Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: Specter

NOTE: I WILL HAVE MY OWN RADIO SHOW, THE CATHOLIC GEEK, STARTING JUNE 7TH.

In Bleeder, by John Desjarlais, we were introduced to philosophy professor Reed Stubblefield, who thought in Aristotle quotes. During a bit of R and R in the countryside, in a quiet, sleepy little village right out of a Miss Marple novel, he meets a priest, the local stigmatic. When the priest is murdered, Reed becomes the primary suspect.

What follows is an intricate, brilliant work that Agatha Christie would have been happy with.  Desjarlais' prose is tight, erudite and powerful. His vocabulary is well-used. He knows how to engage the reader, and is very good with turning a phrase.

I enjoyed this book, and I was surprised by the villain-reveal at the end. Five stars all the way.

In Viper, new names appear in the local church's book of the dead.  Except, none of these people are dead yet. When the names on the list begin to correlate to the fresh homicides in the neighborhood, it's clear that this is a hitlist.  At the bottom of that list is the former undercover DEA agent Selena De La Cruz. Selena's passions are guns, shoes, fast cars, and kickboxing, so if someone wants to kill her, it's going to be a fight they're going to regret. It was more of a thriller than Bleeder, though it's set in the same universe -- Selena is even dating Reed. This was a fun, solid ride from start to finish.

My only problem with the book was the unrealistic character of a DEA agent who was not only racist, but whose solution to everything was a SWAT team breaking down the front door (Seriously, how did the guy not get fired? Did he have a relative in the hierarchy? Was he a nephew to the AG?).  Even that only knocks it down to a 4.5 star rating.

Finally, we come to Desjarlais' third book, Specter.

In our opening prologue, a Cardinal is murdered in an orchestrated hit that looks like the end of a brilliantly executed caper movie ... only with an assassination.  The incident is loosely based off of the death of Cardinal Ocampo in 1993, which was presumed to be the worst case of timing and luck on the planet Earth.

But what if it wasn't?

16 years later, former undercover DEA agent Selena De La Cruz (of Viper) is about to get married to Reed Stubblefield (of Bleeder), and then the Vatican comes by and says "Hi, we think your family was in on the hit, and you were in town at the time."

Desjarlais
And we're off to the races.

A fun part of this is the dynamic between Reed and Selena.  Bleeder was very much Reed's book, where Selena first appeared. Viper was all Selena, with a few cameos by Reed.  Specter is their book. Even the alternating points of views (third person personal) are very distinct. Their chemistry is very much a part of the narrative as it is part of their relationship.  She's very a very tough, outgoing modern woman who has little problem with a shootout, and he's a quiet, bookish, old-fashioned gentleman who thinks in Aristotle quotes. And I really like these two together, even though we hadn't seen much of their developing relationship.  Looking at the two of them deal with the trials of dealing with the wedding is more than enough evidence for why these two belong together.

There's even one entire conversion that sums it up quite nicely.

Him "We're incompatible. I'm North Side, you're South Side. I'm Cubs, you're white Sox .... I'm publicly-employed pro-union Democrat for gun control and you're small-business owner-Republican with a gun....I drive a Volvo, you drive a Charger."
Her: "My godmother is very traditional and is having a hard time thinking of me as Selena Perez de La Cruz Stubblefield."
"You don't have to adopt my last name..."
See what I mean? They work so well together, I'm surprised more of this wasn't a romance novel.  I would have read it twice for banter like that.

Okay, the fact that John Desjarlais has a female badass teamed up with the nerd just like I did in The Pius Trilogy really doesn't have anything to do with my enjoyment of the book. Honest. It just works really well.  It's like Baldacci's King and Maxwell series -- they just have this great dynamic together. And if you don't like Baldacci, don't worry, that's the only overlap I can think of.

As for the rest ... if you're thinking that this is going to be exactly like Bleeder or Viper, it is and it isn't. The overall plot feels like an excuse to watch Reed and Selena on screen, which, frankly, I'm happy with. If you read Desjarlais' books for the intricate puzzle solving (like Bleeder), you're going to be disappointed. If you're in this only for a knock-down shootout (like Viper), you're going to enjoy the second half of the book a lot.

There is also the best look at supernatural phenomenon I've seen in years.  Even little conversations like "ever have a seance or use a ouja board? Those things attract all sorts of nasty things." Awesome.

However, if you want to read this book to follow Reed and Selena, dive right in.  As far as I'm concerned, these two are right up there with Nick and Nora Charles. And, from what I've heard, Chesterton Press wants more books in this universe from John Desjarlais, despite that it's "just" a trilogy.

Frankly, I own all six Nick and Nora Charles movies, so I'm perfectly happy with the idea that we'll see more of these two.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Guest Blog: Equality or Keeping Score? by Jason Garrick

The name MIGHT be an pseudonym.
And this might JUST be an Avatar.
So, Jason is a friend of mine from way, way back. He is quite literally my second-longest friend ever. There's only one other human being on the planet (who isn't related to me) who has put up with me for longer.  He's also one of the few people on the planet who I will admit is as smart as I am, if not smarter.

