Mostly non and minor time-travel films (#SFWApro)

First the non-: RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH (2014) adapts a Philip K. Dick novel wherein a record producer receiving  mental transmissions from a god/parallel universe/orbiting satellite becomes convinced he’s getting guidance on how to overthrow the repressive U.S. government. With a little tinkering, this would have made a great parody of conspiracy theory, but it’s supposed to be taken straight, which makes it come off idiotic (the supposedly brilliant protest song the protagonist tries getting on the air doesn’t seem like it could take down a city council, let alone the US). While this is described as a parallel universe (it’s 1985, but clearly not the one we lived through), it doesn’t qualify for the book (if it did, so would Watchmen and god knows what else).“Silver eggs that give immortality to their followers—Jesus spoke about that in the Bible several times.”

ENTER THE VOID (2009) starts off with two minutes of some of the most annoying graphics imaginable, then follows up with a movie that’s 90 percent a Pretentious Surreal Drug Trip with delusions of grandeur (the low-budget The Trip had more entertaining visuals). Although the protagonist spends a lot of time in his flashback booth, there’s no actual travel to the past, so it’s a no-go.“It’s just a drug, it can’t hurt you.”

LIMBO (2008) is a Mexican Twilight Zone-ish film in which a gay teen apparently dying from an accident wakes up in a mysterious hospital That’s Not A Hospital where the only other occupants are a suicidal lawyer and a tart-tongued nurse. Can the teen  figure out what he’s doing there? What any of them are doing there? Competently done, but not clever enough to stand out. “There is only one door separating limbo from hell—you should remember that.”

I caught THE ADVENTURES OF MICKEY MATSON: The Copperhead Treasure (2012) because the McGuffin the eponymous teen is hunting could supposedly alter the outcome of the Civil War. However that’s not because of time travel but because the villains don’t believe the war is over and want the McGuffin so they can finally claim victory. Uninspired kidvid with Christopher Lloyd in a brief part as the hero’s grandfather. “You don’t scare me—I’m from Chicago!”

Stuff for the Appendix:  GALAXYQUEST (1999) is, of course, the story of how the stars of the legendary SF series Galaxyquest (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and Alan Rickman) are recruited by aliens who think the series was a documentary and can’t imagine more valuable allies against the local tyrant. This idea goes back at least to the 1950s, but this is the best rendition I’ve seen, well executed and well acted—but the time-travel only qualifies this for the appendix where all Last Minute Saves By Time Travel go. “Maybe you’re the plucky comic relief.”

The same is true for FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR (1986), a charming Disney film in which a young boy tries to figure out why a few hours wandering in the woods have brought him home eight years later. It turns out he’s mentally linked to an alien vessel super-scientist Howard Hesseman is studying, and the kid and the ship have to bust out together. With Sarah Jessica Parker as a helpful nurse. “He said he wanted to phone home.”

Now the qualifieers— SLIPSTREAM (2005) stars Sean Astin as an obnoxious  federal physicist who uses the title time-rewinding device to survive a bank robbery only to find things going out of control when both an FBI agent and the head robber get caught up in the do-over. The device is close to a McGuffin and not logical even by subgenre standards (it fudges whether it’s a mind-transfer or a physical transfer), but it’s entertaining, though the happy ending doesn’t quite convince. “It’s not a time machine, it’s a polydimensional translocation device.”

Dimension5_poster_detailDIMENSION 5 (1966) stars Frances Nuyen and Jeffrey Hunter as super-agents out to stop the Chinese Communist spy network, the Dragon (with Harold Sakata, AKA Oddjob, as one of the leaders) from nuking Los Angeles to force the US out of Southeast Asia. What qualifies it for my book is that one of their cool spy gadgets is a time-travel device that allows them to shift anywhere from 30 seconds to couple of months into the past or future. Despite the efforts to think the implications through (no killing people in the past to avoid the butterfly effect) they fail—at one point after they’ve gone into the future, Hunter claims that after they return home, they’ll have to relive the experience in the regular timeline, which makes no sense. Not great as a spy movie or SF, but I’ve certainly seen worse. “The laws of gravity are not only deceiving, sometimes they’re downright ridiculous.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Time Travel Book

This Week in Books and Trade Paperbacks (#SFWApro)

20174424CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett (all rights to cover with current holder) is an excellent fantasy set in a world where the current imperial power won that status by devising weapons that killed all the gods. After the death of an imperial historian visiting one ancient city ravaged by the god-killing, an imperial agent shows up to investigate. And discovers, unsurprisingly, that the divine power isn’t quite gone … very well done, with some nicely weird magic.

