Episode 51: Adventure Time with Gabe and Em

The last few days have been insane in ways that are pretty hard to explain but I’m gonna give it a shot. Perhaps the only reason I can call it an adventure and not a horrible and harrowing experience is the fact that for most of it I was not alone. For the sake of anonimity, let’s call this person by the first name that pops up on random from an MP3 shuffle. The winner is The Protomen’s “Here Comes the Arm” and the first line says Emily, so my companion shall thus be named as such. Please remember that any connection to anyone actually named Emily is a complete coincidence and not a reflection of laziness/ lack of originality.

First, some backstory because I believe in the importance of CONTEXT. So a couple of months ago Emily emails me about joining her for an upcoming 5k race. The race was unique for two main reasons. First, the race was in Pittsburgh, a bit far from my friend and her upcoming tenure as a Nittany Lion supporter and a small Odyssey away from me. Still, as the most and only geographically nearby friend, I felt I had a responsibility to be there. The second part that made it something pretty much out of this world was that it was a Color Me Rad race. It’s fairly difficult to provide a description of Color Me Rad without giving it proper justice. Imagine a race where you are encouraged to wear white clothing and you get systematically bombarded by what can best be described as powdered Tang in different colors (none of them tasty) and get hit with the liquid stuff sometimes as well. Just take a look at one of their promo videos and see for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0f1N_uU7uc In the interest of fun, adventure, friendship, and the excuse to get some decent training during the Summer, I joined Team White Rabbits.

While there are a lot of interesting events leading up to the race, let’s focus on what happened starting Friday. At 5:30am I woke up, made sure I had everything in my duffel bag, including several plantains. My first train left at 7:10 and I decided to do proper walk/jog the 2.1 miles to the station. Made it plenty of time but was fairly tired. The train to Philly was a combination of napping and reading the first Harry Potter book. My layover in Philadelphia was pretty short and then came step 2 getting to Pittsburgh. The trains were quick and reliable but fairly expensive. The issue of reliability becomes incredibly relevant once you compare it to our other method of transportation, the Megabus. At about half the price but taking only an hour or two more, it’s surprising that they do not show up when you search for public transportation options on Google Maps. And then you go on one and it makes a lot of sense. Emily’s bus to Pittsburgh was an hour late so I had a lot of time to explore the street blocks surrounding our stops. After dinner, it was 10pm and we were suddenly left wondering exactly what was our next point in the plan. Emily had found that some form of bus was available, to which some nearby citizens were able to help us out with. At around 10:30pm, we found the bus and found that our troubles had only just begun. Somewhere down the line, there arose confusion as to the hotel where I made the reservation and the one for which Emily had found directions. We’re not sure what form of uncertainty made us lose what we thought our intended stop was but we ended up at the airport. Running out of options, we found the first taxi willing to take us far into the middle of nowhere. $100 bucks later we got to the hotel at around midnight. With plans to wake up at 6am and get early to the race, we went to sleep with no idea that the worst part of our journey awaited us.

The one thing about being in the middle of nowhere, more specifically Washington Pennsylvania, is that a lot of things you to take for granted stop existing. Even the shitty buses avoided these parts, the taxis were too far and the only local one was only open on weekdays. Remembering that at least according to the maps the place of the race wasn’t too far away, we were left with no choice but to try and walk there. The instructions from the hotel were simple enough: go left at end of hotel, continue up street until you pass five street lights, turn left again, keep going. At 7am we began a journey that neither of us would have undertaken alone in a test of endurance, patience, and hope itself. Each stop light was exactly one horizon away with about one or two hills in between each one. At the third one we saw how the fifth one stood on top of another far off hill and we both prayed that the directions were wrong and that it wouldn’t be that far. We made it up that vertical challenge and then turned left; little did we know that we had finished the easy part of our trek.

