4th in Line

Genesis of the Daleks

Last night, I went to the theater and watched Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks in a way that it was never intended to be seen. People of all ages filed in one by one. Several were dressed as the 4th Doctor, some as the TARDIS. It was a cross sectional proof of the mass appeal of the cheesy BBC cult classic that was relaunched into a cultural touch stone in 2005. With, at publication, thirteen incarnations of the titular, regenerating character, the show is not slowing down. The original show is seeing new life on Twitch as a 500 episode Marathon has been underway for the past few days.

Genesis of the Daleks is one such origin that has long tantalized fans. It is not the first time the show presented the pugnacious pepper pots. That happened in 1963 in “The Daleks.” Genesis of the Daleks is an important milestone because it introduced the creation of a villain as popular as the Doctor himself. It also offered insight into their zealotus personalities and grating voices with the introduction of Davros a screechy disabled sociopathic scientist for the Kaled, one of two warring races on the planet Skarro.

The show itself took a more serious tone, with the Time Lords enlisting the Doctor and his companions to go back to the birth of the Daleks and exterminate them before they can commit countless atrocities. Philosophical questions of whether it is right or wrong to commit genocide to prevent countless other genocides are delivered, albeit in the heavy handed method of seventies television. The end results are a grim and painful point in the Doctor’s history. It may not come close to some of the more grisly arcs in the new series but for the old series, it’s an uneasy answer to some startling what-ifs. Genesis of the Daleks is a moment in Doctor Who that any good Whovian will need to see, whether they can enjoy the outmoded special effects and props or not.

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Return of the Wookie

Solo poster

Solo is a good movie. I want to get out in front of everything else I’m going to say and let you know that Solo is a good movie and you should go see it. It’s well acted, well directed, well shot, and if you haven’t seen it you should. Donald Glover plays a perfectly executed Lando Calrissian in a role that truly defines the character. He is both a scoundrel and a cheat. The movie showcased the Star Wars universe from a much more average citizens perspective, showing the war, the corruption, the abuses of power, and lends a new credence to the rebellion. If nothing else, this movie is an important film in the franchise for what it establishes outside of Solo.

But what if you, much like myself, aren’t actually a fan of Star Wars? The story seems to be one of uplifting news. It’s the story of a young boy forcibly committed to different types of slavery rising up and becoming an entrepreneur. It’s a showcase of an incorruptible man rising above circumstances that would break anyone else. It’s about how lonely it is on the moral high ground. Alden Ehrenreich hides the pain with a boyish grin, while tipping off the audience to what’s going on behind his big brown eyes. Emilia Clarke plays a brilliant counter point to his character as the love interest who never quite escaped their shared past. It was well executed.

The movie could have used a few different bits and pieces. Some things were too detailed, and others were too light on the details. The heists seemed terribly lacking in detail until they were actually being performed, but we got background on every character, even those that were only briefly on screen. I get that this movie is supposed to be an origin story, but the structure should still resemble that of a story. The most egregious error was the tone. The movies tone is bleak and sullen in stark contrast to Han’s personal outlook. The dark tone of the film make the sacrifices made by the characters feel meaningless. It often feels like if they hadn’t sacrificed it then they would have been forced to in the next scene or two scenes down the road. A more flippant tone, matching Han’s attitude, occasionally streaked with darkness would have served the movie better. Yet, in my humble opinion, all of this could be forgiven, if it weren’t for one thing. They continue to misuse the term parsec.

As I Struggle On

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted. In one more day it would have been exactly a month. The problem is that I’ve been trying to build myself a professional website but I’m not very good at it. If I were more uncomfortable with my apparent technical illiteracy, I might blame the computer or the service I’m using, but I am comfortable with my shortcomings. Comfortable enough to be able to admit my fault in this. After all, I’ve only had good experience with my hosting services help hotlines the two times I’ve used them so far.

