Stan by your man

Like any film character before a monstrous transformation, I don’t feel so good.

Must be nice, is all.

I dunno. Would my life be served by shifting into an inhuman creature? Maybe. It seemed to work out for that sexy fishman in The Shape of Water (spoiler, I still haven’t seen The Shape of Water). If I could get extra appendages or the ability of flight that’d be pretty slick. I know a lot of animals have cool abilities that humans would only dream of. At Te Papa museum my girlfriend and I visited this wicked exhibit on insects. There was a type of flying insect that basically had precognition. Or at least it could rapidly analyse the vectors other organisms and predict their actions. Spider Sense, by any other name. How cool would that be?

On the topic of Spider Sense, I guess it’s worth thinking about Stan Lee a little. Like most men in positions of power, I have no doubts there were times he abused that power. I’ve heard allegations of sexual misconduct and I think we’ve seen enough of this to know they were likely true. I also know that it’s hard to place the sum of a person’s worth upon one aspect of them. We all have nuance. I’m not gonna all out galvanise the guy. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the myriad of times he pushed others out of the spotlight to improve the way he’d appear. At the same time, it’s not possible to trace the sheer hope and inspiration his creations (many co-created with the talented Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby of course) brought to those who found solace in his work. I’m sure a lot of what we consider trope-y was at the time revolutionary and boundary pushing. The X-Men stand in for almost any marginalised group. I know personally that my own resolve was strengthened by the notion that despite insurmountable odds at times, I’d never really be alone. It’s notable too that both Lee and Kirby, of Jewish birth, changed their last names for the purpose of mainstream acceptability. These characters they made, fighting for the downtrodden against oppression, existed in a world with the spectre of WW2 a faint memory. Whatever realm of moral compass I have, I know that being brought up with an array of heroic opinion leaders formed a large part of it. None of us are saints, but if we can leave this place a little better for having lived here, that seems like a worthwhile use of an existence.

I don’t know why I pulled the escape lever on that paragraph, it’s not like I have anything better to follow it up with. I’m feeling a bit green. Last night my stomach was topsy turvy. I thought I was just suffering the effects of an overspiced pasta dish and rice for two means in a row. I don’t eat a ton of complex carbs, I figured, my body was having a rough time processing them. My throat was scratchy and a little warm. I tried TUMS, then covered my bases with some oil of oregano. No dice. Who knows? I drank a lot Saturday night. Maybe I made out with an uncooked chicken and forgot about it. Today my throat has been uncomfortably hot and my energy levels have plummeted. Just all over fatigued. I’m fortunate I had very little work today and could easily work from home. It’s a luxury. I guess the real luxury would be working a job where I didn’t feel I needed to “show up” for the day when I was ill, because I didn’t want to pass my work onto my co-workers. But that would take a major societal overhaul whereby we stopped venerating martyrdom and suffering for the sake of your job. I’ve been in the position long enough that it’s a breeze for the most part, but tons of my newer co-workers still stay after hours, take lunch at their desk or skip eating for hours because they’re too busy. Maybe, as much of a luxury working from home is (and it is), it’s still part of an overall fucked up system.

Look, if I’m about to Hulk out, I’m here for it.

See you in the stars, Stan.

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I do have a children’s Wolverine mask I bought from Dollarama

I’m planning and plotting RIGHT NOW. You don’t even know. Probably because I haven’t mentioned any of the details. Heck, you didn’t even know what I was plotting until I mentioned the fact that I was. Upon reflection, I don’t even know if plotting carries the connotations I’m looking for, so let’s revert back to planning. Because if everything comes together, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Did that sound clandestine? Blame me for following a thread I’d be quick to abandon. I’m doing a thing next weekend and I think I’d be served coming to the table with some ideas. I’m still being vague, ain’t I? Like I’m hiding behind some kind of… mask?

Look, I’m playing Masks: A New Generation on a friend’s Role Playing Game podcast. I don’t expect you to know what Masks is. I also don’t think you know my friend. I’d maybe hazard that you’d know what a Role Playing Game is (think Dungeons & Dragons), and podcasts are evergreen enough by now that I’d suppose you’d have heard of them. With that considered, a general rundown.

