Thursday, July 31, 2008


I obviously like robots. Which robot, out of the various robots I've seen that are "real," impresses me most?

Probably this one.

In and of itself, that isn't that impressive. But it's led to this...

...and this.

All these amateur-built items lead to a functional transforming mass-market robot (obviously, pretty much a toy, but still).

Who's to say that in a few decades, this might not be possible?

Or even one of those Citroen ad robots...

Okay, maybe not.

On that note, there are a lot of parodies of the first of those ads out there, and here's the best one (which, in my opinion, is better than the original).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some Robots Are Practical...

...and some do this.

Actually, I want one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So I Was Poking Around On YouTube...

...and found this clip from a Voltron episode.

Watch the blue robot (which is human-sized).


Female robot + male voice = ?

Also, the robot wants yummy cake?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Super Robot Profiles: Grendizer

One of the later robot series created by Go Nagai back in the late '70s, Grendizer had a lot going for him. There was a supporting cast member taken from an earlier series that was extremely popular (in fact, Kouji Kabuto had been the main character of Mazinger Z, a series which not only reinvented the robot-based genre but probably to some extent anime itself, and which commanded something like seventy percent of all television viewers in Japan within its time slot), the fact that it was created by Go Nagai, one of the hot commodities of the time period and the genre, and the fact that the robot was, by the standards of the time, pretty well designed and fairly original.

Not to mention, in the mini-mini-mini-series that was a nice little extra on a DVD set based on all of Go Nagai's robots teaming up and fighting for the thinnest of all possible excu-er, reasons, Grendizer teamed up with a robot fifteen to twenty years his junior to kick giant freaky Japanese mutant samurai demon booty but good.

(Yes, that was the entire series I was talking about.)

So why is Grendizer so bloody obscure by even the standards of the genre?

Here's a hint.

ARGH THE PAIN. While Grendizer's French, Arabic (!), and Italian dubs were very popular, the English dubs were close to as bad as dubs get.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reel Robot Wars Sunday: King Kaiser vs. Retro

Part of the reason I skipped my regular little Sunday feature last week was because I was low on material and not very enthusiastic. Well, that problem has been solved.

Of course, this is more of an alternative.

In Japan, as mentioned previously, they have competitions where amateur-designed and built robots go head to head in human-style unarmed combat. Obviously very different from its closest American counterpart, these competitions have two sources of appeal.

First, it's rather inspiring that a bunch of amateur-built robots have the agility and dexterity necessary for fighting one another.

Second, since they're built by amateurs, they can and do screw up royally, which is always good for a laugh.

Note that they need to pry the poor robots apart at times; this is not an uncommon sight at these events.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Moment of What The: Stan Lee Presents...


I have actually read the first chapter of this-a preview of it was in September's Shonen Jump. (Yes, September's. Yes, this September's. SJ's publishing schedule is, like most magazines, given "publishing dates" in what appears to be almost totally arbitrary fashion.) Apparently, its initial concept came from Stan Lee, but the actual work (i.e., story, art, etc.) is all being done by the manga guy (who wrote a manga called Shaman King, which I don't really care for but my sister liked pretty well).

So what do I think of this bold (euugh) new chapter in manga and comics?


Far and away the best part of it were the first two or three pages. These were a prologue where some kind of Japanese feudal lord, oddly named Dunstan, who somehow a thousand years ago had sunglasses, and resembled a certain Westerner with longer hair in a ponytail, gloats over his weird-looking mechanical creations with a nameless, faceless female assistant and then commits Hara-Killi (I'm just writing it how it was spelled in Shonen Jump, thank you). The story itself picks up a thousand years after this, i.e. the present.

As for style? Awful. The art is okay, if rather creepy. Shaman King was okay in terms of visuals, occasionally pretty good; this is mostly comparable. My one complaint is that one of the series' "mechanical boys" looks a lot like a girl. Not only that, but he does girly manga-style sparkling, and even dresses kind of like a girl. (Okay, no, a lot like a girl. I mean, a halter top and a dress? For crying out loud.)

The writing is some kind of weird, amorphous melding of Stan Lee's style of overbearing comic book narration with manga-like phraseology. In a word: Gaaaaaah.

Further, the way the characters are supposed to be some kind of mechanical embodiments of destructive and "cleansing" forces (so, what, the bad guy is a baseball bat and the good guy is a bar of soap?) makes me think of some giant robot.

It starts generically, with a big oni-thing attacking a tower full of tourists, and then attacking random people; when it tries to crush a woman and her baby, the good guy shows up, stops it, and then blasts it. It turns into the bad guy, who looks just like the good guy only considerably less girly, and after they're threatened ineptly by the police, they fight. They blast each other into space, and then the good guy crashes back to the ground, where a weird-looking old man finds him lying unconscious. And that's the whole preview, which is probably a full chapter, more or less. Such is manga.

Also, there was this kind of funny bit where a SWAT officer goes totally insane when his truck gets crushed and goes postal on the bad guy, trying to shoot him to death with his assault rifle. Of course, the bad guy is a robot who can create forcefields with his mind, so it doesn't work. Then, the robot learns how to copy assault rifles, and turns his arm into about seven of them to shoot everyone with.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Robosaurus and Co.

I suppose it isn't really surprising, given my great affection for robots both real and imaginary, that I really like Robosaurus and its monster truck ilk. (Of course, I don't really give a care about normal monster trucks-just really crazy ones done up as actual monsters.)

You might laugh at the idea that my sister recently cried out in disgust at the thought of Robosaurus changing hands from its inventor and original owner. She protested that the new owner would be likely to destroy what she regards as a work of art. The idea that Robosaurus is art likely sounds ridiculous to many, although I'm sure the notion has its proponents.

But Robosaurus really is art. Look at this.

Of course, you're absolutely free to disagree with me. Nobody agrees on all art.

Funnily enough, this next video was just about the only one I could find where Robosaurus actually chomped a car. You'd think, as that is one of the prime gimmicks, it would be a frequent event.

