Monday, October 5, 2015

Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something that's beyond their pay grade and the doctor swoops in to save them

In the third episode of Doctor Who airing just this weekend on BBC America entitled "Under the Lake," the Doctor comes face-to-face with ghosts. Now, I'm not an expert on Doctor Who, but from what I've gathered in the episodes that I have watched the Doctor does not believe in ghosts. Every time they've appeared before in the past, there has always been some explanation. "Aliens" is one of my "go to" answers, but essentially..."things that behave like ghosts" have always been explained away as being something else.

In "Under the Lake" it looks like we're getting genuine disembodied spirits, albeit, those that are being used by an alien life force to form some kind of a "soul transmitter." The signal gets stronger as people die because their souls are harvested for the alien broadcast. The sinister implications of such technology lead to at least one question: if a transmitter is designed to broadcast coordinates into outer space through using human souls, how can this (at all) be good for humanity? Naturally, the doctor is the one that comes up with the solution, but I have to wait until next week to see how the stunning cliffhanger resolves itself.

Yet, this brings me to a small point I want to make: I think Doctor Who is at its best when an isolated group of people encounter something weird and even horrifying and something that they cannot explain. Into this scenario the Doctor inexplicably appears and helps them suss out what's really going on and then provides solutions.

The history of Doctor Who is replete with examples of this kind of plotting: the weeping angels are one such example. There was also the artificial flesh episode that struck me as particularly memorable. Maybe its something similar to how George R.R. Martin sees the concept of evil: that being there really isn't "evil" per se. Rather we perceive "evil" because it goes against our self interest. In these Doctor Who episodes in which people encounter something horrifying, there is always some twist...some reason for the creatures to be doing what they're doing. It could be as simple as survival, but the reveal always has something to do with understanding that which previously was a mystery. And once the understanding happens, the monster ceases to be so scary.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The iPhone 6S is damn near waterproof. Watch this video and see for yourself.

A few years ago I dropped my iPhone 4 in a hot tub. It was instantly ruined. Because I was on contract, the cost to replace it was around $600.00. But I didn't really have much of a choice as I was not even home at the time and doing some important things that needed to get done with my parents and I couldn't be without a phone. So yeah, it sucked. Ever since then I've paid for the Apple Care Protection Plan whenever I upgraded a phone (it costs an additional $100) because Apple will replace your phone if anything happens to it, and that includes dropping it in a hot tub.

I knew that Apple was working on trying to get all of their internal components waterproof, but I was really surprised at how it could stay submerged in a bowl of water for an hour and wasn't even harmed. This goes beyond even a waterproof case (which tend to look extremely ugly) and defeat the purpose of spending money on some tech bling. With all of their other developments (better camera, instant gif maker, etc.) it makes me really wish I'd waited to upgrade my iPhone 4S to the iPhone 6s. It also makes me think that the iPhone 7 will most likely be completely waterproof.

The biggest surprise: I haven't heard of any of the waterproofing capabilities mentioned by Apple in their advertising. I think that would be a great selling point. No wonder they shattered records when it went on sale the other day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Are two spaces after a period a deal breaker in a relationship? Bloom County's Sunday comic says yes.

In this Sunday's Bloom County by master comic artist Berkeley Breathed (if you don't follow Bloom County on Facebook then you should), Opus gives us the importance of his campaign platform: having two spaces after a period. I guess "space really is the final frontier."

All of us writers get it, don't we? Don't all of us want two spaces again? This is a campaign worth the presidency people! I hope you giggled as much as I did.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Heroes Reborn seems like a solid sequel to the original series and Katana Girl is my favorite evo thus far

I watched Heroes Reborn last night, and I enjoyed it. But I also felt like there was a lot that I had missed. So doing a little research I discovered that NBC had a web series that leads up to the events in which the site at Odessa goes boom. Who knew?

If you followed the original series, Heroes, at all then you know that Claire Bennett is the cheerleader. It turns out that she broadcasted her powers to the world five years ago and inspired thousands of other evos (this world's "X-Men") to go public with their abilities. And just like in the X-Men storylines, they are discriminated against and blamed for basically everything that's bad in the world (like the terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas). As a side note, why doesn't anyone have a superpower that can clean up the smog above L.A.?

In the ensemble of characters we have Luke and Joanne Collins who are an interracial couple that hates all evolved humans and basically just wants to kill them all (subtle these two are not). There's Tommy who's a kid that can make objects disappear. There's Miko who stars as Katana Girl, and Carlos who's a masked vigilante picking up where his brother left off. The main character appears to be Noah Bennet from the original Heroes series.

Out of all the new "heroes" I rather liked Miko's origin story as I'd never come across it before. A gamer geek finished a very difficult video game called Evernow and got to an unexplored level wherein he "unlocked" the character of Katana Girl. The video game gave him a real address to go and check out. When he arrived at this hotel somewhere in Japan, he found a girl that was the spitting image of "Katana Girl" waiting for him in a room that matched the exact address. She seemed confused and at first booted him out of the room. Later though, she finds a katana in exactly the place that the gamer guy said she would find one and it transports her into a video game where she fights samurai standing in the way of rescuing her father (who is being held captive in a Tokyo skyscraper).

All in all, it was pretty cool, and I've got lots of questions about Katana Girl. For one, did she actually exist before the gamer guy unlocked her? That would be interesting if she didn't. Also, I'm not really sure what Miko's "superpower" happens to be. If it is that she can transport from the real world into a video game by drawing a sword then that seems really confusing. However, it's apparent that she can move from one place to another in the video game and her real life position seems to shift with that. So maybe her superpower is that she can hop into and out of "the matrix" (for lack of a better word).