As difficult as those street lights were in reaching them, we ended up missing them. You see, they were few and far between but they were present and attainable. We could feel a sense of progress and that we were getting closer. Something as vague as “just keep going” implied that it would be a short walk or traversing ten minutes beyond the point when you are certain that you are lost and the mirages are coming soon. Country back roads keep turning and each one promises that after the bend you will see your destination and each one lied with a glibness that would make Starscream blush. After a while walking down we asked some construction workers on the road if we were going in the right direction and how far was left on our journey. They indicated that we were indeed on the right path but also said that we had at least two more miles to go. After walking for a period of time we had already lost track of, this estimated distance slapped us in the face, as our original directions said that it would be about two miles to get there. Either our feet were deceptively slow or the lay of the land was conspiring to make our walk reminiscent of the first Lord of the Rings movie. Maybe both. And yet we kept going. Somehow, our shared suffering let us continue. Perhaps the old adage that misery loves company is not about the magnetic properties of evil but rather that hard times can be endured so long as there is someone else to laugh away the pain, if only to distract us from the tears and desperation that grew inside ourselves. During the entire time of this walk I was honestly amazed that Emily was a champion throughout the entire walk and barely complained, at least not out loud. I’ve had my fair share of long hikes and have trained my sense of determination to survive no matter what and I was about to lose it. But certainly the worst moment was after our collective hopes were diminished we saw a far away mountain and at its top we could barely see to be the race track. At that moment I think we both did what Charlton Heston did at the end of the original Planet of the Apes film, but at least we didn’t let despair overpower us and we kept going. After what we later estimated to be almost an hour and a half of walking and confirmed that it was over four miles that we traversed before reaching the illustrious Washington County Fairgrounds.

After all of that, we signed up and prepared to do what we actually came here to do, a 5k with free tye dye effects on your clothing. Emily had expressed concerns about being able to run the whole thing without reverting to a walking pace, long before we inadvertantly handicapped ourselves constitution and hydration wise. On a good day, I might have been able to jog the whole thing nonstop, but I promised Emily that we would start as a team, continue as a team, and cross the finish line together as well. Little did I know that said promise would grant us some protection from complete exhaustion. We jogged, walked, and hobbled throughout the course, enjoying every step of the way as our clothing and bodies became a canvas that needed to be painted. One interesting solace came from someone who seemed like a professional runner of sorts (or at least composed herself as one) that said that this was the worst 5k track she had ever been on. At least we had a legitimate and objective complaint as to the difficulty of our endeavor. I have no idea what our time was when we finished and honestly we didn’t care. This wasn’t our professional debut as athletes. We were here to have fun and we had certainly earned the laughs along the way. We didn’t set out to prove something to ourselves or anyone but somewhere along our ardous odyssey, we gained a sense of accomplishment that no one could take away from us.

To make our victory that much more well deserved, we were able to befriend a local couple who were next to us in line to take our “after” pictures. Ashley and Justin (they are not going to read this and I’m too tired to try for anonimity) graciously offered us a return ride back to the hotel. After a bit of a dance party and some morecolors being rained upon us, we left our new friends amazed that we were indeed able to walk that far until the race. A quick shower left the bathtub looking like Lady Rainicorn but most of the color would require further heavy scrubbing later on. A well deserved lunch at a nearby Denny’s recovered our enrgy but left us with the next part of the puzzle. How are we going to get back to Pittsburgh for our 4pm bus? After several inquiries and Internet searches, we were left with no choice but to call Khalil, the taxi driver from the previous night, who was smart enough to know that people who enter the middle of nowhere are more than ready to leave it soon enough, gave us his card and he was able to get us there on time. A few buses afterwards we were able to reach campus safely. Had we taken just one more bus then we would have been right accross the street from her place but apparently I had not learned my lesson about things being only technically within walking distance. One extra mile later and with a final pedometer count of 8 miles (hey look an Eminem refererence) we had arrived at Emily’s humble abode all but ready to collapse. Her hospitality, accompanied by a dinner of tostones and a comfotable futon, provided some well earned rest and relaxation.

On Sunday morning, Emily accompanied me to the next bus which would lead to one more incredibly complex journey for my own return. Bus ride #1 to Philadelphia occurred without incident. The one problem was that I had like an 8 hour layover at the train station until bus #2. I had already finished my fun book and my heavy theory book, so I had to replenish my literary supplies in the staition’s book stores. Since I consider myslef a lawful good religious person, I decided to traverse some of downton Philly in hopes of finding a church. After all, it was Sunday, I had just survived a great ordeal, and I’m pretty sure I screamed to the heavens, “God why have you forsaken me” once or twice during the terrible trek so I had to take care of that. After a while, I found a church built in the 1830s and stayed there until Mass had started and ended. I returned to the train station and continued my wait. Between reading and my diet of pop tarts and cereal bars I survived long enough to arrive hopeful and optimistic to my 11pm bus. And yet the adventure was not yet over.

I was lucky enough to befriend Erin and Dan, also in line for the bus to Boston. We kept each other company as it started getting later and later and later. After many other buses that were not ours had come and gone, at almost 2am our bus finally came, or rather its replacement because the original one had broken down, thus explaining the enormous delay. After some shut eye, the driver said that we are apparently cursed because this bus just got a flat tire. Luckily, we were fairly close to the Megabus central command center where Zordon or whoever was in charge sent a mechanic to fix the situation and we were back on the roud about an hour later. All in all, we were 5 hours late, the company had already refunded our money and offered us a coupon for free future travel, though at this point I would have paid double what the ticket was worth to not have gone through that.

