Thursday Musings

Hey, there.  Been a while.  Things get crazy sometimes, but don’t fret.  I’m back.  Feel free to commence adoring me again.

Isn’t it weird that we’ll push our television and movie technology to absurd levels of “improvement” while we’re still debating whether or not we should burn oil and coal to power our world?  We’ll rush out to buy the new I-phone 4, which is only a marginal improvement on an already perfectly good product, but we refuse to buy more efficient cars.  What’s the deal with that?  Seriously, if we pushed our energy technology with the same mad zeal we did electronics, we’d probably all have flying cars that ran on toxic waste and produced clouds of anti-aging mutagens.

I don’t begrudge people their love of technology, but I do find it annoying that we’ll claw each other’s eyes out for the latest gizmo but are still perfectly content with 19th century energy technology.  Damn it.  This is the 21st century.  We should have dilithium crystals by now.  Or, if not that, at least be using mroe effective technology.  There’s a car now that runs for 40 miles on electricity before requiring a gas motor to kick in.  And we don’t want it.  We’re too damn busy with our Ipads and 3D movies and non-flying cars.

It just cheeses me off.

Off my soap box now.

Saw Despicable Me this weekend, and I loved it.  I know that it’s standard to say at this point that Pixar is the greatest thing to happen to animation since Steamboat Willie.  And it’s true.  But Pixar might have opened the door, but plenty of studios have walked through it at this point.  Despicable Me is great fun with an original story, fun characters, and enough good humor and originality to make it a worthy entrant in modern animated films.  I was surprised at how much I cared about the characters, but I did.

The only negative is the standard Everybody Dances ending.  I don’t know why people keep doing this uninspired bit, but it really needs to go.  Fortunately, I enjoyed the movie enough to overlook it, especially since it’s not too long.

But, really, Hollywood, if you happen to be reading this, KNOCK IT OFF!  It’s just so . . . generic, and a truly uninteresting way to end a movie.

So I was perusing Amazon, and I think I’d really like more reviews for all my books.  I can’t make you do it, of course, and I appreciate all your support, my lovely, intelligent, and sweet smelling fans.  But if you happen to have a few minutes to kill, I wouldn’t mind if you dropped by Amazon and mentioned how brilliant I am.

Oh, and if you happen to hate the books (possible though unlikely if you’re taking the time to check me out) I understand if you want to write a negative review.  I’m a grown up.  I can take it.  But can we break 100 reviews on Gil’s?  Because that would be awesome.

Or not.  I know you’re busy.  I’ve only given you hours of amazing entertainment, and, sure, I got paid surprisingly well for it, but let’s just ignore that for a second.  Pretend like I’m an insecure guy sitting on his couch, typing this out right now, begging for validation other than a sweet paycheck.  Maybe it’s a bit mercennary, but the more reviews the better I look.  And I think we can all agree making me look good is a wonderful thing.

Meanwhile, what else is there to say?  I still love Monsterpocalypse.  I still love robots of all sizes.  I’m still playing World of Warcraft.  I’m thinking about checking out the DC Universe Online game when it comes out, but I remain undecided right now.

Oh, and speaking of DC Comics, I’ve had it with the Superman VS. Batman debate.  They’re both great characters.  We are allowed to like both.  On the same note, can we put aside the console wars?  Wii, PS3, and Xbox are fine game systems with their own strengths and weaknesses.  And I’m going to say that, on the subject of Batman, I’m on record as saying I like Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  Each showcases a different, wonderful aspect of the character and if you can’t appreciate that, you have only my pity and / or contempt.  (Well, not really.  They are just TV shows.)

Oh, and just to be controversial, let’s end on this.  I’m not so sure that Harry Potter will be as timeless as people want it to be.  I’m not criticizing the writing, plot, or characters.  I’m just suggesting that it lacks the visual punch that science fiction needs to be timeless.

One of the things that makes the original Star Wars trilogy so great is the look of it.  The Star Wars universe isn’t our universe.  It doesn’t even really look like our universe.  It’s filled with colorful characters and cool visuals.  Harry Potter has some of this, but for the most part, it’s just humans walking around in frumpy robes.

To me, everything wonderful about Star Wars can be shown with that most wonderful character: ADMIRAL ACKBAR.  Ackbar doesn’t have much of a part, not much screen time.  But he does make every moment count.  Not only does he look instantly distinctive, he has one of the most quoted lines of the film series.

