I see the same old faces when I watch geeky media.  It’s always nice to see that Miles Dyson survived Terminator 2 and landed on Eureka.  I’m always happy to see Jane in the Buy More.  I just hope they enjoy being there as much I enjoy seeing them there.  Hmm…yeah, they get to make millions working on television.  I’m sure they’re fine, in retrospect.

Tranquilizer marksmen

In Comics, Movies, Television on August 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm

This is one of my favorite little cliches found in the world of movies, TV, or comic books.  You know when you have a hero who is blessed with incredible talents, well-honed skills, and all the luck in the world.  The guy or lady who never seems to get hit by the stray bullet of the lucky shot.  This defines most protagonists in action media, right?  If they got killed by something as simple as a tiny mistake in a random combat situation, that would be the end of the show.  I mean, who wants to see the end of Batman by the hands of Mugger #4 who gets a lucky shot with his snubnose .38.  Nobody, really.  So, instead Batman will face down against a man with a firearm and disarm him with a modified Australian aboriginal weapon.  No one complains, because we want to see more Batman adventures.  This goes for every action hero who faces lethal danger on a daily basis.  So how do you defeat such someone so larger than life?

Easy.  The simple tranquilizer dartgun.  As you have doubtlessly seen a dozen times, all you need to do is vaguely aim in the direction of our hero and pull the trigger.  The hero will be hit, get knocked out, then be captured.  This always leads to the adventure where the hero is imprisoned and needs to escape.  It’s a staple of the genre.  While the protagonist never has a problem with the far more accurate and difficult firearms, it is the dartgun with the shitty range, crap accuracy, and weak penetrating power that always seems to tag them.

I noticed it today while watching an episode of Gargoyles where Goliath gets knock out by a well shot dart while easily dodging automatic fire from multiple submachine guns moments before.  It happens a bunch on Batman: The Animated Adentures constantly, with Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, or, shit, anyone gets Bats with some kind of slow-acting poison, mind-controlling serum, or instant knockout juice.  Comics do this stuff all the time, too.  Especially with heroes that have no special defenses yet go head-to-head with world-ripping powers.  Besides Batman, I’m looking at you Green Arrow, Black Canary, Cyclops, Punisher, Daredevil, Ironfist, Hawkeye, and on and on and on.  Or James Bond, too.  The nigh-bulletproof can always be brought down low with a tranq dart, a room full of knockout (but not lethal) gas, or something similar.  Remember when those evil cultists were able to get hallucination darts shot into multiple targets running at full speed in Young Sherlock Holmes.  That shit would be amazingly hard, as the natives in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark demonstrate, yet by going with the non-lethal poison, these dark priests have 100% success.  Good for them.

If even one of these guys was using tranquilizer darts, it'd be sleepy time for Dr. Jones.

If even one of these guys was using tranquilizer darts, it'd be sleepy time for Dr. Jones.

So, I was kind of lying before when I said that the use of tranquilizer darts would be effective against heroes, however.  While it might allow the villain to render the hero helpless or even capture her, if you try to go for the kill, something will inevitably happen to keep you from carrying it out.  So, I guess all you antagonists are screwed.  Sorry.

Oh, one quick point:

Don’t you hate when the villain has the hero dead to rights but something happens to fuck with the plan.  Like the cops show up or the boat’s pulling away or the cave is collapsing.  So, the villain decides to not take the .25 seconds to shoot the hero but runs, because they view the new threat is too impending to take the time to carry out the simplest of executions.  They do, however, have time to say something like: “This isn’t the end!” or “I’ll see you dead!”  That shit always strikes me as stupid.

Damn ratzis

In Comics, Movies on August 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I just saw Inglorious Basterds. That’s all I need to say about that, but it did bring up an interesting point for me.  Has there ever been a better villain, even fictional, then the German National Socialists?  Before we answer that question, I  want to make it clear that I do not want to make light of the horror of the Holocaust or even try to make a case that their infamy is not entirely earned.  Yet, geek movies, comics, video games, you name it have employed these convenient bastards as the source of easy-to-hate antagonism since their actual existence in the mid-20th Century.  Let me list a few reasons why Indiana Jones sums it all up when he says: “Nazis…I hate these guys.”

First, they’re pretty fucking terrible.  It goes without saying, but I just wanted to put it on the table.  Based on their aggressive militarism, their misguided ignorant idea of Arianism,  their horrible racism, or even their shitty opinions on art, there is next to nothing good to say about Nazi policy in any way, shape, or form.  They represent bad stuff, all around.  That’s a no-brainer, but there it is.