I hesitate to call this experience by any other word than to just refer to it as an adventure. Maybe things would have been different if I had packed my lucky dice with me but let’s leave that to the insidious realm of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”. Last weekend was certainly one we will be quoting for years to come but I think Emily and me are going to retire from the adventuring business for a while. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Episode 50: It’s All in the Pacing

So I noticed that today has a bit of landmark feeling due to post count. I even flirted with the idea of just copy pasting random sentences from previous posts just to see if anyone would notice the even greater lack of logic. Anyways, I haven’t given any stalker friendly information in a while so here’s something to for all your patience. I recently started running at the behest of training for a 5k race that will take place next week. If you’ve known me for a while you are familiar with the arthritis, osteoperosis, and other geriatric conditions I somehow have that would obviously make regular jogging seem like a very bad and painful idea. I started with the couch to 5k program to get me into some sort of schedule (check it out here http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml) After asking a lot of friends who participate in distance running (anything more than a mile by my standards) I got some pretty good advice but everyone came to a consensus after training about the most important thing I need to watch out for: Pacing. Slow and steady is apparently the way to go. Speed and endurance come with time and practice but pacing dictates discipline and if you’ve got a stable velocity you can do a lot. With this in mind, I’m dedicating today’s foray into serial literature on the topic of narrative pacing.

Pacing is something I have mentioned quite a bit throughout various posts ( I even skimmed through all of them to make sure I had not written about this before) but is time I give it a more detailed explanation. The most basic way to define pacing through a narratological perspective is the rate at which plot points are resolved (not an actual definition, just my take on it). Short stories (and I mean real ones, not the crazy ones by Heman Melville and other authors that have a higher page count than a Shakespearean play. Bartleby the Scrivener I’m looking at you)usually have few plot points so pacing is rarely an issue. Novels on the other hand have various plot points so it is all too simple to perceive that the narrative is actually going slow. Non print media have their own trouble at how to depict their stories but more on that later.

A lot of kids today inadvertantly blame pacing on why they do not enjoy reading classical works of literature. Many are quick to blame the whole ADD generation but you have to admit that the current crop of readers can handle information faster, not that this is necessarily a good thing. Still, you have to admit that contemporary forms of storytelling are providing more aesthetic and narrative information faster than their counterparts. As someone who has been stuck in their grandparents house and been subjected to the programming whims of Turner Classic Movies too many times can tell you, establishing shots take way too long to tell me something as simple as the general feel of setting and characters. I remember a few years ago that I was watching the original Pink Panther movie with my parents and they spent three whole minutes showing a dance number to portray that the singer was beautiful, talented, and this was place for fun. THREE WHOLE MINUTES. You could have done that in 30 seconds tops by showing the end of the song number and that’s it. And this isn’t just a personal rant because I remember very clearly that my parents actually said “wow, movies back in the old days sure were slower than the ones now.” Game set match, mofo. I’m not just talking about action films where ambience is best described via explosions. I think it’s not so much mental processing power as it is familiarity with the madium and better editing techniques. Just look at the most amazing love story ever from a four minute montage in Up! I swear that people would not have gotten it 50 years ago even with perfect casting and makeup.

Me and many people are rather impatient with the stories they love so if something doesn’t have quick pacing, expect there to be a lot of boredom induced sighs. Expectations are a fickle mistress that is very demanding for no apparent reason and is very judgmental. As a narritive inclined person, I want plot points to be presented and resolved at a decent pace but sometimes gets me in trouble. A few years ago I took a film course and one of the assignments was the German war classic Das Boot a bout submarine crew in the middle of WW2. I got the DVD via old school Netflix and saw that it was fairly slow. I used some of my rarely seen savvyness to change the speed to 1.5 times normal and had the English subtitles, which I could read fairly quickly so I got the main points of the story pretty well and in less than expected time. After class time, I mentioned to the professor about my own form of tmesis to get through the movie and he was surprised and someone at angry at me. He said that the movie was deliberately made with slow pacing to achieve a sense of immerssion with the crew of Das Boot because they were mostly cramped and waiting for something to happen. Pacing was suppossed to show empathy for the desperation of the crew who were basically confined to this underwater metal deathtrap and I had apparently missed one of the greater aesthetic points of the film. Suffice it to say, my viewing was bad and I felt bad. (Inserst sad Zoidberg here)But the experience helped me to see pacing in a whole new light.