“IT’S A TRAP!”

Granted, I really don’t know much about Harry Potter.  I’m not as immersed in the fandom as many, but I’m hard pressed to know a Potter catch phrase or to know a character instantly by sight.  The Potter characters are defined by their actors.  If I see Daniel Radcliffe, I see Harry.  But there’s little about Harry himself that is distinctive.  He has his glasses and his scar, so that’s not too bad.  But Ron, Hermoine, Snape, and Dumbledore are more identified with their actors than anything uniquely obvious about them.

In comparison to a character like Batman, who can be played by a wide range of actors because the cape, the cowl, the logo all say THIS IS BATMAN!  Same goes for Superman’s red and blue underwear.  And Admiral Ackbar’s white jumpsuit and giant red squid face.

These characters transcend the actors who play them.  Everyone knows Harrison Ford is Han Solo, but if you put on black pants, a white shirt, and a black vest, everyone will know who you are, even if you look nothing like Ford.  But if you’re wearing generic Potter wizard robes, they might know what you’re emulating, but they won’t necessarily know who you are.

There’s a reason people tend to think of Luke as in his pajamas or Princess Leia’s cinnamon roll hair.  And Darth Vader is an icon for a reason.

Potter has elements of this.  Hagrid is fairly distinctive, as is Dumbledore.  Although both require copious amounts of facial hair to pull off, which makes it a bit tricky to cosplay unless you happen to already be hirstute.

Don’t mistake me here.  I’m not saying I know Harry Potters eventual place in pop culture.  Who does?  One of the things I’ve learned is that guessing at pop culture in the future is a sure way to be wrong.  And I’ll say Potter’s cast is more interesting and varied than Twilight’s generic pale, non-smiling vampire teens and dark, non-smiling werewolf teens.  (ASIDE: Have you been to Burger King lately?  If you can tell one blandly attractive sallow teen from another, you have a better eye than I do.)

So relax, Potter fans.  I’m not bashing your passion.  Different strokes for different folks, and I certainly can’t argue with success.  And, yes, Twilight fans, I am sort of basthing your passion because I really don’t like Twilight for all the standard sociological reasons that have been discussed elsewhere.  But that’s just my opinion.  I don’t fault yours, even though I am famous and thus, my opinion is more important and valid than yours.

It’s a burden I bear with distinction and grace because somebody has to.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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16 Comments

  1. Jesse
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Dumbledore actually looks quite a bit like Gandalf which confused more than a few people I’m sure.

  2. jason presti
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    God, you’re like my Geek hero! To come here and read ramblings so much like my own that no one else around me seems to get makes me feel good!

    I am a big Harry Potter fan but can somewhat see your point, especially compared to Star Wars. However, it is a rough comparison considering The Harry Potter “teen wizard” genre seems to be constantly well tread ground and for some reason NO ONE has even attempted to try and duplicate Star Wars…at all!

    In fact, “Space Opera” sci fi seems to be a genre that no one will even touch after Lucas, for whatever reason. as a sci-fi fan I am somewhat disgusted with Hollywood. We are at a point now where anything that can be thought can be done visually with special effects and yet the number of TRUE sci-fi “space” movies is pitiful.
    Especially now that Lucas has destroyed Star Wars for a new & younger generation. I feel bad for the kids nowadays who only know Star Wars from the prequel movies. Hell, the Star Wars videogames have better stories & dialogue than the prequels!!!
    Anyway, we should be seeing beautiful Space sci-fi movies with dogfights, space armadas, robots, weird looking aliens, ect. We get NOTHING! other than Comic Book movies that is!

    To respond to the rest of your rant: I am an old school MMORPG player taking a break til something new and good comes along. I dont miss paying a monthly fee however LOL!
    I love playing minis games but have never played Monsterpocalypse, ill have to check it out. My current passion is HEROSCAPE, one of the best pre-painted minis games out there. Check it out you cant go wrong with it.

    Lastly, just saw PANDORUM for the second time. Why did i listen to stupid critics and wait until recently to see it. I LOVE this movie and think it is a type of sci-fi sorely missing nowadays. I would say it is my “guilty” pleasure but i dont feel guilty for enjoying it at all! It is not a perfect movie in direction & editing but I love the story and the acting.

  3. cicely
    Posted July 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    There’s a car now that runs for 40 miles on electricity before requiring a gas motor to kick in. And we don’t want it.

