Sunday, November 11, 2007

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

I'm generally a sucker for inspirational movies. Some are angsty and self-important. "Pay It Forward" was 2 hours of my life that I'd really like back. Others stand above the crowd. "Pursuit of Happiness" is a movie anyone who has ever had dreams and struggled -needs- to see.

Yesterday I was in kind of a funk. So I looked to see what Blockbuster had sent me in the mail that week. It was "Perfume: Story of a Murderer" (heh ... no) or "Peaceful Warrior".

I kind of cringed. I was hesitant to put it in my rental queue because the trailer made it look like kind of predictable and shiney-happy. But I figured what the hell. I like Nick Nolte.

The trailer lied. It was obviously put together by Hollywood-ified producers who didn't -get- the movie at all.

See it. It's adapted from a 20 year old semi-autobiographical parable "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman. The book has the tagline "A book that changes lives." And it probably does. Though I could imagine a lot of people might miss the point, too.

The philosphy of this story is DEEP. It's about how to live in the present, focusing on your dreams without hanging everything on a future you can't control, "taking out the trash" in your head, and experiencing every moment to its fullest. I was hearing a lot of the things that I've said myself in the past, but keep forgetting.

I just ordered two of this guy's books. Going by the sample pages on Amazon, his prose is kind of rough, so I got his more recent anecdotal collections.

Totally off topic, but I also included book 2 of the Dresden Files in the order. Jim Butcher rocks.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Requiem for TV shows too young to die

Before I get into this, I should mention the new release schedule for Rogue Wolf comics. I looked at the stats and, for the most part, y'all are only checking the site once a week anyway. So we're changing our page updates accordingly. Nocturnal Essence is Monday, Redshift is Wednesday.

So... Guh. Fox.com is spinning the cancellation of Drive like a special event. "Last two episodes this summer". Wh... wha? And then the other day I hear that Dresden Files may not get renewed.

I don't get it. Every show that I really like either disappears before it deserves or gets killed out of the starting gate. I am so out of touch with mainstream audiences.

The phenomenon actually started before I was born. I used to love the syndicated reruns of the old campy Batman show when I was a kid. But then this one episode made me jump up and take notice. That's Bruce Lee kickin' Robin's ass! And this dude in the trenchcoat is freakin cool. Who are these guys?

I eventually came across episodes of The Green Hornet years later and was totally hooked. Only to find out it lasted all of one season. -_- It was decades ahead of its time in its realistic portrayal of superheroes with next to zero camp. It didn't have a prayer.

In the 80's I used to be a fan of Spenser: For Hire, but I didn't watch it for Robert Urich's character. I watched it for his ultra cool "sidekick" who was worlds more interesting than Spenser himself. Avery Brooks played this eloquent, slick as ice, disarmingly soft spoken, stone cold badass who packed a .44 automag and went simply by the name Hawk.

ABC made a mid-season replacement spinoff, A Man Called Hawk. This show was brilliant by detective show standards. We learn that Hawk has this crazy spiritual side. The story took us the east side of Washington DC, a much gritier part of the world than we were used to seeing in these shows. I watched it faithfully.

But in 1989, mainstream America wasn't ready for this strong and stereotype shattering of a black leading character. It lasted its 13 episode to finish the season, but didn't get renewed.

The pattern died down when network television turned out a decade of garbage on prime time. But now that the networks are getting a little more experimental, the trend has returned.

Farscape, axed without warning. John Doe, one season. Over There, half a season. Blade, one season. Day Break, not even half a season. Painkiller Jane, scrapped after the pilot and rewritten into something unwatchable. Dresden Files, may not get renewed. Drive, two freakin episodes!

And yet CHARMED ran for EIGHT! fucking! years!

Alright, technically not "all" my favorite shows die early deaths. Angel had a good five year run. Babylon 5 squeezed out an extra season it probably shouldn't have. Alias got to finish its story before it ended. I'm pretty sure '24' is going to get a day seven.