This next guy, however, isn't nearly so shy about eating. This is Megasaurus, who has a twin sibling named Transaurus, and he's got a surprising amount of personality for something that's a rather blatant knockoff of Robosaurus.

Megasaurus is high-quality stuff, on the other hand, when compared to this guy. If Robosaurus were Godzilla, Draco the Dragonator (featured about halfway through this longer video-and his relationship to Trogdor the Burninator is unknown) would be a big fat grown-up Godzooky, or a Boss Borot to Robosaurus's Mazinger Z.

Not that that's a bad thing. I find myself imagining the three "truckasaurs" hanging out, munching cars and whatnot, with Robosaurus the main heroic one, Megasaurus/Transaurus the comic relief smart aleck, and Draco the Dragonator the stupid comic relief.

Admittedly, I can be pretty weird, but whatever. I could totally see it happening.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mantis Shrimps Vs. The Internets

Dear Internets:

Please work right. I'm looking at you, YouTube and Blogger.

(FYI, right now YouTube seems to be all screwed up, and won't let me watch videos on the site itself. And yes, I have the latest version of Flash Player, thank you. Blogger is giving me messages that, just like the YouTube ones, insist that JavaScript has been turned off and that I can't use Blogger, cookies are disabled, etc.-but if all that's really true, how am I typing this post? Also, Blogger's image stuff isn't working right in at least one of my posts.)

As a result, I decided to post a bunch of videos of mantis shrimp beating the crud out of stuff so that I can watch them.

If you've never heard of mantis shrimp, they are tiny, ferocious scourges of the sea, and aren't actually shrimp or mantids. How nasty are they? They have been nicknamed "thumbsplitters" by divers because they're so good at savaging extremities, and are hard to keep in aquariums because they can break standard aquarium glass. They are also noted for unusually good eyes, apparently the only eyes in the animal kingdom that can perform hyperspectral imaging.

I may add commentary in a few minutes.

WARNING: These videos are not suitable for highly empathic people. Animals were harmed in the making of these films. However, all the harming was perpetrated by animals that actually intended to eat the harmees, so it's okay ethically.

Commentary on the first video: HOLY CHEESE but this one emphasizes how alien and terrifying the mantis shrimp truly is. That, and a really sadistic little monster. Watch the little crab finally manage to defend itself by clamping on to some of the little mass of feelers or whatever they are, the mantis shrimp starts getting agitated, and then all of a sudden WHAM! the mantis shrimp hits that little crab so darned hard his pincher falls off and he shortly thereafter collapses, apparently dead. (Brief attempt at translating the German: Timmy's Minireef... Presents... The World [of] the "Catch-Scary-Crab [mantis shrimp]." "Catch-Scary-Crab" [Fangschreckenkrebse] is a much more appropriate name than "mantis shrimp," don't you think?)

Note that this video has "turn volume up" in its title, apologizing for its terrible quality. (On the one hand, the quality is annoying, especially with the bad camera work and such; on the other hand, it's a lot like watching Cloverfield.) If you can hear that "click" sound, by the way, that's the sound of the little monster beating the crud out of its prey-that's how hard it hits it. Also, this video seems to establish something: Never grab all those little feelers under the mantis shrimp's face. It really ticks him off.

Um, nice music. More commentary on this little video after the next one, because they are both videos of the same mantis shrimp eating the same kind of critter.

You might think, looking at the massive claw of a fiddler crab, that it would have something of an edge in self defense relative to a typical crab. Not so. The primary purpose of its claw is for male territorial fights over females, or some other form of mating ritual; while it has more combat value than, say, the tailfeathers of a peacock, it's got nothing on the smashing or stabbing appendages of a much bigger and more aggressive mantis shrimp.

And now, since I still can't get YouTube to work the way it should, I'm going to jam a whole lot more videos in here so I can watch them.

That thing about the octopus poisoning the mantis shrimp is true-the only video footage I've seen where a mantis shrimp was actually successfully killed by something was when a blue-ringed octopus used its siphon to blow its poison at one.

D'aw, lookit the baby. Is this person actually crazier about mantis shrimp than I am?

(FYI, I don't know what the name means, but I've also seen mantis shrimp named Vladimir and Mr. Mantis, so it's anybody's guess.)

Heh. I didn't mention before that mantis shrimp are master burrowers, but obviously they are.

And obviously, the reason the owner is using tongs to "dance" with the little guy is because the little monster would take his/her fingers. (Someone remarked in the comments on this one "Now try handfeeding it :ppppp.")

Okay, I suppose that's enough of that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Different Kind of Robot Than I Usually Blog About

You know what makes me worry? Japan.

Why? They're teaching robots how to to fight.

Note that that red robot, King Kizer, was the dark horse candidate of the competition (well, the first year he was in it-I guess this wasn't the first year, though), especially since he was built by a guy in his home workshop. And after an apparent bad loss in an earlier competition, he schooled his way to the top during this event, the Robo-One, which is kind of like the Indianapolis 500 for robots or something.

You might say "Oh, that's harmless. All that those robots can do is swing at each other's faces ineptly." Oho, that's where you'd be wrong.


They taught King Kizer how to play baseball. Teach him hockey and he'll know how to knock out your teeth.

You might be thinking that these all are really just harmless sports. Wrong again.

They've taught them how to play "laser tag."

Soon, they'll be upgrading them to "death ray tag." Not long after that, they'll be wondering why the robots are burning the cities and taking over, and Japan will be under quarantine and/or a priority target for a nuclear strike.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Things Related to Comic Books

(If you somehow end up here, I apologize that the images are apparently gone. I've always had problems with Blogger and image posting.)

I skipped my little Sunday feature because I've been feelin' lazy.

Anyway, first, with respect to my last post, blogger Mike Sterling was polite enough to point out in the comment just where he had mentioned Lex Luthor's messed up history. The post has been edited to reflect that.

Second, as previously promised, BEHOLD!




(I apologize if you can't see full-view images-I don't know what's going on with that.)