Second, they have really scary uniforms and equipment.  This has nothing to do with their shitty policy, but it sure is a weird icing on the cake, right?  Like, the black and red combo is terrifying, sure.  The uniforms, whether dress or combat, were completely dramatic compared to anything else in WWII.  I mean, compare the the tiger tank compared to the Sherman and see a lesson in scary design.  The topper: SS uniforms have fucking skulls on them.  Skulls!

The third major point?  How about Hitler’s supposed fascination with the occult.  This really brings the geek into the equation.  Indiana Jones and Hellboy, for instance, have this aspect of the Nazi schtick to thank for their mutual successes.  Besides having a well-trained army of fucking stormtroopers wearing death outfits looking to kill everyone, they even try to tap into the power of Satan, dark Gods, or black magic.

Yeah...what's terrifying about that?

Yeah...what's terrifying about that?

So, do you think these dudes have become a crutch for hacks looking for an easy source of villainy?  Or, is it always satisfying to watch these Ratzis get smoked?  You tell me.

P.S.  What’s the dude with the Red Skull?  Why would a Nazi supersoldier do anything to attach himself to the dreaded Communism?

Out of the loop

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 11:08 pm

This is a relatively new phenomenon for me.  I mentioned an inkling of it it before in this post, but this is a little different.  I’m not talking about keeping up with continuity (which I continue to struggle with) but having a limited idea of what’s happening in the industries I pour my time, energy, and money.  It happened when I went comic shopping with Kettner about a week ago.  He was showing who was working on what project and what was good and not.  I recognized a lot of the creators, but I didn’t know which writer was on which book.  This is shit I used to be pretty up on.  What new titles are coming out, which books are surprisingly great, which comics are disappointingly terrible, and so on.  I had another shock like this when I was listening to the 1up videogame podcast ( a week late, I might add).  In it, they were talking about a lot of games.  I could obviously follow the conversation (I am a geek, after all) but it was amazing to hear which games had already come out while I was figuratively sleeping on the job.  I mean, I was in Best Buy a while back when I saw the Wii Sports Resort with the new controller add-on had come out.  I made a purchase like some kind of normal consumer at a store instead of my usual, up-on-the-news self.  These are just a few examples.  The time when the nice but non-geek at work asked me about new games and I stared blankly at him.  The time I realized I wasn’t familiar with the Mark Millar Kick-Ass comic when I saw the trailer for the movie.  So, what happened?

Well, for one, I stopped having a mindless job with a computer.  When I went back to school full-time, I stopped working in the dreaded office environment.  So, while I used to waste hours of my non-productive day scouring the super highway for every morsel of data that might be interesting to me, that was no longer all I had to do with my time.  I had school work and the like, of course, but also better stuff to do with my free time.  Besides time spent with actual human beings, I spent my time playing games, reading books, and creating stuff instead of reading blogs or rumors about games, books, or other people creating stuff.  While more fulfilling, I think, it definitely increased my ignorance on the geek industries working around me.

Also, I got kind of down on the actual businesses involved in making my geek media.  When I left the weekly comic grind a few years ago, I was less than inspired by the work being produced.  And while I still love games, I was getting annoyed by the banality of the limited imagination of most big game producers.  This is not to say I didn’t read or play anything.  Just, I wasn’t all that interested in MPD numbers, the weekly DC series starring obscure characters, or why Bioware’s Dragon Age was taking so long to come out.  It just didn’t interest me to know this kind of shit.

Who am I kidding?  I'm dying to know everything about Dragon Age that I can squeeze from my computer.

Who am I kidding? I'm dying to know everything about Dragon Age that I can squeeze from my computer.

And finally, it’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.  It’s fun to forget about something entirely, then turn the corner in the store and see something you can be excited about.  In this age of information, it’s becoming a rarity.  I remember going to bookstores, hoping that a new whatever was out but having no convenient way of finding out.

So, of course, I’m actually pretty in-the-loop about most things.  I still keep up with upcoming movies more than anyone I know, really.  And, with the success of my current rpg playing, I’m back on that more than I was.  As for video games, I do still listen to a weekly podcast on the subject (though a shitload less now that 1up has paired down its operation).  Comics…yeah, I’m still out of it on comics but that’s easy enough to get back into when I have the inclination, time, and money.  No worries there.  It’s just that I feel like I used to obsess over the details of the news in my geek world.  Now, I don’t.