So, Jason tripped over an article one day, and went "Hulk Smash." Then went looking for a blog to host it, since he isn't in a position to host a blog of this nature.

And here we are.

The original article is linked to in the fisk, but it's from a site called "Everyday Feminism," and it does not look like the feminism that I subscribe to.  Since I grew up with both parents in the medical profession, and ended up a mascot of a medical association that's 90% female, you can be certain I'm from the traditional, equal-pay-equal-work feminism.  Not the one previously discussed on the blog by me.  And since this is the first guest blog ever written by a guy (strange that I just noticed you know where I stand.  Answer: not with the Social Justice "Warriors" [or SJWs].

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Within Temptation-See who I am

Forgive me for a video that has the Final Fantasy franchise.

But the graphics are shiny, and the music is fun.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Putting down the Puppies. (Sad Puppies Bite Back VII)

Welcome to Sad Puppies Bite Back VII (The Anti-Puppies)

Previously, on Sad Puppies Bite Back...

Sad Puppies I
Sad Puppies II
Sad Puppies III
Sad Puppies IV

It's now a series. Click the Tab above for new content.



This one is inspired by a column over at the Mad Genius Club, and it pointed out a few things. It noted how much personal destruction has been involved from the Forces of Good and Pure and Innocent anti-Puppies. 




On reflection, I'm not amused. 

The Puppies have been against leading a lynch party against the Anti-Puppies, while the latter are shooting for plausible deniability.

If they would like to play, let's play.

The Puppies are hungry.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Anti-Puppies (Sad Puppies Bite Back VI)

Been a while since I used him
So ... more puppies.

See, I told you that they'd be back.  I was half afraid I'd never do another one as soon as I said "To be continued."

If you're new here....

Sad Puppies I
Sad Puppies II
Sad Puppies III
Sad Puppies IV

What brought this one about?  Someone mentioned the other day that, well, NK Jemisin wanted to go to war against Larry Correia, because ... why not?  

My reaction was, "Wait, she wants to pick a fight with the lord of the fisk? Really?  Oh, this is just too good to pass up." 




And, well, everyone with me now, "It Just Spiraled."

Of course, I couldn't have done this one alone. I got input from The Novel Ninja (lots and LOTS of input ... and memes), the original inspiration came from His Tankness, and Margot also stayed up pasted her bed time to play with this.

For the record, a bit of legal CYA. For those of you who are named in this sketch: THIS IS A PARODY.  If you come to my blog, then whine, moan and complain that "Oh, I didn't do this or that" or some other damn thing, I'm not reporting the news, I'M MAKING FUN OF YOU.  If you comment that you're offended, I will merely make fun of you even MORE, because you not only lack a sense of humor, you can't even tell when something's supposed to be a joke. 

Thank you.  Now that that's over and done with, everyone with me now: UNLEASH THE PUPPIES

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Within Temptation - Titanium (David Guetta cover)

I have finally given in.  I am using pop music.  However, I'm using Within Temptation to do it.  Why? Because I can actually understand the words here.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Sad Puppies Bite Back, V: a Puppy Wins the Hugo

UPDATE:  It's now a series. Click the Tab above for new content.

If you're tired of Sad Puppies, I have a new article up at The Catholic Geeks, where I discuss the phenomenon of The GrimDark.

Otherwise....

Sad Puppies I
Sad Puppies II
Sad Puppies III
Sad Puppies IV


When it was suggested that I be selected for a Hugo for Sad Puppies Bite Back I-IV, I was honored.

Which made me realize that it's my turn to be SWATted.

Declan "the Pius One"Finn, Dark Lord of the Fisk.  New York City Undercover Division of Sad Puppies, 2016



[The SWAT team comes up to the Kelly green door. The leader counts down on fingers. 3. 2. 1--]

[The door swings open of its own accord. The SWAT guys look at each other, then swarm inside. They are surrounded by stacks of books that head up to the ceiling, looking like hoarders, only with hardcover novels of Larry Correia, Tom Clancy, and Neil Stephenson. One bumps a pile with a hip, consequently burying the entire SWAT team alive in hardcovers.]

[Enter Declan Finn, Undercover Sad Puppy Operative. Finn pokes his head out on the enclosed porch] Oh, come on! You know how long it took me to organize my "to read" pile?  I'll never keep track now.

[DF growls and brings out his keychain of death -- which has two knives a tactical baton, assorted weapons, and three keys -- and starts picking his nails with the keyblade]   I hope these guys are still alive. I don't feel like mummifying corpses this weekend. I have cats to water board and Tor bloggers to fisk.

[Finn blinks, and picks up a Brad Torgersen novel from the top of the book pile] Oh, hey, I've been looking for that one.

DAY 2

[New SWAT team pulls up to the house. They approach cautiously, ever since the last team was reported missing]

[SWAT Sergeant] Do you hear Irish music?

[SWAT #1] Yes...why are you dancing?

[SWAT 2] It's...compelling...me to dance....Irish!

[SWAT Sergeant] By all that is holy, not Riverdance!

