“Sir, you’re an expert on analysis, I can see you running scenarios in your head.”

Wow. Just…wow. That is a really, really terrible line of dialogue. It’s like “Show don’t tell” illustrated on purpose, only it wasn’t on purpose, it was just incredibly terrible dialogue. Wow. Wow.

An “A” rating?! Are you on drugs AV Club? SERIOUS drugs?

That said: throwaway references that add up to nothing–and let’s be clear, that’s nothing, until such time as the writers lose track of the idiot threads of “plot” and “character development” they are pretending to now, the show jumps its own perceived shark and becomes “FotW”-fodder and references are turned into “reality” purely to try and attract viewers who are exactly like the AVClub writer talking about Man-Thing incessantly as if that line was meaningful in any way, shape, or form.

And if I were a Man-Thing fan, I’d be way more concerned that they’d go the Deathlok route, and make it a shitty-looking version of a shitty-version of the character. Which isn’t exciting at all.

But then, I didn’t piss myself over the appearance of my favourite character in the world in a much better setting: I realize immediately that the risks were greater than the rewards on that one. At least, based on how things have been established thus far. Fan-service bullshit, except it isn’t even for fans. If I were a huge Deathlok fan, I’d be crying myself to sleep nightly at this point, as they will never redeem the (quality) of that character.

Oh Baby You…You Got What I Need…

Another irrelevant heading to be honest. Mr. Markie is just running through my head from multiple sources. Anyway, I’ve been reading, of late, the AVClub’s reviews of Farscape, and randomly thinking of moments from throughout. As a life hint, do not dwell upon the last of The Peacekeeper Wars as you approach any kind of external moments of mournful change. Whew. Thing itself has its own teary moments, but the two together…rough stuff.

Anyway, just testing the mobile app for now.

On the nature of adaptation…

No, this isn’t a treatise on evolution. I haven’t even my mother’s (non-evolution-focused, hence “even”) biological doctorate, so I’d be beyond out of my depth on it.

Anyway, of course, I’m referring to the adaptation of things like, well, comic books (okay, not “like” them, I mean “actually them”).

I’m still watching Arrow, and the truth is, I was never a Green Arrow reader. I was never a D.C. reader, for that matter. I know a lot of D.C. minutiae, because, well, comics. So I recognize the Ted Kord references, and what Roy Harper means, or a two-toned yellow and black mask, so on and so forth. But I have no investment in the characters, no background, no real awareness–GA appeared on my D.C. poster (the one I rather inexplicably decided to cut out from its frame, for reasons I’m still not sure of), and he does appear in the famous O’Neill/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow books (oh, yes, I got the reference to the folks who made GA what he’s known as today via street names, a la Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–the 1989 film adaptation–and its “Eastman and Laird” address).

But beyond that? It’s not like watching X2 and seeing Lady Deathstrike turned from motivated character to cardboard cutout, deprived of personality, strict, factual origins–everything. It’s frustrating, because all conversations regarding this seem to have to start with, “Well, they can’t exactly adapt 50 years of history into a single…” Yeah. I know. That’s not the issue. It’s jamming a character in unnecessarily for “geek cred”: that’s the Smallville M.O., and that’s not an M.O. anyone should be copying. The only reason that show could stand under any geek-oriented viewing is the constant hook-baiting with this or that detail that pointed toward establishing the D.C./Superman world.¹

The funny thing was, it was most willing to utterly abandon origins in favour of those tricks. Which just made that trick collapse in on itself. Geeky references work best when they are not the core focus, nor lazily manipulative. You know–“Look! It’s Aquaman! It’s Green Arrow!” No time to establish these characters, of course. Just their presence to try to draw in fans of those characters, or people who like the interactions, or just people like me who love the references and associations and connections on such a visceral level that we will put up with lazy writing, awful acting (with a handful of exceptions), bad characterization–all of those qualities that made Smallville what it was. Arrow has made the thankful decision to not commit to an asinine rule like Smallville did (“no tights, no flights”), which denies the chance at the things that make the character people are watching, even the things people who’ve never touched a Superman movie know. And really, really forces plots to drag–without the Dragonball excuse of “We don’t know the plot yet!”²