Masks is a game based around Halcyon, a city of heroes. Preceding generations have paved the way for a superpower aware society. The gold generation are long past, the silver generation are a little younger. They might be in their 40s-50s and possibly still operating in the city. Your squad are teenagers coming into their powers. It’s a volatile time for anyone on the verge of adulthood, but doubly so when you’re filled with warring motivations and parahuman abilities. The framework of the game allows for some detailed backstory and potential Acting, which seemed like a fun thing to take part in on a Sunday afternoon. If you’re interested in knowing a little more, try this link.

So I thought I’d brainstorm a couple of character ideas based around the different archetypes. I’m not making characters now, but maybe on the day I’ll think back to these and consider some of the concepts.

The Bull is your classic Big Guy in a Five Man Band. Driven by impulse, they’re strong and rush headlong into conflict. Typically they have a love and a rival. This archetype doesn’t super appeal to me, but I do like the idea of being an emotional glass cannon at a time when angst is rife. Maybe they could have skin that shifts elemental state based on emotion? Kind of like The Thing or Colossus, but with an added elemental state. Anger could case the skin to harden, sadness could weaken it and leave it vulnerable. This character would be at the mercy of their own mental state, but also highly susceptible to villains’ emotional attacks.

The Transformed is a character whose physical form has become twisted into an inhuman visage. Think a lycanthrope with no recourse back to true humanity. I typically really enjoy lycan type characters and the notion of turmoil with human vs animalistic nature. I’m kind of into the idea of some form of insectoid characteristics. Maybe Metamorphisis left some kind of imprint on me, but a cockroach could be neat. Truly disfigured, maybe a departure from previously attractive features. There’s some really disgusting stuff you could do with fighting base instincts. I’d have to do research, but this would give options of flight, maybe some kind of poison attacks or asexual reproduction to create minions. Who knows?

The Beacon is a character with no powers, but an overwhelming desire to enact heroics. Think Iron Man or Batman. Something drives you and vigilante activity is your everything. I’ve always had fascination with a character who has an innate, almost unnatural understanding of physics. It’d be cool to have a true daredevil, someone impulsive and a total slave to adrenaline. Maybe they had a life threatening situation they narrowly escaped from as a child and it forever altered the direction of their life. Very athletic by design, they’ve trained their entire life in the pursuit of heroism, but their motivations are anything but pure. Reckless to the core, it’s all about chasing that high. Could be a gambler, parkour, a throwing weapon they could use for rebounds like Captain America or Daredevil.

The Janus has a secret identity, and keeping it that way is of the utmost importance. I think this character could be neat as a total pedant. Perhaps very privileged and inflexible upbringing. They’ve always had everything they wanted, but it’s never been enough and they don’t know why. They could go their lives without working a day, but they’re lost, purposeless. Maybe a part of them has secretly felt like they’re not doing enough and it eats them up inside. Perhaps they see inequality, but it’s so far removed from their existence that they don’t know how to deal with it. They’re all about propriety, and it’s a challenge to break loose from that. I honestly don’t have any great justification as to why, but I’d really like a sound based character, maybe with the ability to manipulate waveforms in the air. They could make people hear things, mess with volume, create pressure and pain through overloading eardrums. Physically though, they wouldn’t be gifted. Why would they? They’ve never had to be.

It’s all stuff to think about, looking at central motivations and how powers fit into a character’s personality. I’m pretty excited to get rolling and figure out who I’m gonna be. What kind of mask will I wear?

That’s what we call soFistocation

I have a ton of costume prep to do, a decent amount of time in which to do it and equal amounts of trepidation.

Do you know who Fisto is? Well from the ages of 9-31, I don’t think I did either. I’m sure I was probably a fan as a kid. The Heroic Master of Hand to Hand Combat was a companion of He Man in his ongoing adventures to sell action figures. I thought He Man was tHe Man and as an adult, I get it. The toys were colourful and based around fighting monsters. I played with them all at my mum’s toy store, and only as a tax paying grown up did I realise quite how shit the characters/naming conventions were. There’s no point straining to imagine what Moss Man, Battle Lion, Spikor, Stinkor, Ninjor, Fang Man, Goat Man, King Hiss or Buzz Off did or looked like, because it’s right there in plain English. Consequently, Fisto has a big metal fist. If the show were for adults, I also have no doubt what Fisto’s favourite thing would be. It’s in the name.