One thing I can appreciate about a story with mutants is diversity done well (Asians, Hispanics, essentially everyone that Donald Trump hates). However, the whole mutants against regular people storyline has practically been done to death. I like how the X-Men movies are finally (after more than ten years of it) moving away from this kind of tale to fighting ultra-powerful villains like Apocalypse, and I kinda/sorta wish that other X-Men knockoffs (like Heroes) would take a cue from Marvel regarding this. The studio execs need some jerk-face editor cracking them over the knuckles and screaming, "That's cliche!" But it probably boils down to budget, right? You've got to have a storyline that only rarely calls for C.G.I. because doing all of the effects that make us "oooh and ahhh" are expensive.

Anyway, watching Heroes Reborn on Thursdays is easily going to fit in my lineup as I'm not a Grey's Anatomy/ How to Get Away With Murder watcher. Did any of you take the time to watch Heroes Reborn? If so, what did you think? It remains to be seen if this series can stack up to the awesomeness hinted at by CBS's Supergirl (which I'm most excited about). If you haven't checked out the trailer for Supergirl, you can do so by clicking "play" below. Have a great weekend, folks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book and it's also a masterpiece

Ready Player One is Ernest Cline's first book. It's also a masterpiece. I can't tell you how many times I felt overwhelmed by nostalgia for small towns and the eighties...a time in my life that I now recognize as being simpler and easier. I guess there's something to the saying that none of us can never go home again. I wish that weren't true.

Ready Player One is a dystopian young adult novel, and it shares with other young adult novels the cliches of having dead parents. The soul of the plot, however, speaks to anyone that has ever played massive multi online roleplaying games (myself included). In the dystopia of Ready Player One, global climate change and the plundering of Earth's resources has made it so that there is tremendous income inequality everywhere, and the poor must live in trailer parks called "Stacks" that are as high as skyscrapers yet they are not fanciful buildings. Rather, they are trailers piled one on top of another via a metal grid that makes this possible. In Wade's trailer (he's the protagonist) there's at least a dozen people including a tattooed aunt with a druggie boyfriend that beats him up when he's drunk.

The rest of the world really isn't any better. The poor far outnumber the wealthy, and corporations enslave debtors to work for them in call centers as technical support specialists for Oasis (the huge online game that is at the center of Ernest Cline's story). The thing I loved about Ready Player One though was the fact that it took me back to my childhood. Halliday (the deceased creator of the Oasis) set it up so that his hundreds of billions of dollars would be inherited by whomever managed to find his hidden Easter egg. In order to do this, you had to find three keys. It sounds easy, but because of the expansiveness of the Oasis, no one had found it in five years. Not until Wade finally put things together and realized that an old Gary Gygax module from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons called "The Tomb of Horrors" was where he would find the first key. And following clues that were in front of him the entire time, he knew exactly where to look for the "Tomb of Horrors," and I gotta say, it's exactly how it appears in the module.

From there it's a trip through all the greatest things that made the 80's "the eighties" including games of Joust and Tempest and Pac-Man, being put into the movie War Games as Mathew Broderick's character, and even taking on the role of Arthur in Monty Python's Holy Grail. And in all of this fun, there is tremendous danger too because the corporation called IOI (which very much wants to take control of The Oasis so they can charge money for it) hunts down and murders all of Wade's family and some of Wade's friends. The CEO of IOI gives Wade a warning in that it's ridiculous to think that the stakes could be anything other than astronomically high because there are billions and billions of dollars to be lost. In other words, IOI will stop at nothing to find the Easter egg.

If you haven't read this book, I strongly urge you to do so. It's great storytelling, and I recently learned it's being turned into a film by Steven Spielberg. I can't wait to see it. And of the books I have read this year so far, this one is among the finest.

Monday, September 21, 2015

In the world of the Walking Dead committing an evil act out of fear is exactly the same as committing an evil act because of intent

Rubén Blades who plays Daniel Salazar on AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, said something really interesting in last night's episode, entitled, "Not Fade Away." After Madison Clark's character returned from her afternoon adventure in which (to her horror) she found evidence that the military "protecting them" was killing innocent Americans, he told her of this story from when he was a boy. The military had come to his village in El Salvador, taken people away, and when he asked his father where they had taken them he was reassured that they would all come home again. He didn't think anything of it until he found them all in the river. His father told him, "Men don't do bad things because they are evil. They do evil out of fear." And then Mr. Salazar said, "My father was wrong. There's no difference between the two."

It's this that I wanted to talk about. At first I thought that Daniel meant there's no difference between evil and fear. However, that didn't make sense. Then another interpretation occurred to me: Daniel was saying that people who commit evil acts out of fear are exactly the same as those who commit evil acts just because, well...they're evil.

Within the framework of The Walking Dead world, I find this thought particularly troubling because what does it say about Rick Grimes? He's our protagonist from the series that launched Fear the Walking Dead, and we ended last season with him doing particularly evil actions out of fear. So really, Rick (who started the series as a hero and with a heart of gold) has made a transformation to being an essentially being the villain. At least that's the conclusion I'm left with when I consider the wisdom of Daniel Salazar's words.

What do you guys think? Is committing an evil act out of fear any different than committing an evil act because you intended to do so?