Slashing back

Dear TV writers:
A backslash is never part of a webaddress. Never. Those things after the h, the two t’s, the p and the colon? Those are slashes. If you must, forward slashes. So’s the thing after the dot-com part.
Special note for the writers of The Michael J. Fox Show: this is not a mistake those under 25 would make. They’ve never worked in MS-DOS. If they’ve been working in the command prompt world, it’s because they’re tech-savvy enough not to make this mistake.

–Nat, of http://gertler.com/ <-Note, no backslashes.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment  

A superhero comics concept I can’t write

Usually, I stick new story concepts in my brain or in my files, with the idea that someday, I may have the opportunity to write them. However, this is one that if it is ever written, it should be by someone else, so I’m not afraid of displaying it publicly.

What I’m envisioning is someone in a superhero universe purposely putting together an all-female superhero team. Some would join out of female unity, some because they didn’t feel properly treated on other teams, some simply because they had trouble qualifying for most teams. The core of the book would be the internal group dynamics, the sort of thing one sees in any group where the defining characteristics are not tight enough to require a psychological conformity. You’ll have feminists in the mix, but very different sorts – the team will have the sex-positive I-own-the-effect-my-body-has gal, the equality-through-androgyny, sex-differences-are-a-myth woman, the mystical-essence-of-femininity-and-mother-earth womyn (who will want to solve all problems in a nurturing, non-masculine and thus non-violent manner), the female supremacist. And then you’ll have the woman who doesn’t cafe about the “issue”, she just wants to punch things, and the woman who believes that a woman’s role by default is in the home, but has specific reasons for being there. (None of the characters should be solely defined by these types, but starting with strong archetypes can make for good comics.) The internal disagreements of what they should get involved in (is stopping bank robbers merely supporting the status quo rather than being heroes? Is encouraging the education of girls in sub-Saharan Africa more important than stopping bank robbers in Manhattan, and even if so, is a team of superheroes equipped to make a difference there, or would trying to be involved just be a case of assuming the “white man’s burden” attitude? Are we the group most responsible for fighting women villains? Should we fight them at all?) as well as issues over their public image (Does the group exist to get things done, or do we exist to be role models? Are they going to assume we’re all lesbians?) should make for some good running internal conflict and banter and interesting targeted stories… although there is a real problem of an excessive didactic-to-punching ratio.

But I can’t be the one to write this, not at this point. I have no problem with writing female characters, but for me to take this on… well, I fear many would see it as Mainsplainin': the Musical (and maybe they’d be right.)

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The bitter end of Breaking Bad

HEAVY SPOILER WARNINGS: I am discussing the conclusion of BREAKING BAD; if you have not seen the final episode yet, skip this. If you have not seen the series at all, well, I recommend it, because it is overall a tough, well-made work, and you should watch it from the beginning and not read this about the ending.

The final episode of , and there seems to be nothing but paeans out there. And there is indeed much to be said for it, particularly in contrast to various other major series finales that one might cite. It is a tightly-made piece, it didn’t ignore or forget what went before, and it granted full closure. I appreciate it all, and I enjoy watching it. But…

But thematically it was wrong. Thematically it doesn’t fit the flow of the story.

The series Breaking Bad is a chronicling of bad decisions. Walter White, in due panic over his own mortality, made the bad decision to help cook meth, and support that with a series of increasingly bad decisions which wreaked havoc on his family and his world, even as they rewarded his ego. Many people died as a result, the corrupt and the innocent alike.

The final episode seems to be about justice on many levels, justice delivered as a body count to those in the drug trade, to those who have killed. They got what they deserved.

But what did Walt get? What did he get for his history of bad decisions, for his crimes, for his destruction?

Walter White got what he wanted.

Oh, he died, yes he died, but he was dying from the beginning. That was never a variable. He dies from an unintended shot from his own gun, perhaps, but he does in seeming contentment, in the comforting (to him) surroundings of a meth lab. He has just destroyed all those who would destroy him, going out as the man of power. And he has provided for his family through money earned from his deadly trade. Whether you accept the goal he always stated or what he claimed to his wife on his final day, he has achieved his goal.

Walter White has won. The victory is true and permanent. And it’s not just that this is not morally right, not at all justice, but that this seems out of step with what has come before.

