Saturday, July 23, 2011

Captain America, Clone Wars Season 4, and Cynicism

I went to see Captain America last night. It was full of fifties enthusiasm and "gee wizz" science excitement that I couldn't really get into except in the very beginning, when Our Heroes visit a World's Fair hosted by Tony Stark's father. The rest was just too earnest for me. The "beat the bad guy to the death machine" ending--and a whole lot of other elements, including the disfigured antagonist and the military-crisp female lead who turns into the high school date the hero never had at the ending-- had an appeal that I wished I could get into, but it was all far too contrived.

And I can't really argue with that, because the easy argument back is but it's Captain America. The original comic was made in an era of war and optimism colliding in a cloud of steam. There's no point in saying that I'm insulted as a feminist, because catering to my sensibilities is not what this franchise is for. I'll leave it up to less biased minds to decide whether that's a good excuse or not.

But there was this small child in the row in front of us. We sat up close, so he must have been just towered over by these massive-looking tanks and soldiers and skies. And he was so into it. He would giggle when Captain America punched Nazis. He would gasp when people narrowly escaped danger. Occasionally he would lean over and ask his dad what was going on. I think he absolutely loved that movie. And I wish I was having the experience he was having.

 And I wish the same thing about the new season of Clone Wars.

Information about the new season has been pouring in from panels at San Diego Comic-Con this Saturday. And I can't enjoy most of it, either because it's just bad or because I can't see beyond the fandom and my own biases. Maybe someone else can. Let's do a little overview.

Lux the Mandalorian Boy Scout will be back, along with a female Mando officer, and Death Watch as the main villains. I'm not even sure where to begin with what I dislike about this clip. Who exactly does Filoni think he's appealing to here? The Ahsoka/Lux shippers? The Snow Bunny fanboys? (Someone please explain that to me. It's a furry jacket. Whut.) The Fandalorians? Sorry, you drove them all away a year and a half ago. 

What we're not getting is anything about how Ahsoka learned duel-wielding.

There's also going to be more Mortis, a plot line which, from the impression that I got, just mostly confused the fans.

They're still teasing Darth Maul and Savage, which I guess is good. I would put them up there on the list of Things Megan Cares About, but...

That list is headed with "Kit Fisto". And when asked about Kit's involvement in the battles on Mon Calamari, Filoni replied with "Kit doesn’t wear his shirt, so I guess that’s like a Twilight reference for you.”


Really? 

I know that no TV show writers do what they do specifically to make me happy. But when your advertisements are mostly showcasing new and returning characters, you could at least make those characters...ones that people tend to like, and ones that have characterization besides being shirtless.  Where are Anakin and Obi-Wan, anyway? Isn't Clone Wars supposed to illuminate the central Star Wars movies?

Red vs Blue does better in seven-minute installments.

Maybe that's because it's full of self-awareness and  raunchiness and cynicism, and I just can't deal with innocence. But I can't help but feel that Clone Wars totters somewhere between the two and fails at both.

Why an I still watching this?

Why do people who disagree with the government still watch the evening news? I just have to know what decisions are made and why.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Neil, Jay, and The Todds

I have returned home. There are an extraordinary amount of trees here.

Both the captain and the first officer on the plane I took this afternoon had the first name of Todd. I mentally referred to them as The Todds for the duration of the trip. The Todds were better at takeoff than at landing, but we're all perfectly fine and the plane still has all its flaps.

I have been catching up with the blogs I wasn't reading while away. The reason I'm writing this at all is because of Neil Gaiman, who has this great voice in his blog and also occasionally posts interviews involving the holy trinity of himself, Terry Pratchett, and Josh Ritter. Also Harlan Ellison, who is probably the Fallen element in this imagined cosmology. Neil's blog is just very droll and gives a great look into a writer and a personality. And on a feminist note, his name tag read "Mr. Amanda F. Palmer" at the latest award ceremony he went to. That's both hilarious and empowering.

Speaking of women and blogs, Fangirlblog has this article on Whether Slave Leia Weakens or Empowers Women. I don't entirely agree with her conclusion but also...haven't yet found the parts I  disagree with on an intellectual level rather than a "wait you had a time in your life when it was easy to be skinny?!" level.