This does make me extremely nauseous and weary when it comes to a number of upcoming things I do recognize, though. Namely, Thanos (surprise!) and John Constantine, who is allegedly coming to NBC with the right nationality and wrong regional dialect [distracting moment wherein I go and see if new information has appeared]. And apparently a guardian angel and something about the battle between good and…oh fuck. Well, go ahead and write that one off, looks like…

Anyway: the entire idea of adaptation is fascinating. Lazy cash-ins are largely the most successful (…Smallville.), and that’s just…odd, in a way. Considering nearly all adaptations these days are rife with references and nods and hints, you would think that, nevermind the obvious niche draw in the first place, geeks would be the primary audience, and would demand, in some regard, more accurate representations. But, we’ve got limitations: it isn’t as if you can say, “No, no: do that over.” Not successfully anyway. 

I guess that comes down to the larger issue that has been troubling me lately, which is, if I were to be inarticulate: “people like things for the wrong reasons.” But that’s both supremely condescending and inaccurate, in terms of even my own feelings on the subject. It’s more that people don’t actually like things. I mean, they do–but they don’t know what the thing that they like actually is. I’ve seen people suggest that Thanos is “never subtle”, which shows a fundamental failure to understand anything in that character’s 40 year history. Others just talk about his power, or strength. Starlin wrote him as a nudge from some learnings about psychology, and eventually used him to explore character–which he has done with all the characters he writes. That’s what the character is. Some people like him for being the unsubtle brute that…he isn’t. So, I guess, to be fair: people like things for banal, surface understandings.

And I guess that explains it all, doesn’t it?

An un-clever, thoughtless, meaningless, simplistic reference would appeal to anyone who is most interested in the shallow, flashing moment that amounts to nothing real or meaningful. And that seems to be the most popular approach to things–I don’t mean any of that to be critical of people who like those things. I’m less bothered when people talk about how awesome Thanos is and have no concept of, well, how awesome he is–I’m bothered when they criticize unique, interesting approaches like Starlin’s to that character, instead preferring that something utterly exchangeable instead occupy that role, but needing to be purple, blue, and gold.

And, of course: it does mean that generally I’d prefer we not have an adaptation of Thanos that is that bad. The rest of the world isn’t actually going to mind, as any “super-powerful badass” can occupy that space they’ve defined as his. The existing character won’t be ruined (…per se…), but a bad adaptation further cements the idea that a good adaptation simply won’t occur. And, in the process, it’s actually entirely possible that the character in continuity will continue to slough off Starlin’s hard work at a multi-faceted character in favour of that banal, boring-ass brute.

Such is life, I guess…

¹I suppose the one thing to let Agents of ??? survive is that it doesn’t do this. But then, it ends up harder to connect it to that universe it’s a part of. Bit of a catch-22 I guess, but the solution is “good writing”, which neither show has.

²The infamously drawn out Dragonball plots have an obvious cause–Toriyama hadn’t finished the manga, and no one knew what was to happen, though the anime continued to come out.

Make me into a sincere mess dummkopf hopeless hypocrite

I think the nicest part of doing things this new way is that it allows for my extremely incoherent kinds of rambling, leaping from topic to topic as desires warrant. Which is what I’m about to do, of course.

I mentioned the onelinedrawing album The Volunteers, recently, but was distracted by the Wombats. I can’t say I’ve gone all the way through the album enough more times to discuss it, but dear lord that track everyone seems to like–“Over It”.