Published in: on October 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Todd & The Book of Pure Evil

There is something odd about Canadian sitcoms, in that they can feel quite legitimate, like something made for a minor network in the US, but you don’t hear about them until suddenly, bam, there’s whole seasons of them. That was really the impact of Corner Gas, a show well worth watching. At the moment, I’m Netflixing through the couple dozen episodes of Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil, which is basically early-Buffy-as-a-sitcom. Not a dare-not-miss-this series, but if that sounds like a good idea to you, it’s watchable.

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Goldbergs

I watched the pilot episode of The Goldbergs last night as my first venture into the upcoming 2013-2014 season (it’s available on ABC.com; the series doesn’t launch on air until the 24th.) I can’t say that I was bowled over with its comedy. The series is built around a creator telling some version of his younger family life (a la Brooklyn Bridge) with an adult version of a child character narrating (a la Wonder Years) while they aggressively put on display the items that make the period it is set on So Different From Ours, with everyone making references to the aspects of fashion/culture/technology which can still be recognized today as being from a specific era (a la That ‘70s Show, etc.)

While this show did not inspire me to want to see a lot more of it, it did set me thinking that it would be fun to try to make an episode or two of this kind of show set very much in the present. No, I don’t just mean voiced-over-from-the-future-by-a-different-actor-who-is-supposed-to-be-one-of-the-guys-on-screen (obviously, we already have How I Met Your Mother); I mean the exaggerated focus on the items of the exact moment that it’s taking place. “Hi mom! I was just watching The Goldbergs,  bold new series that I’m sure will run forever! Got it on my iPhone 5.” “Sorry, Bryant, but it’s not as cool as my iPhone 5S I just stood in line for. Look, it knows my finger!” (Mom puts her index finger on the phone’s button. “Now it knows me!” (switches to the adjacent finger) “now it doesn’t” (switching back and forth) “Now it knows me, now it doesn’t, now it knows me, now it doesn’t.” “I would pretend not to know you, too, if you kept sticking that middle finger at me!” It would be fun trying to get it just right, so that if we watch it thirty years from now, it will feel just like The Goldbergs does now.

(And for the intense TV folks, no, there is no sign I saw that they’re trying to embrace the historical import that comes with the title they chose. As for what the show is, it doesn’t have the sense that it is intended to carry some dramatic overtones like Wonder Years or really meaningfully capture the moment and locale like Brooklyn Bridge. Of the batch mentioned before, it’s got more of The ’70s Show in its heart, but not that particular comedic texture – it’s still about a family, whereas ’70s w

Published in: on September 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yay, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Anyone notice their marriage shattering apart last week? Me neither

Published in: on September 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

The world of tomorrow doesn’t look that much different

Today, same-sex marriage becomes legally available in New Zealand. Well, not today today; it’s already tomorrow in New Zealand, and tomorrow is the today I mean. And while there certainly is some grousing there, and church groups trying to figure out what they’re going to do, well, as I said, it’s already tomorrow there, so we know that the world doesn’t end today.

Earlier this month, two more US states started licensing same-sex marriages. Minnesota! Rhode Island! Did I forget to celebrate them on my blog? Prob’ly. Most people actually living in those states probably didn’t even blink about it on the day it happened. The oceans did not rise up and take them. Heterosexuality did not lose its appeal.

The U.S. military now recognizes that not only does it have gay men and women in their ranks, but that some of them have spouses, who need support just as any military spouse does. Our forces are no less at the ready for it.
The shrill voices that were warning what would happen if this sort of thing were to elbow its way into our lives, our churches, our classrooms… well, some of them are still the same shrill voices, now inaccurately predicting yesterday, but they are playing to ever more empty halls.
In the time of the way things have changed, historically, this is lightning. Those who got on this train got on a bullet train. And I cannot help to wonder: what change can we make next like this?

Published in: on August 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Halloween Comics 2013

On Halloween, we give out comic books, and it goes over very well. Kids love picking them, parents love having them get something to read. We get a lot of happy faces here each year – and by a lot, I mean in the range of 100-200. “But comics are like $3-$4 each!” I hear you cry. “How can you possibly afford that.

Here’s our trick: we give out special Halloween minicomics that the publishers produce. Cost about twenty cents apiece, in the range of a mini candy bar. But if you want these, you really have to order them right about now. Few if any stores offer these for retail sale; they are really meant more for stores to give out to trick-or-treaters than for folks at home, so stores order them at the same time that they order the comics they’re going to be selling in October. If you go to your local comic shop now, they should be able to order them for you (they’re in the August “Previews” catalog, tell them that.) Or if you don’t have a handy shop that you trust, you can order them online. Here are the links for ordering them through Westfield Comics. Each title comes in a bundle of 20 copies, which lists for $4.99 (although Westfield charges $3.99… but then you’ll have to pay shipping.)