Note the first of these. It brings attention to Eagle Eye (excuse me, Eagle-Eye) Joe's toy gimmick... while implying that regular humans can't move their eyes. Also note that mere moments after remarking in his head that "the Intruder is the strongest creature I've ever seen" (seen, get it? He's Eagle-Eye Joe! Ha ha ha ow), he beats the living carp out of him. Also, how could it be that "nothing can stand in [the Intruder's] way" if some guy in ugly camo can lay him low?

The real gem, though, is number two here. First, note that Mike Power, Atomic Man(R), is wearing another of those really ugly camo shirts with very short black shorts. Then, another guy in even shorter shorts shows up, and slams through a mountain WITH HIS BARE HANDS!! And seriously speaking, who would ever compare a flood to a "giant bathtub?"

That is pretty far from being the best part, though. The best part is how this guy introduces himself:

That's why I'm known as Bulletman, the Human Bullet!

This guy must be a blast at parties. I mean, just imagine:

Guy: Who are you? I don't think we've met.

Bulletman, the Human Bullet: I'm Bulletman, the Human Bullet!

Guy: Oh, really. I'm Steve. It's nice to meet you, Bulletman.

Bulletman, the Human Bullet: It's Bulletman, the Human Bullet.

Guy: ? Sure, Bulletman. I caught that-


Guy: AAAAH! (runs away to avoid decapitation)

Ah, good times.

Notice that this particular comic also has an awful lot of prosthetic limbs.

Friday, July 18, 2008


When I did my recent post on the Beyonder, I omitted a piece of information that was relevant to my discussion-the fact that the Beyonder has been further retconned into some kind of mutant/Inhuman or something. (Okay, just a little question here-if an Inhuman mutant was exposed to Terrigen mists, would it really make them "Beyonder level?" I'm more inclined to say Phoenix level, myself. And while we're on the subject of insane, incalculable levels of power: Who would win, Beyonder or Hunger?)

Why did I leave out this piece of information? Because I forgot about it. Why did I forget about it?

Because it was beyond stupid. (Ha ha ha ow.)

Not to go on an aside, but was Bendis even paying attention when he wrote that?

Anyway, it got me to thinking about something that my sister and I have occasionally discussed: the idea of a "personal canon."

Now, a lot of people are going to groan and click "Back," "Close Window," or "Close Tab" about now. But this is a subject that bears discussion, especially when it is one that numerous comic book authors seem to be bringing to their own tables, consciously or not.

Before going further on the subject, I suppose I should define "personal canon." Most basically put, personal canon is the willful ignorance of any continuity-driven story element that someone doesn't like, and the inclusion of elements that someone does like, even if the events that that someone likes are probably "from a different continuity." In its broadest definition, this means that someone could disinclude an episode of the X-Men cartoon from the '90s, while considering some random event from the comics to be canon even if never referenced in the cartoon.

This is the main reason many have problems with personal canon-if everyone followed the personal canon model, it would be impossible to meet agreement on what happened within a given series. And herein comes the connection to mainstream comic writers: Many of the "more innovative" writers of today throw aside what has been accepted continuity for years (e.g., the post-Crisis version of Lex Luthor is significantly older than Clark Kent, but still went to the same high school at the same time as he did, in the same grade-talk about genius {I'm not making this up, but I don't feel like citing it. Look at the archives for Progressive Ruin, I'm sure I read it there. Try sometime in June. EDIT: Mike Sterling, of Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, was polite enough to drop by and point out the original post. Thanks, Mike.}). And why does this happen? Because the writers don't like this bit or that bit, either because they just don't like it, or because it stands in the way of what they do like.

So they smash it with a hammer as they write their own stories.

Many people will likely chastise me for what I'm about to say. I'll point out, however, that while I have disincluded the Beyonder being an Inhuman mutant Giga-Omega Level Cosmic Cube Freak Thing from my personal canon, that's just about the only thing I've jettisoned just because I don't like it (from within Marvel Comics-well, no, I guess there's-nevermind). (Well, it screws with continuity and Occam's razor, too, but that's besides the point.) I'm willing to track all this continuity FUBARing because I have numerous tools to do so-the internets provide all of them.

Smashing existing continuity purely to make room for one's own ideas is like writing bad fanfiction.

Good writing within a preexisting fictional construct does things a little differently. It takes existing elements, sees how they relate to each other, and then uses them as tools. A well written story of this kind can be a beautiful thing (although executed poorly, it can be hideous beyond reckoning). Fanfiction actually can fall into this realm.

Why are so many writers taking the "bad fanfic" path while so few if any take the "good fanfic" path?

It's pretty much because the "bad fanfic" path is incredibly easier.

Now, don't take this as a condemnation of the works of your favorite author, whether we're talking TV, comic books, cartoons, anime and manga, movies, or whatever the heck. Throwing out continuity can work very well in the correct circumstances. While I've never watched it, the new Battlestar Galactica has apparently had a great deal of success, and it bears only names and a few broad, sweeping details in common with its predecessor.

What I'm saying is that some authors are quite good at working within a massive fictional universe. And some aren't. In order to avoid frustrating and alienating people who notice those who aren't good at this kind of work, publishers that own fictional universes need to learn to figure out for themselves (via their editors) which authors to assign to "main continuity" books, and which to throw unceremoniously into their own sandboxes to play in (possibly providing them with an "alternate continuity" toolbox so that they have plenty of toys if they can't or won't make their own).

Also, Dan DiDio is not the editor who will do this kind of thing for a publisher.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Birthday Today

I'm a quarter of a century old. Darnit.

No real blogging today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Character Distillation: The Beyonder

This particular entry is an easy one.
  1. The Beyonder is an insanely powerful idiot.
  2. Er, no #2.

Join me tomorrow, when I talk about-wait, no, I usually say more, don't I?

Yeah. Usually, these are brought on by reading about the characters on the good ol' internets, but I was simply struck by the random urge to do this one.

