Strange Brouhaha

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (SPOILERS)

This post will not be spoiler-free, but I will give ample spoiler warning. This paragraph and the next two do not contain spoilers. The short review is this: the movie is good as a movie, but not so good as far as the history of the X-Men is concerned. The franchise had some changes inflicted upon it, some necessary to make everything work as a movie, some totally not necessary. I recommend seeing it, but be prepared for a bit of dismay.

To me, the "real" X-Men will always be Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel--the original '60s team. The X-Men I grew up reading about, however, were Chris Claremont's X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. I say this so that you know where I'm coming from when I say what I have to say about this movie; I've been less than thrilled with some of the character and storyline choices in the first two movies, and continue to be less than thrilled with the new installment. (By the way, one thing I am thrilled about is the total lack of the lamest X-Man ever, Gambit. I wanted to set straight the punks behind me who were complaining that there was no Gambit in this movie.) I'm very happy to see Kitty have a bigger role--she was always one of my favorites. Kelsey Grammer, as Hank McCoy, works very well, something I was pleasantly surprised to see.

WARNING: Spoilers start now. If you think you're going to go see the movie, stop reading now. You've read everything you need to know about it. In summary: good as a movie, bad as an X-Men movie. Oh, and stay for the closing credits.

Lots of bad stuff here.

Okay, first: They killed Cyclops right off the bat, and that really put me off my stride for the rest of the movie. It served the story they concocted, but that story was badly, badly off-base. Cyclops is my favorite X-Man ever, so I was pissed.

Second: Instead of being an intergalactic entity, the Phoenix is a part of Jean's mind that the Professor had to seal off in order to keep her from becoming too powerful, and a danger to society. Again, it served the story, but it's just plain wrong. They've never had writers just be wrong like that--I don't really like, for example, the relative ages of some of the X-Men, but it's forgiveable. This,

Third: My jaw dropped when Rogue actually took The Cure. Absolutely dropped. There's no excuse for this.

Fourth: Professor X dies. I've never been all that fond of Charley, but this sucked, too.

Fifth: I don't want to be a snob for canon, but if they're going to do Dark Phoenix, they should at least try to do it right. I realize that that would have required them to spend at least a movie setting it up--intergalactic threat, the introduction of the Shi'ar and the Praetorian Guard, a lot of things that frankly aren't that interesting, leading up to Jean's sacrificing herself on the Moon. They could have at least spent this movie having Phoenix turn out to be positive, before approximating a correct Phoenix Must Die story. They could have done Sentinels, or something else. As it is, they established that Phoenix was bad right off the bat, and then everyone spent the rest of the movie being afraid of her without her having to actually do anything. ("All this time, we've been in mortal fear of BILLY BATSON?")

Sixth: Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen have approximately zero chemistry. I never bought the whole Logan-Jean thing in the comics or in the movies, and neither of them helped very much. While it was neat that she kept trying to shred him at the end, before he killed her, I never bought into any "connection" between them.

Seventh: Juggernaut is terrible terrible terrible terrible. And by the way, writers of X-Men 3: Juggie isn't a mutant. His powers come from the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak (and no, I didn't have to look that up--I'm a dork), and so being around The Cure wouldn't have done a damn thing to him.

However, there's good stuff too!

First: I realize that I'm probably one of three or four people in all of fandom that likes Kitty Pryde, but I really do and I'm glad that she got some screen time as an X-Man. I've probably mentioned this before, but I've always identified a little with Kitty. She was the same age I was when I started reading X-Men comics. On the conscious level, I've never really bought into the need for an audience-surrogate character, but all I have to do is think of Kitty to realize that audiences really do tend to identify with characters.

Second: Yay! They killed Patrick Stewart! I really find him insufferable. He's a really poor actor. Perfect for the role of Professor X, but he's still a scenery-chewer.