When it comes to serials, pacing becomes ridiculously hard to keep stable. On one hand, each installment has to have enough narrative significance to stand out on its own. Readers should be satisfied with the content as part of the larger narrative scale but independently as well. If the installment is filled with filler (flashbacks, way too many staredowns, or whatever) readers will call shenanigans on you on amy come to abandon the story all together. Even if readers aren’t actually paying for it like in the case of most webcomics or torrented mangas, the investment of time and the act of reading it should provide some sort of payoff in enjoying the material.

Beyond the actual content of the serial, publication schedule has a big effect on pacing as well. If you have a fairly consistent biweekly or whatever format of update time you get consistent reader expectations as to what to expect from the narrative. Irregular updates not only messes up reader expectations but can harshly affect narrative pacing. However, you can use your schedule to better reflect the events of the story. Quick updates in succession are great for action scenes where a lot of stuff is happenning, especially if it’s in the climax of a particular story arc. Take a little while longer when the heroes are lost in the desert and you can pass on that sense of dread and confusion to your readers. I remember writing about this in more detail in my thesis and a lot of people had trouble understanding this part. The key is that pacing has just as much to do with the story the author made and how much control the reader has over it. If you have all the installments already archived then serial reading experience of enforced interruptions of varying length like in the above example have no real effect. It’s like in yesterday’s post about the Anime, I could just fast forward stuff no problem. This is all part of a much bigger debate about authorial intention versus reader perception but you can see how pacing gets stuck in the middle of this one.

Here’s an interesting point that has nothing to do with pacing but is definitely worth sharing. One of the earliest posts here talked about the issue of continuities, specifically with the Zelda videogame timeline. It turns out that early last year an official timeline was provided by Nintendo. Check it out: http://kotaku.com/5871215/the-official-zelda-timeline-now-with-added-detail

Episode 49: Slam Dunk Time

My eyes and brain are still tired from Sherlock Holmes but I still wanted to do something with the semblance of productivity so I figure an extra post seemed like the right thing to do. I recently became reinterested in an anime from the 90s that was pretty cool. No I’m not talking about Dragon Ball Z, though that would be like 10 posts about its serial nature. Slam Dunk is a manga that got turned into an anime about 20 years ago (wow that makes me feel so old). THe anime lasted several years and detailed how the Shohoku highschool basketball team got to the national championship and won. The anime stops at episode 101 when they finished training and qualifying for the national tournament. There are also some OVAs which I’m not exactly sure if they are canon. Which reminds me, I wonder if OVAs tend to go in one direction or another when it comes to narrative continuity of the source material.

While the original Japanese voices work well, the Spanish dub is surprisingly good. I recently tried out a few episodes in English and wow they are horrible. Maybe it was the fact that they insisted on using everyone’s first name when they are normally known by their last names because that’s how Japan works. It hurts alot more when the cheerleaders who actually have the name Rukawa on their shirts call him Kaede, something that rarely if ever happens in the Spanish or Japanese.

The story is somewhat predictable and characters are archetypical of sports related narratives. Take a team who has always dreamed of getting to the big stage but never had the talent and fill it with your standard crew of athletes. The dedicated captain (Akagi) who has worked his whole life to achieve success and this is his last shot. The gentle hearted coach (Anzai) who once had a meanstreak. The prodigal one (Mitsui) who dismissed the sport and is bitter but gets over it, often a sixth ranger addition to the team. The short, quick one who relies on cunning (Miyagi). The slightly stoic dark haired guy who everyone recognizes as a prodigy (Rukawa) plus all the lodies love him. And of course you get the protagonist, boastful, overconfident, short tempered, constantly the butt of every joke, filled with boundless energy and potential which you end up rooting for (Basketball genius Hanamichi Sakuragi). If the last two seem familiar it’s because they bare a big resemblance to Naruto and Sasuke. So, the summary of Slam Dunk is Naruto but with basketball instead of ninjas.

As with all serial narratives, the cast of characters grows pretty quickly as more installments are published. The Shohoku team gets a few additions and other teams like Ryonan, Shoyo, and Kainan get some pretty full fledged rosters down the line. Rivalries emerge all the time and you see them all come together in the final episodes where a conglomerate of the best teams come together for a final practice game against Shohoku. Speaking of final moments, time slows down way too much during actual games. It’s not even the overly deep flashbacks during dramatic moments that take a few seconds. It took two episodes to show the last two minutes of the very first game they played. It’s not that hard to consider once you see that between the theme song, what happened in the previous episode and the epilogue/cliffhanger of what will happen next makes it so that a 22 minute show after commercials gets dropped to like 17 minutes. Also, the way that they show constant running during scenes makes it so that the basketball court has to be several times bigger than standard measurements.