[DF emerges from a pile of books] You idiots again? Gah

[DF adjusts speakers.  SWAT team Irish step dances down the street, never to be seen again.  DF sighs, moves to mailbox, muttering] I wonder if John C. Wright will loan me some of his Vatican Ninjas. It's not like he gets SWATted like this. He's a living brain in a jar, what are they going to slap the handcuffs on?

[DF opens mailbox.  Opens top letter] I'm nominated for a what?

[Finn stalks upstairs, past the mountains of books, and starts writing an acceptance speech for a Hugo Award.]

Ahem.

I would like to thank the people of WorldCon for giving me a Hugo. I like to think that my selection has confirmed the complete uselessness of this award, especially since I wouldn't trust most WorldCon members to sit the right way on a pay toilet.

It's nice to see that the Hugos' long stretches of having no taste whatsoever have finally been ended. Granted, they had to be ended by people who actually have a sense of humor, unlike the mummified walking dead who have been in charge thus far. 

After I leave this lovely banquet, I will take this Hugo, drive to the nearest gas station, and hopefully trade it in for something that's actually worthwhile. 

Right now, I would like to propose a toast: to the caterers who prepared tonight's food, and to the pigeons who crapped over David Gerrold's car.

I would thank J. Michael Straczynski for inspiring me into a life of writing, but he's not here tonight. He's over in Hollywood, making his work into films and TV shows, while I have yet to be invited to write a porn adaptation of my own work. And neither have you, Mr. Scalzi.

I would also like to thank John Scalzi and David Gerrold for the death threats that your minions have bombarded me with.  I'm sure I would have been physically assaulted by now, if said minions were brave enough to leave their parents' basements. As it is, I've already had two SWATting attempts made on me. So, thanks for that.

I would like to thank Arthur Chu for all of the popcorn moments, as he continues to tweet from federal prison for conspiracy to blow up the GamerGate meeting in DC in 2015.  I have sent photos of his ladyboy fascination to his fellow inmates. I hope he enjoys the results.


I would like to thank the Sad Puppies, who should be happy today. Larry Correia started it to make a point, Brad Torgersen carried the torch, and Vox Day drove all of you even more insane than you were when we started, because David Gerrold was already going senile, but this proved it.

Good night, everybody. And remember: UNLEASH THE PUPPIES!


EDIT

I hate to break it to you, but the rest of this post has been moved to a different location. Where, you might ask?

Here: To the Collected SAD PUPPIES BITE BACK, in Paperback and Kindle.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Where do you get your ideas, remix

Oh look, I'm guest blogging at someone's place today. 

Yes, it's in my FAQs, but it still works.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow



For the record, the title is STUPID.

But this trailer looks freaking AWESOME.

I had been wondering what they were going to do with Sarah Lance, deceased ... Lazarus pit is not the call I would have made, but okay.  In the experience of the TV show, the people who go into the pits are either newly dead, or just mostly dead.  A year-long dead?  Not so much.  It'll be interesting to see this particular unstable element to this team.

The team .... I knew, from the moment they brought in Superman to play Ray Palmer, he was going to be interesting.  When they used the line "It's a bird .... it's a plane ... it's my boyfriend," I knew they were having fun.  And, frankly, I think Brand Routh is a better Clark Kent now than he was in Superman Returns.

Bringing in Captain Cold and Heatwave ... yeah, I think this was "Hey, Mr. Miller, we love your Capt. Cold. Would you like a tv show?" He's sardonic and as cynical as hell, and it's a wonderful contrast.

Also, I like Firestorm.  And Garber as Dr. Martin Stein?  Wonderfully sardonic.

Hawkgirl ... no idea.

Though bringing in Arthur Darville (Doctor Who's Rory) as, essentially, a time lord who dresses like John Constantine?  I'm good.

Also: Atom, Canary, Firestorm, Capt. Cold, Heatwave, Hawkgirl, and Rip Hunter.  They at least have the number right.   They are the Magnificent Seven. 

Best comics of the web, 2015

It's been a long, long while since I've done one of these.  Since my last one in 2012, some of the original list-- while still good -- are finished. Some have run their course, some have had their authors move on to other things.

Some of my suggestions.

Schlock Mercenary: This is a new entry on the list, first suggested to me by novel ninja Matthew Bowman (Yes, he of the Lego house and Mad Max wheelchair).  This comic about a band of roving space mercenaries looking for a semi-honest paycheck, and saving the world a lot more often then they'd expect.  Look for the Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, the killer Teddy Bear who thinks he's the HAL-9000, and meet the resident mad scientist.  And read their Maxims, you'll thank me later.

Evil-Inc: Imagine if super-villains ran their own corporation in a world that deals with outsourcing for both DC and Marvel. They make fun of comic book death, working with the enemy, sleeping with the enemy, and spandex.  Lots and lots of spandex.

MegaTokyo: A Manga-art style mixed with odd relationship and action scenarios.  It's a little strange ... okay, it's a LOT strange ... but otherwise worth it.  When two Americans are trapped in Japan by their own stupidity, they find love, ninjas, and Kaiju. No, I'm not joking.

Day By Day: a political cartoon for those who are generally fed up with politics as usual.  Good for those of either side of the aisle, really, but basically right-leaning.  And R-rated, for, of all things, nudity. Yeah. I can't make that one up.