I was much less impressed by LUMINOUS CHAOS: The Mysteries of New Venice by Jean-Christophe Valtat, in which some of the losers in a political struggle are effectively exiled from the steampunk New Venice to Paris, only to have their psi-powered teleporter dump then in La Belle Epoque (1890s) instead. The style and tone are very different from the usual steampunk novel, but despite glowing review, they’re not better. This is slow to the plodding point and doesn’t have either the writing style or the depth of characterization to get away with that.

THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN: Goblin Nation by Dan Slott and various artists wraps up the long arc of Dr. Octopus taking over Peter’s body. It turns out that despite his efforts to shut down crime in New York, the Green Goblin has found away around his robot spies, and now an army of Goblin-serum enhanced villains are tearing down everything Otto built. Inside him, Peter’s mind is slowly struggling back to control … readable, but it didn’t entirely click with me, and Otto’s abusive childhood is just cliched as all hell (I notice that fictional brilliant kids are invariably abused for being Too Smart, never for, say, not getting good grades). I do love, love, love Mary Jane being so kick-ass here, immediately understanding what the Goblin is after and trying to thwart him (as she points out, this ain’t her first rodeo).

ANTI-VENOM was a Spider-Man spinoff (the TPB has several authors and artists) in which Eddie Brock, former host for the Venom symbiote, acquires super-powers of his own and uses them to fight crime. The story is pretty much by-the-numbers and Brock’s Anti-Venom MO (kill bad people!) isn’t much different from when he was symbioted.

I’m not a fan of Jonathan Hickman’s comics writing and AVENGERS: Avengers World by Hickman Jerome Opeña and Adam Kubert didn’t change that. The main villain, Ex Nihilo, is the High Evolutionary with delusions of grandeur and while the Avengers changing the roster is a time-honored plot, Hickman writes like they’d never considered it before. Not a winner.

THE ART OF WAR by Kelly Roman and Michael DeWeese tells of an American veteran who shifts into the near-future setting’s ruthless world of corporate warfare, joining the multinational force of Sun Tzu (named for the original Chinese philosopher who wrote The Art of War) against his adversary, The Prince (presumably named for Macchiavelli). The dystopian storyline is great, but I think it would have worked much better as a novel—the graphic storytelling didn’t work for me at all (not that the art was bad, it wasn’t the medium I’d have preferred for some reason). The constant quotes from the real Sun Tzu didn’t help much either.

And now, wrapping up my Hellboy/BPRD rereading (so my Chronology is complete until I finish one of the new ones now on my shelf) BPRD Hell on Earth: A Cold Day in Hell by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg and Laurence Campbell has the BPRD coping with the monsters suddenly going crazy after The Return of the Master: in Chicago, Johann leads an expedition to retrieve some lost agents, while Carla in Russia joins forces with Director Nicheyko and we learn how the demon Varvara got locked up in that jar. A good one.

18188823ABE SAPIEN: Dark and Terrible and the New Race of Man by Mignola, Arcudi Scott Allie, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara (Illustrator), Max Fiumara (cover by Mignola, rights with current holder) seems to question whether Abe really is, as the Black Flame told him, the prototype for the humans of the apocalypse, or something else—and Abe himself, going off alone, seems ready to take the Hellboy role and deny that destiny. The first story is stronger, though I give them credit for trying something different (more like a mystery/character study).

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

The Dogs Said Ha! (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned yesterday, this was another non-productive week.

Finally, middle of the week, I just accepted I was setting too high a standard and decided to reduce the amount I expected to get done. Only Thursday, I fell short of that too.

The thing is, with Plushie on crate rest, doing anything with him is an undertaking. TYG can carry him outside, but she usually needs my help to hold Trixie, open doors or coax Plushie back into the crate (due to the neck injury, we do not want to push or pull him). Plus I have to go into the pen around his crate (to stop Trixie trying to play with him) to pet him, so I can’t play with both dogs at once.

On top of that, I do try to spend time with Trixie. While sometimes she’s happy just to lie next to me, she also goes through her Play, Play, Play spurts (one dog article I read says I should never, ever, ever play when she asks, it should always be on my schedule. I’m never going to pull that one off). And as I spend more time working, or trying to, she seems to get more demanding.

Plus Trixie took a giant dump indoors Wednesday and a piss Thursday. I stepped on both (the dump was sticky …) It’s partly excitement (she does get very, very excited) and partly I think stress when nobody plays with her for too long (I try to avoid that, but it happens). That took time.