First, I should note that I subscribe to the original, Jim Shooter version of the character. I may be the only "Beyonder purist" on the whole doggoned Internet, but I feel it should be said. And why am I a "purist" about this?

Because the original concept for the Beyonder was that he was the only being from his universe-that he was, in effect, his universe. This means he'd be an idiot automatically.

I probably got a nasty kneejerk reaction from you right there. Bear with me and think about it.

The dude is the only guy in the (his) universe. The only person of any kind. As far as is known, there aren't even any bacteria in his universe. The very concept of otherness was probably almost too much for him to handle. Is it any wonder he's confused by concepts such as desires, good and evil, and gender? Thus, he'd have no idea what social interactions were like. It's staggering that he managed to understand language as an attempt at conveying the thoughts of others. I could probably go on, but I'm too lazy.

There's another reason that the Cosmic Cube version of the Beyonder bugs me:

  1. Galactus > Cosmic Cube. (I think. It wouldn't be that big a deal if I'm wrong, but the Cosmic Cube just doesn't strike me as being comparable to a freaking force of the universe, and that's ignoring the fact that Cosmic Cubes were used to charge Green Lantern rings during a crossover or something ridiculous like that. Let's assume that Dr. Doom post absorbing Galactus's homeworld = Galactus for sake of argument.)
  2. Beyonder >> Galactus.
  3. Beyonder = incomplete Cosmic Cube
  4. Owen Reece + Beyonder = female Cosmic Cube incarnation Kosmos

If you successfully solve these equations so that they make sense, please tell me. And show your work.

Anyway, the Shooter version of the Beyonder just works. Why? Because nothing is easier to make a plot out of than an incredibly powerful idiot. I mean, incredibly powerful idiots doing stupid things was practically 85% of the Silver Age of comics, depending on how you look at it. (A lot of modern comics, and plenty of stuff in between, for that matter, also uses this method.) Why doesn't he instantly exterminate all his enemies? Because he's too stupid to. Why doesn't he cure world hunger, end death, etc.? Because the devil tried to kill him, so he stupidly decides it might not have been quite that good an idea. (Okay, I'm just goofing around now. I only read the first ten issues of Secret Wars, primarily because they're all I have, and have never seen any issues of Secret Wars II. I should probably quit before I do something stupid.)

I was considering scanning and posting a panel from Secret Wars that I remember that had Reed Richards speculating whether the Beyonder was a cosmic idiot or not, but I don't have time now. Ah, well. Maybe I'll edit it in later.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Old Advertisements: RICOCHET TO FREEDOM!

Having seen a number of old, cheesy ads starring superheroes lampooned on the good ol' internets (most notably various Hostess cupcake ads), I decided to take a potshot at one I found in an old Spider-Man comic I've got.

(Full view unless you have microscopic vision or this gets bigger on the page than I think it will, or unless you zoom way in on your browser or something. Also, holy cheese Blogger you deleted this pic twice.)

Whoo. Let's take it from the top.

An alien ship departs, leaving behind a giant spidery web... to strangle the hopes of freedom.

Hm, who wrote this, Simon Furman? Look at that ellipsis. And am I the only one who thinks that that sentence needed to end with an exclamation point? (In effect, it should read: An alien ship departs, leaving behind a giant spidery web-to strangle the hopes of freedom! Am I alone in this?)

Anyway, it starts out at least okay. We get the impression stuff has happened, plunging into the so-called plot almost instantly. Then, suddenly!

The president has summoned Captain America and Spider-Man.

Shame on you, anonymous ad hack! Where are the exclamation points?!

Here, of course, is where stuff goes south. The president is giving orders to Spider-Man. (sigh) First, Spidey doesn't really answer to anybody, although if the president asked nicely, he might consider it. Second, Spidey and Cap against a giant alien, er, spidery web, which somehow vaguely maybe threatens freedom? Uh, no offense to Cap and Spidey, but I think I'd rather summon the Air Force, the Hulk (assuming he's friendly at the moment), and Iron Man. Or maybe Godzilla or Stephen Strange. Not a couple of guys whose primary superpowers involve fisticuffs.

Then, the president solemnly announces:

Gentlemen, the country turns to you in this time of crisis! We have only one hope... Project Ricochet!

Yay, exclamation points! And-wait, did the president just say "We have only one hope... Project Ricochet!"? Oh, for-if you're going to use some kind of project thingy, I could see Cap volunteering, but I'd think it'd be more likely if they just used two totally hapless peons instead of some of the foremost members of the superhero community.

Okay, I'll take a look-Oh my goodness. Giant yellow guns made to be held by human hands. Who's supposed to fire the blamed things, Ultraman? (Or Giant GPS Man? Thanks to snell for posting that little gem a couple weeks ago.) So do you guys need Cap and Spidey to pull the triggers or something? Because-

Oh. You're going to fire Cap and Spidey out of them. I don't think that would be very high on Spidey's to-do list.

To do:

  1. Save/propose to girlfriend.
  2. Make enough money to pay rent/get married/pay for Aunt May's thirteenth heart surgery.
  3. Get fired out of gigantic yellow handgun.
  4. Fight supervillains.

Hm, maybe it would be.


Okay, so then a bunch of soldiers get ropes and pull the triggers. Dude, just get the superheroes to do it, and fire some other volunteers out! More efficient use of manpower, you know?

At a speed beyond belief, the two superheroes race towards the ominous web.

Maybe it's just me, but there are two problems with this statement. (Actually, three-where's the exclamation point again?!)

"Speed beyond belief?" So, does it break the speed of light? I'd probably believe that happening in a superhero comic. The, um, tachyon barrier, then? (shrug) Of course, they don't even seem to be breaking the sound barrier.

The other is "the ominous web." That web looks like Spidey could have made it-in effect, it's not even very concerning, much less "ominous." I mean, what was it going to do, catch fire when they shot off Fourth of July fireworks or something?

In the last two panels, we have incredibly lame super-banter (I mean, "For sure, Spidey!"? Come on!) and a web that actually looks... well, stranger and less Spidey-ish than it did, anyway.