I recently started watching the episodes via YouTube again and often have to stop myself before turning it into a marathon session. It’s one of those things that I’ve been arguing about webcomics and anything that has an accessible archive. When the next installment is just a click away an archive binge is way too easy. The problem with seeing a serial in this manner is that a lot of moments are repetitive and redundant because the set ups and flashbacks don’t do their job. When you have weeks in between key moments, you need some reminders to enforce their importance. but when there are only minutes or hours between them. Many times I find myself clicking the story ahead on such moments, mostly because my impatince and control over the narrative pacing goes beyond the intended form, weird huh?

Anyways, I recommend checking the show out for yourselves. Here are all the episodes in Spanish. Cool way to learn the language. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66YvdEWaurY&list=PL2F517AA89FB4B636&index=1&feature=plpp_video

Episode 48: Retcon Holmes

I decided to do a bit more research on Sherlock before writing this post and giving my thoughts on “Return of Sherlock Holmes” and found some interesting information along the way. Turns out that the main canon of Holmes literature is divided into four novels and a some collections of stories. Return of SH, which I believed to be the final novel is actually one of these collections and not even the last one. There is also some interesting debate as to whether the stories written by Conan Doyle’s son count as official canon. Even cooler for my research standards is the fact that the short stories were serialized, technically making them episodic narratives, few physical descriptions are given because the original printings included illustrations, most of which have been lost throughout the years (asking whether or not he had an actual funny hat can make sparks fly in the right crowd. But the coolest thing ever is that there was enough fan fiction back then to make Star Trek blush, I just hope it wasn’t of the lemon, slash, yaoi stuff that makes me cringe.

As to the stories itself, the first one is the most important for my literary interests. You see, in the second novel Holmes and Moriarty fell and were both presummed dead much in the same way than in the end of the second movie. Now Doyle apparently had pretty much had his literary fill with the detective and wanted to try some other things but the fans pulled him back in for more. He the wrote another novel which was a prequel to the second one, maybe an inbetweenquel of some sort like Lion King 1 1/2. Fans still wanted more so Doyle had to make one of the greatest retcons in literary history and say Sherlock Holmes was not dead at all. I’m still not sure what to think about the decision of bringing him back in short story serial format rather than in a standard novel, seeing as one is considered to be more serious and with higher literary merit than the other.

Perhaps the weirdest thing is thatbeyond a few paragraphs of Watson basically being scared and stupefied more than usual from Sherlock being alive, there are no other reactions from the other characters. Then again, having every character gasp with exclamation points upon seeing Holmes and have to be handwaved as to the death thing would just be tedious and boring. In case you were wondering, Holmes was able to survive falling to his death by not actualy falling. Using the (we’re not sure if it’s a real martial art or not) style of baritsu he tripped Moriarty and noticed that he could climb up, evade making footprints back and have everyone think that he had died as well to avoid those tedious future assassination attempts on him. Apparently he was bored with the afterlife and just decided to come back one day and get back to his detective work and hanging out with Watson.

As to the dozen or so stories that appear they are all pretty formulaic. Case shows up with a weird detail. An apparently logical solution is presented, Sherlock disagrees, does weird things, says he solved it, gets everyone in a room, explains what actually happened, reveals that when he was dicking around he actually did something amazing to deduce the truth. Guilty party poops itself with astonishing surprise, admits to everything, Holmes does something slightly outside of law’s reach and people rarely get full brunt of the law afterwards. Now I consider myself somewhat of a detedtive after being exposed to way too much Batman but there are some things that just come as a complete surprise as to how Holmes did his thing. One story had him talking to a professor whose grad student research assistant was killed (surprisingly relevant to this day) had him just smoke a bunch of the guy’s cigarrette’s super fast. We then find out Holmes smoked so much because he want to spread enough ash to see if any of the bookcases actually had secret passages, making me just facepalm with shenanigans. Maybe I was reading it wrong, in that perhaps one should stop a bit in between passages and see if you can solve it on your own but with the lack of an enforced interruption, that kind of reader contemplation doen’t really take place. Because the stories were serialized, you could see some narrative redundance in that it’s solving one case after another with no real change ocurring in between installments. Damn now I can’t stop thinking about Holmes in a way that’s not like a bad 1950s comic book.

Episode 47: No Serial Sherlock

The other I’m talking to a guy through Facebook and he mentions something about Sherlock Holmes. I suddenly remember that good old super detective is part of my reading lists. So, I started going at it knowing that the first book A Study in Scarlet wasn’t serialized but the next books do count so consider this the analysis of Book 1.