    Speak for yourself. We want it desperately, but it’s priced out of our feasible price range. After all, we are not independently wealthy.

  4. Charmscale
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    So that’s where that line came from… I’ve been wondering why everyone I know keeps saying “It’s a trap!” for years. I really need to rewatch the Star Wars movies.
    Incidently, there are several features of Harry Potter that are distinctive enough that I, a blond female, can portray him and be instantly recognizable. I just need to put a bit of tape around the bridge of my glasses and draw a red lightning bolt scar on my forehead. I don’t even need the robes, just the taped glasses and the scar. Maybe Harry Potter is just a more recognizable icon to my generation.

  5. Kuku Maroo
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I understand why children and adults latched on to Harry Potter. Who couldn’t love a coming of age underdog story about a kid becoming a hero in a magical world of magic? But for the life of me, I don’t understand the Twilight phenomenon. The story seems as if it were originally an explanation from parents to their super-sheltered daughters as way to understand “men.”

    “Daughter, there are two types of men in the world. The first type of man is the cold, calculating vampire. The second type is wild-but-loyal werewolf. They’ll both rip your heart out. The werewolf will abuse you directly while the vampire will slowly lure you into an abusive relationship. The choice isn’t entirely clear, but I’ve always theorized that it would be best to be a lesbian.” Or something along those lines.

    Actually, Twilight seems as if it were written by a twelve year old girl who had been sheltered from society. I bet if we were to go every junior high school through-out the country looking through the history of their creative writing submissions, we would find something similar to the Twilight series. I say this because Twilight has no depth.

    Wait! I got it! I understand now. Meyers core audience has no depth. Teenage girls, what are their traits? Let’s see: sheltered, superficial, overly dramatic, narrow-mindedly think lustful feeling equals love, usually feel as though there is only two choices. See, look at how great Meyers taps into the core audience of idiocy.

    I think my problem with Twilight is that I don’t like teenage girls. They are so annoying. My neighborhood is filled with them. Every time I go outside and see them, I’m compelled to call my aging parents and beg for their forgiveness. “Mom, Dad, I’m sorry I was a teenage girl. I don’t know how it happen. I wish I had never become a teenage girl. I realize their is nothing I can do to repay you for the burden I placed upon you. I give you my love.” That sorta thing. This is why I purpose to all the parents out there that you please anesthetize your children. I think we could finally bring peace around the world if only the teenage children are heavily sedated. PLEASE SEDATE YOUR TEENAGERS. END THE TWILIGHT MADNESS.

  6. Kuku Maroo
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Oh, and I agree with @cicely. I think your fame and money have clouded your judgment a bit. The most common conversation around my neck of the woods is how to become more green. We want Hybrids, but can’t afford them. We want a sustainable, pollutant-free energy source, but we can’t afford a Bloom Energy fuel cell, or it’s alternative competitors. We want to have a compost bin and raise steroid-free chickens in the backyard, but there are ordinances against both of those things. I can’t afford the prices at organic super market. I even attempt to raise rabbits for the nitrogen-rich poop so I could plant a garden in our bad soil. The neighbors called the police and said my rabbits made too much noise and stunk. Rabbits don’t make noise, and their feces has no odor. Bu I received $150 fine. So, I took the rabbits into my house and my landlord threatened to raise the rent $200, because he claimed the rabbits counted as pets. So, I let the rabbits go in my neighbor’s yard.

    It seems to me, A Lee Martinez, is that most people would chuck technology into space for a clean life. The price of green and the laws against its production seem to deter us. I have feeling you are hooked on technology and the lot. It seems to me you want to prize yourself as the good guy by taking a current ideology, featured in Wired Magazine, and posing it as your own.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted July 18, 2010 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      Well, of course we can’t afford green technology yet. We never can afford the improvements in technology at first. I remember my first computer. It had 1/100th the computing power of my laptop and cost twice as much. It wasn’t a practical or economical technology, but it was one we were clamoring for.

      The Ipad is an overpriced, marginal improvement on an already existing technology, yet we can’t wait to get our hands on it. My point isn’t that more efficient energy technology is going to be readily available and cheap at first, but it will only be so if we push it harder, faster. If we demand more.

      No one needs an Iphone. We could get along just fine without them. By that definition, they are ridiculously overpriced and unnecessary. Yet you don’t see many people complaining about the cost of those devices. We site them as a bargain. We love them. Yet with energy technology, we constantly fight against change. And it’s not just us as in the consumers, I’m talking about here. It’s the technology developers themselves who refuse to push forward.

