Friday, November 28, 2008
Now, keep in mind, I actually enjoy his films. (I've never actually seen any of the live action ones, but I hear they're pretty similar to the ones I have.) But it's not for any decent or honest reason. It's because they're so awful it's like a clean substitute for taking drugs. I mean, look at this. Just look at it.
Among other things, this "movie" features guys shooting at stuff in such a way that you can't tell if they're actually shooting at anything. And that's before the "action" starts. When we get to the "action," the kids (who, since it changes from live action footage to animation, change from Korean kids to Caucasian kids, and one appears to have gotten a sex change, and they all before the change had helicopter transformer toys, possibly as foreshadowing) step out and start calling the helicopter-like spaceship a plane. Shortly thereafter, one of the kids kills a soldier by hitting him with a slingshot, causing him to drop a grenade at his own feet. Then, the helicopter/plane/spaceship, piloted by green, blond/redhead kids from outer space, transforms into a giant robot and kills all the other soldiers, shooting down their helicopter when they try to retreat.
And then there's the green alien dictator of North Korea.
That, sadly, doesn't even go into the blatant editing and animation errors which run rampant like a drunken, irate Godzilla, or the awful dubbing. (One of the films, Space Thunder Kids [mentioned in the post linked earlier], actually had halfway decent dubbing [only halfway, mind you], but it was actually made up of about eight different films seemingly hacked together using a machete and probably masking tape. That's right, they didn't even bother forking out for duct tape.)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Why is Lovecraft so (relatively) obscure? Probably because he was not widely acclaimed in his day, and ghost-wrote a lot of works. (I recall reading a story which didn't read like typical Lovecraft at all, and it was "co-written" with another author, who did not pay Lovecraft for his contributions.) Probably also, it comes from his hypercritical views of himself and his tendency to write in a genre which even today is not widely accepted as "good" literature. (Horror as such is relatively "ghetto," or so a professor of mine who likes horror would have you believe.)
Lovecraft was not really a "great" author by any stretch of the imagination. His works are often unclear, frequently flowery, and suffer from a number of conceits:
- Protagonists are almost invariably helpless by nature, causing the hero's succumbing to the horror of the story to be unintentionally underwhelming. (An actual line in one story said that, despite the horror of the event, the protagonist did not faint, the irony being that the event was way too mild for most people to even consider fainting in response. This is probably a side effect of Lovecraft's weak constitution, which kept him from fighting in WWI and plagued him his entire life.)
- Lovecraft's characters will often declare something "undescribable" and then go ahead and describe it anyway. I think he really wanted to say "really hard to describe because it was quite weird."
- Lovecraft was unrepentantly and horribly racist, and may have been somewhat misogynistic. (His racism was, as I have mentioned before, kind of an odd duck. His possible misogyny was ironic, since he was raised mostly by women, and had little contact with the masculine section of society often associated with misogyny. Then again, his mother apparently was always telling him he was ugly, so maybe it was just an issue with mother figures.)
- Lovecraft liked frustrating his readers. His favorite stories (both his own and those penned by others) were those that were too vague to figure out any real meaning or piecing together events from.
- If one was trying to pull a consistent world out of Lovecraft's works, it would be intensely frustrating, as he happily bandied about terms interchangeably. For instance, there were upwards of half a dozen groups known as "Old Ones," and one must figure out from context which of these groups he was referring to in any given story. (Take some #^*4 notes, man!)
On the other hand:
- He was a great idea man. While the professor I mentioned earlier was critical of much of his material in terms of its weaknesses, he described him as one of the genre's greatest concept developers.
- Lovecraft had an endearing habit of making junk up and then hinting to readers that it was connected to actual mythology by mixing a few more familiar names (i.e. actual mythology) in with the stuff like Tsathoggua and Rlim-Shaikorth. (Note that Lovecraft did not originally come up with either entity-they were both created by Clark Ashton Smith. I use them as examples because they are even more "Lovecrafty" than most of Lovecraft's fictional names.)