No, the problem is that, in my arrogance I thought that because I built a website all those many moons ago, I was still well equipped to do so now. After all, leaps in technology and the necessity of having some sort of internet presence in the modern era have necessitated an influx of new website builders. I decided that I had to make a WordPress page for some undecided reason, perhaps something as simple as familiarity and that’s when things began to go off the rails. Sure, things have changed and become simpler but I haven’t built a website since I was 11 or 12. While all the stuff has changed, I haven’t remained fluent. Like a floundering tourist I cling to what few phrases I’ve retained all these years later, hoping beyond hope that they will suffice.

Largely, I have managed to stumble my way through things, all the while promising myself that I will give myself a good long break from technology after all this is done. A promise I likely won’t actually want to keep once the website is finished. I wish I had paid the marginally higher premium to use a service like Wix.com or Squarespace. I feel almost certain that if that had been what I’d used I would have a complete and working website to show off in a blog post here. Instead, I only have a tale of ignorance, arrogance, and shame. Learn from my mistakes and know your limits. From here on, I’ll stick to writing words, not building websites.

Changing Spaces

I’m sitting in a new part of the library. All the study rooms were occupied, likely filled by students studying for finals. I’m sitting on the complete opposite side of the library, and I can’t recommend the view. Directly in front of me is a large column with a fire extinguisher. To my right there is another column. to my right, are the stacks. There are plenty of windows, but they are all at odd angles to me, so most of what I see are the large bricks outside from which the building is built. The bits that aren’t that is the filthy roof of the old hospital next door.  It is far from being able to look up and see rolling hills go off into the distance.

If I were there, where I had been expected to be, I wouldn’t have seen the homeless woman, crouched behind the tree, hiding in a place she is allowed to be for fear that someone might tell her different. I wouldn’t have seen the clouds break and shine rainbows over the parking lot. I wouldn’t have found inspiration in the things that are mundane, horrible, and beautiful. I wouldn’t have been reminded of the complications of the world, something I realize I don’t think on enough when I think on the problems of the world, which I do far more often than could possibly be healthy.

Seeing others here, in the space, working diligently, isn’t a distraction but a blessing. Sometimes what we really need is to go places that we wouldn’t normally go. Like water, people have a tendency to stagnate if they don’t move. shaking things up may require energy, energy I’m rarely aware that I have, but the results have always amazed me. I find the answers for the questions I’m not asking. I find new questions to ponder. The only thing to stop it is to stop moving and searching, but life will never let that happen. By the very nature of life and time, we cannot stop moving so long as we live. It’s worth floating on.

Thanos’s Infinite Roller Coaster

Marvel Infinity War

A movie, ten years in the making, consisting of millions of childhoods and adolescences,  and all to culminate in one film! Well, kind of, but I won’t be discussing any of that. The movie is far too spoiler rich for practically any discussion of plot, as things kick off with a bang, and keep exploding around you trying desperately to keep you in the moment while washing you with a decade’s worth of Nostalgia. It’s very similar to a roller coaster, in which you get on and while on the ride you think that nothing in the world could be better, but then once the ride is over, the only thing that seems positive is the slight adrenaline rush that courses at the memory. It’s not got a lot of substance but it sure is fun.

Avengers: Infinity War is like this. It’s dressed up perfectly nicely in expertly executed special effects. The action and set pieces are crisp and nostalgic. The jokes are funny. The tragedy is tragic. Everything seems perfectly nice. Thanos finally has a voice and a reason for his wanton destruction. It’s a good reason for a comic book reason, and it’s a comic book movie so everything fits. No one expected him to be a Nietzche and he wasn’t, but he had put thought into his argument. Something that should be expected of all villains yet isn’t all that common.

The movie wasn’t all prim and proper. The music was all fairly bland orchestral numbers that felt slight phoned in, with only two tracks being from a composer other than Alan Silvestri. Given the crucial involvement of the Guardians of the Galaxy characters to the plot, the singular use of “Rubberband Man” by The Spinners felt like an oasis in a desert of orchestral music that rarely felt appropriate. In a movie that is a collaboration of all the different aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) it felt as though little collaboration actually occurred. It came down to showcasing how great the mainline Avengers are compared to the non-mainline avengers. Then there were the jokes. They were funny but they had a bad habit of popping up immediately after a tragic scene.