      Let’s not get confused here. I know that, on paper, people would love cleaner fuel sources and a greener future. But there seems a profound absence of will on our part. And I am indeed blaming the common man as part of the problem. Obviously not the biggest part of the problem, but still, whenever I see people lining up for the latest electronic doodad that offers the most marginal improvement on their lives, I have to wonder where this excitement is for better energy technology.

      To paraphrase John Lennon: “If everyone wanted greener energy as bad as they wanted an Iphone 4, we’d have greener energy.”

      Rather than defending ourselves, we should take a good hard look at who we are and where our priorities are. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about will. I just don’t see that will very often. Not in our manufacturers or consumers. There are rays of hope, and I am optimistic. But let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s not lie to ourselves. We are all part of the problem.

      The documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? explored this subject in greater detail and criticism than I could. So I’ll just recommend people check that out to see where I’m coming from and how the system fails, at nearly every level, when it comes to breaking our fossil fuel dependency.

      And for the record, I’m not suggesting that I’m any better than anyone else. I don’t own a hybrid. I don’t own an Iphone, but it’s not because of some high minded idealism. Rather, I’m just too lazy to get my old phone replaced. And I’ve never read Wired, so I don’t even know what ideology I’m supposed to be parroting.

      • Kuku Maroo
        Posted July 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        A. Lee Martinez

        I’m sorry I shouldn’t have made the attack. My harsh words, and accusations, put you in position to defend yourself. I shouldn’t have done that. The attack was meant to come second nature to my overall point, which I will now explain.

        I don’t believe it is the ‘will’ that deters green technology and drives ipad sales. I believe that the industrial revolution, our need to escape farm and craft life, as well as the urban sprawl that followed it, has made it nearly impossible to live a sustainable green life.

        As I previously mentioned, I attempted to become more green. When I attempted to go green, I encountered obstacles: snotty neighbors, the law, greedy landlord, exorbitant prices all around. As far as electronics go I only have the one thing, my laptop, because I need it for work. I do not have a television–I threw it out in 1996. My refrigerator is very small, because I believe that people without children shouldn’t exceed their needs. I think most people would call me a minimalist. But despite all this, I am unable to use my backyard for agricultural use, as are most people in the city, because it’s not cohesive to post-industrial revolution views.

        The people I live amongst don’t even know how to cook. The get their meals via takeout and McDonalds and fancy restaurants. It would be irrational for me to expect them to understand the need for a garden or a rabbit hutch. It’s much more likely that I’ll have to leave my job, so I can leave this area, to find a rural area with limited job options and less pay, so I can pursue a sustainable green life. Of course, that option doesn’t seem to feasible or rational either.

        I mean, we have a similar life arrangement (I think), what are you doing to become more green? Do you think our ‘will’ can reverse 150 years of the industrial revolution?

        p.s. You should buy a hybrid. I think, unlike us, you can afford it. And, just on principle, I would hope that the people we pay care about us as much as we care about them.

        p.p.s. If you respond, please stick to the issue at hand, and do not dote on my apology at the beginning.

        Love

        • A. Lee Martinez
          Posted July 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          No offense was taken, so don’t worry about that.

          First of all, I really can’t afford a hybrid either. I get paid fairly well for what I do, but I’m always speaking in terms of comparison to most other writers at my career stage. I’m not complaining about the money I make, but I live in a small apartment, drive a used car, don’t buy expensive items, etc., etc.

          Secondly, while I agree that the industrial revolution did make a greener lifestyle more difficult, I think it’s a copout to say that this has rendered us incapable of destroying the environment. Specifically, I’m talking about energy technology advancement, which I feel is vitally important to helping us maintain a certain technologically advantaged lifestyle with minimal environmental impact.

          We will always have an impact on our environment, and I’m not anti-technology. I just think that if we cared as much about our energy technology, were as equally obsessed with it, we’d have moved forward on energy alternatives.

          The problem with having a broad focus on the environment is that it becomes overwhelming, confusing, and discouraging. That’s why I’m suggesting we focus on the one area of our technology where we really haven’t advanced much at all. It seems strangely archaic to me that we live in the information age and we still are burning things to meet our power needs.