Then, there's the real coo de gra (no, I've got no idea how to spell that, and I don't care).

Kids--Have a Ricochet adventure of your own! Get the Ricochet Racers Spider-Man Set. It comes with Spider-Man and Captain America racers...launcher and spider web. WOW!! Available at a toy store near YOU!!

My goodness. So that's where all the exclamation points went! It kind of looks like the unexciting "meat" text of the advertisement (which tells you about the actual toy) must have viciously held up the rest of the ad at giant yellow handgunpoint, and robbed all the narration of its valuable exclamations. Also, marketing research may have indicated otherwise back then, but very few phrases/words are actually less exciting than WOW!! Very few phrases and words are more self-promotional, for that matter.

You know, even the Hostess ads were a little bit logical. This takes the cake.

Mmm, cake.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brave Robots: Mic Sounders the Thirteenth

In all of GaoGaiGar, admittedly a series full of zany concepts, is anything sillier than the idea of what is basically a gigantic Black Hole robot transforming into a rock star?

Perhaps the idea of a Black Hole robot that fails to transform into a rock star.

Wait a minute, he wasn't even trying there. Er, here's the clip in question.

Ouch. But once he finally transforms, he's actually pretty powerful-wait.

Okay, that's just mean.

And piling injury/insult on insult/injury.

It's an amusing running gag, but it borders on abuse. I'll probably chronicle how insanely Deus Ex Machina powerful he could be in the next week or two (along with his awesomest moment ever). That may be why they did this to him, to balance him out some.

But still.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Super Robot Wars Sunday: Zengar Zonbolt

Some music video tributing Zengar Zonbolt, whose robot wields a really big sword.

So does his villainous mirror universe counterpart's robot, which he sometimes pilots.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Five Lovecraft Stories You Should Read

...If you're only going to read five H.P. Lovecraft stories.

Actually, a more accurate name for this article would be "Lovecraft Reading List For Busy People."

If you're only going to read one story by H.P. Lovecraft, read "The Call of Cthulhu." It's the one most people know, if only vaguely, and it's a good starting point.

If you're only going to read three stories by H.P. Lovecraft, read "Pickman's Model," "At the Mountains of Madness," and "The Dunwich Horror." Yes, I left out TCoC, I'll explain why in a moment.

If you're only going to read five stories by H.P. Lovecraft, read the four listed above and "The Colour Out of Space." I'll explain this in a second, too.

Now, as for my reasoning: H.P. Lovecraft's works usually involved a universe that was either indifferent to humanity or very actively hostile to it. To this end, his works had three major undercurrents that ran through them: Human degeneration, alien forces far superior to humanity, and supernatural horror.

"Pickman's Model" is a story about "ghouls," humans who have essentially by choice decided to spurn the modern lifestyle, living naked underground and hunting normal human beings. They are known to abduct children and replace them with their own, and to swarm over the scenes of accidents, devouring the victims. Lovecraft wrote a number of tales about human degeneracy, and this one is the best for several reasons, including a lack of racist content (actually, racism was probably why Lovecraft was so obsessed with human degeneracy) and the believability factor ("The Rats In the Walls," a much better known story with similar themes, faces extreme biological improbability at the least).

"At the Mountains of Madness" features the Elder Things, also known (like about fifteen other mysterious groups in Lovecraft's works) as the Old Ones. They are utterly alien beings, lacking even our bilateral symmetry, and were masters of Earth for some hundreds of millions of years. They created life on Earth as a food source (symbolism much?) and also created the Shoggoths, uberamoebas of mass destruction. Ultimately, even the Elder Things' civilization fell, because even they were "men." (This also shows a peculiar paradox in Lovecraft's works. He was very overtly racist at times, even describing black people as abominations created in the image of man, but at other times he had bizarrely non-racist sentiments. In a later part of "Madness's" narrative, he described the Elder Things as "still men," mostly contrasting them against the monstrous shoggoths, but still casting them in an ultimately positive light, as if they were the equal of humanity in "niceness" type terms-and this when they are nine-foot tall starfish/sea cucumber relatives.)

"The Dunwich Horror" demonstrates H.P. Lovecraft's works at their most supernatural. A lot of his weird beings could easily be explained as simply existing by strange or physics, but this story doesn't skirt around the magic. Wilbur Whateley and his twin are conceived by a spell, his twin is invisible and amorphous, and the day is saved by an occult researcher and his helpers using a magic spell to banish the evil back to the ether from whence it came. (There is a very blatant and obviously deliberate parallel between Wilbur Whateley and his twin and Jesus Christ, as well.)

The other reason I think these are the best choices for a three readings only regimen is because these stories have aged fairly well. The science that exists in the first two is not horribly dated or inaccurate, as much of Lovecraft's efforts at science are, and the problem of the third is solved by the fact that there's no science involved.

"The Colour Out of Space" is number five on this list because it was Lovecraft's personal favorite out of all his works in terms of literary accomplishment, most achieving his desire of a story about an encounter with a vague, mysterious entity. I put it later than the preceding three because its science is worse than wonky, which dates the story rather badly. (For a much better story by a different author with the same central theme, one that Lovecraft rated multiple times as the best horror story in the English language [and which also is one of my own favorite horror stories for various reasons], read "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. "The Willows" practically could have taken place a couple of weeks ago [I may be exaggerating, but not by much] because of how well it's aged, and it was written in 1907, a decade before the main body of Lovecraft's work.)

Finally, as "honorable mentions," I recommend reading "Herbert West--Reanimator" and "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath." "Herbert West" is interesting because it has a strong relationship with one of modern horror's tired workhorses, the zombie (and many will probably find it a refreshing change from the modern zombie plague narrative), and TDQoUK is a fascinating (if ponderously long by Lovecraft's standards) exercise in worldbuilding.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nature Is Awesome

Although this particular picture is rather lacking in the awesome department.