The first thing that happens with anything that has been done and redone a milion times before is that the original is completely affected by its predecessors. The serial reading experience of its time of publication had none of this, you just had character growth over the different books. Contemporary forms of readership know have to reverse engineer how the original characteriztion was presented. Consider the two most common forms of depicting Sherlock: Thanks to the most current movies and the people that actually the DVD extras of House that showed that he is based on Sherlock, we see a hyper intelligent Magnificent Bastard who might have Asperger’s. In other versions, especially in movies beyond 20 years ago and some of the animated cartoon versions have him being incredibly aloof and distant that solves problems without too much of a sweat. Think Spock. Wait no they actually did it better in Star Trek The Next Generation where Data the android in a few episodes would use the holodeck to act out Sherlock Holmes stories. The second version was reinforced when I called my grandmother today and she mentioned how there was an old movie where some apparently famous actor played Sherlock and she characterized the performance as “detached, you know how you always imagine Sherlock to be.”

With these two frames of thought in mind, I read for myself to see which image of Sherlock Holmes best fitted. Somewhere by the end of the first chapter I remembered that a good friend of mine had read the same story a few years ago and mentione how the second part just goes into a crazy story of Mormons. I tried to dismiss this notion/spoiler but I couldn’t stop wondering how or why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would do that. Back to the actual story. Now the whole thing is narrated by Watson, whom after being horribly ill after a stint in Afghanistan went back to England and his further time of bedrest ends up agreeing to share the rent of a big apartment with the Sherlock he literally just met. Besides the legendary greeting of Holmes deducing Watson’s biography by the time of their first handshake, there is a very interesting moment where Sherlock actually says I may not be the best roommate because I do these particular things. An admittance of not being perfect is something not very Spock or House like so this was very interesting find.

Other cool stuff: Watson is shown to be almost fascinated by Holmes being Holmes. At one given moment he basically writes up a character sheet saying what his friends attributes, skills, and proficiencies are. You get a lot of Holmes declaring something to be true and then visibly sighing when he has to explain stuff to the actual detectives and Watson. A lot of information is deferred to further points in the story, which is weird considering that everything is flashback being narrated by Watson. It’s easily handwaved as just Sherlock knowing what’s going on and being several steps ahead of everyone. If chapters were done as installments then you could say there were a lot of as pulls that were left to be resolved and explained later. And yes, the transition into crazy mormon story to give the killer a better sense of identity was non existant. Last chapter of part one is, and we suddenly have the murderer. Part 2 chapter 1, guy and a little girl are walking to Utan and are saved by mormons. It’s not until a little later that some names from before start getting thrown around. You could just as easily set it up as the murderer confessing and giving a lengthy backstory, which is what he does anyway.

Let’s see how the next Sherlock Holmes adventure turns out.

Episode 46: Captain Delivers a Disco Punch

Back to talking about Victorian novels, because that is still a third of my reading lists. Finished up with Captains Courageous, a relatively short one by Rudyard kipling of Jungle Book fame. The book itself is fairly well known but they also made a film way back when with the protagonist Harvey being played by a young Mickey Rooney, if you don’t know who that is I don’t balme you. I actually saw the movie a few years ago and I got to admit that the film was better. No, seriously, that one had you know a dramatic plot.

Here’s the short version of how the book goes. Harvey, spoiled 15 year old rich kid, falls off the cruise ship he was on and gets picked up by a fishing boat called the “We’re Here”. Harv goes on to rant Paris Hilton styla as to how his daddy is rich and they should do what they say. In one of the few moments where I actually appreciated child abuse, Captain Disco Troop punches him in the face and almost breaks his nose. Harv then says he is sorry and is ultimately taken on as part of the crew to do odd jobs and months later when they return to shore he can be back with his family. His tag team partner in this bildungsroman of sorts is Dan, Disco’s son. There are a bunch of other people on the boat, let me put them in descending order of importance as I remember them. There’s Uncle Salters, brother of Disco, Penn (a guy who is nuts, almost becomes sane for a few minutes but gets depressed back into cuckoo town), Manuel (Portuguese dude who saved Harvey), the cook (mostly known by the N word, yes even in blog format I’m not gonna say it), plus other people who aren’t that important.