Third: I'm among the millions of people who gave a collective "Huh?" when Kelsey Grammer was cast as Hank McCoy. I'm really glad to say that that "Huh?" was unfounded. He's actually perfect. While I'm not a big fan of the blue version of The Beast, it really, really worked--because, of course, Kelsey Grammer has the perfect voice for the character, and that more than anything really cemented it. (Of course, I did keep expecting Niles to pop in and offer Frasier some sherry.)

Fourth: good fight scenes. As before, they concentrate on fan-service for Wolverine, but there's plenty of action for everyone.

Fifth: You may have read that they used CG to reverse-age Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the opening sequence. You could tell that it was going on--the synchronization between the effect and the natural head movements was a bit off, although that may have been heightened by the fact that I knew something was being done--but it looked VERY neat.

Update: I forgot one: the Fastball Special. Purely for the fanboys, of course...but it's in there twice and it rules.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What's next?

The Rude Pundit has approximately the most shocking thing today. It's his impression of The National Review's list of the top 50 conservative rock songs. (Yes, it's a link to the New York Times.)

Won't Get Fooled Again? Have they listened to this song?

Sympathy For The Devil?

Don't Tread On Me? Are they at all familiar with the rest of Metallica's oeuvre?

Who'll Stop The Rain? COME ON!

I really can't add to the Rude Pundit's incredulity. Go read him.

They forgot to ask about sandwiches

David did it, so I will too...

Your Linguistic Profile::
55% General American English
25% Yankee
15% Upper Midwestern
0% Dixie
0% Midwestern

I find the sandwich question to be a glaring omission. What would you call the kind of sandwich that you get at Subway? (I mean, besides "barely adequate".) Sub? Submarine? Hoagie? Grinder?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The All-Dead Band

Okay, so I had this idea tonight while watching Guns n' Roses "Behind the Music".

Someone needs to get a supergroup together of musicians who have died and been resuscitated.

We've got Slash on lead guitar, and Nikki Sixx on bass. Can anyone think of a drummer and a lead singer? Rhythm guitarist, too, probably. (The drummer is the most important; Nikki can sing in a pinch, I think.)

Any ideas? Shoot...what should we call it? "From The Grave"?

Monday, May 22, 2006

I feel ill

The plight of Iraq's children under war and occupation.

I just...words fail. The wounded twelve year old. The arrested schoolchildren. The despairing refrain: "This is the freedom? This is the freedom?"

I wish, more than anything, that the people who LIED us into this war of choice would be made to pay for their crime. I wish more than anything that someday the world would see them in the Hague standing in front of a judge.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Here's another one for that mythical asterisk

Now that Barry Bonds has tied Babe Ruth's home run total, I'll say the same thing about it that I said about Mark McGwire: while it's true that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest tasks in sports, if you take something that adds distance--even just 10 feet--you're cheating. How many of those runs become long outs? (This is basically the same thing that Joe Torre had to say.)

Also, I'm sure that Hank Aaron was surprised to hear that he's a ghost.

I liked what Bobby Cox in Atlanta had to say: "Our reaction in the clubhouse has always been, that record's already been broken. Hank [Aaron] broke it. That's the big one. What's the big deal?"

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ooooh, how BOLD

Relative to the non-punishment that the Vatican has ditched out to other baby-rapers, I suppose the censure of Marcial Maciel actually is a bold move. It's certainly better than brushing the allegations under a rug and moving him to a different part of the country, which is what usually happens. But Jesus, FIFTY YEARS of sex with boys gets him a forced retirement? How about forced baths in hydrochloric acid? How about sending him to Guantanamo to get the same "humane treatment" the prisoners there are getting, you know, with all of the not-torture. Sure, he's 86 and probably not too sturdy, but our not-torturers could probably keep him alive and conscious through a bunch of not-torture.

Shoot, I'd settle for making him live in Mexico City or somewhere else in Mexico (where he lives now) and plastering huge posters of him everywhere he's likely to go, with his picture and the words "TENGO SEXO CON LOS MUCHACHOS JÓVENES" in really huge letters. No bodyguards, no pension, no nothing. See how long he lasts.

