Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blah And The Grey -- Part 2

It happens every few years. Some godawful book comes along that represents the worst not only in literature but in humanity itself. They have titles like Jaws (great movie but the book sucked), Bridges of Madison County, and Twilight. Now, of course, we have a book that is a piece of something that cannot be accurately labeled as "shit" because shit at least serves a useful purpose to society as crop fertilizer. That book, of course, is 50 Shades of Grey. If you remember from June, I posted my examination of the book's first chapter and it became the most viewed post in this blog's history, thanks mainly to traffic from a Reddit link. You'd think I would have pounced on the rest of the book but my God this is an awful book although the chapter I reviewed mostly took place in an office and I've been informed that I am shallow and hate stuff like that. How bad is the book? I had originally intended this introduction to be just a few words and look how long it's getting. I'm tempted to just go on and on talking about nothing until either a comet hits the Earth or the North Koreans invade, something Hollywood assures me is perfectly plausible. Oh well, the sooner I start, the sooner I'm finished. Still, it's an awfully nice day out. Maybe I should go kayaking. I've never been kayaking but this seems like an excellent day to start. Oh, fuck it. Here is chapter 2 of 50 Shades of Grey.

When we last left Anastasia Steele (you're really going with that name, E.L. James? Just checking), she had just left the offices rich, dreamy jag-off Christian Grey. In her first person narration, she says, "No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power?" Oh golly Ana, do you think those things may have had something to do with it? No, that couldn't have been it. Maybe the autographed picture of Christian with Garrison Keillor or his alarm clock with a cute little puppy that barks every hour are what made your panties wetter than you ever thought possible. She reminds herself that he's also arrogant, autocratic and cold which makes them opposites and thus, a hit sitcom relationship is born.

Oh yeah, it was all Katherine's fault that you acted like a 13 year old boy trapped in an elevator with a Victoria's Secret model. It's also entirely her fault that you didn't even bother to look at his Wikipedia entry or even glance at the prepared questions before you charged into the guy's office with what would have been the world's biggest boner if ladies got those. Oh, I forgot all about Katherine and the mystery about whether the Nyquil would make her feel better. That was the most exciting thing about chapter one. I'd better keep reading.

AND SHE'S FEELING BETTER! YAY! Although no Nyquil is mentioned and Ana asks if she ate her soup. What the fuck? Soup? Nyquil knocks out her cold and soup gets all the credit? I expected numerous follow-up questions about Katherine and some sort of closure to the whole Nyquil/soup controversy but all they did was talk about Christian Grey while Ana chewed Katherine out for not explaining what was in the prepared questions she could have easily read herself. Ana went to her job at a hardware store, something I could have left out since absolutely nothing happened. Oh, we did discover that, after four years of working there, Ana knows everything about hardware except how to actually use it.

I'm fully expecting her to describe her four years studying English Lit the same way. Like, she knows a lot about English Lit but can't do any actual English Lit-ing or whatever the hell it is English Lit majors do when they graduate. Anyway, Ana is bound and determined to put the subject of Christian Grey behind her which, I guess, is why we got four more paragraphs of her talking about Christian Grey before she got home to talk some more about Christian Grey with Katherine for another four pages or so. It's basically a retread of the "He's so handsome-arrogant-fascinating-controlling" crap we've been hearing about for the last, what, 8 chapters? 9? Oh crap, that's right. This is only chapter two. Ana basically comes off as someone who has never actually met a man before like that chick from Species or Wonder Woman before she left Amazon Island. The whole conversation culminates in an exchange that made me mad.
First, I have no idea who asked who the sandwich question AND they never explain what sort of sandwiches were eaten. Katherine seems like a roast beef kind of girl while Ana probably had cucumber and olive but, damn it, WE'LL NEVER KNOW! It's things like this that make me think E.L. James isn't a very good writer. The next three pages or so are filled with innocuous details of Ana's life. She studies. She calls her mom and talks about...honestly, I can't remember and I just read it. She calls her favorite step-dad (her mom's been married 82 times, I think) and talks about...I'm guessing English Lit but i don't remember that either. OH WAIT, CARPENTRY! She talked to him about carpentry. I'm not sure why that didn't rate a top spot in my memory but I have it now. Then her friend Jose comes over. The moment he showed up at her door and Ana described him as the first person she met on campus, I wished I could have placed a large wager on whether or not Jose was what every girl in a story like this is required to have, a gay best friend. I'm glad I couldn't though because, so far, he seems to have an unreturned crush on Ana and JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IS ANYTHING GOING TO ACTUALLY HAPPEN? Wasn't this book supposed to be all handcuffs and whips and gross period sex?