The titles include some famous characters that people will know from the TV and films, some things that have a running success in comics, and some new comics titles just being launched. As much as I would generally push comics-original titles, for Halloween I prefer to go with the known names, as it makes it easier for the kids to recognize the titles and get excited about it. Unfortunately, the two big superhero publishers don’t offer minicomics, so there’s no Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Iron Man in the mix. The comics are “mini” in all dimensions, with smaller covers and fewer pages than a standard US comic. In some cases in the past, the “minicomic” proved to be an incomplete tale from a full comic book, which is disappointing.

This year’s titles:

If you want everything, you can save a bit of money by ordering The Mega Bundle (that’s 20 copies apiece of the 11 books listed above).

Westfield has an extra shipping charge of $5.25 to ship the week that these come out (October 9), to be sure to have them on hand for Halloween. I am not sure that paying this is necessary if you’re only ordering the Halloween comics; I think it may be meant for people who are ordering other things as well, in which case Westfield will want to hold your books until your entire order is in… but my thinks on such things are often wrong.

My current plan is to order two packets each of Ben 10, My Little Pony, and Sesame Street, one packet apiece of Archie’s Pals&Gals, Super Dinosaur, Adventure Time, and Itty Bitty Hellboy… but I may switch that about a bit over teh next couple days.

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Acting my age

Tried out for a play… not because I expect to get a role, mainly because I like auditions. The show is Noises Off, a fine show (and the movie adaptation of it is quite good), but one without a lot of cast options. If you read through the character descriptions, because of the varying age of the characters, there’s really only one possible role for each actor. For me, it was Lloyd, director of the play-within-the-play (Michael Caine in the movie). The part is not a bad fit for me; the character is loud and frustrated, which are two things within my repertoire. I delivered a reasonable-for-an-audition performance (I think), but there was one other guy tonight who gave at least as good, and this was the third night of auditions, so this was not going to be my role.

But during the last set of readings, they were swapping people in willy-nilly, and for a while swapped me in on a character that I had not applied for: Selsdon, an actor. The character had five lines in the part I read through…. and for four of them, I got laughs. At times large laughs, coming from the director and his assistants. And things hadn’t been getting laughs in this crowd, particularly not Selsdon lines.

So why does this weird me out? Because the Selsdon character is supposed to be two to three decades older than I am. I really didn’t think that I’m ready to pass for decrepit. (In the movie, it was played by 70 year old Denholm Elliott, in his last film.)

Published in: on July 17, 2013 at 6:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Orson Scott Card’s logic

Orson Scott Card is facing down the call for boycott of the Ender’s Game film by releasing a statement basically saying that his side has now lost the war over same-sex marriage in the United States, and thus that his stance is moot. This overlooks several major things:

  1. He remains on the board of the National Organization For Marriage, a group founded, in their own words “in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage”. Following the recent Supreme Court rulings, the group has taken the stance that the battle is very far from over (they are calling for a Constitutional amendment), and that people should continue sending them money so that they can continue battling.
  2. That his organization continues their campaign to boycott General Mills, maintaining a boycott website and linking to it from their main website, over the company’s “public opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment”… an amendment that failed over half a year ago, and is thus genuinely moot.
  3. Lest you think that that is just a case of them not thinking to end the boycott, remember that in 2010, Card’s group ran a revenge campaign against three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had found state constitutional protection for same-sex marriage, getting all three judges ousted despite the fact that the ruling had already taken place.
  4. That the opposition to Card is not over just same-sex marriage, but over his anti-gay activism in general, such as his call for homosexual activity to be criminalized.

Just some things to think about when considering whether you are supporting a war against homosexuals by going to see his movie about a war against “buggers”.

(Please note that I am not actually calling for the boycott. I believe that simply having litmus taste for writers over their beliefs will serve to stagnate the creative field; I am quite capable of enjoying creative work from people with whom I have strong political differences. However, Mr. Card pushes beyond merely having opinions to being a key man involved in the battles, being on the board of an organization that may be losing, but has done very real damage along the way, so he enters a more problematic realm for me. But the goal of this post is not to encourage boycott, but to address the fundamental dishonesty of Card’s statement.)

Published in: on July 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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