Still... It is almost a mystery how shows like Lost and Heroes manage to survive. Knock on wood.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Joe... Jimmy... I'm so sorry

A few months back, I praised the Sci-Fi original movie Painkiller Jane. By Sci-Fi standards especially, it was awesome. I went in with trepidation, I kept waiting for it to suck like so many other superhero concepts put on TV, but I was amazed that it was... good. You had a solid character, good acting, a tight story, entertaining action, and a great set up for a new series. And it was especially cool to see a comic book concept be given such great treatment on TV.

So I was stoked when I heard about the PKJ series. I wasn't sure about the cast change, since I liked the original Jane. But I want to give it a shot. Then the commercials aired. I find out that they are rewriting her origin. Why? The setup was already perfect. That was my first red flag, but I remained optimistic because surely it would at least stick with the spirit of the movie.

Ooooooooohhhh Lord was I wrong. If you were curious about this show, don't waste any more brain cells on it. It's not worth it. It was bad. It was 'Elektra' bad. It was 'Nick Fury' bad. ... It was 'Mantis' bad.

Lokken delivers this stilted voiceover that puts you to sleep. She acts more robotic as this "tough as nails" cop than she did in Terminator 3. And the dialogue. Oh good God the dialogue.

The very first line of the show is a voiceover: "Dad always called me his painkiller Jane"

WHY would he do that!? That sounds almost creepy. What kind of demented family did you come from? Not to mention it's beyond lame to force the name of the character into their backstory like that. ... Like in Punisher. -_-

I'd say it was Punisher bad, but Punisher was better.

But that was just the opening line right? I mean not everyone can do good voiceovers. Just ask Harrison Ford. But the dialogue never got better. I've never heard so many terrible and utterly nonsensical one liners in my life. Steven Segal would be confused by what was coming out of these people's mouths.


Okay I want to stop ranting, but I can't. The worst episodes of Birds of Prey were better than this crap.

Okay no they weren't, but it was still garbage.

I want that forty-five minutes of my life back. I want the forty-five minutes I took to write this blog back. Sci Fi owes me an hour and a half dammit. Why are they only capable of airing ONE good show at any given time??

I have a pretty good hunch that the reason the original movie was so good was because Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti's names were in the credits. The actual creators of the character were involved in the creative direction, or at least the production. Concept.

I did not notice their names in the credits this time around. My guess is they just sold the rights and walked away with their check. I'm not saying I blame them. I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing in their shoes.

But is still sucks for consumers of this brand of entertainment. It's another example of what happens when networks who have no love for the source material take over something good.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Movie Omnibus

Daredevil and Elektra are fairly universally tied for the benchmark as the worst of the modern superhero movies. For some it's debateable which one was worse, but generally one or the other gets named.

Last week we saw Ghost Rider. It was better than Daredevil.

Okay seriously, though... it was alright. Not great by any stretch. Didn't totally suck. Nick Cage did a pretty good job, but lost me in his final scene where he's supposedly standing up to Mephisto. It was worth the price of admission just to see the bike in action. Kind of like Hulk was still worth seeing if only for the chase across the desert, but not much else.

...

300 is one of the few movies I've seen that lives up to the hype. Anyone who goes looking for historical accuracy needs to get a clue. Like Sin City, this movie was not just inspired by the comic, it was practically lifted panel to frame from the comic. This was a powerful story with great performances and gorgeous battle sequences.

...

If you are the kind of reader who appreciates the narrator of Nocturnal Essence, with all that introspection on fate and the human experience, check out Stranger Than Fiction. It's a quirky Will Farrell comedy with a great hook. This disturbingly normal guy stuck in a mundane existance starts hearing the voice of the author narrating his life. It's an inspirational story with an unusual formula.

...

Speaking of avoiding the usual forumla... Harsh Times with Christian Bale is a very cool crime thriller worth seeing. At it's core, it's kind of a modernization of the Deer Hunter. Combat veteran with PTSD has trouble fitting into society. Throughout the whole thing you think you have a pretty good idea how it's going to end and what the moral is. You're wrong.

...