Oh wait, I spoke too soon. She's back in the hardware store. Yay? I really did speak too soon. I went back to reading and who do you think just happened to show up at the hardware store?

Heart failure? Oh dear, she must be reading 50 Shades of Grey. This leads to my favorite passage from the book so far.

So, there you go. Christian Grey's voice sounds like either dark melted fudge caramel OR it sounds like something. I've never taken enough drugs to know what dark melted fudge caramel sounds like when it speaks but I imagine it sounds something like this. That doesn't turn me on but I'm not a 22 year old girl. For all I know, they hear that and immediately start ovulating.

Anyway, Ana and Mr. Chocolate Voice go through several pages of banal flirting over hardware supplies. Everything he wants is treated as a come-on and double entendre. It looks like...well, it looks like this.

Yes, I agree, STOP TALKING NOW. This reminds me that reading the Communist Manifesto would probably be more entertaining than this book. The Communist Manifesto must be a really horrible book too, right? I've never read the Communist Manifesto but I have heard the horrible things said by Communist wrestlers over the years and, if it's anything like that, it must be pretty bad.

Moving on, Christian agrees to do a photo shoot for that bullshit student newspaper article Ana's friend is writing. As Christian is purchasing his goods, Ana is saved from involuntarily yelling, "VIOLATE MY EVERY ORIFICE," by the arrival of Paul Clayton, brother of the guy who owns the hardware store and, seemingly, yet another potential suitor for Ana which, I believe, now means that every man, including me, is madly in love with Ana. It also makes this book an even more blatant ripoff of Twilight. Let's wrap this shit up.

Wow, E.L. James really knows how to end a chapter. Just think, in the next chapter, we'll get to see the organization of a photo shoot. They'll probably have to find a photographer on Craigslist and get some lights and fuck all if I know as I have never organized a photo shoot though I'm guessing E.L. James hasn't either. This won't stop her from writing about it, of course. It also won't stop me from writing about it when I do chapter 3 which, at my current rate of cranking these things out, should be sometime in October. I'll try to make it sooner but I make no promises. I'm now going to eat some dark melted chocolate fudge caramel just to hear it speak and, probably, to find out if it screams when I bite into it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Blah And The Grey -- Part 1

If you have ever read site before, you know about my liveblogs. They're not actually liveblogs, of course, but that's what I called them when I first came up with the concept and I'm too lazy to change the tag on the posts but none of this is your problem. Anyway, the liveblog is me watching bad movies and writing down rude, MST3K style comments as I do so. Today, however, the time has come to shake things up. I won't be watching a movie today. I'll be reading, and making real-time comments about, a book. Oh, not a whole book. Just the sample that Amazon lets me read for free as there's no way in hell I would actually pay for it. You've heard of this book and can probably guess from this post's title what it is. Amazon assures it is, "Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving," and that it, "will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever." Something tells me it won't but, just in case it does, let me say goodbye now to friends and loved ones before I am forever obsessed with and possessed by E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey.

All rightie, let's get moving. There's always a chance I could die by heart attack or wolverine attack or whatever and I don't want my family finding this in my Kindle, thinking it's my favorite book and having some sort of 50 Shades-themed funeral. My doubts about this book's quality are not calmed when I see it's being narrated by the lead character, a girl named Ana. First person narration doesn't work as well as authors think it does. That's my opinion anyway. Still, I guess I have no reason to think that this self published book by an inexperienced author won't be the exception to my opinion and I can't wait until it moves me to buy the whole book. Anyway, Ana is bitching that her roommate, Kate, is sick and forcing her to conduct an interview on her behalf. They are both students at a university in Vancouver, Washington ad Kate, a journalism major, has scored a rare interview with elusive gazillionaire Charles Grey but she's sick and Ana must do it for her. Why English Lit major Ana has to do it even though she doesn't want to instead of one of Kate's fellow student journalists who would almost certainly jump at the chance is not entirely clear. Oh wait, I figured out that Kate probably still wants to write the article herself at the same time I realized it's probably not at all important and I shouldn't give a damn. After an exciting moment when we wonder whether Kate will take Nyquil or Tylenol to treat her cold (it was Nyquil)(sorry if you considered that a spoiler), Ana begins the long drive to Seattle to meet with Grey and I begin to think that the four pages I've read so far could have had been easily condensed to a few paragraphs although then we would have missed the exciting "Nyquil or Tylenol" moment and that, so far, has been the most exciting thing that has happened.