Speaking of...women and blogs, there will be some Clone Wars Season 4 footage revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, the video for which is available here. My opinion about it may be written down later when it's more specific.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perpetual Recognition and the Development of Fandom

Now that we've got the pretentious title out of the way, what I really mean to say is that lately I've been watching Red vs Blue . All the classic signs of this being the Next Big Megan Obsession are developing.

And I, still convinced that my eight-year Star Wars monogamy is the way normal fandom works, am trying to figure out why. What is it about a certain story that latches on to people?

I think part of the key with Red vs Blue is the perpetual recognition of fandom elements in everyday life. Let me explain. While set in some strange offshoot of the Halo universe, the dominant aesthetic of Red vs Blue is very down-to-earth. The characters, with some exceptions, speak very casually. The music, with some exceptions, is acoustic guitar and simple sounds. And the names are the opposite of exotic. You've got characters called Caboose, Church, Doc, Texas, Washington...all words that one might hear in everyday life. The AI in this show are named after Greek letters: Delta, Alpha. Try looking down a list of brand names without finding a couple of those.

So my theory is that RvB is primed to be a flash-flood of a fandom because as soon as somebody starts watching, they're going to start associating these names as seen in real life with these names as seen on the show. Those connections within the brain get formed fast and deep, and soon nobody can give anybody else directions without shouting "South! North!" as if those words are incredibly significant.

Which they are.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Desert Is Trying To Kill You

Some of you may already know that I'm out in the southwest for a bit. I am, technically, in a desert. The ground is what I would call brown if it were more enthusiastic and tan if it were less dirty. The plants are pointy, as are the mountains. My mountains back home would be jealous until they figured out that the lack of erosion comes from a stifling lack of water.

Of course, humans haven't actually been stifled by conditions that are seemingly trying to drive us all away. Therefore we get to see the mountains, which are a different shade of purple-brown or blue-purple or blue-brown every day.

I've been here a little over a week, and have found some things out about the surrounding land.

One of those things seems to be that the desert is trying to kill us all. It's trying everything. 

1. Heat.

It's been over one hundred degrees every day I've been here. Clouds were really exciting a few days ago because there were, y'know, some present. We live in a bowl formed by a bunch of mountains, and the sun stares down into that bowl like a cook wondering if their soup is done warming up yet.

2. Dry. 

It doesn't really rain. The creatures have adapted, the people have adapted. I know this is a thing that everybody learns in their earth science textbooks, but for an East Coast girl it's a different thing to be in it. Plants guard their water like people guarding gold. 

But then sometimes there's the...

3. Wet.

We had a monsoon today. A monsoon means that the wind howls, the water comes in through every microscopic hole in the wall or garage door, you can't see an inch in front of your face if you're standing at one of said windows, and trees and roof shingles end up a lot closer to the ground than they're supposed to be.

This lasted for a little less than an hour. Afterward, suddenly there were rivers where there had been ravines.

4. Plants.

Cactus. I have now seen a saguaro, but there aren't any in the immediate area. We have mostly prickly pear and barrel cactus. The former is a five foot tall bush with paddle-like structures that my Eastern mind insists on calling leaves.   The Wiki tells me they're actually called cladophylls. Prickly pear fruit-- which we did not pick by hand but bravely got at a grocery store and had to pick the spines out of my hands anyway-- taste like watermelon. Or at least, as much as I could tell around all the seeds. 

Barrel cactus rarely get larger than R2-D2, and it can take them decades to do it. Makes it kinda sad when you see one tipped over from the monsoon. They're cute until you see the "ribs" and spikes. This is a serious plant.

5. Animals.

Rattlesnakes. Red ants. Scorpions. Coyote. 

Luckily, I have avoided seeing these thus far. Our fauna experiences have been pretty tame: road runner, lizards and skinks, hawks, bats, and innocent musk rat. But they tell me that things are lurking out there.

I'd say "who am I kidding, this town is very civilized, the worst thing that's going to happen is you falling down the stairs", but we lost one tree already.  


Man this desert is exciting.