On the opposite side of the dramatic spectrum, TMNT was a great, fun ride. It's a fantastic blend of the comic and the old cartoon. All of the interplay between the Turtles is as you remember it. But it had the level of action and feel reminiscent of the original comic. The obligatory Leo vs Raphael fight was awesome. Over-sensitive critics unintentionally gave this a ringing endorsement by saying it was too violent for kids. It seemed like the kids who saw it in our theater loved it, but I'm pretty sure they left with their innocnse in tact. Sidenote: Those kids were the most well behaved kids we've ever shared a theater with. Not used to that.

...

Okay this isn't a movie, but I need to rant. We need a new rule for Smallville. No more wrestlers. Both times now, the fight between Clark and the wrestler have been the highlight of the show... but the rest of the episode stank on ice. In this last one, it was like Vince got involved in the production. The level of T&A was almost absurd, and for some reason the soundtrack was turned up to the point it was distracting. And don't get me started on the nonsensical plot points. It's so aggravating when the first half of this season was so good, too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Life after work

Total non-sequitor... My mom started watching and likes Smallville. That wierds me out beyond words.

Being unemployed has turned out to be a bigger drain on my comic book time than ever before. I have two short stories to write and two feature scripts to finish and we still don't have a subscriber section to speak of. I thought I'd be able to hammer those out in a week, but I haven't even gotten started. My apartment is slightly less of a disaster at least.

Inter-Fan Jam was fun. We met some interesting people. It was good to finally meet Lance "Doc" Boucher. His table provided entertainment in the waning hours of the con. Potentially the best part was meeting a new artist from Chicago named Moe Nasar. We hope to be showcasing his talent through Rogue Wolf. If I can get the damn short story written for him.

Well I'm off to my first of two job interviews today. Dusting off my Unix and Perl manuals and trying to brush up on them enough so I don't sound like an idiot killed another day's worth of writing time. Hope it was worth it. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 5, 2007

It turns out, I only knew the half of it

So... it wasn't just a chapter of my life that ended this weekend. It was a whole book. Part II of the trilogy of my story (maybe it'll be a quintet, who knows) has come to a close with a doozy of a cliffhanger.

New page update for Nocturnal Essence just went up. Issue 3 wraps up next week.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

On to the next chapter

Like Rush Limbaugh when the Republicans lost the House in '06... I feel liberated.

Actually I've felt liberated since I first got the news that my job was being eliminated two months ago. But as of two hours ago, it's official. I'm unemployed.

Is that a bad thing? Hell no. The way my supervisor had to collect my keyfobs and my badge, walk me to the door and send me off, the scene looked and felt like an ex convict finally leaving the state pen. The irony was perfect.

Then in the car, the first song to queue up off the CD was Gotta Knock a Little Harder from the Cowboy Bebop OST, which was oddly fitting to how I was feeling on the drive home.

I feel liberated. I no longer have to pretend to care about a job as a phone monkey.

Maybe that's what I'll end up being again in my next job, but for awhile I get a break.

A break from jumping to the beck and call of a chime in my ear like a trained zoo animal and putting on my "smiling voice",

... from having to help the very people who are stealing my job on the sole merit of being cheap labor,

... from having my ethics, my integrity, and my intelligence questioned daily.

... from being shackled by moronic and useless procedures that are designed to discourage initiative, while at the same time being held to unrealistic standards -- that ultimately mean nothing -- that are held as sacred by people who haven't a clue of the realty of my job and couldn't care less,

... from being treated like the lowest common denominator no matter how often I prove my ability or how obediently I do my job,

... and from hearing lies like "This is your chance", "Your feedback matters", and my favorite "We care."

Is it any wonder why the villains in my comics are heads of corporations?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A few entertainment picks

I've recently discovered an author by the name of Kim Harrison. I picked up her first book, "Dead Witch Walking", a couple weeks ago because I figured it's always a good idea to keep up on what other writers are doing in the genre you want to work in. It's a detective story with a supernatural twist. The book was so fun I turned around and picked up book two in the series, "The Good, The Bad, and The Undead" as soon as I finished. Literally.