The first thing Ana learns when she arrives at Grey's corporate headquarters is that all of Grey's employees are extensively trained in condescending and mildly dickish behavior. Hey, wait a minute, Ana just gave her full name to the receptionist. Ana's full name is Anastasia Steele? Anastasia Steele is a name you have when you're battling the Justice League, not when you're an English Lit major. Why are women in books like this never named Myrtle Groggins? Anyway, Grey's employees, all of whom seem to be attractive blond women but he's rich so I guess he can afford the discrimination suits, go out of their way to passive/aggressively let Ana know that they are two or possibly three times better than she is and Ana has a self-esteem problem so she's pretty much in agreement. She assumes Grey is in his 40s. She assumes this because she's incredibly ignorant and has done zero research to prepare for this interview. Yes, she's doing this as a favor but she doesn't even skim the guy's Wikipedia entry? Anyway, it turns out Christian Grey is 27 and so handsome that Ana will look back on this moment with pride because she was able to restrain from fingering herself and lunging at his pants with her mouth wide open. Either of those would have been more dignified than what she actually did though. First, she completely forgets how to hold onto her digital recorder then she starts asking her friend's questions without reading them. After a few banal questions about how he achieved his success (his answers basically boil down to "I'm just awesome"), she asks him if he's gay. She puts 100% of the blame for this on her friend Kate and none of it on the fact that she lacked the basic competence and common sense required to at least read these questions ahead of time and not just blurt them out. For some reason though, Grey finds her fascinating despite the fact that she comes off as an uncoordinated dumbass who tripped when she first entered his office and didn't even bother to dress up for the interview. Despite all this, he does seem enamored with her and said he looks forward to meeting her again. This means Grey realizes he's in some sort of wish fulfillment romance novel and wants to play to his audience.

So, there you go. For some reason, chapter one has not made me want to hit the "Buy this with 1 Click" button on Amazon despite the promise that, by now, it would possess me forever. There is a second chapter available that, for some reason, I'm not at all inclined to read despite the fact that I really want to know if the Nyquil made Kate better or if she should have taken the Tylenol. I'm not sure if it's the clunky dialogue, unbelievable situations or the stupid names that turned me off but hey, why can't it be all three? Perhaps if the sample chapter had included some of the infamous dirty, dirty sex that everyone who mentions the book talks about, I may have been more inclined to buy or at least less inclined to trash it. The story that this book started off as Twilight fan fiction does not surprise me since once again I have been exposed to a story about an incredibly handsome, dynamic and powerful young man inexplicably falling for an average looking girl who is depressed, mumbles a lot and seems so uncomfortable in her own skin that you'd think her skin was made of itchy wool. Despite all this, the American reading public has once again taken this crap and made it a publishing phenomenon that's already destined for the big screen. Oh well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Here is my Twilight fan fiction which I will rewrite as a novel.

Bella swooned as Edward read some dull, pretentious poetry. They then went out and did some vampire stuff then came home and dry humped for six solid minutes, an experience Bella enjoyed despite Edward smacking her head into a wall.

 I will now take that and turn it into a best seller called Six Minutes of Dry in which a girl named Katrina Romanov only spends six minutes with gorgeous billionaire Alexander Dry before falling madly in love with him. Look for it next year. You won't like it but you will buy it anyway and that is all that counts.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Atlas Sucked

Some look at Atlas Shrugged and see a blueprint for an Objectivist Utopia. I look at Atlas Shrugged and see that shitty book I was forced to read in high school. It wasn't the book's political ideas that turned me off (they do today though). I was (and still am) a big fan of Robert Heinlein's The Man Who Sold The Moon, the tale of a bold entrepreneur who bypasses the limited visions of governments and bureaucrats the world over and creates space travel and the best part is that this is finally coming true.  No, what turned me off from the book is that, in my view, it sucks as much as anything can possibly suck and then some. I've always believed there was some good version out there that no one would show me that wasn't a series of train rides, business meetings and dull sex scenes all culminating in a 60 page speech informing most of the world's population that members of the world's elite class allow them to worship at their feet. And now there's a movie. Atlas Shrugged has the same problem that other books like Frank Herbert's Dune or Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun have. Atlas Shrugged is unfilmable. It simply cannot, as written, be adapted into an entertaining film. To make an entertaining film, the book would have to be radically altered. This fact, however, did not stop producer Harmon Kaslow and director Paul Johannson from giving it a shot, thus ignoring their inner voices and probably the outer voices of everyone they knew. Harmon Kaslow is a guy whose IMDB profile shows that he's made exactly zero movies that I've ever heard of and director Paul Johannson's directorial experience consists of directing nine episodes of One Tree Hill but these facts did not stop them from thinking they were up to the challenge of this near-impossible project. I haven't seen it so maybe they pulled it off. So, with no further ado, you may now read what I was thinking in real time as I watched Atlas Shrugged Part 1.

