Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Romney Logic

So as I am to understand it, the Israeli standard of living is much higher than the Palestinian standard of living, due to their "superior culture". Romney looks at the Palestinians, whose country is under occupation and whose trade has been interdicted by the Israeli government (to be fair, the reason that the Israelis try to make sure that the Palestinians don't have any money is the not-unreasonable fear that the Palestinians will spend it all on bombs and guns that they'll use to kill the Israelis. Which is why international diplomacy is so complicated.)

Unless you're Mitt Romney, of course. Then it's not complicated at all. The Israelis have a superior culture, so they live better.

Has anyone ever asked him if that means, by extension, that the Nazis had an even more superior culture? After all, I'm pretty sure that if you compare the standards of living of Nazi party members to German Jews in 1942, you'd find an even vaster disparity in income and standard of living. And many of those surviving Jews went on to be among the earliest Israeli settlers. I think someone should check in with Mitt and see if the syllogism holds for him.

Actually, on second thought, I think that'd be a very bad idea. He might tell us.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reactions to the Comic-Con Comic Movie News

Comic-Con, of course, is your go-to spot for big gigantic epic humongous super-cool movie news, ever since they realized you could fit the entire reading audience of the best-selling comic at either Marvel or DC into the building and have some space around the sides. Let's face it, it's either diversify or die, and luckily tons of people are into superheroes nowadays, even if they don't know that they're still publishing stories about them in small pamphlets to a niche audience of aging fans.

And this year's news was no exception. Marvel announced that they would be coming out with 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', 'Thor: The Dark World', 'Iron Man 3', 'Ant-Man', and 'Guardians of the Galaxy', while DC announced that after the climax of Christopher Nolan's Bat-Trilogy and the relaunch of Superman that fans have already been aware of for over a year, they have...um...maybe a 'Justice League' movie? Sometime in 2015? They don't have a script or a director or a cast yet, but they're totally working on it.

Let that just sink in for a moment. Ant-Man and Rocket Raccoon will be hitting the big screen before Wonder Woman and the Flash. At this point, it feels like Marvel is just doing victory laps. "Hey, whaddya think, guys!" you can hear them saying. "Wanna fast-track a Squadron Supreme movie for 2015, just to mess with their heads?"

Seriously, how does this work? Does Warner Brothers just hate money? There is a huge audience out there right now for well-done superhero movies that treat their source material with respect while remaining accessible to newcomers, and their mainstream DCU non-Superman/Batman track record for the last five years consists of 'Jonah Hex' and 'Green Lantern'. And extending it back much further runs into 'Catwoman'.

What these guys need is to find their own Avi Arad; someone who is savvy about the film industry, while remaining ultimately in the corner of the DC comics guys. They need to elevate DC to its own division in their company, with its own studio that focuses exclusively on DC movies. They need to show deference to the people who know the material, instead of assuming that the tropes of the superhero comic can be easily and painlessly extruded through the mold of a summer blockbuster. They need high-quality talent behind the cameras; Christopher Nolan should be the base level of quality for this kind of thing. (Admittedly, Martin Campbell looked like a good choice on paper...perhaps the lesson to take away from 'Green Lantern' is that your script has to work first.)

And they need to do all this fast. Because at this rate, by the time they do finally come out with a 'Flash' movie, people are going to assume it's totally a rip-off of that Quicksilver guy from 'Avengers 3'.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Storytelling Engines: CSI

(or "The Old Reliable")

Let's start by specifying which "CSI" we're talking about. We're not talking about the CSI TV show that's been going for twelve seasons, nor the other CSI TV show, nor the other other CSI TV show. We're talking about the CSI comics that are based on the CSI TV show that spun off two other CSI TV shows, both of which had impressively long runs as well. So you can already tell that we're talking about a pretty successful storytelling engine here. (What you may not be able to tell, and I'm not going to assume you know, is what "CSI" stands for. It's "Crime Scene Investigations".)

But why? What makes this the kind of storytelling engine that sustains so many stories so easily for so long? Do the comics contain some sort of clue that the TV show doesn't? Actually, it's hard to tell just what the storytelling engine is from one volume of the CSI comic book collections; the "decompression" effect of modern comic books is quite graphically demonstrated (if you'll pardon the pun) with these series. A trade paperback that's over 300 pages long really only contains three individual stories; that's barely enough time to put names to faces, let alone give you a really detailed look into what makes the series tick.

Fortunately, one of the things that the CSI TV series show is that it doesn't really matter who's doing the investigating. All three shows have rotating casts, in addition to having three complete sets of casts, and it doesn't seem to dent the popularity of the shows or the ability of writers to come up with new story ideas. It's the jobs the characters do, not their personal lives, that drive the engine of a police procedural; the occasional episode or storyarc might come from the characters' pasts or personalities, but usually the easiest way to get a police protagonist involved in a story is to call 911. (Depending on the series, of course; 'Criminal Minds', for example, tends to run its one-off stories as basic procedurals and base its longer arcs on the backstories of the people involved. Neither approach is "right" or "wrong", but one definitely lends itself better towards casting changes.)

And likewise, it's not the location that's important; the CSI that the comics are based on happens to be the Las Vegas CSI, but New York and Miami offer no more or fewer storytelling opportunities. Pretty much any big city has a high enough crime rate that you can believably imagine one interesting murder case a week. CSI: International Falls doesn't work quite so well, but you could easily imagine them spinning off the franchise into Dallas, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, or Atlanta without any real difficulty.

So if the people don't matter, and the place doesn't matter...what makes this such a workable storytelling engine? Surely if 100+ previous entries have taught us anything, it's that those things are usually pretty important. Why is CSI evergreen without any of it mattering?

The answer, I think, has to be the crimes. Sad to say, there is an endless variety of human misery out there, ready to inspire us to create art that examines its meaning. Meaning that there's never going to be an end to the inspiration for police procedurals; as long as there's crime today, there will be a story tomorrow that imagines those criminals being brought to justice. That's enough material to supply a hundred police procedurals for a hundred years...which is probably something I shouldn't say too loud. I might give the CSI people some ideas.

Friday, July 13, 2012

No, Seriously, Republicans, Who's Your Real Candidate?

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about how utterly inept politician Mitt Romney was at the basic fundamentals of politics; to wit, he has a very hard time presenting himself as a decent and likeable human being that you'd want to elect, and he has a hard time keeping negative stories about himself from circulating. I posted a series of jocular headlines I expected to see over the coming months, as Romney's liabilities continued to snowball.

I didn't actually expect that the June headline, "Romney Invested In Company That Disposes of Human Fetuses" and the July headline, "Romney Insists He Did Not Commit Felony With False SEC Filings", would actually top the ones I'd written. At this point, I am not ruling out the Horcruxes.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Shocking Revelation

I can't imagine why I haven't seen this before.

He's an expert martial artist with a hidden backstory. He refuses to use guns, to the point of emptying the clip as soon as he takes one off a bad guy. He's determined to the point of seeming imperviousness to pain.

Eliot from 'Leverage' is Bruce Wayne in disguise.

Everything makes so much sense now.