The story is about a witch named Rachel Morgan, an Anita Blake type but not quite as "badass". It's set in a very cool original world where humans and "Inderlanders" (vampire, were creatures, pixies, fairies, leprechauns, and different types of magic wielders) coexist in society openly, more or less.

If you like Nocturnal Essence, I've got hunch this will be right up your alley. I might even send the author a copy of our first trade when it comes out.

http://www.kimharrison.net/

Another remarkably similar book series came out around the same time called "The Dresden Files". It is also a supernatural detective series starring a witch set in the modern day, but it's a bit grittier and is set in a more realistic world. Chicago, actually.

Now I confess I never read these books. I found out about it by way of the new Sci Fi series of the same name. I've been watching it every week since its debut. Great stuff.

http://www.jim-butcher.com/books/dresden/
http://www.scifi.com/dresden/

And finally, I'll be anxiously awaiting the first season of Painkiller Jane. Sci Fi picked up the pilot. This latest incarnation of the brainchild of Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti is an ex special forces soldier who survived a very "Team 7" like super soldier experiment by some kind of rogue government agency. She has super regenerative abilities and heightened senses, including a kind of computer scanner eyesight.

They recast the lead roll. I'm not sure if this is good or bad yet, but Jane will be played by Kristianna Loken (BLOODRAYNE, TERMINATOR 3). She's blazin' hot and a good enough actress. Bloodrayne was the victim of a bad director. She made it watchable. With that resume, she can definitely handle action scenes. But I hope this doesn't mean they've made radical changes from the pilot.

The pilot/movie was surprisingly good for a Sci Fi Original. I watched it out of morbid curiosity, waiting for it to suck. But it never did. In fact it was actually really good, at good as other shows of its kind at least. If it sticks to what made the movie work, the series should be worth the Tivo space. We'll see.

http://www.scifi.com/painkillerjane/

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gave BSG another shot... meh

So a few months back I caved into peer pressure and finally made myself watch the new Sci-Fi rendition of Battlestar Galactica. I watched the recap and started watching with the premier of season 3.

I had very little nice to say about it, and stopped recording it after four episodes But I was then told by a few different sources that season three started off bad, and was not indicative of the rest of the show. So I tried again and rented the pilot.

Sorry. It's still a weak show. It's better than a lot of trash, but there is nothing exciting that makes me look forward to the next episode here.

Now I have learned to acknowledge that all entertainment is subjective. I live in a world where Firefly fans are legion, people actually consider Stargate SG-1 to be quality entertainment, and some philistines say with a straight face that the Star Wars prequels were well written. I acknowledge it, but fail to understand it.

The look of the series is gorgeous. I love the technology, not too flashy and just futuristic enough to be science fiction. The series portrays a very realistic vision of human life in space. The ship's mechanics are just as vital to the cast as anyone else, not just thrown in for background color. Touches like that ground the series in a way that makes me relate to it more than Star Trek normally can.

But the tone of the show creates a cynical, dare I say ugly, view of human existence. Adama's "We bought this on ourselves" speech seems to reflect a common theme in the show. Much of the drama loses its impact because its mired in so much moral ambiguity. The only time I really cheered was when Starbuck stood up to the X.O. of the ship at the end. I was relieved to know that we were NOT supposed to like this inept jackass, and yet confused as to why he was respected by anyone at all in the first place.

Speaking of losing impact... the space battles are ridiculously boring. They look pretty and realistic, but there's nothing to engage you in the scene. Maybe a friend of mine was right. Maybe I was spoiled by Lucas. Maybe I shouldn't expect all space battles to be exciting and fast paced. But then again maybe that's not so much to ask from a space BATTLE scene.

Oh, and this version of Baltar is just the sorriest excuse for a "villain" in cinematic history. He's too pathetic to boo, but too spineless and selfish to feel sorry for.

I took the rest of the series out of my rental queue. One guy told me that the pilot sucked and that the weekly series itself was better. But I have my doubts that these thematic elements that make the story so hard to enjoy only appeared in the pilot and the beginning of season 3.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Speaking of bad directors

So, get a load of this... At the ICG Publicists' annual awards dinner, George Lucas presented the lifetime achievement award to Sid Ganis, who had been the in-house publicist for Empire Strikes Back. In his presentation he attempts to make quip...