If you’ve clicked the link above, you can see what the costume will try and resemble. “Try” being the operative word, because I’m a) not adept which makes this whole concept b) trying. Why am I going as a character I hardly know? Because a group of my friends are donning Masters of the Universe getups and that sounded like a happy funtime to me. As I said, I used to adore the show/toys and when am I not seeking the eternal high of nostalgia? The only issue, is my friends are way more sartorially gifted than I am. I never do costumes that involve work. I don’t have the skills, primarily because I’ve never had to hone them, so they’re still beyond my grasp. My friends, however, know how to sew/stitch/craft pieces that work. Here I am wondering how the fuck do I make a loin cloth?

Luckily my friends are generous people who give freely of their expertise. Unluckily for me, that doesn’t involve them just doing the work for me. Which means I’ve got shit to do. I thought things would be far easier than they have been. Look at this guy. I did and thought right. Hulk hand, loin cloth, belt, boots, shirt thing and shoulder guards. I own blue Doc Martens, which I figure are good enough for the boots. I went to Value Village to look for second hand clothes that’d meet my needs. I found a belt and tank top, but that was it. Somehow they don’t stock loin cloths or hulk hands. For shame. The Hulk Hands I tracked down off BUNZ, which is a Toronto based barter site. Cost me three cans of beer, but that was easy. They were brown for some weird reason. A bottle of cheap acrylic paint solved that. I spent an evening doing quick coats and drying them with a hairdryer. It looks fucking awesome.

The rest hasn’t been so simple. I bought some leggings from Dollarama to make the loin cloth and a friend helped me out with leftover fur she had lying around. I cut them down, then realised I wouldn’t be able to hot glue the fur onto a stretchy fabric so easily. My friend suggested stuffing a pillow or two in a plastic bag, then into the leggings to make them slightly smaller than my body. Then pinning the pillow to the waistband. Apparently making them a little too small would be better than too big. Even after gluing, there’d be some stretch to the leggings. If I went too big, they’d be loose and fall off. I still haven’t done it ’cause I’m afraid I’ll cut/glue it wrong and everything will be fucked forever. I’ll get there.

I thought the shirt would be easy. My answer was to pretty much just make stripes of duct tape and stick them to the tank top. Turns out a) duct tape doesn’t stick amazingly well to a shirt and b) it’s impossible to keep the shape and remove the garment. So now I’m painting the shirt. My friend once again helpfully chimed in. I could get fabric medium and mix it with the cheap paint I already had to have soft drying paint that wouldn’t crack. I could just draw the lines… which I still have to do. It’s not super simple to get straight lines, so I’m putting card underneath the tank top to keep it taught, then drawing my lines on. I’m just gonna draw on the metal shoulder brace thing, because I can’t be bothered making anything else. My fear is it’s gonna take an age for one side to dry and I’ll run out of days before Saturday night. In fact, the longer I spend writing, the less time I have. Maybe I should be doing that now instead of merely writing about it.

Ugh, do you think I can grow a beard in four days? It’d really help.

Watch your cartoons like a real adult

I’m bored of boredom eating so I’m gonna try some boredom writing.

Girlfriend and I got to spend actual face to face time with each other last night. It was great. Living with someone’s all well and good. If you’re just coming and going like ships in the night though, you start forgetting about all the fun you have together. Beacuse instead of hanging out you’re just making sleep more disruptive. She’s been working TIFF for the past week or so. She’s working evenings for the next couple of nights and on Thursday JFL42 starts. Last night was kind of it as far as spending time went. It was swell. We got to chat and eat and watch TV. All the good sorta etc, y’know?

We tried watching Final Space on Netflix. Tried. It was trying. A bunch of people had said pretty positive things. They said it was unexpectedly emotional and really hit home. I figured it’d slot right into the sadegory embodied by Rick & Morty or BoJack Horseman. Unfortunately it lacked the pedigree of either. I’ve never had an issue with violence. I grew up watching all sorts of gruesome stuff. In this case, it felt like the show pushed too far without good punch lines or payoff to justify it. Like, meanness for meanness sake. Unnecessary roughness.