I think that’s probably a good thing.

The First Law

In Books on August 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I just finished re-reading The Song of Ice and Fire series, in response to all the casting going on for the potential HBO series.  You can read about that on George R.R.’s website over here if you are interested in that.  I’m sure I will have a discussion on the casting  sometime soon.  Upon finishing the books, however, I wanted to read more fantasy fiction but didn’t know where to turn.  I wanted something pretty easy and fun but not overly simple or stupid.  I was considering going back to Glen Cook’s Black Company series or Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, as both had provided some gritty, non-Tolkien fantasy in the past.  Yet, I had gotten stuck on the second book of each of those series, making me wonder if they were the books for me.  I enjoyed them but found myself not completely drawn in for inexplicable reasons.  I had read some of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series but was pretty disappointed with it.  So, I went online for some recommendations and started hearing the name Joe Abercrombie come up.  With really nothing to lose, I picked up The Blade Itself, the first book in The First Law series.

Now, I am hooked.

This book is so violent, it beat up the image file for the cover.

This book is so violent, it beat up the image file for the cover.

It takes place in a world that I find similar to Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean setting.  Not because they are alike, however, but because they take advantage of our understanding of real-world geography to take shortcuts in world description.  When there is a nation in the north of the Union called Angland that can only be reached by crossing water, you get an idea of what you’re working with.  It’s a mash-up of different cultures, time periods, and levels of technology with a unique view on magic and the supernatural.  Calling it high magic or low magic would not accurately describe the setting, either.  I could go on about the setting or the world creation and so on, but that is not what makes these books so much fun.

First, and foremost, it’s the characters.  This Joe Abercrombie can write some damn good characters.  He is excellent at getting inside the heads of various people, giving each a unique voice and perspective.  They’re smart and believable, often thinking and saying exactly the right thing.  Often in fantasy, I find the language to be a weird combination of modern language coupled with oddly inserted Shakespearean English to create a false sense of, I don’t, medievalness?  Abercrombie makes the language feel natural and real.  He changes perspective a lot, so we get to view each character from the others’ points of views.  After a book and a half in this series, I am a huge fan of a handful of characters.  Colonel West, Superior Glotka, Dogman, and, of course, Logen Ninefingers.  Man, I love those guys.

Secondly, the action is maybe the best I have ever read.  It’s gritty and brutal but never excessive or gratuitous.  Well, maybe sometimes but I’m not complaining.  The thing I like the most about it is that even the best fighters get all kinds of fucked up.  I feel like after every fight seen, the characters look (and feel) like John McClane  at the end of Die Hard with a touch of Martin Riggs after getting tortured by Al Leong.  Throw in a little Indy post-truck scene and you get the idea.  Most of the characters are somewhat martial, as they need to be to remain characters in these books.  They are extremely vulnerable and real, and I keep waiting for someone I love (going back to my first point) have something terrible happen to them.

I could go on but, as I wrote, I’m still not done.  So I could write some more or I could go read.  Sorry, that’s not much of a choice.

This is His

In Movies, Science Fiction on August 22, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I had an idea to write a long response to the Avatar trailer.  Right before I was to start, I decided to read the blogs of my friends, as I do almost everyday.  I saw that comment master, Jon, had written a post with more depth and with much more content than I ever could.  So, check it out here.

That is all for now.

I simply love what you’ve done with your hair

In Movies, Television on August 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday.  My computer was being evil.  I hope some upgraded video card drivers will do the trick.  But enough with the real world, onto the bullshit.  This topic is one that has not occurred to me but, after my wife started talking to me about it, I realized it should have.  This is especially true after watching G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as this is the most recent offender.  What am I talking about?  Well, it’s the poor combination of long hair and combat situations.

When Peter the Great attempted to modernize and Europeanize his Russian military, one of his simplest innovations was the cutting off of the traditional long beards and hair of the men in the army.  Stray hair and the working of rifles, it seems, were not a good combo.  Creators of geek media, however, often fail to keep this in mind, as Nina has noted.  Much like my problem with people and their tendency to not wear helmets, this is something that she sees everywhere.  Women (the usual culprit) but also men, seem to keep their hair long and in their faces when they should cut it short or at least pull it back.  For instance, in the new G.I. Joe movie, Scarlet and the Baroness are portrayed as women whom count on their ability to aim powerful weapons and get into obligatory fistfights.  I guess they’re so good, however, that vision isn’t important.  Just check out these hair-dos (or should I say hair-don’ts?…No, probably not, actually):

Don't even get me started with their outfits.  It seems the best way to shut them down is to remember the safety word.