Questionable Content: A little left-leaning at times, but filled with humor about practically every subgenre of the culture, and music, complete with strange anthropomorphic robots.  Right now, it's at a phase of "Hey! Jokes about relationship drama!" It's still funny, despite that.

C+A+D on Spartans
Girl Genius: A straight-up epic fantasy story.  If you've ever heard of steampunk, you have the idea .... oh, and there's plenty of basic politics (of the fantasy world, not of this one), pirates, steam-driven killer robots, and death rays galore.

Ctrl+Atl+Del: This is another unexpected one.  While it is centered around video games and the gamers who play them, there are some unexpected plotlines that are quite stellar .... just keep your eye on the penguin.

Order of the Stick: A very strange comic, drawn in ... stick figure format?  Believe it or not, the artwork aside, it's very standard "bring everyone together to stop the end of the world" fantasy storyline, with a lot of side stories, unexpected character development, and .... oh, yeah, it's within a world completely ruled by the rules for role playing games.

PhD Comics: for anyone who's ever been to graduate school. Just trust me on this one.

BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO....

Giving them the kiss off.
The-Gutters ... it stopped being funny. Then it stopped. It became SO not-funny, I won't even post a link to their decaying corpse of a web page.

Crimson Dark .... the artist got a job with -- I think -- George Lucas. He may return to it at some point. I really hope so. Because I think he still has work to do.

Dominic Deegan ... it ended in a full-out, Lord of the Rings-level blaze of glory.  The writer / artist behind it (known as Mookie) has moved on to another project.  Sadly, I was never able to make it past the first page of the new comic.




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A few thoughts on Supergirl



This latest DC television show is brought to you by Greg Berlanti, who's busy taking over the CW network with Flash and Arrow, and whoever else he can get his hands on.  For some reason, CW didn't want his Supergirl project. So, he went to CBS.

My first thought, as I looked at Kara and her civilian dress?  "Did they just give Felicity Smoake Superpowers?"  Because the awkwardness and personality kinda match up.

My second thought was "Why is Calista Flockhart on this show? In fact, why is she employed? And can she be the villain?"

I like the feel of this, especially in the wake of the GrimDark Batman Vs. Superman trailer, which if it gets any blacker will require night vision goggles to see anything. I'm seriously, seriously tired of the GrimDark. This? This is bright and colorful and things blow up.

Though there are some odd moments I have with what's going on here, and it's probably the editing of the trailer: You have an army guy who deals with aliens dismissing the woman who can redirect a plane and stop bullets as someone who gets coffee?  Huh? What?  I think someone had time to fill and didn't know what to stuff in.

Another head tilt moment: Jimmy Olsen in the comics is a scrawny, nerdy, redheaded stepchild. They've turned him into a tall, knowledgeable, suave fellow .... who's black. The ethnic swap is the least of these changes, but the character changes are such that I'm thinking "Why even name the guy Jimmy Olsen?" Now, if they're going with the awesome, awesome graphic novel Superman Earth One, which had Jimmy Olsen as a former embedded war photographer who will do anything to get a picture .... that would be fun.  But this guy comes off as less Jimmy Olsen and more elder-mentor type.  At which point, is Perry White so damn copyrighted? Really?

Again, it might be how the trailer was put together that we're missing a lot of context. It might turn out to be stupid, but you know what, this at least looks like fun. And when DC comics seems to think that Grim and Gritty is the way to go, I'll take a heroine who smiles.

But my real problem?  I miss John Williams.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Guest post: Joss Whedon, Sex, and Monsters: A Fan's response.

Marina Fontaine is a friend of mine. We ran into each other on Facebook, and I think she might be one of my bigger fans.  When the stupid hit the fan with Joss Whedon last week, Tor joined in on the stupid, because, well, Tor. 

As Tor is one of my favorite punching bags, I considered bouncing up and down on them like a trampoline.  

When Marina said "I'm so tempted to fisk this article," I said "Want me to host it on my blog?"  

And so, a guest post, fisking yet another stupid Tor Article.


****


First, a word from the dark side...


Avengers: Age of Ultron is about a lot of things. The film is a conversation about monsters, gods, what is right, what is wrong. Ultron is a monster, by our standards, but he thinks of himself as a god. Is Tony a monster for creating him? Will Steve ever be able to leave the war behind? Will Hawkeye ever finish the dining room?

So far so good. We want our stories, especially those told in the form of blockbuster movies, to be about a lot of things. We want big ideas, something to think over and discuss long after the end credits roll and the bucket of popcorn is emptied. And if some of those big ideas are intercut with personal quirks of the characters, so much the better. Best characters, those that stay with us, are portrayed as complete human beings, whether or not they happen to have specialized skills or super powers.

The biggest question that my friends and I have been discussing, however, is what we’ve all already started calling “The Black Widow Monster Scene.” There are several ways to interpret the exchange between Natasha and Bruce, all of which seem valid, in my opinion. But I specifically want to examine how this scene functions in the context of Joss Whedon’s overall work, and the popular perception of Whedon as a feminist writer. Simply put: let’s look at how often Whedon has relied on this trope of a woman’s power or uniqueness or, yes, monstrosity, being inseparable from her gender and sexuality—why, in Whedon’s stories of women’s power, does their strength and talent always need to be bound to their bodies and biology?