People DRINK this

Okay, to be fair, they don't drink the concentrated Sunny Delight that spilled into a river and killed a bunch of fish. Check the picture with the article.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Take a break, go to Google

This is probably old news to everyone but me, but you should really, really go to Google right now, type "miserable failure" into the search box, and hit the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

Now do it for "worst president ever".

Below, I'm just gonna do my part. Join in, you can do it too!

miserable failure
worst president ever

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Axis of funny

I was in the bookstore this evening. Near the checkout, they have some magazines. One of these magazines is the current issue of The Economist. Its cover story, about Tony Blair and our own Beloved Emperor, is called...wait for it...Axis of Feeble.

Worth a read

This is a lengthy but worthwhile article about the planned September 11th memorial in New York. A lot of commentary tends to be "red meat." This is different; it encourages reflection and thought. I especially appreciated author Tom Engelhardt's comparisons between the planned "Reflecting Absence" 9/11 memorial and many other memorials, often memorials of (yes) greater catastrophes than 9/11. The other memorials are far more modest in scope.

Sadly, I am forced to agree with Engelhardt when he writes: "Even in victimhood, Americans have in recent years exhibited an unseemly imperial hubris." I felt that way during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, when a tattered 9/11 flag was solemnly carried before the international audience. It embarrassed me that we would choose to parade our suffering in such a manner before the world. In that context, it seemed self-pitying. What on earth could people from Bosnia, from Kosovo, from Rwanda, from Sudan, from El Salvador, from Guatemala, from East Timor, from Angola, from Liberia, have made of such a display? Those are countries that have had relatively recent nightmares. What about Russia, whose memories of Leningrad alone (now St. Petersburg again) would scar a nation forever? What about Japan, that had actual nukes dropped on it? Don't they pretty much get automatic first-place bragging rights in the "day of horror" sweepstakes? Yet (to my knowledge) they did not take out a tattered flag from Hiroshima when they hosted the Olympics at Nagano. I feel that these other nations have suffered with more dignity than we did.

Tom Engelhardt blames the neocons who saw 9/11 as "their moment; the one that would take them over the top; the one that would make the United States a Republican-Party possession for years, if not generations, the Middle East an American gas station, the world an American military preserve, and a "unitary" commander-in-chief presidency the recipient of the kinds of untrammeled powers previously reserved for kings and emperors."

I think he's right. And I think we need our country back. Now.

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's a good first step

Jason Leopold at is reporting that The Architect is going to be indicted. First, let's hope that it's true (no reason to believe it's not, of course). Second, let's hope it's just another step up the ladder.

What he built needs to be dismantled.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Great "Simpsons" Quote

I haven't watched "The Simpsons" regularly since Lani was born, so this one was new to me:

LISA: "Mom, Dad built something that could be deadly in the wrong hands...and HE'S holding it!"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Help has arrived"

I came across a story today saying that our soldiers are begging for food in Iraq.

I think I really don't need to make any further comment.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Is this even relevant anymore?

Axl Rose is claiming that Chinese Democracy will be out this fall. CD, for those of you who don't care, is the sprawling Frankenalbum that Axl and "Guns 'n' Roses" have been working on for eight years, if not longer. Every year or so, Axl crawls out from wherever he's hiding to claim that the album will be ready soon.

The last GnR studio album was...wait for it...FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. They had their brief, shining moment, but there's no way Axl Rose is relevant anymore. Some bands can survive personnel changes and get (arguably) better. Some can't. Axl still seems to suffer under the delusion that he alone defined Guns 'n' Roses, when the fact is that it took all five of them--even the poor, drug-addled Steven Adler--to make a band.

Nobody really cares about Axl Rose all by himself. Probably not even Axl.

Titanic Sequel

I vaguely recall this making the rounds a few weeks ago, but in case you haven't seen it, here's a trailer for Titanic 2: The Surface. It's actually really well-made. (You'll probably need Quicktime to view it.)