So not much beyond Demand Media articles and movies for the book, again. I did submit Fiddler’s Black to one magazine (came back the next day with encouragement to submit again) and my new And column (on theocracy and small government) is out.

I did have a very productive morning today, as TYG was home longer than usual and I was free to go to another room. It was wonderful. Much less productive after she left.

Amazingly I don’t regret at all picking the dogs, but they do make working at home darn frustrating.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Kiss of the Kobra (#SFWApro)

Kobra has been a Dr. Doom/Red Skull type super-villain in the DC universe for more than 30 years now. Reading one of his appearances from the 1990s prompted me to dig out the original series that introduced him (cover by Ernie Chan, rights with current holder)

kobra1The text page of the first issue explains that publisher Carmine Infantino asked Jack Kirby to come up with a Corsican Brothers idea (Siamese twins, separated at birth, but able to feel each other’s sensations). Steve Sherman remembers it differently: he came up with the idea for a book about supercriminal King Kobra and the brilliant detective hunting him, then Kirby suggested the Corsican Brother angle as a hook. So did Kirby simply grab Infantino’s suggestion and apply it to the book? Or is one of the versions wrong?

Both parties agree that Marty Pasko rewrote the script massively, de-aging the characters among other changes. In the story we finally got, Kobra (no longer “king”) attempts to murder Jason Burr, a college student, then discovers what hurts Burr hurts him. Burr learns from the cops that his supposedly dead conjoined twin was kidnapped, shortly after their separation, by a cobra cult “that makes opium dens look like Christian Science reading rooms” (yes, it’s heavy on Sinister Oriental Cult stereotypes). The rest of the first three issues deal with Kobra and Burr reluctantly working together against a scientist, Solaris, who’s stolen a device Kobra hopes will break the brothers’ link.

The story is fun, though, Burr adapts to the action too quickly, and the brother’s relationship is good. Kobra’s personality is quite different from his later appearances, in that he has one: a snarky sneering sense of humor and a lot of ego (he brags to a henchman about financing an Atlantean archeological expedition). We learn he left the cobra cult as a teen, fell in love, but when his lover was killed, he turns the cult into a crime ring as a way to lash back at the world (he also has a past relationship with Jason’s girlfriend which was never really explained). Despite minor quibbles (what sort of self-respecting obra cult needs the CIA to weaponize snake venom for it?) it wasn’t bad.

After the first three stories, everything changed. I don’t know if it was sales, or if Pasko (who’s written that he hated the original concept and wrote with tongue in cheek) was trying to shift it to something he liked better. Or both. Or neither. But in the next arc, new characters came in to fight Kobra—Randu Singh, a supporting character in Kirby’s The Demon; and Johnny Double, a PI who’d bounced around in multiple DC books over the years. Jason spends most of the arc trapped on a plane (in a fairly pointless plot, as we know Kobra can’t kill him). Kobra is now the diabolically evil, serpent-hissing villain he’d be from then on, with a network of covert agents everywhere.

This phase wasn’t as effective. It’s fast-moving and fun, but rereading it I can’t but notice Kobra’s big on the idiot plot. Double gets involved because Kobra has provided every PI in San Francisco with a case to keep them occupied so they won’t stumble on his Big and Evil Plan. If not for that, Double would never have known anything was going on. It’s the kind of thing Scott Evil in the Austin Powers movies mocks villains for doing.

In any case it didn’t help as the book was cancelled, the final issue coming out in an anthology book instead. In it, Batman gets involved in helping Jason, but too late: Kobra’s severed the link and kills his brother. Which was a shocking moment, but I’m not sure it was a smart move: the brotherly connection was one thing that did make Kobra different from other Evil Geniuses. I’m sure I’d have enjoyed more issues, but I don’t know I’d have enjoyed them as much.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Something nice about puppies (#SFWApro)

Because tomorrow’s report on the week’s work will once again discuss the problem side of working from home with puppies, I thought I’d say something nice about them.

Plushie is hard to write about as he’s stuck in the cage so much (he’s on crate rest for an injury). He’s very playful (and would love to play with us more, if we could. So would we), and incredibly soft-furred to stroke. He’s a pretty quiet dog, and only barks inside when he really, really needs to go. Though he has snarled at Trixie when she tries stealing a bull pizzle (yes, it’s an actual dried bull pizzle) from his crate.