At the end of the day, the movie is worth seeing. It’s a good movie. Heavy-handed audience manipulation and substandard soundtrack ensure that the movie won’t be a in the pantheon of greats. Still, go see it before spoilers pop up that you won’t be able to unhear.

Whatever Happened to Adam Warlock?

Infinity War is here. It premieres tonight, and will probably be amazing, given Marvel’s overall track record with the films. Yet, there will be one key player missing from the tableau and most people won’t even know it. Adam Warlock, a staple of the Guardian’s of the Galaxy, eventual wielder of the soul gem, and defeater of Thanos will apparently be playing the classic role of “Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film” according to an interview with James Gunn, director and writer of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and SlashFilms. The character is planned for the third installment of Guardians of the Galaxy according to Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios in that same article.

There will be plenty who won’t care about the character or what it means to the Marvel universe. Honestly, I had no idea who he was until I started reading back issues of Guardians of the Galaxy. Adam Warlock is far out on the cosmic side of things, but also deep into the magic side of the Marvel Universe. He is one of those characters that has such a confusing backstory that you will never be sure if he is alive or dead. Currently, he appears to be alive, but also is the Tribunal. A cosmic god entity that judges the most powerful creatures in the universe and threats to reality.

The big thing is that he has a rapport with Thanos that no other creature has. They are equal parts friends and enemies. Thanos, who is hinted at becoming an Avenger after his defeat in the series Avenger’s World during a flash forward sequence, isn’t’ likely to make the incredible turn about that makes him one of the more interesting villains in the Marvel universe. The problem lies with bringing a character like this who has so much of the funk of the comics covering him, so much of that weird niche side of the comic book world, that excess of teenage power fantasy, that he may not fit well with the more adult tones of the films. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the cinematic universe when he finally makes his way out of that cocoon.

After the War

I’m a huge comic nerd. I have been my entire life. I was born, I reckon, during a pretty good age for comics. During my childhood we had the various Batman films, and all the Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Not to mention The Adventures of Lois and Clark and both animated versions of Superman and Batman. Then I went through my angsty teenage years with Smallville and now there’s half a dozen superhero shows on the air targeting my demographic. Most of those are DC. DC has always thrived at episodic storytelling. Marvel’s strengths, on the other hand, lie in the quickly digested variety. Their shows on Netflix, for instance, are much better than hit or miss Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which has to keep an audience captive week to week.

This has lead to some mixed success with the films. While they clearly have outdone DC in the modern film market, there have been a few missteps along the way. The biggest in my mind was Captain America: Civil War which seemed to serve no other purpose than moving the characters into positions for the grand finale, and boy does it look grand. Avengers: Infinity War promises to have every living character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This seems like it should excite me more, but I feel a bit like I do when I read some of the modern Avengers comics; a sensation of force-fed familiarity paired with the insistence that these super powered beings that we’ve seen succeed against impossible odds every other issue are suddenly the underdogs in this issue. Or that these incredible friends can fall apart only to be brought back with a couple panels of dialogue.

Infinity War makes me apprehensive. I’m worried about what it will actually be, and what it will leave the MCU as after the credits have run. I’m afraid that the MCU will try and immediately outdo itself, as Marvel has done so many times before, and that this outdoing will inevitably lead to the downfall of the MCU. It’s a worst case scenario, and I doubt it’s very likely, but still I worry. My only hope is that they take an Avengers movie to face off against a ridiculous foe, like The Wrecking Crew or M.O.D.O.K. They need to be able to do a one-off. They need to be able to show that not every little instance in the universe is a plot of some far greater threat. Marvel needs to be able to lower the stakes.

Celebrating World Book Day

Happy World Book Day, as you may have been informed by a notification from your Kindle app on your phone. If you have your Kindle app notifications turned off then allow me to be the first to inform you that it is World Book Day and that you can get nine free books from around the world on your Kindle, right now. Wow! What a great deal! Please sponsor me! But is World Book Day just an excuse to get free stuff and think about how outdated classical dictionaries are?

Well, no. It’s about books. Originally, it was to honor Miguel de Cervantes, beloved Spanish writer and author of Don Quixote. The day was expanded in 1995 to encompass books and authors from all over the world. After all, Cervantes and Shakespeare shared the same death day. In fact, there are a surprising number of authors that either were born or died on this day.