Was it a single, in any sense? I don’t know. As a physical release? No. But then, I don’t think Jade Tree ever did an awful lot of physical singles. I doubt they did an awful lot of “radio airplay” singles, either. This could’ve been. Should’ve been. Maybe it was. I don’t know, but ah, it’s one of those songs that just fits driving, particularly night driving. I managed to get the electric part to kick in just as I left a parking lot–ahh, good times. I wonder, sometimes, how we arrive at these things–did we have directors placing music that way because we all already appreciated it, or do we appreciate it because we’ve seen it in all of those things? Mogwai’s “Xmas Steps” does the same thing, of course, catch the real kick-in at the right moment, and it’s a pure adrenaline rush, a moment of ridiculous synchronicity.

I can at least say that, like AmRep (or DeSoto, or a few others), Jade Tree has rarely if ever done wrong by me, so I kind of said to myself (by kind of, I of course mean “completely literally”) “Oh, of course.” Seems the album is not well-liked by many of Jonah Matranga (née onelinedrawing) and/or Far (his prior/currentish band), but I hadn’t given a solid listen to any other onelinedrawing stuff, had listened to the one album Jonah released under his own name that Arctic Rodeo picked up, and have given Far some cursory listens.

On an entirely unrelated note (that I could probably tie in if I tried really hard, but fuck it), I just saw more footage from Alien: Isolation, and dear lord is that exactly what I want from an Alien game. My preference for Alien over Aliens is not secret at all (it tends to also include a lot of criticism of James Cameron, and the changes he made to both the creature and the universe in the second movie). An Amnesia-styled Alien game, with an advanced approach to AI, which is allowed by the set-up of the game? Hell yes. I know at a distance some people have suggested (bafflingly) that it’s an insult to the series, and someone joked in the video I saw about their “mech suit”, and it’s only increased the notion that my tolerance for (and thus my need to interact with) people with approximately zero or less perceptive ability has found some kind of limit. Sod off, folks, y’don’t get it, in such a way as to be objectively incorrect.

Anyway: about your business, everyone. I’ve still got those pictures of my sweet-ass mail collection coming, but I want to enjoy the rest of my night before hitting Moogfest tomorrow (thank you kindly, current-employer connections!)

Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Get on With Me Neighbours

Ah, that frustrating moment where exhaustion starts to take me: I’m feeling like I’ve gotten somewhere with what I’m doing: I’ve got art for all my digital acqusitions (okay, the Floor set has massive work to come behind it, so not exactly…). I’m all set to take pictures of fun stuff, look further into my lovely AmRep stuff, read some articles, so on, so forth.

Alas.

I stopped in to Dead Wax and finalized my Record Store Day some days later.  I’ve got too much to do tomorrow (and possibly Saturday, but that’s still up in the air a bit). Frustrating, indeed.

Obviously, the Small Faces are still running through my head (rather than suddenly having neighbour problems again for the first time in half a decade or so), though I’m also mid-way through the first season of Arrow because someone has been pushing it on me. Interesting, so far (oh look, Tahmoh Penikett…), though rather odd in many ways. Still somewhat concerned about it (mostly that whole “murder” aspect, which is the only clear violation of the type that bugs me, but there’s been some pushback, and this is a whole “Year Zero” kinda thing–who knows?).

But, I guess I’ll have to give in shortly…Damn.

Agents of ???

Look, stop now.

Stop and consider: I’m about to carelessly blow the lid off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Spoilers galore!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is unfathomable.

I mean–that’s not entirely true. It’s like a catchy song you hate, or a tasty food that makes you feel like a terrible human being after eating it, questioning your decision to do it in the first place. I’ve said it before: it’s the Marvel Smallville (dude, Loeb–I don’t know what the fuck happened to you, but get your shit together…)

I’ll remain watching it in morbid fascination for some time, I imagine. Many feel it kicked into gear recently, becoming better than its “pretty good” from inception.

No, it’s just bad

Of course, one should not mistake this: it’s not bad in any sense that anyone should feel bad for watching, enjoying, or liking it. There aren’t a lot of those things, really. None I really want to talk about–ever–anyway.