"It's testament to his skills that ('The Empire Strikes Back') is considered the best 'Star Wars' film, even though it was the worst"

Now... Anyone who's watched the extras on the Star Wars videos knows that the man is so deadpan that he can't deliver a joke to save his life. Couple this with comments that he's made in the past, and one can't help but wonder if he was really joking. A lot of fans lit off on him over this comment because, considering the source, it had a ring of sincerity to it. Way to go, George. Good show.

...

I just finished the first season of Smallville on DVD. The first thing that struck me was that I had been watching this show longer than I thought. I thought I had jumped in during season 3, but I guess it was 2. It's also striking how different the viewing experience is, watching everything in a week opposed to over several months. So many things that an audience considers to be dragging on and on really isn't when you can see the big picture.

A funny aside... A few weeks back I ripped on Kristen Kreuk for screwing up a line. In a scene where this lab was collapsing all around Lana and Lex, she screams "Watch out Mike!" It was so noisy that Mike Rosenbaum the actor must not have caught it either. Apparently neither did the director.

It turns out Tom Welling did the same thing in season 1. At one point Lex asks Clark "Are you alright", to which he response "Yeah Mike I'm fine." How does this stuff not get caught? You'd think that would be material for the blooper reel. Okay maybe not so funny, but I got a kick out of it.

I gotta give Kristen a break, though. Last week she worked sick. I wondered if the writers decided to make it winter in Kansas to explain off why Lana's voice was so hoarse through the episode.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Trying to take notes from Job

Any person of faith will inevitably go through a time when that faith is challenged, often to the point where they are forced to question it. I've had more of those moments than I'm proud to admit.

The book of Job from the Old Testament was about a man on top of the world. He had everything he could ever want; health, riches, a beautiful family. And he watched it all go up in smoke for reasons he could never understand much less control. The point of the story was to show us how a man's soul can survive any amount of hardship so long as he has faith.

Ever since I made the decision to leave consulting and go into tech support, that side of my life has just been one disaster after another. I've been laid off twice, bounced between contracts, somehow managed to survive 18 months unemployment, and now I'm about to be on severance again in three weeks. I don't want to believe that life is a zero sum game, but for most of the last six years, it feels like I've just been trying to recoup my losses.

Now I was never as prosperous as Job, and I haven't fallen as low or faced nearly as much as he did, so I am keeping this in perspective. I know I'm only getting a tiny taste of what he must have felt. And one clear difference between us is my downhill road began with a decision that was firmly my own. I acknowledge all of that.

It's just that when you think you're doing everything right, doing the things that you think God wants you to do for what you think are the right reasons, but you can't seem to scrape out more than a mundane existance despite your best intentions and efforts, it's hard to turn down the RSVP to the pity party.

Just as clearly as I've recognzied the things that have kept me from getting ahead as being beyond my control, I've recognized those things that have kept me from hitting bottom, too. Every time I'm afraid the bottom is about to drop out, God does two things. He catches me. And he reminds me of why I chose this path.

Nocturnal Essence and Redshift have hit a scheduling speed bump, but it won't last past March. Both books are scripted at least an issue ahead and our talented pool of creators is still working. Some are just recovering from bumps of their own.

In July, Rogue Wolf is going to be at the San Diego Comic-Con. We will have great artwork adorning our booth and we'll have new books to sell. No "I hope" qualifier in there. We will. That's a hell of a lot more than I could say last year (or the two years before that).

My comics career looks like it might finally be coming out of its forty months in the wilderness. I doubt you'll be seeing me on the cover of Wizard any time soon, but if you follow the indie press market at all, you will be hearing our name come up a lot more in the near future.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Comics on TV

So I can't talk too much about Smallville in detail, because Dani hasn't watched "Justice" yet, but I know she wants to. I've been screening episodes for her because she still hasn't forgiven me for letting her watch the one with Batista and the Scooby Gang vs Static Man.