0:10:00 -- It's September 2, 2016 and shit is fucked up. Why is it fucked up? Is it because greedy bankers and Wall Street operatives created big piles of insanely overvalued financial instruments that collapsed the global economy when it was discovered that their actual value was approximately that of a Snickers bar? Oh no, it had nothing to do with that. The world has gone to hell because of price controls and excessive regulation like not letting oil companies set up wells in your living room though ultimately, the state of the world can be blamed on a society that refuses to recognize and exalt individual achievement. While all this is going on, a banker named Midas Mulligan who, as has already been established, had absolutely nothing to do with the state of the world is approached by a mysterious figure in a black trench coat whose name will later be revealed asJohn Galt (oh sorry, spoiler alert) that tells him it's a real shame the world's looters and moochers have kept him from building a 100 bazillion dollar fortune and that he's had to struggle by with only 80 bazillion. After that, we see that he's disappeared but there's no time to worry about that since a train derailed somewhere and that's when we meet railroad executive Dagny Taggart and her fuckwit brother, James (fans of the book know to start booing when you hear his name). Fuckwit James is the CEO of Taggart Transcontinental, the company whose train just jumped the tracks due to the countries decaying railroad infrastructure. Fuckwit James, whose compassion for his fellow man and concern for the collective good of society is running his company into the ground, has a plan to upgrade the rail system by purchasing new rails from the most incompetent metal manufacturer he could find, another total fuckwit named Oren Boyle. Incidentally, we should all praise Ayn Rand for making her villains total fuckwits and thus, easy to spot. Luckily, James' sister, Dagny, is on the case and announces that she will buy the new rails from Rearden Steel, a company that has developed a new super metal. James tries to show her detailed studies from metallurgical experts that cast doubt on the quality of Rearden's metal but Dagny is all, "ZOMG SCIENTISTS ARE GROSS," and decides to follow her own instincts. This is what she should do since Dagny is a Randian Superhuman, an elite class of people who know everything and are the "Atlas" of the title. Sadly, most of the world fails to recognize their total awesomeness and this flaw in humanity's character is pretty much the driving force of the plot. Let's keep watching. You'll see what I mean.

If you ever see this movie, get used to seeing Dagny's single expression. Also, she's supposedly wealthy yet her mobile is a cheap Blackberry knockoff. Well done, filmmakers.

22:00 -- The past twelve minutes made the beginning of this movie look positively action packed. Headlining this cast of nobodies are Taylor Shilling as Dagny and Grant Bowler (known to his biggest fans as, "Who?") as another Randian Superhuman, Hank Rearden. As I already said, Hank's company has developed a super duper mega awesome new metal that be used to drive trains as well being whipped into a wonderful dessert topping. Hank and Dagny have a meet-cute in Hank's office, something that looks like it was decorated by Sauron. I suppose this scene was meant to show that Hank and Dagny have real chemistry but only someone who flunked chemistry in school would think they had succeeded in doing so. Hank then goes home and presents his wife, in front of her friends, with a gift. We see how Hank really, truly understands women when she opens the box and sees a bracelet made out of hunks of his new metal. For some reason, she was expecting her wealthy husband to maybe present her with a diamond bracelet or something equally fancy but that is clearly looter-and-moocher thinking which, I guess, is what his wife and the rest of his dinner party guests are. Hank's own fuckwit brother, Philip, definitely is as he hits Hank up for a donation to his charity (BOOOOO!!!!), a donation Hank makes despite admitting that he hates the very idea of charity. He then sits down with his buddy, Paul Larkin. Even if you never read the book, you know Paul is a villain because, well, he's kind of a fuckwit. Sure enough, Paul meets up with Fuckwit James as well as incompetent steel manufacturer Oren Boyle and government regulation advocate Wesley Mouch. They all hatch a plan to break Rearden's monopoly on his new metal as well as passing a law that a person can only own one business. This law, by the way, seems to be completely unnecessary since things like multi-national conglomerates disappeared sometime between now and 2016. In the real world, Rearden Steel would have been owned by Taco Bell. Fellow fuckwits James and Oren also spot Francisco d'Anconia, an international playboy who will play a larger role later. He's Dagny's old boyfriend (spoiler alert).