- Lovecraft's works, while they are generally associated with his philosophies, are written in a way that any individual can take away something more in line with his or her own worldview. Case in point: The self-appointed executor of sorts of Lovecraft's works, August Derleth (notable for keeping Lovecraft's works in print [and also preserving much that would have been lost] by founding a publishing company specifically to publish them), interpreted those works through his own more Christian worldview, adding works loosely based on material written by Lovecraft to the "Cthulhu Mythos" which painted a picture quite different than the one envisioned by Lovecraft. While many are highly critical of Derleth's reinterpretation of Lovecraft's works, my own view is that, while it is odd at best to represent a work as co-authored with Lovecraft when only about 2% of it had been written by Lovecraft, Derleth's "reinterpretation" of the "Mythos" was not a function of reinterpreting the nature of Lovecraft's monsters, but applying his own philosophies to the behavior of those monsters. (His addition of "Elder Gods" was something that Lovecraft wouldn't have done, but that's not my point.)
- He used a "keyboard mash" technique to invent names, a technique I have often fallen back on when trying to come up with names. ("Keyboard mashing" being when one strikes a computer or typewriter keyboard as randomly as possible in an effort to create a word that resembles no known words. I don't know that he actually did mash a keyboard, but I can't imagine that he never randomly strung together letters to make a name.) By the way, I support pronounciation of all Lovecraft-invented terms phonetically. (Yes, K'thullhoo.)
Regardless, his works, or at least, his works' elements, have an enduring appeal that keeps them in pop culture. There have been plenty of authors whose works, in and of themselves, were hardly "great" works, but still have been influential and memorable. (Jonathan Swift, for one.)
-Signing off (because I can't think of anything else to say on the subject).
Monday, November 24, 2008
Kinda cool, yeah? Of course, since this is the second Tekkaman, and the Japanese are very slavishly conventional and give every sequel guy an imitation of everything the original had, it means the original also had a Voltekker, right? So let's take a look:
BOOM! HEADSHOT! Heh heh heh heh.
So how does a little whirly fan blade shot from the forehead evolve into a gigantic multicolored storm of energy blasts fired from big shoulder weapons? The world may never know.
Looks random at a glance, doesn't it?
But it really isn't. You see, superhumans are essentially the same thing as super robots, the difference being that a super robot is much larger than a superhuman and has a little person in its head or something.
And a super robot is essentially the same thing as a kaiju (in Evangelion, for instance, the "robots" are not actually machines but clones of a giant monster creature, and yes, they did have little people in their heads) except with a tiny little human controlling it from somewhere, instead of being essentially a huge animal-plenty of kaiju are actually mechanical.
And kaiju aren't that different from Lovecraftian monster gods; the big difference is that Lovecraft's monsters vary more in size than most kaiju, and almost inevitably have egos and intellects as big as the universe itself (and, while many kaiju are short-lived, Lovecraft's monsters are all ancient and immortal).
And Lovecraftian monster gods are only different from superhumans in that superhumans are, well, human, and the Lovecraftian monster gods are not so much.
And superhumans and super robots are essentially-wait, I did that one already.
My point (obviously) is that the distinctions between them as fictional devices are largely arbitrary, and they tend not to hang out together seamlessly because of genre conventions which developed as part of traditional processes. It's hardly impossible for these things to interact, and in fact they periodically do so, usually with ease. The lines between them are pretty blurry ones, as not all "superhuman" characters are necessarily human, it isn't technically necessary for a kaiju to be dumb and a newly arisen mutant, Lovecraftian monster gods could easily be mechanical (I've never really seen such a treatment, but then, I haven't seen everything), and super robots-well, the only thing really necessary for something to be a super robot is a Superman/Hulk-like smash-everything-while-showing-off-invulnerability quality (and even that isn't directly necessary-show the enemies the robot defeats doing that, and the robot can obviously do that by extension).
So, yeah. They're all sides of an extremely bizarre multidimensional coin.
Friday, November 21, 2008
"See, Cousin Bess! see, ‘Duke, the pigeon-roosts of the south have broken up! They are growing more thick every instant, Here is a flock that the eye cannot see the end of. There is food enough in it to keep the army of Xerxes for a month, and feathers enough to make beds for the whole country. Xerxes, Mr. Edwards, was a Grecian king, who— no, he was a Turk, or a Persian, who wanted to conquer Greece, just the same as these rascals will overrun our wheat fields, when they come back in the fall..."
(From James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers.)
You might be wondering why I have this little quote about passenger pigeons. That's quite simple: I was strongly reminded of them early this afternoon.