Well, now. Thank you ever so much for allowing us to interpret a scene in several ways, but you in your infinite wisdom will now tell us what we SHOULD think anyway. Personally, I think anyone claiming to divine an artist’s intent, especially in context of work from decades ago, is stretching literary analysis well beyond its limits, but hey, it’s a free country (for now). Examine away.

To begin at the beginning, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Buffy’s role as the Slayer is immediately sexualized, as Merrick explains that her terrible menstrual cramps are an early warning system that vampires are nearby. (And this is why Slayers have to be female.) Whedon’s film script was heavily rewritten, so it’s entirely possible that this was not one of his original plans for the character, but since it flows so well with the rest of the Buffyverse wrestling with sex and death, I’ve always felt it was probably one of his ideas. This concept was mostly dropped in the show, but the connection was reflected and echoed in other moments: it’s Buffy’s loss of virginity that triggers the return of Angelus; Willow explicitly compares her PMS to Oz’s monthly lycanthropy in “Phases”; and Faith tends to celebrate a successful slaying session with random, somewhat violent hookups—which later causes some emotional fallout with Xander.

I have to admit that the original Buffy movie is not fresh in my mind. Menstrual cramps reference never made it into the show, and one would think that if Whedon really loved the idea, he would have worked it in somehow. After all, he had seven seasons to play with ideas, new and old. Be that as it may, my first reaction as a fantasy fan is, “Hey, this is pretty clever. Take something that is biologically already there and is normally somewhat of a handicap and use it as an additional power to give the Slayer.” Also, I don’t know about you, but when I think about menstrual cramps, sexualization is pretty much the last thing on my mind. But, whatever floats your boat.

Moving on to the other points, and now I will get a little nit-picky, which I think is fair, considering the source.

The return of Angelus is triggered by the fact that Angel has sex with Buffy and achieves total bliss. Said bliss is not caused by Buffy losing her virginity, but by Angel engaging in passionate, satisfying sex with the woman he loves. Later on, Faith tries to seduce the good-again Angel to bring back Angelus. (On the spinoff Angel show, he is eventually able to have sex that is less passionate and not quite as satisfying with a woman he just kind of likes, with no adverse effects.) Personally, I think Whedon is simply using a tried and true horror trope of “sex=trouble” rather than anything much deeper. But in any case the big payoff involves Angel losing his soul, and if one wanted to make social commentary there, it might as easily have been “for men, bliss equals sex; how very primitive of them.” If anyone is defined and controlled by sex or lack thereof, it’s Angel, not Buffy.

Willow’s comment to Oz is part an awkward joke and part her trying to show empathy (hey, I know how you feel!). Willow is still in her suppressed, shy stage at that point, and this is the best she can do. In other words, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Faith, at least the version of Faith we first meet, is a gloriously amoral creature, and of course it shows in her sexual conduct. She takes anything she likes, be it shiny things or sexual pleasure, with no inhibitions, proudly and gleefully. It’s mostly a shorthand indication that we’re dealing with someone lacking inhibitions, with sex being only a consistent part of the overall character. We are back to my “complete” characters comment at the beginning. Whedon does that. It’s a good thing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Music Blog: Within Temptation - The Last Dance

Time to dance.

I know that, for me, that's usually code for fighting, but in this case, just a reference to the song title.

Yes, I know this is two music blogs back to back, and I've already posted SIX blogs this week between Monday and Thursday.  This is blog #7.  This makes me AN UNSTOPPABLE BLOGGING MACHINE... But I am not Larry Correia.

But, now, I'm going to take a bit of a break, and see Avengers: Age of Ultron for the second time. Ciao, all.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Within Temptation - Frozen

Do you hear that?  Listen..... No more puppies.  Huh. See, I told you, Murphy's law was right. I say that I give up, that there will be no definitive end of the Puppies until it's over ... and right then, it's done. No one has provided new ideas, suggestions, or prompts. We can go back to business as usual, like comic books and Joss Whedon, and ....

Oh wait, those were articles from the last two days....

... I don't have anything else to write today....

So, music blog!

Yes, the Within Temptation kick continues. I found a new one.  This one has a story in the video..






Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Marvel After Age of Ultron

UPDATE 2: Every time I look around, there are more characters.

UPDATED: The Cast of Civil War has been confirmed and tweaked accordingly.

So, what's next?

Yes, we've got the upcoming movie list, but what can we expect to see, given what's come out thus far?  Obviously, there will be SPOILERS from Age of Ultron, so if you're like one of three people who haven't seen it yet, this blog post is NOT FOR YOU.

THE RETURN OF DOCTOR ZOLA

Yeah, remember him from The Winter Soldier?  When last seen, the former Swiss Hydra scientist was stuck in a 1970s supercomputer.

In the comic books, Arnim Zola was in his own mechanical body, usually appearing in a giant television screen. If only there was a way to put electronic brain patterns into a robot body....

Oh, wait.


I think that some of the Marvel movie people might be able to fit that in.  Somehow.  Just a guess.

For those people who have said that Zola was blown up in The Winter Soldier ... you're new to comic books, aren't you?

CIVIL WAR IS COMING

For those of you who have read my disasters to Marvel at, you know that the Captain America: Civil War storyline and the movie will have little to nothing to do with each other. There aren't nearly enough heroes to pull that off.

In a post-SHIELD and post Age of Ultron universe, superheroes aren't going to be the most popular people in the world.  Thanks Tony, for pissing off the planet.  Hulk trashed Wakanda, so he's not too popular either.  It shouldn't be too hard for the "World Council" (who gave SHIELD orders to nuke Manhattan in Avengers, and seemingly wiped out in Winter Soldier) to convince world governments to pass something against superheroes.

HOWEVER....

It is far, far more likely that the majority of the "Civil War" elements will be between Captain America and Tony Stark.  Why?  Because it was implied in The Winter Soldier that Hydra killed Tony's father. Who, exactly, was doing all of Hydra's wetwork at that point?


Oh, yeah.  Captain America's good and dear brainwashed friend, Bucky, the Winter Soldier.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Joss Whedon, Misogynist .... Really?

UPDATE THE THIRD: Tor agrees with me about why Black Widow unnerves them. Otherwise, they're as hysterical as the rest.

UPDATE: Joss has said he wasn't chased offline by the psychos. However, the psychos are still there, they still said these things. So this still works.

UPDATE: I think Sarah Hoyt has a great post on this topic, even though she doesn't mention Joss Whedon once.


So, Joss Whedon was harassed and harangued off of Twitter for not being sufficiently feminist.

No, this is not a joke. This is not a prank. This is a real event.

Black Widow is not amused.
Apparently, Joss Whedon has made a lot of statements that has outed him as someone who wouldn't like ... well, me (a member of an organized religion, and who is generally pro-life, and a few other tidbits in there).

This is the point where everyone asks: What The Hell Goes On Here?
After “Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted in theaters Friday, some people harassed Whedon, since Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) was portrayed as a “damsel in distress.” Naysayers labeled him a “hypocrite.”
Uh ... huh.  Yes. Really. That happened.

Also....
“The Avengers’ Black Widow Problem: How Marvel Slut-Shamed Their Most Badass Superheroine.”
What?  Somehow, Black Widow uses her charms as a weapon, and that's .... what?  Really?  Why does my brain hurt so much?

(Before someone refers to Renner's and Evans' jokes about Black Widow, that wasn't what the article was about .... also, I expected ScarJo to come out and list the male-sluts of the Marvel Comicbook Universe, which include Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Daredevil, but that's just me)

Normally at this point, I would say "spoilers," but it's not, really.  Black Widow was in as much jeopardy as everyone else for most of the movie, and she was held prisoner by the bad guy for about .... five minutes?  Maybe less.  She then proceeds to kick ass throughout the rest of the entire film.

And it can't be that Black Widow doesn't have a Marvel film, Joss is one of many people (Matt and myself included) who wanted a Black Widow movie, was pissed that he couldn't get one.

Does everyone remember the first Avengers, where she was tied up .... only because she wanted to be, just to make the bad guy think he was the one doing the interrogating? She even pulled that on Loki.  She tricked the Norse god of trickery.

Seriously, people, how do you get more badass than that?

There really should be a meme somewhere for Black Widow: outsmarts spies, gods, stops interstellar armies, hacker, martial artist ... Really, we're getting to the point where Black Widow has a skill set that matches whatever the threat level is.  Normally, that would be a Mary Sue, but she pulls it off so well. Just look at her CV for a second.  Wipe the floor with a dozen human hostiles, check (Iron Man 2). Go toe-to-toe with an alien army?  Check.  Did anyone else notice that Black Widow saved the world in The Avengers, while everyone else was basically in a holding action? Yeah. Really.

Black Widow, legs spread ... before she garrotes someone.
Get your head out of the gutter.
But Joss Whedon is a misogynist.  Riiiiiiiiggghhhhhttttt.

As for slut-shaming ... how? She's teased Captain America about his lack of a dating life, while not actually making any moves on him.  Even kissing him was a matter of avoiding surveillance.  There were no cues in The Avengers that she was throwing off with Hawkeye (for good reason, as we will discover).  She actively disliked Tony Stark in Iron Man 2. From what I can tell, over the course of four films, she hasn't had any actual social life, and has genuinely used her "seduction" skills on one person for real.

Come to think of it, even on a spy level, she hasn't actively flirted with anyone as part of a mission.

There is also the theory that, well, Black Widow is beautiful.  She is stunning. She is strong and capable and ... there are some women who will happily tear down other women, just because.

However, if you want my REAL thoughts on the matter, it involves politics ... yes, again. Why? Because I think we're assuming that the people who brought out the torches and pitchforks against Joss Whedon are entirely rational. But what brings out the crazies on twitter like nothing else? Politics.

Because on the one hand, Joss Whedon's Avengers films, and even his Firefly movie, are all war films. Have you ever noticed that?

If I were a politically minded nutcase who saw everything through the lens of politics, I could even say that Buffy was conservative because the season 3 finale was about how guns save lives, even issued to high school students. The season 4 finale was not only a war story, but the entire season was about how big government was inept, while small, private institutions can get the job done!

Yes, it's a little insane insane, but so's accusing Joss of being a misogynist.

If you apply this line of thought to the Avengers film, these points are even worse -- cops and the national guard help in the all out war against Loki's Chitauri, the individuals are saving the world while the big bad world Council is trying to nuke Manhattan, and in Age of Ultron, the film opens with individuals cleaning up a massive world threat of Hydra. There's Hawkeye's little socially conservative secret.  Captain America isn't a douchebag but he's a soldier, and America, and grrrrr.

Maybe they're pissed off because the Scarlet Witch wasn't given a pep talk by Black Widow about "sisterhood is strong." Would that have satisfied some of the nutters out there? Maybe not

There's also one other subject that can make some people go bat guano insane.

There are some real SPOILERS coming up ... now.

Within Temptation - Dangerous ft. Howard Jones

Okay, I like the visuals and the song on this one.


Review: Amy Lynn Golden Angel

Amy Lynn: Golden Angel ... if the first book was To Kill a Mockingbird written by Vince Flynn, this is Brad Thor doing an episode of Mission: Impossible, where we see the entire team being assembled, complete with biographies.

This takes place shortly after the end of book one. Amy is still recovering from the battle at the climax of that. She's now close to President North (aka: "Not" Sarah Palin ... even though her Secret Service handle is "Polar Bear"), and back home with her charming and rustic family.

But it's hard to go back to the way life used to be for Amy, especially after all she's been through. She wants to simply bury her boyfriend and move on with her life, but she doesn't yet know how to do that yet.

And now, Amy's friend "T", CIA killer, wants to bring her on board a mission to hunt down a human trafficking ring that is abducting American girls...

Yes, this one went dark quickly.

We've got a Mission: Impossible team of badasses with fully-developed backstories and biographies. The reformed black militant cryptographer; the one-man insurgency; the Polish playboy who thinks he's James Bond; and the boy scout who has won the dark heart of a CIA Assassin.

The "dark" continuous when you get to the mildly incestuous twins, one is an autistic computer genius, the other is a (literal) whore (sort-of retired).

And, of course, Amy Lynn.

There is action, there is adventure, there is some neat spy stuff, and there is even the possibility of redemption.

But sometimes, redemption can only be found in death.

4.5/5  Rated R for... dark stuff

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Puppies of WoldCon, an Epilogue









UPDATE:  It's now a series. Click the Sad Puppies tab above for new content.

Or: Sad Puppies Bite Back, Part IV

So, yeah, here we go again.

I hang out with a lot of writers.  They have liked the previous Sad Puppy stories.  So they give me bits of business they would have liked to have seen....

The cycle begins anew.

If you're someone who hasn't been enjoying these articles ... feel free to comment and tell me something you DO want to see. I've been posting Puppies every other day, so tell me what you'd want to see on those days. I'm running out of music blogs anyway.  There will be a book review tomorrow.


By the way, in other news, I'm thinking of posting A Pius Legacy (book 2) for free on Kindle in the next month. So watch this space for more on that. I figure that since A Pius Man is book 1, A Pius Stand is book 3, this should be like making people want to see A New Hope and Return of the Jedi by handing out Empire Strikes Back.  We'll see if that works.

But that's for later.

Now?

UNLEASH THE PUPPIES.



MATT BOWMAN, THE NOVEL NINJA


[SWAT comes up to a house made entirely of Lego Bricks.  They hit the door with a battering ram. The door disintegrates.  The SWAT team tries to charge in, but the Lego bricks act like caltrops, and hurt like a bastard.  They swarm through the house until they end up in the bed room. There is The Novel Ninja, Matthew Bowman, clothed in black from head to toe, sitting in a wheelchair.  He sits back, fingers steepled, perfectly calm]  May I help you gentlemen?

[SWAT leader looks confused] 911 had a call of a madman waving a gun around, threatening to kill someone.

[Bowman spreads his hands to indicate the rest of the house]  You obviously didn't find anyone else in the house, and I assure you I haven't been waving a gun around. I propose to you that I have been SWATted, a tactic of certain groups that involves calling in fake 911 calls upon their political adversaries, or people they merely don't like. One of the first incidents on record happened with an Erick Ericsson of Red State news, a conservative news service online. Though we really should look back on similar, older tactics that have been utilized since the dawn of...

[Bowman continues, weaving together a history of Chestertonian thought, Catholic history, Civilization IV, narrative, and, somehow, Lego.  One SWAT member starts bleeding from the eyes and ears, one suffers a grand mal seizure. The others fall back, blasting occasional cover fire.]

[Bowman] ...so you had no grounds for exigent circumstances.

[Bowman waits a moment to listen for the total silence.  He gives a little nod, then wheels himself over to a wall.  He opens up a secret panel.  Inside, there is a wheelchair that looks like it was created for Professor X, only modified by technicians from Mad Max. It is simply labeled "Convention Wheelchair."]  I'll reserve you for DragonCon.

[Bowman looks to a yellow suit hanging next to the wheelchair] I'll use you next time. Maybe if I ever go to WorldCon.

A few things on this one.  Mr. Bowman is a friend, and we've both kidded about his ability to use ten words when one can do. 

Matt doesn't actually call himself "The Novel Ninja," it's just the name of his blog / business. But that doesn't stop, well, anyone, really, from using it as a personal noun, not for just his business.

And if you don't get the Yellow Suit reference ... why aren't you watching The Flash?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Review of Avengers, Age of Ultron

UPDATE: The Novel Ninja has a review as well

The Marvel Universe is back, baby, and it is awesome.  Ignore all those reviews -- the one that says "oh, this character is mopey" or "WWWAAAHHH SUMMER MOVIE!!!! CORPORATE FIAT!!!!" (looking at you, NY Times).

This was just plain fun.  And we've had a dearth of fun at the theaters lately.

Let's start someplace simple: If you have been following Agents of SHIELD, you saw Coulson and Co find a mad scientist named Baron von Strucker, who is in possession of Loki's scepter from Avengers one -- but then, you knew that if you hung around at the end of The Winter Soldier, so same difference.  We open in the middle of a full-on Avengers attack on the final Hydra base standing.

Enter Wanda and Pietro Maximof, "the twins" of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. These two are oddly charming ... okay, he's oddly charming, she's a little off, but that's fine, so's everyone else here.  The attack goes off without a hitch, and the scepter is recovered, it's millah time.

Unfortunately, before Thor just takes the scepter away, the resident mad scientists get to play with it, and that's when things go crazy.  Due to mad science and Heinlein's law of technology, Tony Stark finds that the scepter, and the jewel within it, are the key to his ultimate goal, an AI to protect the entire world in a post-SHIELD universe.

Unfortunately for Tony, the scepter has its own ideas. The result is Ultron, a killer robot who runs on snark and hatred. First, he will destroy the Avengers, and next, THE WORLD. BWAHAHAHAHAHA

And the execution? Flawless.  In terms of the overall narrative of the MCU, it fits wonderfully.  At the end of Iron Man 3, Whedon said "NOW what am I going to do with Avengers 2?"  He then picked up the ball and ran with it, since Iron Man 3 also gave him his solution (not the Mandarin, the "House Party" protocol from the film.... you'll see in the opening how Tony uses it to supplant SHIELD to some extent).

Whedon also weaves in everything from the previous movies. The House Party from Iron Man 3. Thor is still on Earth after the events of The Dark World. Falcon swoops in to discuss "our missing persons project" with Captain America from The Winter Soldier. And, of course, we have a further discussion of the infinity gems, from Guardians of the Galaxy. It ties up and ties off everything from the rest of phase two, and starts leading into phase 3 nicely -- probably a direct lead to the next Thor film. Whedon is also going in for world building.  Because the world is being built, and Captain America has the nails. It's the end of the movie, and you're going to like it. You really are.


Now, some of character bits of business.  Along the way, the Scarlet Witch will be playing with the heads of our heroes, and she really causes the entire movie to happen, just by playing on the fear of "What if I can't save everyone?" and we go from there.  The mind-screwing isn't harped on too much, just enough to slow everyone down at the appropriate moments -- but, it doesn't slow down the film. In fact, messing with Bruce Banner's head leads into, well, smashing stuff.

Puppies Come to WorldCon

Update: Despite the ending notes, this is now a whole series. [Click tab above for more]

Sad Puppies Bite Back (Part 3)

The "Sad Puppies" parody world I have created in my head is slowly taking over my brain, so bear with me.

If you haven't read the last two parody blogs, you might be new here.  This started with a thought: what if Sad Puppy authors were SWATted (part 1)? Then it sort of drifted from the "ringleaders" in part one (Correia, Torgersen, Hoyt) to "mere" supporters in part two (Kratman, Ringo, Weber).

While I was chatting briefly with Tom Knighton, mentioning that the tank really was all him, I was struck with a thought: What would happen if the Puppies showed up at World Con, where the Hugos are handed out?  And not the real ones, the ones I've created here.

Stop me before I post again!

... But until that point, more puppies.  I just hope this isn't too much inside baseball, like with It Was Only On Stun!

Though for those people who know what I'm talking about, it may not be ENOUGH inside baseball.

If you're surprised that this has come to a point ... you're not the only one.


Lehman asked for this. Literally. Never say I am not obliging.


[Lone SWAT guy comes to submarine held in drydock (literally. On stilts, on dry land). SWAT guy knocks on the hull.  From the conn tower pops The Morrigan, William Lehman, looking more like a pirate than Johnny Depp ever will, parrot on one shoulder, cutlass in hand]  Avast! Who goes there?

[SWAT guy] Hey, Will, it's James. How're you doing?

[WL] Ahoy matey! What can I do for ye?

["James"] 911 called us, they got a report of you threatening someone with a gun?

[WL] Nonsense! All me muskets are locked up tight.

[James nods]  That's what we figured.  We knew something was off when they called your place a house. You hosted too many shindigs back when you worked with us on the force. See ya around.

[WL] By the way, matey, what day is it?

[James mentions date]  Avast! I must be off!

No, that's not the end of the story. Wait for it.