None of the emotional beats feel earned. They just started playing plodding emotional strings while we sat there thinking but they haven’t given us any reason to like or care about these characters yet. The lead character is just plain annoying and manic without redeeming qualities. The humour feels dated, like mid 90s Comedy Central. We kept waiting for a solid tag or punch line, but nothing was forthcoming. There was no extra layer or sophistication. Just the kind of blunt stuff they used to make before audiences let cartoons be poignant. It felt like an exec was all “hey, do one of them crazy space shows that make people sad”, but without understanding the underlying writing that breathes life into them. It made me sad, but for unintentional reasons.

We deserve better.

The Dragon Prince, the Netflix show created by Avatar showrunners Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond, was similarly disappointing. I’m willing to give this one a bit more leeway because it’s entirely for kids. The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra were so artfully done. Lighthearted, but with an abundance of heart where it counted. Beautifully animated with smooth fight scenes and gorgeous choreography. Characters were well sculpted without resorting to easy tropes and stereotypes. It’s no wonder the series’ appealed beyond their demographic. The Dragon Prince clearly has a much younger target audience. It’s fantasy trope layered on top of fantasy trope. I’m fine with that, but you’ve gotta at least do something clever with it. From the first episode, nope. No they didn’t.

There’s a weird juxtaposition of themes, with some silly gags revolving around a glowing chameleon and stealing tarts, while another character has to grapple with whether or not she’s gonna murder humans. Feels a little unbalanced. The animation is some kind of CGI cell shaded business, but it’s choppy as shit. I thought there was something wrong with our connection, but we weren’t stalling in our stream. It was seemingly a stylistic choice. One that didn’t jive with us. None of the characters seem to have their own agency outside of broadly drawn outlines. Every line is heavily laden exposition in the place of subtle world building. It’s the total inversion of show, don’t tell. Once again though, it’s a kid’s show. Maybe I’ll leave this one for the kids to enjoy.

Welp, guess it’s time to start BoJack season 5 and stay in my lane.

Please don’t read the cast list, it’s a memorial to wasted talent

You could watch Transformers: The Last Knight, but why would you?

I watched “TTLK” because I was exhausted on a Sunday and friends were doing a movie night. Don’t ask me why this was the chosen film. Maybe it was meant to be a Movie Knight and they’d already watched the unrelated trilogy of A Knight’s Tale, Knight and Day and Knight of Cups. Perhaps it was the fourth Knight in a fortnightly series. Whatever their justification, I would’ve preferred a frontal lobotomy so I could stop fretting over what a waste of money/time the glorified tyre fire was. I could’ve gone to sleep at 7pm instead and it would’ve been a better use of my life.

However long you think the film was, it was longer. I don’t know who decided a CGI orgy of racist robots and Mark Wahlberg running in tank tops needed to be two and a half hours, but they need to be retroactively fired. While we’re here, when did Hollywood decide that the average movie length needed to be over two hours? What was wrong with tightly scripted 90 minute films? If you’re gonna dominate viewers’ attention for that long, at least have the grace to hire a script editor. TTLK clearly didn’t. TTLK was three different movies smooshed together without trying to meld any story elements. Part National Treasure, The Matrix and Braveheart, but without any of the charisma or intriguing plot elements that made those popcorn flicks watchable. This movie has so many ideas. It’s a wonder that none of them are any good. Here are some of the plot points.