The other day, I noticed this scene above a bedroom door. Since there's no way in heck you can tell what's actually happening, I'll explain: The little speck is a spider. The bigger speck with all the junk around it is a daddy longlegs. The spider, despite being smaller than the daddy longlegs (even ignoring the giant legs of the longlegs), has totally killed that daddy longlegs, and has sucked out a significant proportion of his bodily fluids.

I'm glad spiders are such little suckers. There's no way we could take 'em in a fight if they weren't.

In a mostly unrelated story, a couple of days after I took this picture (yesterday, actually), I was cleaning off our front porch, which has a mere eighteen square feet or so of surface, and saw somewhere between thirty and fifty spiders of numerous varieties crawling about, scattering as I used a broom to sweep away their webs. Thankfully, none of them were even half an inch long, and even as I watched, one of the cats who hangs out around our house because we feed them ate one.

Spiders are scary, but they're good eats, too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brave Robots: J-Decker Madness

So I was trawling around looking at Might Gaine clips, and wishing I could embed them. For some reason, the person on YouTube who has uploaded the most such clips has most of them disabled for embedding, despite the fact that some videos not related to Might Gaine by the same user are not disabled. Dunno why.

So I decided to see if I could find some amusing clips from some other series, and I started with J-Decker.


Two great things about this clip: First, the music. Jazzy. Second, the way he shouts "Fire J-Decker." If you don't get why, it's the way he says "er"-more like "aa-aa-aa-aa-ah," as if he's in pain or something.

That short clip leads straight into this one:

Check out that girl totally wigging out at the sight of a robot. I don't know the backstory of this series or anything, and don't speak enough Japanese to decipher what she's saying, but shouldn't she have seen plenty of freaking giant robots, seeing as how she lives in Anime Tokyo? Particularly Anime Tokyo in a giant robot series? Even better, she waits for him to start talking before she totally wigs out.

Then there's the reaction of the command center place-you can almost hear the champagne bottles popping. "Woohoo! This, an achievement greater than the moon landing! A GIANT ROBOT! Haha!" Wait, maybe that's just my reaction.

Also note Fire J-Decker's awesome strategy there-standing and taking what the enemy throws out before attacking. Of course, his enemy appears to be wielding the staff of Asclepius, so maybe he wasn't worried.

And finally, a real gem:


Whoo, sorry. Okay, let's see if I can pin down what's so bloody funny here.
  1. Little kid getting startled at being shot at, in the middle of a giant robot fight while riding a giant robot.
  2. Little kid firing a gatling gun while chanting something in Japanese.
  3. Little kid missing a lot with a gatling gun while firing at a wall. (Okay, okay, so he was hitting the wall. It's just that he wasn't aiming for the wall, and I suppose that isn't that inept.)
  4. The robot (GunMax) apparently scolding the kid for being such a sloppy shot. (Keep in mind that, this being Brave Robots, the kid is the boss.)
  5. The kid turning into a neko for a second or so.
  6. The robot police firing away like that. Forgot your defensive barricade, eh?
  7. Drill Boy!
  8. When Drill Boy hits the wall at flight speed, he stops oh so smoothly, as if he had no weight at all.
  9. The army of little robots that attacks them inside the building. Wait, weren't those in the '90s Ninja Turtles cartoon?
  10. The fact that this squad of fifteen foot tall police robots feel a need to shoot the tiny little robots.
  11. The cartoony way the little battalions of robots are thrown back en masse by the robot police shooting them, in clusters of five or six at a time, as if they're stuck together.
  12. The fact that at least one of the robots has a shotgun that he's pumping.
  13. GunMax apparently announces he will transform, garnering confusion from the little kid...
  14. ...who gets ejected from the sidecar with no warning.
  15. Sadly, GunMax then transforms and catches him, only to get scolded.
  16. He ignores this, however, and infiltrates the factory on a conveyor-bucket.

Dang, two more bullets and I would have matched my previous record.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Super Robot Profiles: Daitarn III

Or Daitarn 3, depending on whom you ask.

Daitarn is one of those robots whose popularity is pretty minimal in the English language, primarily since the series was never dubbed into English. There is a reasonably strong Italian-language fanbase, however (judging from the Daitarn fansites I've found, and YouTube). How strong? Some Italian fans apparently took it upon themselves to rebuild the series using computer animation. This despite some rather stiff voice acting in the Italian dub (if the clip I found was Italian and not some other language-I'm not sure, partly because the voice acting was so bloody stiff).

Anyway, Daitarn's contributions to the genre as a whole are questionable-the main feature of the series that was innovative was that the monsters of the week (called Meganoids in Japanese or Megaborgs in the Italian dub) unleashed fearsome witty banter (so claims Wikipedia), thus making them among the first super robot enemies to have personalities. Still, information on the series is pretty sketchy and hard to sift.

The series' main two important features seem to be:
  1. Daitarn was cruelly overwhelming.
  2. Banjo Haran was some kind of secret-agentesque guy inspired by James Bond.

How was Daitarn cruelly overwhelming? Well, first off, he was just shy of four hundred feet tall, making him one of the largest super robots of the era and still one of the largest of all time. Granted, the Megawhatnots were exactly the same size most of the time, but still-Daitarn is significantly bigger than the king of the monsters Godzilla, the universe-slayer Ideon, and nearly every other kaiju and super robot you can think of-the only exceptions to this I can think of are Danguard Ace (650 feet tall), Gunbuster (~812 feet tall), the titanic SDF-1 Macross (I'm unclear on its actual height, but in battleship mode it's about 3/4 of a mile), and the really ridiculously large things like Dark Nova/Star Giant, Primus, and Unicron (all the size of small planets). Monsters like the Evas would look like pathetic midgets next to Daitarn.

Then there's the fact that Daitarn's finisher was quite brutal-he hits the enemy with a big ball of plasma energy, which presumably would kill the Megathing quite handily, and then he kicks the other guy so hard he comes out his back.