But the characters, the acting, the writing–it’s pure melodrama, it’s style over substance in the extreme. It doesn’t help that I’m not watching it in a vacuum, of course. Surrounding it with Farscape (or any of the new shows I watch regularly¹) really, really doesn’t help (as it already highlights the limitations I’ve referred to previously in most serial genre shows and their character writing). It’s a confection, though: the intrigue is in the clearly pre-defined, orchestrated downward spiral (go back and look at my prior footnote–that’s the best show to compare it to, actually), built on the idea of Hitchcock’s “bomb under the table” dragged out to the extreme and never really elaborated upon, and sometimes deciding to go for what he suggested was the inferior method of approaching that hypothetical scene.² So-and-so has such-and-such secret. Let’s drag it out. Let’s play a lot of red herring and cat-and-mouse, but it’s all for the audience, not the characters. This is a distinct flaw: it makes it that much more difficult to actually render the characters when the end service is entirely to manifesting this sense of “Don’t open the door!” or “Just tell him you love him!” in the audience.

So we’ve got narrowly, flatly defined characters who show other sides as if they’ve leapt into the air and turned as they came down to be suddenly facing another direction. Gosh, never saw that side! It’s so different! Interesting! But, it’s not interesting–it’s just intriguing. “Where did that come from?” We’ll probably (and often do) get a neatly encapsulated explanation, very much for-the-audience description, rather than organic movement toward something.

I feel kind of bad saying this, but nevermind the rest of the cast: Gregg can’t carry this show. He just can’t. I still can’t nail down who the flaming hell Coulson is. Yeah, he’s sharp-of-tongue, he’s determined, he’s willing to rebel but good at heart. But who the hell is he? Why does he do the things he does? Are they appropriate to him? Yes and no: he’s enough of a slate that we can accept the events that are written on to it, because they are contained within the framework defined as “his character”, but there’s no connective tissue that binds it all together, it’s just a loose jumble–it’s in one box, but it’s just rattling around.

Everyone else is the same–but he’s the character we’ve had for a lot longer, the one leading things. And it’s all telling and no showing, and plenty of time it likes to settle for “not even telling” so that it can run on surprise. I feel sympathy for Coulson’s horror and confusion at how he was brought back, but I don’t know where that sympathy comes from: there are glimpses and flashes in Gregg’s face, but there’s nothing that really tells me why or how Coulson feels or responds to these things. He doesn’t seem to be any different at any moment–nor do the rest. Those boxes, jumbled in contents though they are, remain static.

And it’s one of those times where I just don’t understand how anyone can watch it in a fashion other than at least the way I watch The Following: it’s unbashed reveling, not in its “badness”, but in its predilection for absurdity that it doesn’t want to acknowledge in any self-aware way. It’s a forced suspension of disbelief, but one that takes some effort, or some extreme willingness to discard it entirely for the moments within.

But that’s its own universe: trying to tie Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. into a stellar Marvel outing like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it just makes the glaring inadequacies that much more uncomfortably obvious. 

The “What in the hell are they going to do NOW?!” sense will keep me watching regularly, like a hideous trainwreck, but I cannot recommend the show to anyone for anything.

 

¹I don’t disagree, in general, about The Following. It’s also pretty ridiculous, but the sort of insane, campy and/or grand guignol feeling works for it. It has pretenses about reality or philosophy or darkness it shouldn’t, but the leads can carry it off…somehow. Not sure how…but somehow.

²Hitchcock explained suspense, roughly, thusly: you can have a dinner party, and everyone is having a good time and then, suddenly a bomb explodes! Holy cow! We’re all shocked! We sure didn’t expect that!–or you can show the bomb, show the party, show the bomb, show the party–now we know: “Get out!” we cry, “There’s a bomb!” but they don’t know, and we’re watching them not know what we know.