Here's Fuckwit James pointing what he probably refers to as the Machine That Goes Ping.

0:35:00 -- After speedy, joyless sex with his wife, Hank literally sprints out of bed to get away from her. If you're wondering why Hank treats his wife the way he does, it's because he's a huge, mega-watt asshole but that's OK because, in this world, being a huge, mega-watt asshole is a virtue. He does show Dagny some tenderness when he speaks to her on the phone, something he never does for his wife (#MegaWattAsshole #Virtue). In the meantime, partly out of his compassion for the poor people of Mexico, Fuckwit James teamed up with Francisco d'Anconia to build a rail line from Texas to Francisco's ore mines in Mexico, something turned out to be an epically stupid idea since Mexico nationalized both the rails and the mines. The damage was mitigated by Francisco cutting the train service and Dagny canceling the project altogether, something good ol' F.W. Jimmy took credit for. While all this is going on, more of the world's competent people are disappearing, including one of Dagny's top executives. The only clue to their whereabouts is the cryptic statement, "Who is John Galt?" John Galt is the superest of the Randian Superhumans and he's taking these people away to his Gulch called Atlantis where they will withhold from the world both their awesome supremacy and supreme awesomeness until they're allowed to create an Objectivist Paradise (spoiler alert).

You really have to admire director Paul Johannson's ability to pick beautiful locations.

1:00:00 -- If it turns out there is a God and I meet Him when I die, the first thing I'll ask is what we poor mortals did to deserve being cursed with this movie. Hank is pissed at the new legislation meant to break up conglomerates but his wife actually expects him to wait a few hours to deal with it so they can go to their tenth anniversary party. Dagny and F.W. James also attend and Dagny instantly falls in love with that stupid metal bracelet Hank gave his wife and offers to exchange a diamond necklace. Francisco d'Anconia tells Hank something he told Dagny earlier, that he intentionally partnered with James and his team of Commie dumbasses because they were all lootie-moochie types and Francisco is secretly a member of member of the He-Man/Parasite-Haters Club. We even find out that Francisco is connected to Ragnar the Pirate. Have I mentioned Ragnar the Pirate yet? Ragnar Danneskjöld sounds like someone who should be the arch nemesis of Lisbeth Salander but he is, in fact, a pirate who literally steals from the poor so he can return the money to wealthy individuals like Hank Rearden who had it "stolen" through income taxes but all this won't happen until the Atlas Shrugged Part 2 comes out (spoiler alert). I'd honestly forgotten about him which is odd because he's the book's most ridiculous character and that's saying a lot considering that another of the characters wants to take all the world's smart people to an invisible gulch. Dagny is told that Francisco and Ragnar, in their youth, were part of a very promising trio with a third man who is not named. It was John Galt (spoiler alert). A propaganda campaign is started to discredit the magical Rearden Metal after Hank refuses to sell the rights to the government in the name of the public good and yeah, that sound you heard was every Rand fan, including the women, getting boners when Hank told off the petty bureaucrat who tried to buy the metal. Dagny decides to start her own company to finish the rail line in order to save the stock value of Taggart Transcontinental. The problems Dagny faces in this venture are the same problems every Randian Superhuman faces, that being everyone who isn't them is a damn idiot. Everyone is incapable of recognizing her innate superiority to them so they aren't willing to fill some moving vans with money and give it to her so she can finish her railroad.Will this be the end? Will the parasites defeat our brave objectivist and take over? Let's watch. They don't, by the way (spoiler alert).
Hank's office. Even the comic book The Metal Men didn't have this much metal.