Don't believe me? Look at this intro from some language which is not Japanese:


Anyway, the other thing about Daitarn? He is solar-powered, which naturally means the same thing in anime that it does in Western comics-he channels the power of the Sun.

Yeah. Banjo Haran (or Haran Banjo, either way) is supposedly eighteen, and hangs out with two hot young women, lives in a mansion, has servants and junk, and has a transforming, flying car.

Isn't it unfortunate that he flies right up where Daitarn's rear would be if he was in that mode? Also note that that's a freaking long and slow sequence.

Despite his supposed secret-agentness, he wears a very tacky bow tie. And I've decided, since I've read no information to contradict it anywhere, that Banjo is a polygamist waiting to happen. I mean, come on, he hangs out with two secret agent wannabe chicks. (Okay, one of them was supposedly formerly employed by Interpol, which makes her less of a wannabe. But Wikipedia actually described them as "playing superspies.") This is totally different from James Bond-he's always at least polite enough to only bang one chick at a time, even if he goes through them like cigarettes. (Okay, so this was technically a kid's series. He probably wasn't really having sex with them. Right.) Also, he may or may not be superhumanly strong, as he is shown in the intro symbolically shattering steel bars like paper. (No, I don't know how it makes sense either, but that's what it looks like-shattering it into pieces which fall away like paper.)

The actual backstory makes Daitarn 3 sound pretty similar to most series that precede it: The protagonist's father invented some stuff, including a giant robot, and then some bad stuff happens and the protagonist must use the robot to kick booty. In this case, his brilliant daddy invented the bad guys, too, which must have been at least a little twist back then. Also, Daitarn was made of magic metal from Mars. Yay!

I don't know why I decided to start these profiles with Daitarn, but-wait, I remember now. I actually have a beat up, die-cast Daitarn toy somewhere. (No hands or other detachable accessories except for a lonely sword-surprisingly, he can still hold it-and a damaged shoulder-blade thingy that I once repaired with superglue, but which has since come back apart. And lots of chipped paint.) That probably has influenced my weird fascination with the robot.

Brief Catchup Post

(I would have liked to blog yesterday, but ran out of time and didn't have anything to post that I could do quickly enough. However, I now have a brief, brain-farty post that I can put up, so that you can experience what could have been if I'd had an idea.)

My brother is the god of the dogs.

No, really. They worship him.

Today, he stopped by our house for less than half an hour. And the dogs went mad.

One of the dogs used to belong to him, so it might be a more normal phenomenon if it were just her. But all dogs love him. (Well, he claims that there was one, once, that didn't, but I'll believe it when I see it. Besides, if he is the god of the dogs, it must have been a dog atheist.)

And when I say all, I mean all. We used to own a dog that was very nearly a monster. He liked women quite well, but he tended to just latch on to a single person and then treat every other human being like an enemy, or at least no friend of his. He was even mean to our other dog at the time, and everyone loved her. (She was just that sweet, hence her name-Sugar.)

But even though he particularly hated large men (e.g., my dad, or me for that matter, although I was quiet enough he never attacked me-and yes, that was a concern), smokers, and most other varieties of men, he loved my brother. Despite my brother being a smoker, he adored him. During supper when he visited, this dog would attempt to fuse himself to his leg. (He had weird ways of being affectionate.) This from a dog that frequently attempted to break down doors because he wanted to maul utility workers to death.

When my brother left after his few minutes here today, both of our dogs sat there, quietly whining and whimpering, for five minutes or so. Then, being dogs, they forgot he was ever here and went back to more normal annoying dog activities, as their short-term memory ran out, but still...

Most cats, on the other hand, don't care for him at all.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Super Robot Wars Sunday: Demo

Not much to say about this one-it's just a random demo.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hasbro-er, Unicron-Devours the Gobots

I found this video a long time ago, and I wish it had better video quality. The bad sound quality, on the other hand, enhances it a bit in my mind.

If you don't know what I mean by poor sound quality enhancing the audio, there's a bit in the TF:TM soundtrack rip that strikes a dischordant note, and it somehow suits the scene perfectly.

If you experienced the original Transformers, you've probably encountered their early competitors/prototypes, the Gobots. (More information here.) The Gobots' descent into relative obscurity is mostly deserved-their cartoon was like Scooby Doo with giant alien robots instead of people dressing as ghosts all the time. (Okay, it was more serious than that. But the quality was fairly similar.)

It should be noted, however, that the Gobot footage in this video is from the one piece of Gobot fiction that was actually pretty decent, Battle of the Rock Lords. (Yes, their best fiction involved them crossing over with guys made of rock who turned into rocks. Get over it.) Some people will probably try to shoot me for saying this, but I think BotRL was slightly better than most episodes of the Transformers cartoon I've seen. (Helpful hint: You can't shoot me through your monitor.)

And it's not like Gobots was a bad idea-Transformers is essentially the same one, but different. (The main variation comes from the Gobots being human cyborg alien robots, whereas the Transformers are living robot alien robots.) It's just that Gobots had an atrocious execution of the idea, whereas Transformers had a resonant and effective one.

Just to prove that there were occasionally nifty Gobots, here's a clip from an episode of the cartoon:

Pathfinder (the female spaceship) and Buggyman (the... buggy bad guy) are two of the three greatest Gobots. Buggyman is more competent and has more attitude than the entire rest of the villainous cast combined (later in the same episode, he singlehandedly rescues his incompetent leaders from four Guardians, although the animation could be interpreted as him killing them and committing suicide, as he was using a gun that conferred invisibility on its targets), and neither he nor Pathfinder have ugly Gobot faces. The other coolest Gobot is another Renegade named Bugsie, who is cool because 1) his toy looks like the devil (his appearance in the cartoon was decidedly different, although still nice), and 2) we never see him get clobbered like the rest of the villains. (At least, not in the only appearance of his I've seen, from Battle of the Rock Lords. Of course, this was because he kept mysteriously vanishing during fight scenes where the Renegades were supposed to lose, only to mysteriously reappear afterwards, often retreating from the same battle he wasn't seen fighting in.)