But Lois is back. Big bonus. Lana's not in it at all. Even bigger bonus. Though Lana was ten times less obnoxious in the episode two weeks ago than she has been previously this season, even with the Dawson's Creek-like plotlines being that were tied up that show.

As for the "Justice League", I hope the episode tested well, because I'd love to see this spinoff. I like the way all the characters were translated to the Smallville universe, even A.C. the surfer dude. Well... after having seen the little trailer for the Green Arrow "wireless show", I'm kind of disappointed. He'd always seemed a little too much like Batman with a bow, but the revised origin story sinches it. At least it's a really kick ass bow.

And Heroes is back! We actually cancelled the Tivo's season pass to RAW because wrestling has been that weak lately, and we don't want to wait for the Friday reruns on Sci-Fi.

This series is easily the best new thing to hit television this year. Like the movie Unbreakable, it's a brilliant way to package a superhero story for a mainstream audience without losing the best elements of the genre. It's a great touch the way each episode's title is shown like the opening page of a comic and the season is broken into chapters like trade paperbacks.

I saw on Dixonverse that Hayden Panettiere, the 17 year old actress who plays Claire, is going to be at FX in Orlando. I wonder if this is her first con, or if she's been sufficiently braced for what she's about to experience. My heart goes out to the poor girl when she sees a 300 lb middle aged man in a cheerleader outfit.

There's a lot that I want to talk about, regarding why I'm still going over a week between updates. But I can't, really. Suffice to say I'm about to have a change in employment, or at least my employment status, depending on how things go the next few weeks.

We're going to be at the Inter-Fan Jam in Portage Indiana on March 10th. God willing, we'll have new stuff to sell. True to form, we face a crisis with every new convention. So it goes.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Tivo has stuff to do again!

Something unprecedented happened last week. Dani blogged TWICE since my last update. We'll see if that happens again now that she's back in school.

As it turned out, I was staring at the posting screen last night trying to come up with something witty to say. I had nothin. I don't want to use this as a soapbox or get political. I hadn't been to the comic shop in awhile. I got Final Fantasy XII, but I'm only like 3 hours into it. Woohoo. It looks cool so far. Uhm... yeah.

Did you really want to read about the doldrums of my job and business as usual with webcomic updates? Me either. But I finally found some stuff to talk about. Go me.

From Dani's blog, I found out that I have more experience with raising kids than she does. I haven't changed a diaper, but I've held babies and bottle fed my cousin Sydney when she was just a few months old. Not a resume to be a nanny, but it counts right? The role reversals in our relationship are scary sometimes. No fear of getting my guy card revoked here. It's been on suspension for years.

I finally saw Phone Booth, one of the movies we skipped because we were sick of the Colin Farrell overdose that summer.

It was much better than I thought it would be. Farrell and Forrest Whitaker (my favorite underrated actor) gave great performances. The camera work and "inset panels" did a great job of keeping the audience engaged even though the tension was centered on a stationary spot. It's hard to believe it was directed by the same guy who killed the Batman franchise.

Part of why I was inspired to watch this movie finally was to get warmed up for Kiefer's return in 24 (His part in Phone Booth rocked, btw).

We watched the season premier tonight. In the opening ten minutes, we're caught up on who the new players are, where the old players have gone and how they've changed, and thrown head first into the action.

The creators have not lost their touch one bit. The storytelling is brilliant and the pace is insane. It continues to deliver eye bugging "Holy$&*# they did not just do that!" moments without being contrived. Jack Bauer is still superhuman and everything in L.A. is still located within 2 and a half minutes of everything else, but hey... the plot moves so fast and furious you don't really have time to quibble.

Turkey subplot of the series warning; whatever is going to revolve around the third Palmer sibling, Sandra. I don't know if she's supposed to be the conscience of the show or the unsympathetic whiner who just doesn't get it. Either way, she's already been the catalyst for left field drama (that I am sure will come back to haunt us by mid-day). Expect her to be the obligatory civilian who screws something else up for CTU.

That's it. No more or I'll spoil one of the other 99 good moments.

Next week... Smallville