  • Firstly, Cybertron (though wasn’t it destroyed in the previous film or something?) is doing some kind of planar overlay with Earth. Mankind was in peril, etc etc. Oh, also Earth is actually Unicron, a transformer.
  • Optimus Prime goes back to Cybertron to see what the deal is. Some transformer god slaps him and he turns evil. Goes by the new moniker of Nemesis Prime (personally I would’ve gone for Pessimus Prime, but there’s a lot I would’ve done differently). Goes back to generally menace.
  • The world has outlawed Transformers. Mark Wahlberg is living in some junkyard taking care of rogue transformers. Oh, and he finds a talisman that’s talked about a bunch, but basically just gives him a sword for one scene. I think Wahlberg just had a dream about wielding a sword in front of robots and was like “hey, write this in.” Since they apparently didn’t hire a script writer, he just wrote it verbatim.
  • There’s some orphan who also fixes transformers or something? She seems like a main character, but stops mattering after the first half.
  • They spend a frustrating amount of time on Bumblebee’s voice box, which doesn’t play by its own mythology.
  • A historical professor who’s the last descendent of Merlin (oh shit, I forgot about the Merlin stuff. I’ll get back there in a minute) is used almost primarily for spinster jokes and to shoehorn in a romantic sub sub sub subplot (they’re even on a submarine at one point) into a movie about fighting robots and King Arthur.
  • Okay, Merlin stuff. Transformers coming to Earth in the first film is retconned and now they helped King Arthur in his battle against the Saxons. Magic is real, but also all the magic wielded is just technology? They kind of characteristically shat the bed on that one.
  • There’s a secret society who’ve aided the transformers throughout history. Also, transformers killed Hitler apparently. Anthony Hopkins is a direct descendant of Shia LaBeouf from the first film. He’s been given a lemon of a role and he juices it for everything he can. He also has a human sized robo butler called Cogman.
  • Megatron is back to destroy the earth. Or Unicron, whatever it is. It’s not clear why he wants to do this, but he starts working with the FBI or something to hunt down Wahlberg and his merry band.
  • There’s a whole kerfuffle about how the Merlin descendant professor is the only one who can wield this staff that’s linked to her DNA, but they sorta abandon it after Megatron steals it.

There are so many scenes in this film. 80% of them didn’t need to happen. The first hour and a half is exposition and backstory to stack up the convoluted plot elements of this CGI clusterfuck, then the last hour just does whatever it wants. There’s no payoff for any of the ideas. They’ll spend 15 minutes on a certain plot point that’ll only lead to one line before it’s dropped. Again and again. They go on unnecessary side chases that could’ve been tightened and cut. There’s no fucking point in the Nemesis Prime plotline beyond selling another toy. He doesn’t even look that different, it’s just one side of his face that turns pink.

I don’t quite understand the demographic of this film. Isn’t it a kids film? I’m no prude, but it felt a bit much for preteen audiences. I can’t help but imagine it only looks good through fratboy Monster Energy Drink coloured glasses. “Shit” is every sixth word. Characters straight up murder people. Lots of flying bodies everywhere. Robots try to outdo each other in being as edgy as possible. Much like the drunk person in an earthquake, you’d have to be borderline alcohol poisoned to make plausible sense of the plot.

I recommend this film for anyone who owns truck nuts. Or has ornamental samurai swords all over their bedroom. Maybe Al Bundy. As someone who intentionally watches poorly composed movies, I can’t in good conscience advise this as an enjoyably bad experience. Nothing about it is enjoyable. It’s not even a good hate watch, you’ll just end up hating yourself for watching it.

If Michael Bay ever dies, I don’t doubt he’ll be spinning in his grave after watching what he’s done here. Expecially because EVERY FUCKING SCENE HAS A SPINNING CAMERA. HAVE SOME FUCKING RESTRAINT.

In short, I’m saying the man should be jailed for his crimes.

Remember keeping your shoes on at the airport?

I was bored and hungry 20 minutes ago, so I ate a stack of plain top crackers that were next to my keyboard.

It’s gonna be one of those entries. Random thoughts for the sake of filling space.

The ability to work remotely must be a godsend for parents. I can only imagine that back in the 90s, if your kid was sick, what an inconvenience that would’ve been. What would parents do aside from take a sick day themselves? If they had to shuffle you off for appointments, etc, what would they do? Was it just that there were, in general, more stay at home parents? Both of my parents worked (well, off and on. At some point my dad worked from home for a while and kind of stay at home dad-ed), so I’ve got no idea what a hassle it was for them. Lots, I imagine.

I had a dream last night that I was at the airport, boarding a plane with my niece. Some dude behind me kept trying to stab me and I was like “oi, dick. I’m carrying my niece. Wait until I put her down at least for fuck’s sake.” I have no idea whether or not he declared the knife at customs. I’m guessing that this dream was set in the 90s. When else could you freely carry a knife through an airport?