The book was divided in 5 installments. Part 1 Harvey changes from whiny bitch to somewhat competent kid on boat. Part 2: You learn about the rest of the crew. None of these subplots actually develop so not worth mentioning. Part 3: Encompasses 3 chapters. In one you meet another boat crew but they’re not nice. In another they meet a French crew, so much xenophobia, but they’re cool. In the last one they find a survivor to a crashed boat, they later find his son too, Penn is revealed to be a preacher who abandoned his family or something but prefers to stay crazy ish. Part 4 They get to the area where you get the big fish and every other crew is there fishing as well. Everything is going pretty good and they cut to Harv’s parents getting a telegram that he will be in Boston soon. The parents take private carriages and trains there from California in record time and they reunite. The weird part comes in that you have an entire installment was provided for an extended conclusion/clsosure. Imagine that if Return of the King from the LOTR movie trilogy had just as much time on endings but like two huge battles less. That’s what this part felt like. It kind of made sense within a fisherman thematic rather than a narrative one.  The standard fishing story is always about leaving shore, being out in the open sea, eventually returning, story over. Here we have the people that return, tend to their business, hug their loved ones, mourn those that didn’t come back, and get ready to leave again. There are some good moments when Harv’s parents meet the crew and the family reconnects. Everyone is proud of Harv and everything turns out ok but they take a real long time to spell it out. They even do the little flash forward to several years later to show that Dan and Harvey ended up successful. Oh and the cook is there too, he voluntarily became Harv’s servant because… that guy just makes no sense .

The movie, has no Dan and Manuel takes center stage as mentor figure to Harvey, who is a few years younger. Rest of the crew not nearly as important and barely show up. The transformation of Harvey from bratty kid to somewhat responsible adult takes longer, they face a lot of perils out at sea, the other crew does actual antagonist and near the end Manuel dies. The reaunion between father and son takes like two minutes tops.

So yeah, movie adaptation surprisingly better in my opinion.

Episode 45: The Dark Knight Concludes

After vacation time with the family I gotta admit that I had a lot of fun but my productivity levels were not optimal to say the least. I have left the comforts of my parental home and back living the grad student life. Unfortunately I lost my glasses on the flight here so reading or laptop time beyond half an hour makes eyes go on strike. Anyway, O figure I should get back on the writing train and I figure that something as awesome as the new Batman movie would make for a good comeback post. As always, spoilers, oh so many spoilers, are ahead. Consider yourselves warned.

First off, I am looking at the film through the eyes of a fanboy/nerd so obvious bias is obvious towards the praising the film. I’ve gone through a handful of blogs that both spit on the movie and build altars to it, let’s see if I can try some sort of legit middle of the road direction on both perspectives. The most important thing to keep in mind storywise is that it is the finale of a trilogy so expect a lot of throwbacks to previous installments and a lot of closure with the ending. If you didn’t see Batman Begins or Dark Knight there a few plotholes and moments of confusion but the film provides some decent flashbacks and exposition throughout to help you out. Still, if you didn’t witness Rhas Al Ghul’s evil plan or Harvey Dent’s descent into evil then the main motivations for half the characters won’t make much sense.

Some would complain that Nolan’s Batman and the one from the comics are very different characters but I like to think that Gotham is the key element that is different. With limits on the supernatural and Bat accessories, Nolan’s Gotham is grittier but ultimately one that can change while in the comics Gotham will always fusion of Detroit, Chicago, and New York City from the 80s, whose only solace is that at least it’s not as bad as neighboring Bludhaven. How else could you explain the lull in crime that takes place over the eight years between the second and third movie? The Dent act could only work in that Gotham because that prison actually kept people indoors. Because Gotham is at peace Bruce doesn’t have to be Batman, let’s his knee go bad, and basically turns Wayne Manor into a more luxurious Fortress of Solitude. Many would say that “the real” Batman would never do that and they’re right; Batman would never stop fighting but Bruce does but can never let himself try except in this Gotham.

Speaking of comics, there are two storylines that serve as an inspiration for the film. The first is Knightfall, which was published soon after  the Death of Superman story arc. This is Bane’s introduction as a powerful villain who staged the escape of everyone in Arkham, waited until Batman was exhausted from rounding up everyone, and then beat the crap out of him and then broke his back. And i don’t mean the slipped disk from the movie, Bane severed Batman’s spinal chord. It took a dip in the Lazarus Pit and a Hell of a training montage in distant monasteries to get Bruce back in shape. The second story arc is No Man’s Land, where a huge earthquake severs Gotham from everything else and Batman basically declares Marshall law on his own because the country decides to basically forget about Gotham.. It wasn’t so much an expy of the Occupy Movement taken to its extreme as it was an everyone has no basic infrastructure and people have to join together just to survive and not let a mob mentality destroy their fragile coexistence.