1:20:00 -- The leader of the railroad union (BOOOOO!!!) tells Dagny he won't allow his workers to drive the new rails due to safety concerns over the metal. I apologize for not warning you about that as I imagine you literally shit yourself in anger over the idea that someone may not want to die so Dagny's crazy dream can come true. Luckily for her, this union rep is the biggest pussy ever who completely forgets his contractual rights and powers and simply folds beneath Dagny's stare that is both blank and withering. The new line which Dagny named the John Galt Line because she just did and shut up is about to have its maiden run despite massive safety concerns. They could just run some stress tests to find out but fuck that noise. Instead, they run a 20 car train at 250 MPH over the line that includes a rather suspect bridge but everything holds up and if the filmmakers actually thought this was suspenseful then they're even less competent than I thought. Hank and Dagny celebrate by having a sex scene similar to what you see in Lifetime movies while their partner, Ellis Wyatt, becomes the latest guy taken by John Galt. Hank suggests to Dagny that they go to Wisconsin to investigate some super motor that was designed but never built and then we see just how worthless Harmon Kaslow and Paul Johansson are as filmmakers because, as they travel through Wisconsin, they drive through a desert. Yes, they drive through the famed Deserts of Wisconsin. Why are there deserts in Wisconsin? Because the book said that Hank and Dagny go to Wisconsin but they didn't have any money in the budget to actually go to Wisconsin so instead of just saying that this motor was in Nevada, they altered the country's geography so that Wisconsin is now an arid wasteland instead of lakes, forests and dairy farms and hoped no one would notice, assuming they noticed themselves. As I said, the book would have to be radically altered to make an entertaining film but these douchebags were such slavish Rand fans that they couldn't even bring themselves to change an insignificant geographical detail. Anyhoo, Hank and Dagny arrive at the abandoned auto factory they were looking for and, after explaining that the factory closed down because it actually paid its workers a living wage instead of in slave wages paid out in scrip that could only be used at the company store, they find this stupid wonder motor sitting on a shelf and try to find out who designed it. It was John Galt. (spoiler alert).

WISCONSIN, BITCHES! I believe this is downtown Madison.

1:36:00 -- First off, I finally decided to watch this movie when I saw its run time and said, "96 minutes? That won't be so bad." In that 96 minutes, my psyche has been so irreparably damaged that it's now something H.P. Lovecraft would have described as, "Having risen from the Stygian depths, its very existence corrupting, its very nature blasphemous." This was, simply, a horrible movie made by incompetent filmmakers. Clunky dialogue, endless boardroom meetings, philosophical diatribes in place of action and, of course, the Deserts of Wisconsin all added up to something that actually outmatches the stupidity of that movie with the pretty vampire who beats the woman he loves but it's OK because she loved it and their werewolf friend who wants to mate with their newborn daughter. Oh well, let's get this over with. Hank and Dagny travel all over the damn place trying to find out who designed that motor until Dagny finally finds the professor whose assistant was the brains behind it all but the professor is being a huge dick and won't tell her that it was John Galt (spoiler alert). John Galt is actually there in the diner where the professor works but she doesn't get a chance to let her Galt sense kick in because of reports that the oil fields of her friend, Ellis Wyatt have blown up so she rushes over there so she can blankly stare at them. Meanwhile, James and his parasite buddies have pretty much taken over everything and gone full Commie with new regulations and taxes designed to punish success. Do you know what this all means? PART ONE IS OVER! YAY! Not dissuaded by their utter box office failure and lack of filmmaking prowess, Kaslow and company are releasing Part 2 this Fall under the belief that it will influence the election. It should since the eight people who saw Part 1 are reportedly not voting for Obama. I can't wait to see if they manage to get Part 3 made since the pitch to investors will have to include this sentence: "And then, at the end, John Galt makes an hour long speech telling everyone who's not him that they're just lumps of shit he scrapes off his shoe and that they should consider themselves lucky that he allows them to be fucked in the ass by him." Yeah, that should fill seats. Anyway, we now have forever committed to video the ideas that drive figures as diverse as former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and that guy at Tea Party rallies who holds up the sign saying, "KEEP THE GOVERNMENT'S HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE." Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to a benefit victims of Wisconsin desertification.

Dagny in a great deal of pain because she tried to change her expression.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Well, I'm Back

Yeah yeah, I know I said I was moving to Tumblr. I know I said I wouldn't write for Examiner anymore. That being said, hi Blogger readers. Here's the link to my latest Examiner article, a review of Young Adult.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good News and...Bad News?

My blogging hiatus is almost over, I think. At the very least, I should be able to put up a couple posts a week. That's the good news. The..bad news? No, the other news is I'll be pulling up stakes here and moving this operation over to Tumblr. Mainly, they have some features I like plus Blogger has been down the last two times I tried to log into it and Tumblr hasn't. The new address is or, if that's too much to remember, try I'm still working on some other projects so I guarantee nothing when it comes to supplying free entertainment. Fortunately for you, I rather enjoy doing it. See you there.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nothing To Braga About

Who has two thumbs, some blog space and predicted a science fiction show created by former Star Trek writer Brannon Braga would suck? This guy did, that's who. One thing I can say about Terra Nova is that it actually exceeded my expectations. Yes, it was actually worse than I thought it would be. Somehow, Braga and his crew managed to fail on every level. It was so bad that it actually drew me out of my blogging hiatus. I was going to do a review but no, it deserves a full on Liveblog. Normally, I only do these if I haven't already seen it but the hell with that. Please enjoy my epic takedown of Terra Nova, the new Fox show that can only be ironically described as science fiction.