The new Dirty Projectors album is really great. Fun dynamics, excellent harmonies and some of the best songwriting they’ve had since Bitte Orca. It’s weird, ’cause I’d kind of given up on the band since the last album. Just when I thought I was out…

In an inexplicable burst of curiousity, I emailed my editor asking if I could cover the Insane Clown Posse gig in late August. Also could I maybe grab them for an interview? Don’t ask me why, because I don’t truly have an answer for you. I don’t like their music. The subculture weirds me out more than a little. Juggalos are some odd people. At the same time, I feel like maybe they’re odd people with big hearts? That despite the violent and graphic imagery in their songs, that they’re probably somewhat on the level? If you look behind their word choice, there’s a lot of body positivity and acceptance. The whole “Miracles” conundrum was inscrutable. Was it actually a feint for finding religion? Did they backtrack and cave to public perception? Who are they as individuals? Plus, my best friend had a juggalo phase that still probably lives somewhere in his heart. I’m sure it’d make his life to get a shout out from the band. Who knows? In any case, I’m willing to peel back the layers and see what lies behind the paint.

While I’m still wielding my Infirmary Gauntlet on my dominant hand (comes off Monday), I’m gonna try to go to the gym tonight. I’m testing the waters to see if I can at least work the left side of my upper body. I’m sure it’ll feel weird and imbalanced, but my body is anyway. Why not try and fix that as best I can? I have the feeling that once the cast comes off, I’m gonna be disappointed that I’ll still need to take it easy. Tough Mudder is two months off, I’m determined to do as much as I can to be ready. It’ll break my heart if I have to pull out, so I’m bulldozing forward as if there’s zero possibility of that ever happening. Maybe my feeble left arm will finally be able to do mundane tasks. A boy can dream, can’t he?

Maybe next time I’ll dream of something other than stabbing attempts at the airport.

Why did he never release an album called Bega is Better?

There’s a lot going on in the world.

Don’t expect a trenchant essay after that general statement. It’s more justification for me blabbing on about assorted unrelated miscellanea. I’ve been fairly housebound over the past week. A little bit o’ stir crazy was always gonna be part of the proceedings. By the way, did anyone else think the “Mambo No. 5” lyrics were “a little bit of Mardi Gras in my life”? As a child I just thought Bega was a party animal. I guess I wasn’t wrong. How exactly did Pitbull corner his market when ol’ Lou dawg has bangers like this up his sleeve? At least old white people still lose their shit over him.

Anyway, there’s a lot more going on too. Did you hear, by chance, of how the U.S. Government is prosecuting asylum seekers as criminals and separating them from their children? This article is a massive, heavy eye opener. Some are merely infants. These kids are all being held in a detention centre with no fucking idea what’s going on. It’s an inhumane action by a heartless government. Trump’s response? ‘This is really the Democrats’ fault since they wouldn’t let me have my wall.’ Right, so if you aren’t able to forcibly impose your xenophobia with a large structure, you’re gonna do it by taking your impotent aggression out on hundreds of families? Super presidential. I wonder how many ardent Right Wingers are re-enacting That Mitchell and Webb skit right now… Or more likely, doing phenomenal contortionist acts in order to justify their continuing support for this administration. How badly must you hate other cultures in order to think that this is the right thing to do? Even if you wanted to stem the influx of migrants, surely you’d rather them be turned around at the border rather than incarcerated, separated and have state funds going towards these camps? How can this be seen as remotely okay by anyone?

In other news, New Zealand continues to push the boundaries of what quality journalism is capable of. Take, for instance, this investigative report into the suspicious erection of two Countdown supermarkets across the road from one another. How? Why? What is it that Big Countdown doesn’t want us to know? They’re asking all the hard questions. Journalism for the people, by the people.

I’m seeing The Incredibles 2 tonight and I’m quite excited. How excited? Incredibly, naturally. It’s been 14 years since the initial film and since then, super heroes are one of the most pop culturally pervasive media juggernauts in existence. The first one preceded all this MCU nonsense and took an interesting tack. The family dynamics and golden day yearnings made it a fantastic blockbuster that lovingly squeezed its subject to bits. All the tropes skewered, but never nastily. A decade and a half later, there’s so much more to work with. Super hero material is (yes) incredibly fertile ground. Times have changed in terms of diversity and representation and it’d be a (sigh) marvel if they could harness that momentum within the film. Honestly, I haven’t been reading up on it ’cause I want to go in blind, but early reviews have been glowing.

I wonder what Lou Bega thinks about the U.S. immigration policies…