Probably the worst part about Gobots, though, is that Tonka, its original propietor, wasn't very bright when it came to legal issues. Why?

They claimed that Mighty Orbots (see intro here) was infringing on their copyright, but ignored Transformers. This is incredibly stupid for a host of reasons.
  1. Mighty Orbots had far more in common with costumed superheroes than Gobots. The robot transformations were from robot to bigger, stronger robot that looked similar.
  2. Mighty Orbots had more in common with Voltron than with Gobots, as a team of robots that combined into a bigger robot. (Granted, Gobots did this later on in their franchise, and so did Transformers, but it was simply the natural evolution of any long-running robot toyline with links to Japan.)
  3. Transformers had almost everything in common with Gobots, the only truly significant difference in concept being the whole cyborg vs. robot thing. The execution differed only in quality, no matter what other Transformers fans might tell you.
  4. Transformers cleaned Gobots' clocks in marketing, product charisma (most Transformer toys were considerably bigger than most Gobot toys, with creepy exceptions, and also had cool weapons and stuff, which Gobot toys did not), and of course the media (aka the marketing).
  5. Mighty Orbots' toyline was apparently never produced (just as well-it would have been awful), and only a single thirteen episode season of the series aired because of Tonka's lawsuit.

I'm sure I could go on, but I won't, because hardly anyone cares about Gobots. Or Orbots.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Writing Techniques: Voice (revisited)

I was thinking to myself about my other (rather lonely) column on writing techniques, and thought to myself, "That's not very complete." So I decided to elaborate a bit more.

One useful technique for establishing voice-one of the most important in the case of the written word-is increased use of particular words or phrases. For instance, a character might favor a particular curse word, or a particular silly euphemism for a curse word. Or, a character might extremely rarely say some words, or usually use short or long words (e.g., the Thing uses short words, Mr. Fantastic uses long words, or as the Thing would call them, five-dollar words). A character might also say "little old me" or something a lot.

Mentioning the Thing brings us to another facet of voice-dialects and accents. The first real master of accents in American literature was Mark Twain, and he established it as a literary tradition here for the most part.

Of course, writing good accents is tough-and thick ones are hard to follow. (Try reading molespeech from a Redwall book if you don't know what I mean, hai burr ai.) Numerous Brits and Aussies complain that Americans imitating their accents mangle them. And while you don't hear the complaint much, lots of fake Southern accents are really bad. (My theory is that Southerners are too polite to complain most of the time.) Of course, the real reason they complain is because the accents must be exaggerated in order for them to be obvious in fiction-it's just the nature of the beast, and it's generally easier to do something ridiculous with an accent than make it perfect, because a realistic one will be too subtle for many readers.

Then there's quirky speech patterns that can't really be attributed to an accent, or to normal but excessive use of particular words. There's not really a word for this, so I'll simply demonstrate:
Tell me where he is... or I'll nail you both to the ground, yes?

That, in case you don't know, is Death's Head. Most of his sentences, for no apparent reason, have a "yes?" or an "eh?" tacked on the end. There are other quirks, like the tendency to refer to oneself in the third person, which can also create voice.

Hmm... What next?

Ah, yes, there are also nonword vocalizations, such as "hmm..." which may be used more or less by certain characters.

Can these techniques be overused? You betcha. In many anime, especially those aimed at somewhat younger audiences, use of peculiar phrases becomes remarkably excessive (although these are, thankfully, usually removed when dubbing into other languages). I can't tell you how much hearing "na no ne?" at the end of every freaking sentence someone utters irritates me (although it hardly helps that the character in question has a really grating voice).

The one last part of voice, and one that is not always relevant, is the sound of the voice itself. In written works, the only way you can indicate a voice is with descriptions of it. Otherwise, people will just imagine it for themselves. In an audible medium, obviously the sound of the voice will take care of itself.

I hope I don't come up with another half-dozen things to add tomorrow. That'd be annoying.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

GaoGaiGar Q&A

Question: What do you do when you can't execute all your stock footage attacks?

Answer: If you're Gai, piloting GaoGaiGar... simulate those attacks' effects with YOUR BARE HANDS.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Character Distillation: Henry Pym

(Grr, missed a day of blogging again. This time, it's completely my fault, as I had time but completely forgot about it.)

So there are some cases where a character's basic nature is harder to figure out than others. Henry Pym is one of those cases. Why? Because the character is inconsistently depicted. Keeping that in mind, it's still possible to figure out the character's core, and here's my conclusion as to what it is:
  1. Henry Pym is a genius, and has made many scientific advancements, most particularly Pym particles and Ultron. (Way to go, Dr. Pym!)
  2. Nobody really cares about the character, so each writer does something completely different with him-and it's usually not nice.

Sure, you can say all kinds of stuff about his mental instabilities and whatnot, but the authors do whatever the heck they want with him, and it's just about never nice. Case in point: When the character actually gets to do some good stuff in recent comics, it's because he's been replaced by a Skrull. (Er, scroll down a bit further. The first post, with a Skrull Pym, has absolutely nothing to do with this. It's the second comic on that page with a Skrull Pym that concerns this post. Also note that with the fact that the Skrull replacing Pym may be a female Skrull, and the fact that a Skrull delicacy that unveiled Skrull Pym was strawberries mixed with pickles, my sister concluded that Tigra had somehow impregnated Skrull Pym. Admittedly, my sister is crazy, but that's pretty funny.)

Anyway, they'll always get away with doing this kind of crud to Henry Pym, because he's never been more than a supporting character that no one really knows what to do with. (Heck, even Lee and Kirby didn't know what to do with him, and they created him.) He goes from shrinking powers to growing powers within a single issue of his first appearance, he has periods of mental instability, he's a wife-beater, his marriage is fixed, his marriage is ruined, he's replaced by a Skrull, and oh yeah, he built an insane robot that wants to slaughter humanity like so many cockroaches.

Just kill the poor guy already, and move on to something more interesting. It's not like it'll make things worse for him.