Don't even get me started with their outfits. It seems the best way to shut them down is to remember the safety word.

It seems like a stray breeze could end this fight.  I’m not saying they even need to chop off their luxurious locks, though it would be a good idea, but how about a headband, bandanna, or a fucking hat?  These are just the latest offenders.  The Whedonverse (be it Buffy, Angel, or Firefly) do this shit all the time.  Buffy I will excuse because she fights in heeled boots and fuck-me pants.  Clearly she’s too stupid to realize her job would be easier if she took it more seriously.  Hell, I’ll even give River a pass, as she seems to suffer from the kind of mental trauma that makes her a psychic, a kick-ass killer, and a robotic actor.  So the slayer and the space-slayer can perhaps be explained away.  But Zoe?  She should know better.  And don’t get me started on Dollhouse.

I guess the biggest bad-asses in the future are tall, statuesque models too.

I guess the biggest bad-asses in the future are tall, statuesque models too.

I know, I know.  It’s just a movie or TV or whatever.  It’s a visual medium that has to appeal to all kinds of people and its escapist fun and I shouldn’t read too much into it and blah, blah, blah.  But, we also want mainstream people to take us seriously when talk about the quality of our shows and movies but we allow this kind of shit to fly because…I’m not sure.  Say what you want about Battlestar Gallactica, at least Starbuck has a practical haircut and, while we’re on it, a body that more says bulldog than model.  I can appreciate that.

One of the most beautiful women...if you consider that there are only about 30,000 people left alive in this universe.

One of the most beautiful women...if you consider that there are only about 30,000 people left alive in this universe.

Is it just a phase?

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 at 1:30 am

I like to cling, helplessly, to my idea of individuality.  I mean, I don’t think my choice to like nerdy things through adolescence was a desire to conform.  If it was, it was a pretty stupid method.  Whether we rose up apart from each other, we have became an entity; a type.  It’s no coincidence that people whom have never met can have entire conversations using nothing but Simpsons quotes (or Family Guy quotes for the younger crowd).  Not to crush the concept of free choice, but we have been formed by the media of society into a subculture to be catered to, advertised to, and sold to.  We have our own specific tastes, no doubt, but geek culture is a now a shared experience for millions of people.  You go to a party, you get introduced to some new people, and you often gauge that experience by their love of Batman or interest in Robotech, for instance.

This guy might regret this someday.  Probably already, actually.

This guy might regret this someday. Probably already, actually.

Ahh…so you may be looking for the point?  Well, I wonder if this is how society will be for foreseeable future.  How long will the age of big-budget comic book movies or well-made, interesting video games continue.  Are we an example of a big shift in society, or just a small, short-lived generation that will by replaced soon enough by some other thing that we don’t know about yet.  Like the  hippies of the 60’s or some disco practitioners from the 70’s?  Are the kids of tomorrow going to wonder why a bunch of man-children (or women-children) got excited about the release of Halo or pumped about a movie about laser-sword magicians and space-apes.

Okay, let me give you an imperfect example.  Go with me, please.  I got home late.  Anyways, so think about the state of the western in the 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s..  People loved their western shows and movies a shit-ton.  Bonanza, The Magnificent Seven, The Rifleman, Rio Bravo, Gunsmoke, and on, and on, and on.  It was very common for children to attire themselves like workers in the bovine transportation business of the late 19th Century and no one thought it was weird.  It was a phenomenon.  So, where is the western now?  While still alive, it is hardly flourishing.  Kids are on to the geeky shit that they are on to, having grandfathers whom love John Wayne.

Are superheroes, zombies, and all the shit we like now going to disappear?  Will it go in waves, with some diehards keeping interest alive until the pendulum swings back?  Is the health of the geek subculture just a momentary phase?  Or has it grown strong and diverse enough to be a sociological entity with real legs?  Time will tell.

Dark Sun

In Roleplaying Games on August 18, 2009 at 9:37 pm

This post is for true nerds only.  Proceed with caution.

Okay, anyone still there?  Here’s the deal.  It has come to my attention that Wizards of the Coast, makers of the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, are planning on unveiling a new campaign world at next year’s GenCon.  Now, I would use the term “new” with a deer-lick of salt.  Why?  Because the company is reintroducing the Dark Sun campaign setting for 2010.  This news immediately made me excited, as I love all things Dark Sun.  Yet, the reality of the situation dawned on me very slowly.  A new Dark Sun for new D&D.  But…I don’t play new D&D.  Uh-oh.