0:00:30 --  Yes, you're reading the time correctly. Only 30 seconds went by before I felt compelled to comment. The show opens on the Moon or, rather, on a cheesy looking CGI representation of the Moon. Narrative text starts running to explain the state of the world. This is a violation of the famous "Show, don't tell" rule of storytelling and I always consider this or a narrator to be the last refuge of incompetent screenwriters. The beauty of this, though, is that this is only one way in which I was annoyed by the opening. Another is that it's white text on a light background, something you would normally only see on old Geocities pages in 1999. The third is this:

The story is set in the year 2149 WHICH IS NOT THE "DAWN" OF THE FUCKING CENTURY, IT'S THE HALFWAY POINT. Oh, there was a fourth way I was annoyed. I'm watching this on Hulu and the streaming video froze up on me 10 seconds in which meant I had to hit the REFRESH button and watch a damn Geico commercial before it would start for me again. This is going to be fun fun fun.

0:17:38 -- Commercial break. Time to pee, grab some chips and write snarky comments. The basic, stupid premise of Terra Nova is that, in the year 2149, Earth is now an environmental hellhole with an atmosphere so polluted that you never fully see the Sun  and need to wear a filter whenever you go outside. Another reason you pretty much want to avoid the "dawn" of the 22nd century is that there is also an overpopulation problem so severe that America has adopted Chinese style limits of two children per family and has pretty much done away with civil liberties in order to enforce this law. The question for me is: how the hell do you have both a poisonous atmosphere AND a population problem? The first thing should pretty much take care of the second. To top this off, the solution to society's problems is Terra Nova, a colony set up 85 million years in the past that you get to by going through a one way fissure in the time/space continuum. So, they can't clean up pollution, something well within the realm of technological possibility, but they CAN travel through time, something that is, for all practical purposes, impossible. Anyway, let's meet the Shannon family. Dad Jim comes home to wife Elisabeth, teenage kids Josh and Maddy and adorable toddler Zoe. Suddenly, their home is visited by ruthless agents from population control. As I mentioned, you can only have two kids and Zoe makes three. Jim handles this the right way, by blindly lashing out at three armed men. He spends two years in prison for this before Elisabeth tells him she and the two older kids have been approved to settle in Terra Nova. They have to leave Zoe behind because, after all, society certainly wouldn't want you to take away the illegal kid it didn't want you to have in the first place. Elisabeth slips Jim a laser past the ever-so-smart prison guards and he breaks out of prison so he can join his family. The prison officials did think to implant a GPS device on him in case he escaped and they naturally figured the best place to put this would be just under the skin of an easy-to-reach spot on his arm so he could effortlessly cut it out and leave it behind. He manages to sneak past dozens of armed guards to meet up with his family at the time portal but the crack security there finally realizes they're supposed to keep out intruders and pull him out of line. Elisabeth assures the kids they can go ahead through the portal because, "Your father will find a way, he always does." This is the guy who decided to pointlessly start a fight with law enforcement so his plan is something along the lines of yelling "RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY" while entering the portal. The guards seem perplexed that he ignored their commands to stop so they could separate him from his family forever but it's too late. He's now in Terra Nova and they even had Zoe in a backpack so it's a happy ending except that this is not the end. Damn it.

Not at all ripped off from Blade Runner and I don't know why you would think that a new life awaits you in the off-world colonies.

0:30:12 -- Another commercial. This one is something about how malaria is bad so keep that in mind. The Shannons, along with  the rest of the new colonists, are being escorted single file from the entry point to the fenced in settlement of Terra Nova. Why aren't they being transported in armored vehicles to keep them safe from the carnosaurs (large T-Rex type carnivores) that are running around? Shut up, that's why. Jim and Elisabeth are taken to Commander Nathaniel Taylor who is played by Stephen Lang, the same guy who played the evil Colonel in Avatar, fitting since Avatar is one of the movies that this show is ripping off. Even though Jim has just broken a fresh set of laws, he seems surprised that the gruff, non nonsense Taylor won't let him join the compound's security detail (he was a cop before he went to prison though, considering his behavior and temperament, he must have been one of those "let's pepper spray the peaceful protesters" type of cops). Taylor puts him on the agricultural detail and they're escorted to their new luxury Terra Nova condo. The Shannon son, Josh, shows that pretty much the only thing he brought with him from 2149 was teenage moodiness as he lays into his father for being in prison because he selfishly tried to protect his family. They are literally in their new place for 2 minutes before losing track of Zoe who, it turns out, has gone out to play with the dinosaurs. Parenting tip: if you should ever see your child playing with wild animals, even if they're not dinosaurs the size of buildings, freak the hell out and get them to safety. Don't stare in fascination and start playing with them yourself. Yes, they were brachiosaurs (I think) and thus herbivores but they were also large, incredibly strong and rendered the protective fence useless by sticking their long necks over it.