The sad thing is, I'd rather see that movie than a lot of the stuff coming out this summer. I'm looking at you when I say this, stupid, unfunny Will Ferrell movie, whatever your name is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

And the new head of CIA is...

...(rumored to be) General Mike Hayden.

You know, the guy who headed up NSA when the Emperor illegally authorized domestic wiretapping without the pesky requirement of a warrant. Don't worry, though, because Hayden is supported by National Intelligence Director Death-Squad Man. So it's all okay.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sixty-eight percent?

You Are 68% Evil

You are very evil. And you're too evil to care.
Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.

Hmmm. I dunno about this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Praise Of Megan McCafferty

I haven't read either of Megan McCafferty's books, *Sloppy Firsts* or *Second Helpings.* I have, however, read the news. And McCafferty's two books were apparently plagiarized in both plot and 53 instances of prose by nineteen-year-old author Kaavya Viswanathan for her novel *How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.*

Before Viswanathan's plagiarisms were discovered, she scored a $500,000 two-book contract and a movie deal for "Opal." (The book deal is now canceled and "Opal" permanently withdrawn from circulation.) Viswanathan contends the borrowings were "unconscious and unintentional."

Here's what gets me about this. A visit to McCafferty's website suggests that her two victimized novels, although solidly successful, were by no means broken upon the world with the fanfare that accompanied "Opal." There seems to have been no breathless "Wow, a $500,000 deal!!" publicity of the kind that Viswanathan so briefly enjoyed before being exposed. Since Viswanathan borrowed from "Firsts" and "Seconds" so heavily for her own book, one has to ask: how come they weren't worth this much the first time around? Paint 'em brown and dial back the age of their author and suddenly they're an event? I hope the publishing industry takes a good long look at itself.

Viswanathan is part of the same phenomenon that fueled those other literary fakers, James Frey and "JT Leroy." In each case, who they were (or claimed to be) drove the acceptance of their prose. Frey was supposed to be this big badass who beat up priests and did hard time, while "Leroy" was allegedly a former drug-addicted transsexual truck-stop prostitute. Whoah! Who wouldn't want to read a book by such over-the-edge, raw survivors? As for Viswanathan, she really *is* an Indian-American teenager--which apparently made Megan McCafferty's work look orders of magnitude better than it did when it belonged to McCafferty herself.

So the publishing industry needs to ask itself: are we the publishing industry, or are we trying to be a phantom limb of the movie business? What are we selling, books or authors? I got news for you: 97% of authors are pasty, isolated obsessives who have no life. Because THEY SPEND ALL THEIR TIME WRITING. Because WRITING (even when you do it really fast like Stephen King) TAKES A LONG TIME. As many have pointed out, it is like manual labor. There are no shortcuts. You have to sit and do it. Writing 120,000 words--and with rewriting, it's more like 300,000--takes WAY longer than your average truck-stop transsexual has time for. Jean Genet (an *actual* gay prostitute who was one of the twentieth century's great cold absurdists) is pretty much the only one who broke that mold, and he was French--and his books are short.

As long as agents and editors allow themselves to be seduced by youth, "exoticism," danger, and the thought of crack-fueled blowjobs, they will be vulnerable to fakers. My heart goes out to Megan McCafferty, who must feel deeply hurt that her ideas and words rocketed a teenager to fame while earning far less--a lot, but far less--for herself. Because it's so obviously personal. McCafferty was less "interesting," therefore her books were less interesting.

If authors are judged like that, then they lose. Period.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

If you are not watching "House"...

...then I seriously question your worth as a human being. (Okay, not seriously.) Thanks in no small part to Hugh Laurie's outstanding performance (yes, it's that Hugh Laurie, and it is a little unnerving to hear him with what passes for an American accent--it's good to know that they're as bad at imitating us as we are at imitating them), this show is consistently fascinating. Give it a shot. I don't think you'll be sorry.

OK. There is one problem, and that is this: since it's a "disease of the week" show, you'll need to be a bit liberal with the willing suspension of disbelief. But really, you watch it for the writing and the acting, not the disease of the week.