There are a lot of things from Nolan’s Bane that aren’t exactly true to the original but at least it’s better than the awful Batman and Robin version.Here are some fun facts about not Nolan Bane. He was born in a prison in Santa Prisca, fictional Central American country/island in the DC Universe. He has nothing to do with Rhas Al Ghul, his dad was such an evil bastard that dictator in charge sentenced him and his pregnant wife to a jail that can best be summed up as Alcatraz in a sewer. Somewhere down the line they killed his parents, tortured him and somehow he made it out alive, with evil cunning and planning, develops the Venom serum that gives him even more super strength, and in some continuities actually takes over the whole country of Santa Prisca. Bane’s motivations aren’t well known besides following Ric Flair’s motto of: “If you wanna be the man, then you got to beat the Man”. (the Whoooooo!!!!!!!! is implied). So yeah, Bane beats up the biggest baddest guy around in Batman and made a name of himself. However there was no absence of Batman in Knightfall because the cowl was given to Jean Paul Valey aka Azrael, guy who had worked with Batman a few times, actually part of evil secret society. If you ever see a really spiky Batman, that’s probably Azbats. In the end he goes crazy, starts killing people, and it’s up to original Batman, Nightwing, and Robin (the third one) to take him out.

Speaking of Robin, let me take a moment to talk about Robin Blake aka Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. Throughout the movie he is the one that the established heroes praise and the normal people hate/envy for no actual reason. You see him and he just screams Marty Stu (the male equivalent of Mary Sue, if you’re unfamiliar with this trope, stop by here when you get the chance http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue). I think this perception is based mostly on how they had very little time for character development that they didn’t show any faults because you had to have him as a de facto hero. Had they at least mentioned that his hotheadedness actually caused problems or cost someone’s life then I could see why no one trusted him and how Gordon’s and Bruce’s decision to do so was a risky leap of faith. A lot of the backstory is based on Tim Drake, the third Robin, who actually did figure out who Batman really was when he was like ten and used that info to blackmail him into being Robin. He also made his own batarangs. Trust me he is pretty cool but there was just no way to pass that unto a new character in a fairly limited amount of narative time.

Another character that I’ve seen take a lot of heat is Alfred. Many fans just can’t imagine him actually leaving Batman and not show up to save him Chekov’s Gunman style like he did in Batman Begins. The best explanation for this last part is because he had left the city before the Bane became head honcho and couldn’t get back in but why did he leave in the first place? Well remember that Nolan’s Alfred isn’t the stoic quiet servant who wants what’s best for Bruce but an actual surrogate father that actively steps in to ask Bruce to change his mind. If you want to see Alfred being well Alfred, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKpq1pdGR3c&feature=related Now that one is badass and would never leave Batman. But emotastic depressed Bruce Wayne, enough is enough, he was right to leave in order to get him out of his lethargic pity coma.

Another character from which I am seeing mixed reactions is Catwoman. A lot of my friends say that Anne Hathaway was awesome but many in the comics community say that it didn’t do the character justice (better than Halle Berry but that is a given). Part of the thing was that this portrayal never even called her Catwoman, ever. She was just Selina Kyle, the master cat burglar. In the comics she does a lot of outsmarting through cleverness, rather than just seduction. The movie also has her being the quintessential example of chaotic neutral, I hate authority,I do what I want, evil extremists turn place into anarchic wasteland and threaten destruction of homeland, must join the heroes to stop them. That or maybe people just missed the whip, I don’t know.

The big reveal of course was that Miranda Tate, the obvious good girl and soul mate to Bruce Wayne was actually Talia Al Ghul, Rha’s daughter. I unfortunately saw this coming a mile away because my nerd senses tingled when an attractive female with a peculiar accent shows up, it’s normally Talia. The relationship between her and her father is very interesting in the comics and the 90s cartoon so I recommend them to see how love, chauvinism, and big egos clash a lot. Comics Talia never stayed in prison, she trained with the League of Assassins, known as Shadows in the films and is a master startegist, even if Rhas will never accept her as a legitimate heir. In case you were wondering, Rhas actually does have a son before Talia, he fought Jonah Hex in the cowboy version of DC (long story, it makes a lot more sense with magical Lazarus pits). If you want to see just how crazy the Rhas and Talia situation can get, there’s an episode of Batman Beyond which is ridiculously creepy in that regard. (no link for this one, search on your own).

So yeah, that’s it for me on this one. The one big complaint is that time just works in weird ways throughout the film. If you ever want to know how much time has elapsed, measure Bruce Wayne’s facial hair, it’s a better indicator than anything else going on in the movie.