1:02:00-- I've skipped the last few commercials so, to sum up, Snickers are yummy, rainforests are good and you should be driving a Kia. All caught up? Cool. If you follow me on Twitter or read my Tumblr page, you know that I've said before that the heart of Terra Nova's problems is a staggering lack of imagination. People were paid millions to create something that the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction wouldn't have paid a nickel a word for. It's supposed to be 2149 yet technology has barely advanced. There are no robots or advanced machinery to assist with the back breaking labor required to maintain what is basically a frontier colony. The computer technology of 2149 is pretty much what it is today except that the tablet computers are now see-through and, well, that's it for iPad advancement in the next 140 years. I guess Apple should have tried harder to hold on to Steve Jobs. The vehicles are basically Jeeps and they still don't fly which means we have to still hear those damn "Why no flying cars?" jokes between now and 2149. There are weapons that exist today you could mount onto a Jeep that could take down a carnosaur in one shot but, for some reason, they stopped making those in the future so that they're pretty much defenseless when carnosaurs attack their vehicles. Oh, one of them did trip once, so that's something, I guess. Clothing and hairstyles are the same. I can understand not wanting to go too far with those as anything too radical becomes a distraction but they are EXACTLY the same. Science fiction is a challenge because creating a future world that is believable and entertaining to modern audiences and the makers of Terra Nova are not up to the challenge. It doesn't help that they have apparently picked the stupidest people to populate this colony. Son Josh takes a break from being belligerent to his dad to follow a group of his fellow teenagers on a trip outside the gate to see the moonshine still they have set up. Even though the rest of the group has been there for quite some time, they see no reason to bring along any weapons in case they met, say, a 20 foot carnivore. A pretty girl named Skye manages to convince Josh to cliff dive with her, mainly by stripping down to her bikini and saying, "Follow me." This is the most believable thing in the whole show. Meanwhile, a thief trying to steal power is captured while another man tries to assassinate Taylor. Jim foils that and gains enough of Taylor's trust to be appointed to a job in security. We discover that these people are called Sixers, a breakaway group who seem to have their own agenda. Some other Sixers, including Mira, their leader, simply drive right into Terra Nova without getting shot even though one of their comrades tried to kill the Commander. I wonder if al Qaeda ever tried just driving into Guantanamo to retrieve their people. It may be worth a shot.

Terra Nova, filmed entirely inside some guy's Macintosh.

1:26:00 --On their way out of Terra Nova, the Sixers find the vehicle the kids used to drive to their still and stop to strip its power cells but they get attacked by an unseen foe and one of them dies. In a turn of events no one could possibly have foreseen, we find out that traipsing around unarmed in a prehistoric jungle loaded with dangerous and powerful animals is a really bad idea as the kids get attacked by slashers (basically, velociraptors with barbed tails). They take refuge in one of the vehicles which turns out to be woefully inadequate as shelter from dinosaurs, something I think I mentioned earlier but hey, what the hell do I know, right? Things look bleak until Jim, Taylor and a team of soldiers show up and scare off the slashers. Josh decides that his dad saving him was grounds for taking a break from being a dick and they head back to Terra Nova for a big, squishy reunion with Mom. Meanwhile, having learned nothing from the fact that one of their comrades was just killed by slashers, Mira and another Sixer go back to stare at some geographic drawings the kids found earlier. Mira says they were drawn by Taylor's son who went missing years earlier and that they represent the true purpose of Terra Nova, that, "He who controls the past, controls the future," which makes no sense since it was established early on in one of the show's few nods to scientific thought that this is a timeline separate from the one they came from. This means they can't do anything that would change their own past and can't change the time from which they came in any way. Was I the only one listening to that? Oh well, the hell with it. At least there was no human/lizard hybrid sex like some other shows I could mention so I'll consider that progress.

On the bright side, he'll be the first human in history to die because he was a reckless dumbass who didn't think to stay out of a dinosaur filled jungle.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Still Busy

I'll probably be off for another week. My spare time is being eaten up by work, other writing projects and wanting to take advantage of the Summer. It's times like this I'm happy I don't have loads of regular readers to lose.