The question still remains, how can you celebrate this day? Well, there are a few ways in which it is celebrated. In the US, there is only one place that has a formal celebration. That place is Kensington, Maryland. You can learn about their celebration here. Sadly, it has already passed. Maybe next year I’ll find the time and money to attend. Informally, there have been several people posting favorite quotes from books, pictures of libraries and bookshelves and other literary things using #WorldBookDay. It’s a rather big deal.

I plan to celebrate the books by reading a little more, getting a bit of extra writing done, and surrounding myself with books. This is generally what I do every day, but today I have an excuse if anyone asks. Not that I plan to hand it over. In the mean time, I’ll put on some atmospheric music and get to reading about elevator conspiracies in Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. Thanks for including me in your readings on this World Book Day.

Your Mother Should Know

Today I’m feeling wistful, so I’m remembering the Beatles. The Beatles are my all time favorite band for a number of reasons, and part of that is nostalgia, but another part is that it stands up to the tests of time, like Bowie or Pink Floyd. There is something universal and traditional to so much of their music. It’s always a well balanced mix of pop culture and tradition. They’re hardly the only people to have done this at the time. The Moody Blues, for instance, wrote an entire album to be played with a full orchestra. The Beatles were just better as a group, constantly innovating in both sound and what music could be.  They straddled the line between experimental and mainstream, and so many beloved bands wouldn’t have been possible without the genius of the Beatles.

The Beatles were really my first introduction to pop music as a kid. In third grade, when my classmates were asked what their favorite songs were, they would say Nsync, or Britney Spears latest track. I put down Bolero by Maurice Ravel, because classical music was all I had been introduced to so far. I still enjoy classical music, Bolero in particular, but I felt a bit awkward around my classmates. Then I found, not even an actual Beatles album but an anthology with all the best mistakes they’d ever made. It was the first anthology and I listened to that as often as I possibly could. I was blown away by the sounds they were making. It was a strange new world filled with their compositions and compositions of people they respected. Then I received the blue album for my birthday and became completely obsessed.

I’ve since moved on to a much more diversified portfolio of musical tastes, but when I need it, the Beatles are always there for me. It’s also proven true that everyone who knows the Beatles has a favorite Beatle. Mine has always been George Harrison. The sadness of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” always struck a chord with me, not to mention the pure unadulterated love that comes through in “Something”, both written by Harrison. His songs, while not as popular as McCartney and Lennon’s tracks, always made me feel something deeper than those popular tracks.

Man of a Thousand Hobbies

I’ve been thinking about hobbies recently. Mostly through the lens of my own hobbies, because, like most people, I’m fairly self-centered in my world view. I think it came to mind after I saw a quote on Reddit about having three hobbies. It was unattributed, and a cursory search online finds no attributions readily so I’ll mostly ignore that starting point. My thought was that I have way more than three hobbies and the desire to get in to so many more.Other than watching bad movies, playing D&D, and writing (which I will here consider a hobby because I have yet to be paid for what I’ve written) there’s also musical hobbies like playing and listening to music, cooking, video games, and wood carving.

I want and need to get into other hobbies. Some of these things are simply a matter of keeping up the house, being able to do minor repairs. I’m not going to be able to do these things professionally but I could easily get good enough to do them for myself. I was raised with the attitude that if you can do something yourself you should do it yourself. Pay people for the jobs that are too big for yourself but make sure that you do yourself a favor and do what you can yourself. I received a rare education outside of school because of this. I know the basics of carpentry, plumbing, and even how to install new lights in a house because of my father. I also came to the conclusion early on that I wouldn’t want to do any of those things professionally.

It’s strange how a lot of these hobbies weren’t originally my idea. D&D was so that I could spend more time with an exes family and get to know them better without talking about politics with her incredibly conservative father, I was pushed to learn instruments and sing as a child, and my parents gave me no end of grief until I learned to cook. Now, I find myself getting into gardening, not simply because I want to but because my father is getting too busy to look after our garden properly and he deserves to have a beautiful garden. I think we all do.