Trixie is a pretty laid-back dog most of the day, quite happy to sleep next to me, or ideally on my lap. In between resting, she’ll get set to a manic energy level and ping-ping-pings off everything like Ricochet Rabbit. I try to play with her at least once an hour, unless she’s sleeping (Plushie too, though “play” means just petting him in the crate). She’s starting to get interested in taking walks beyond our boundary line, and she’s very excited at the sight of other dogs. She watches squirrel very intently when she sees one, but today she chased after a bird (up to the limit of her leash, of course). She’s putting on weight, so we can no longer feel her ribs when we stroke her.

Both dogs are addicted to bull pizzle, and they love pig ears (despite being vegetarian, we’re not up to imposing the same standard on the dogs). They’re surprisingly uninterested in Kong toys, which require vigorous chewing to get food out–they start out fascinated by them, then lose interest fairly quickly.

We’re lucky to have them, despite all the inconveniences.

1 Comment

Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

Businesses (and others) behaving badly

A jury concludes that Autozone illegally fired a woman for being pregnant. The fine? $185 million.

•Firestone was willing to deal with genocidal African dictators to keep the rubber coming in.

•Mattel publishes a book showing Barbie as a computer engineer who’s unable to write code (she gets boys to do it) and clueless about security (she downloads a virus that destroys her friend’s homework). The author apologizes.

•A plutocrat who made a fortune as one of Amazon’s start-up investors says businesses have cut back overtime not to survive but because they’re better off if the money goes to investors (he details how). He argues overtime is as important to the middle class as minimum wage is to the poor: something that makes a huge difference to our bottom line. He details why fewer people qualify for overtime and what can be done to fix it—though it probably won’t be. As for claims that paying workers more will ruin businesses and destroy the economy, he says bullshit

•Wells Fargo allegedly refuses to honor a woman’s 30-year-old CD on the grounds it might have been cashed already.

•Uber investor Ashton Kutcher thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to dig for dirt on journalists who criticize the company.

•California is using parole (for nonviolent offenders who’ve served half their sentences) to reduce its prison overcrowding problem. The attorney general’s office objected that letting prisoners go meant the state could no longer use them as cheap, sub-minimum wage labor.

•Digby looks back at one Wall Streeter’s rant from four years ago, on how if society was going to keep criticizing Wall Streeters for the poor economy, they’d just take our jobs—because they’re tougher, more ruthless, and can easily teach third-grade or mow lawns and do it cheaper and better than regular Joes. Like Digby, I find this more pathetic than anything—yes, I’m sure guys who are used to make hundreds of thousands will do a teacher’s work (I have friends who teach, I know how much they do) for a teacher’s salary.

Leave a comment

Filed under economics, Politics

Puppy fatigued, so I’ll link.

It didn’t help that Trixie dropped a great big log inside the front door. I’d been trying working in another room to get her used to hanging out without me—I think about one hour at a shot is the most she can tolerate.

•Think punk rock was cool? Dupe! National Review reveals punk rockers were “deceitful social predators who wouldn’t think twice about framing you for murder and forcing you into a codeine overdose” It must be true because it was on an old episode of TV’s Quincy! I highly recommend the snarky comments thread (“I was at a Sex Pistols concert and they framed me for three different murders …”).

•David Neiwert suggests that as long as Dems get through elections without making right-wing craziness an issue, Republicans will keep getting crazier (Jody Hice, who believes theocracy will lead to smaller government, and Jodi Ernst who believes in a Secret UN Conspiracy to take us over). LGM catches one analyst who explains, very dubiously, that it’s because Democrats have sold out the suburbs. Another LGM post concludes that running to the left in elections really won’t help Democrats (passing liberal legislation might, but even that’s not a slam-dunk).

•So a scientist wore a shirt with naked/seminaked women on it during a video interview. Some women criticized the shirt. Some men unsurprisingly went ballistic. Echidne catches men’s rights activist Glenn Reynolds mansplaining how it’s the women who are the vicious bullies in this.

•Republicans get the facts wrong about net neutrality but they’re definitely against it.

•Imperial Japan ran a sex-trafficking trade to staff military brothels. Japan still doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

•Here’s another crime from more recent history, inching closer to justice.

•If airlines are actually putting money into newer planes and other infrastructure improvements, I’m not so upset with higher fees.

•For some conservatives, “The fullness of being a woman is being a mother.” So being able to avoid birth is a Bad Thing.

•In this link post, Slacktivist suggests racism and sexism on Twitter isn’t a sign of chaos as much as “a concerted attempt to impose order.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches