Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Mets Monday - Wherein I Eat My Words

It's Memorial Day and I had a very busy, very fun weekend, and am very, very tired, so I'm going to keep this brief. Last week I wrote about how I thought the shine was off the apple when it came to the Mets season. Since then, they've played eight games and won five of them, and are back up to five games over .500... so it looks like I have to eat my words here.

Delicious AND nutritious!

There are still injury problems... we've lost two shortstops since then, which would explain why David Wright, arguably the best third baseman in Mets history, was playing shortstop today... but clearly I spoke too soon about the season starting to go downhill.

Hopefully I'll be eating these words well into October!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Battle for the Stars: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Since today marks the 35th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope being released in theaters, I felt it would be just sinful of me not to post something about Star Wars today... especially since the name of my blog is derived from it and all. Of course, I could have said the same thing about May 4th, but I feel I don't need a specific Star Wars Day, as I love it so much that any day can be Star Wars Day for me. But I digress. For your entertainment today, I'll be answering the age-old question that plagues geeks everywhere: which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? But first...

Happy Birthday, Star Wars!

For the record, I'm going to be ignoring the Expanded Universes of both franchises, so no novels or comics or any of that stuff; partly because there's too much of it all and my head would explode, and partly because I know too much about the Star Wars EU and nothing about the Star Trek EU, so it would be unfair. I'm also going to use the abbreviations SW and ST, because I'm already tired of typing it all out and switching back and forth into and out of italics.

Let's come out of the gate swinging with one of the big categories: villains! After all, everyone loves a bad guy, right? ST has a whole lot of villains, but the only one I'd consider a really great, recurring villain is their big bad, the Borg. They were in multiple episodes spread out over two shows and starred in one of the best ST movies. I know there were other villains like the Romulans and the Cardassians, but they never did anything for me. SW, on the other hand, only had one villain, really, the Sith. But whereas the Borg was just an alien, the Sith have the dramatic heft of being tied into the heroes in multiple ways, not the least of which being their greatest warrior was also the Jedi's greatest warrior... and is really the main character of the entire saga:

Of course he wins. I don't want to get Force-choked!

This one is sort of a no-brainer: SW 1, ST 0.

Let's flip the coin and look at heroes. SW has the original trilogy heroes: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2, C-3P0, Yoda,and Lando. Luke is annoying for the first two movies and Leia is always annoying. R2 and 3P0 cancel each other out. Lando is only cool for one movie, and Yoda is only in about 45 minutes total. That leaves Han and Chewie. From the prequel trilogy, all we really get in terms of heroes is a real picture of just how awesome Obi-Wan Kenobi really is. So that gives us Han, Chewie, and Obi-Wan... against all of Star Fleet. Chewbacca might be a great first mate, but he's no Spock. And Han and Obi-Wan... well, they're just outclassed:

That's a whole lot of awesome right there.

SW 1, ST 1.

Here's a two-point category: technology and starships. SW has lightsabers, the Death Star, star destroyers, AT-ATs, AT-STs, droids, carbonite, cybernetic hands, and the always-awesome but habitually falling-apart Millenium Falcon. ST has transporters, holodecks, tricorders, communicators, phasers, warp cores, visors, androids, time travel, alternate dimensions, and, of course, all the various incarnations of the U.S.S. Enterprise:

It really would fly circles around anything in that galaxy far, far away...

And the Enterprise tips the balance in ST's favor. ST 3, SW 1.

Let's talk about sex appeal. ST has plenty of women who look damn good in those tight Starfleet uniforms, especially Jeri Ryan. They also have all the different hot alien chicks Kirk banged. But, SW has twi'leks. SW has Natalie Portman. And, most importantly, SW has:

Every man has this fantasy, and everyone knows it.

ST 3, SW 2.

The last category I had thought about was storyline, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized you can't really compare the two. SW really is one cohesive story, whereas ST is much more serialized. Neither has an advantage over the other, they're just vastly different animals. So it looks like ST wins!

But, wait... they never had to reboot SW with a completely new cast to make it cool again!

Sorry boys, you just got burned.

Star Wars wins!*

*Come on. The name of my blog is derived from Star Wars and I wrote a blog once about how Darth Vader is better than Jesus. Who did you think was going to win??

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Closing House

There was a moment in Monday's series finale of House where the titular character was relating, in a flashback, how one of the show's trademark differential diagnoses was going when all the characters dialogue suddenly becomes, literally, "blah blah blah." The character he's relating the flashback to asks why that happens, and House's answer is, "Because no one cares about the medicine." It struck me as a very meta-textual moment because, despite how interesting and brilliant so many of the weird, rare, random diseases and conditions that have been showcased on House through the years are, it really never was about the medicine. Except that one time...

...and only one time, when it actually was Lupus.

When it was at it's best, House was about character. Specifically, Dr. Gregory House, a slightly handicapped, jaded, bitter, sarcastic, absolutely brilliant diagnostician/Vicadin addict who saw nothing but the worst in humanity (seriously, his catchphrase was "Everybody lies.") and yet still did everything he could to save all his patients... granted, not because he cared about them but because he hated being beaten by a puzzle he couldn't solve; he was, after all, at least partly based on Sherlock Holmes.

It was about his relationship with the team of doctors who worked for him: at first, Foreman, Chase, and Cameron (easily the best combination); then Taub, Kutner, Thirteen, and Foreman; then Taub, Thirteen, Foreman, and Chase; then Taub, Masters, Foreman, and Chase, and lastly, Chase, Park, and Adams. That's a lot of cast changes for one show to survive, huh? It tells you just how good this show was. One thing all his team members had in common was their desire to become as much like him as they could without turning into him... which made for some truly fascinating character developments and conflicts.

It was about his on-again/off-again relationship with his boss, Cuddy, which thankfully was only on for one of the seven seasons she was on the show, because it was horrible when the relationship was on, but brilliant when it was off.

And, at it's best, it was about House's relationship with Wilson, the Watson to his Holmes. He was the kind, caring person and devoted best friend to House's... well, to the asshole that was House, and the show was never better than when the two of them were onscreen together. It's the relationship that made the term "bromance" so popular, at least on television. And one of the best things they could do in the last few episodes was bring that relationship to the forefront. Wilson, by the way, was played by Robert Sean Leonard, who you may remember as the kid who shot himself in Dead Poets Society.

I always loved watching House. I thought the medical mysteries were fascinating and I was thoroughly enthralled by the House himself. I loved the relationships and the dialogue and pretty much everything about the show. I do think it was getting weaker and I'm glad it was able to go out on a high note. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I will say I hated it when I saw it, but once it sunk in, I loved it as much as I always loved the show. It'll always be one of my favorite shows.

If nothing else, how could you not love the show that made Olivia Wilde famous?

Va-va-va-...and might I add...voom!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mets Monday - Is the Shine Off the Apple?

It's a ridiculously rainy Monday in New York, which seems to me to be a perfect time to write a little bit about the Mets.

Just be happy they aren't playing at home tonight...

We all know the Mets have been doing much better than anyone expected them to do since the season started. They've been above .500 all season so far, with a high-watermark of five games over and a current record of 22-19. David Wright is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball, leading in most of the important offensive categories except home runs, and showing some of the most solid defense in his entire career. The starting rotation has been pitching better than expected, especially Santana and Dickey... although the injury to Pelfrey hurt pretty bad, because of how awful Chris Schwinden was for two starts. As fun as the team has been to watch for the most part this season, the last week or so has me really wondering if the shine is starting to come off of the apple that is the Mets season.

Mentioning the rotation brings us to one of the problems the team has been having lately. The starters need to be almost perfect because the bullpen has been coughing games up left and right. Combine that with the fact that the Mets offense is really only good enough for three to four runs a game usually, and it puts a whole lot of pressure on the starters to be as perfect as possible. Just look at Santana: after 8 starts and 43.2 innings, he's only allowed 14 earned runs, he's racked up 46 strikeouts and has an earned run average of 2.89... and he's only 1-2 on the season. The bullpen needs to step it's game up big time.

Another problem has been the injuries. There's the aforementioned Pelfrey, out for the season. They've been playing without Tejada and Thole, as well as Jason Bay... but let's be honest, we're probably better off without him. And don't get me started on the flu bug that's been getting passed around the clubhouse more often than a call girl in D.C.

Like I said, whether it's the bullpen, some sloppy play, the injuries, or the flu, it's seemed to me like the shine is starting to come off the apple. Or maybe it's more simple than any of those reasons. Maybe it's just a team that started off playing hotter than anyone thought possible coming down to earth. After all, no one can over-achieve forever. Or maybe it's just a bad week or two and my natural pessimism is getting the best of me.

Let's all root for that last one, Mets fans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Problem with Memoirs

As I've mentioned before, I've started a Recommended Reading Challenge, where, for an entire year, I'll read nothing but books that are recommended to me by friends... or even perfect strangers, for that matter.

C'mon, you know something these two recommended would be bitchin'.

The first book on the list was a memoir, and I loathed it. Since then, a few other memoirs have been added to the list, which is all fine and good, because the point of the challenge is to read things I wouldn't otherwise read if it was up to me... but here's the thing:

I absolutely hate memoirs.

Don't get me wrong. There are some memoirs I've enjoyed. Tony Pacitti's My Best Friend is a Wookie, for example, I absolutely loved; sure, it involves Star Wars, so me liking it was sort of a "gimme," but it was also witty, well-written, and heart-warming. Most memoirs don't hit me like that, because the question I'm asking myself the entire time is, "Why should I care about YOUR life? What makes you special enough for me to want to know about what you went through in your life, compared to what everyone else goes through, or what I have gone through?" In the case of Pacitti, he framed his life around his experiences with Star Wars, but in reality it was about a boy growing up and dealing with love, life, and disappointment, something worth reading, something identifiable. To me, that is much more worth reading about than, say, the way a horrible drug addict spends most of his adult life ignoring the way his equally horrible alcoholic father ended up homeless while it was in his power to help him and instead he chose to nothing, and then tries to pass all that off as deep wisdom. I'll pass, thanks. Even if parts of it were admittedly well written, there was still nothing in the content itself that I could connect with emotionally to give a rat's ass about.

Another example: when talking on Facebook about my general disinterest in memoirs, I was asked if I'd read a memoir by Kevin Smith. Um, hell yeah. Aside from the fact that I love his sense of humor, as someone who went from nothing to an indy filmmaker to a Hollywood filmmaker, I''d definitely be interested in what he has to say. Even if it was horribly written, I'd still care about the content.

So I guess the takeaway from all this is that, yes, for the most part. I hate memoirs. I'm still going to read the ones recommended to me during the year of this challenge, because it's a challenge, and what would be the point if I was going to say no? So if you're going to recommend a memoir instead of fiction, which is my main interest, feel free, but try to make it something I'll actually enjoy... after all, rule #4 of the challenge says "This isn't a 'Make Jim Miserable for a Week' Challenge."

Be my hero and make me happy instead!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goodreads Book Review - Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

Another Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnother Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was the first book in the Recommended Reading Challenge I'm doing, where, for a calendar year, I'm only reading books that other people recommend to me. With that said... we are not off to a very auspicious start.

I hated this book with a passion. Sure, there were a few good passages here and there, wedged between pages and pages of filler (seriously, four pages of nothing but all the different expressions there are for drinking? Was he paid by the word or just by the page?), but for the most part I felt it was a meandering account of the like of a horrible, unlikeable person and how he related to his father, another horrible person. The only thing that bothered me more than how reprehensible these two people are is how the author tries to pass off how horrible he is as a person as some kind of great commentary on life and human nature, and I'm just not buying it. In fact, I was a little insulted. This really is a book I just never want to think about again.

View all my reviews

The next book on the list is Boy's Life by Robert McCammon. Hopefully this will be a better experience.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers

I'm going to say upfront that while I promise to do my best to avoid spoilers as I review the movie in case anyone reading this hasn't seen it... although, considering the amount of money this movie made, i find that unlikely. However, if you haven't seen the movie and want to avoid spoilers, I'll tell you to skip my review and just say I've seen the movie three times already, and that should tell you everything you need to know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I've been a comic book fan all my life. I learned to read on comic books. I can still remember some of the first comics I ever owned, and how they were part of some truly great stories that any comic book geek will know (Kraven's Last Hunt, The Trial of Magneto, The Incredible Hulk at the Crossroads, Death in the Family, etc...). So I've also always loved and been excited by... and, occasionally, massively disappointed by... comic book movies. It's only natural, then, that when Nick Fury popped up in the post-credits scene of Iron Man and mentioned the Avengers Initiative, I went positively apeshit at the possibilities.

Four years later, those possibilities were realized to amazing results. The Avengers is an awesome movie that is easily at the top of any list of the greatest comic book movies. In my opinion, it might be the greatest of them all, edging out Iron Man for the top spot (I'm leaving The Dark Knight off the list because I can't find a way to really compare the realism of Nolan's Batman with the way Whedon's Avengers was really like watching a comic book on screen). It's full of action and, unlike many action movies of recent years (including Transformers, which Avengers is being unfairly compared to in some circles for no reason that I can see except they both have climactic battles set in Manhattan), you can actually tell exactly what is going on in the action scenes. It's also full of humor, thanks to a sharp, witty script by Joss Whedon, who is not only my master but ALL our master now, as he has helmed possibly the biggest movie ever.

All the characters are given the chance to shine, from the way Stark's one-liners zip along at breakneck speed, to the way Banner's twitchiness makes you feel for him, to the Black Widow's combination of bad-assitude and vulnerability. Thor's sheer power, mixed with his inner struggle over his love for his brother versus what that douchenozzle brother is doing is great (although a little woodenly-acted), and the way Captain America steps up into leadership when it counts is just thrilling. The only character, it can be argued, who gets short-shrifted is Hawkeye, but even he gets some real bad-ass moments.

The real star, though, is the Hulk. While his appearances are kept limited to the end of the movie, they are well and truly worth the wait.

Just like The Avengers was worth the wait. It's not a perfect movie, of course, but for me at least, it came as close as I could have wanted. And if the mid-credit scene is any indication, there's a lot more coming down the pipe that will be worth the wait as well. As long as the wait doesn't kill me first.

UPDATE: I realize I forgot to really discuss the insane box office haul, so just to cover that base, I'm going to let this picture speak far more eloquently than I ever could.