  7. Paulredshirt
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Did you just say something positive about Star Wars??? Chills rise from the depths as hell freezes over.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted July 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      I love Star Wars. At least, the first three films. After that, it’s a crapshoot. There’s some good stuff, some bad stuff, and lots of forgettable stuff. But the first three are great films, worthy of all the praise they’ve received.

  8. Zovesta
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t HP fantasy and not SF, though? >_>

    Still, I agree with you, though I do know one line that everybody knows is from HP.

    SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE.

    You may shoot me for that one.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted July 18, 2010 at 3:59 am | Permalink

      Well, Star Wars is fantasy with a sci fi coating, but let’s not kid ourselves. Star Wars is high fantasy, plain and simple.

      I usually find the fantasy Vs. sci fi label to be a distraction. Until we actually have faster than light travel or killer robots or telepathy, it’s all fantasy as far as I’m concerned.

  9. Posted July 18, 2010 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    You know what cheeses off grasshopper? That Pre-Colombian era phone you keep. Seriously, I know steampunk looking stuff is in, but authoritative sources say yours isn’t always a reliable communication device.

    What if we need to text you to come lift a car off someone?

  10. jason presti
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Let’s just agree that it’s all a type of fantasy since any good SF nerd can come in here and tell you in detail about all the different sub-genres of Scienc Fiction Lit: Space Opera, Speculative SF, Alternate History, Military SF, ect.
    The same goes for fantasy with Urban Fantasy(ugh!), Tolkien-based fantasy, Harry Potter YA stuff, Robert Howard type fantasy, did i say Tolkien-based Fantasy?!

    Don’t get me started on the Horror genre…

    I love HP and OG Star Wars! The problem with Star Wars became that George Lucas hit a point in his career where he was head of such a Huge empire and at such a status where i don’t think he has anyone in his life anymore who will honestly critique his work. He has been solely in charge for so long that he calls ALL the shots and surrounds himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear.

    Just compare his earlier works to his later works. On Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi Lucas was humble enough to hire OTHER screenwriters to handle his dialogue, including Academy Award winner Lawrence Kasdan, and seperate Directors to direct the actors, Irwin Kirshner and Richard Marquand. Back then he hired other people to handle the things he was not the strongest at so he could focus on his producing and overseeing duties.
    On the three Prequel movies Lucas wrote and directed all three by himself with NO help even though he hadn’t directed a movie in years and had NO experience directing actors in front of a green screen. The man is a genius as a producer and for coming up with stories but is terrible as an “actor’s” director and as a screenwriter of dialogue.

    If you want any further proof research online the behind the scenes trouble surrounding Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull. You will see that Lucas singlehandedly ruined that film. Once again he refused any help when calling the shots and completely disregarded anyone’s advice including Steven Spielberg, who he ran roughshod over during that film.
    Go online and look up Frank Darabont’s original script for Crystal Skull before he quit over the changes Lucas wanted him to make to the film. Those changes including the idiotic scenes most if us remember from that film, the character Shia Lebouf played who wasn’t in the original script, and the removal of almost all Karen Allen’s wonderful dialogue turning her into a vapid zombie for the whole film. Btw, Darabont is the award winning writr & director of the Shawshank Redemtion and is one of the most repsected guys in Hollywood.
    Don’t get me started on Lucas’s decision to take the 1st four episodes of the last Clone Wars animated series and make them into a full blown theatrical film that STUNK!

    The moral of the story for creative types is: Know your own strengths and weaknesses and be confident and humble enough to ask for or accept help and criticism when you need it!

    John Favreau, the Director of Iron Man, had his friend Vince Vaughn read the first Iron Man draft and showed him the rough cut before ANYONE to get another opinion of his dialogue and to make sure the jokes actually worked. More people in Hollwood should take his example.

  11. Kevin
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    When I read your blog, the first question that came to my mind was “What kind of car do you drive?”. That has since been answered, and I am included in your category. I would love to drive a “green” car, but alas, cannot afford to buy one.
    I dream of the day that I can retire early, with a small pension coming in monthly, and live in the woods in a small cabin. I would have a small bank of solar panels to generate and store some electricity, just to power my laptop, internet, and tv (I need my cartoons).
    I would have a piece of land large enough to have a sustainable woodlot to use for fuel for my woodstove, and would spend my days tending my garden, chopping and splitting wood, and canning food for the winter. Then I would spend my evenings with a little tv, then retire to read with candle or lamp light until I fell asleep.
    I hope that dream can come true someday!

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