Well, the aesthetics of the book cover look familiar, but will the game inside?

Well, the aesthetics of the book cover look familiar, but will the game inside?

Let me break this down for those of you whom are not exactly sure what I’m talking about.  In 1991, TSR, the company that created and used to own Dungeons & Dragons, published the Dark Sun campaign setting for the 2nd Edition version of the game.  As I have mentioned briefly in this post, Dark Sun was a post apocalyptic fantasy setting where life is harsh, magic is scare, and everything is awesome.  It was saddled by the 2nd Edition D&D rules, which I found pretty cumbersome, but the flavor of the setting was inspiring to say the least.  It was the first setting I got into independent of my brother as dungeon master and I honestly loved the hell out of it.

After Wizards of the Coast acquired the rights to Dungeons Dragons around the turn of the new century and released the 3rd Edition, Dark Sun was officially done.  Like some of my other favorite 2nd Edition settings, WotC ceased the publication of the Dark Sun setting, concentrating on Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and eventually Eberron.  There were efforts made my loyal fans, such as the people at Athas.org , to keep Dark Sun alive for 3rd Edition players.  I appreciated it, as I played several solid Dark Sun games with 3rd Edition rules and enjoyed them.  Yet, without the official love of D&D, it was hard to attract new people to the setting.

Now, almost two decades after the release of the original setting, WotC is making this new Dark Sun.  At this point I know next to nothing about it except that it is on its way and it is following the newest 4th Edition rules.  I am not really a fan of the new rules, as I feel they break the game down into a tactical, MMO-like strategy combat game lacking some of the flavor I always appreciated in D&D.  I’ve been sticking, along with my gaming group, with the 3rd Edition rules.  But, with this pending Dark Sun release, I feel the urge to enter the 4th Edition era.  The ramifications of this are a little troubling.  Am I re-entering a phase of my gaming past, where my gaming addiction becomes a serious problem.  I’m excited about the prospect of new excitement for my favorite setting, but I am worried what will become of it.

I told you, nerds only.

Monday’s “That Guy:” Pamela Reed

In Movies, Television, That Guys on August 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm

After last’s week pantheon pick of Keith David, I thought it would be a good time to change things up.  Despite the usual focus of this blog on generally geeky topics, I’ve picked a “that guy” that would not seem to be a huge geeky pick.  She’s a pretty common sight on TV especially, but has appeared in her share of movies, as well.   There are two main reasons that my “that guy” of this week, Pamela Reed, has been chosen.

Pamela Reed always reminded me as a combination of Jane Curtain and my Aunt Pat.

Pamela Reed always reminded me as a combination of Jane Curtain and my Aunt Pat.

First, my wife has been watching a ton of Jericho on Netflix recently.  Ms. Reed, whom is married to Major Dad (George Hearst to Deadwood fans, Mr. Delta Burke to snarky assholes, and Gerald McRaney to the rest of you) and Skeet Ulrich’s mother on the show, was on the screen when I sat down to watch some of this show with Nina.  We both were like, how come we know this woman.  She is infinitely familiar.  So, that feeling we had was reason enough to make her my “that guy.”

So, let’s examine some of the hits I know her from.  She was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Detective John Kimble’s partner in Kindergarten Cop. She was supposed to be the substitute teacher, then go too sick, forcing Arnold to declare his lack of tumors and so on.  She was also in Junior, so I guess she works well with Conan, though I never saw that flick so I can’t say much about her in that.  She did quality work in Proof of Life, Cadillac Man, and Bob Roberts. That, including her role in Jericho (which is actually a geek show) and Amy Poehler’s underwhelming Parks and Recreations. Pamela Reed is a very likeable actor, bringing a quiet wisdom, slightly tough edge, and maternal warmth to her performances in the past 20-odd years.

So…what’s my other reason for including her?  Well, after seeing her on Jericho, I remembered a short-lived NBC show from the late 80’s or early 90’s called Grand. I thought I was the only person on earth whoever heard of this show.  Pamela Reed was one of the major characters.  It was an odd show that explored the lives of the rich, middle-class, and working poor of a small Pennsylvania town.  It featured John Neville, Michael McKean, and Bonnie Hunt but the thing I remember best is the creepy opening.  Check it out.  The weird way they stare at the camera in those odd artificial poses?  Weird.  Nice to know I didn’t imagine the whole thing.  You are my witnesses that this show existed.