You see, there are often large flocks of birds where I live (northwestern Ohio, near the Lake Erie shore). Birds like it here (although not in my backyard, as we harbor many cats).
Today, I saw the biggest freaking flock of birds I have ever seen.
It was no passenger pigeon sun-blotting swarm, but it was a pretty big flock. Out of every window which we looked while they dimmed the skies, there were easily hundreds of them, sitting, making brief flights, and chirping incessantly. (Our cats were busy at the daily meal we give them; they were so intent on the dead food they didn't notice this flock.)
Then, they all took off at once, and those of us who briefly stepped outside counted ourselves lucky that multiple stains in numerous colors of bird excrement didn't suddenly appear on us. It was a borderline miracle.
I love nature, but I hate birds.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
This post is another greatly overdue one, originally "forecasted" here. It's recommended that that post be read before this one.
Many of the later Brave Robots series dropped the earlier conceit of the villains being similar to the heroes. While I can't speak for all of them (Brave footage and information is always kind of scarce), I do know that some of the series, such as Dagwon, had at least some enemies that were monsters instead of robots. (I think that thing's a monster, anyway. Could be wrong.)
The series for which I can speak most confidently is GaoGaiGar.
GaoGaiGar, in a post-Evangelion anime world, had to raise the bar. Its enemies couldn't really afford to be simplistic, weak enemies. GaoGaiGar's first major enemies were the Zonders.
While mechanical in basic nature, the Zonders upped the villainous ante by having durability far in excess of believable limits, as demonstrated by this video.
As this video also demonstrates, while they are tougher than nails, the Zonders are also considerably dumber than nails. (I mean, look at him just sit there after he finishes regenerating.)
Another characteristic of the Zonders, related to the regeneration, is their ability to reshape themselves completely to their own will. Since Zonders are dumb as rocks, they only usually use this ability effectively when being managed by one of the "Four Machine Kings" early on. (Later Zonders occasionally show signs of intellect.)
Zonders' forms are heavily determined by the fact that their bodies are built by absorbing machinery. (Zonders are actually not true mecha but humans who have been transformed into quasinanotechnological lifeforms by exposure to a substance called "Zonder metal." They are also powered by stress. No joke. Since they are restored to normal after the Zonder's defeat, the individual is always grateful, because they've had all their stress removed in the "purification" process. Again, no joke.) Sometimes this mostly means that their weapons are derived from what the Zonder uses to build its body, as with this one.
(Also note this Zonder's rather strong resemblance to a Zaku. There was also a Zonder which originally merged with a train and later with a space shuttle, a somewhat oblique reference to Astrotrain, and a Zonder which could have been a baby V'Ger. I suspect that many of the other Zonders were also paying homage to other pop culture stuff.)
There are also much more extreme instances of Zonders resembling what they absorb, such as this Zonder, which absorbed a big old railroad cannon.
Note GaoGaiGar's creative usage of his space-warping weapon there. He increased the distance between himself and the incoming shell.
After the Zonders were defeated altogether, the Primevals, which were basically smarter, stronger Zonders, showed up. They all had body part themes. (I'm not touching that one.) This eventually led up to them being parts of a larger entity.
In the GaoGaiGar OVA, FINAL, the series ironically reverted to relatively more traditional piloted mecha-like enemies, although for the most part they still did most of the same stuff Zonders did other than absorb things.
-Signing off. Also, the first half of this blog took fifteen minutes, the next fourth took an hour, the eighth after that took TWO FREAKING HOURS, and the last three paragraphs, where I finally moved to a new window, took five more minutes. Stupid computer.
No, I'm not talking about any incidents that were in the news. Forget Rodney King.
Behold the worst case of police brutality I've ever seen.
I have this suspicion that one difficulty people had watching the first Tekkaman series has mostly to do with scenes like this one. Subject A, "George" (apparently that was his Italian dub name or something), breaks into an enemy warship and then starts smashing stuff. This is horribly cruel. He could easily have cut the warship in half from outside, and then the guys inside would have been resigned to a quick decompression death or vaporization depending on what exploded.
But no, he had to kill them to their faces.
Et tu, ROM?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Robot with the most ambitious design: GaoGaiGar. (What could possible be more ambitious than a robot which takes common elements from preceding series [a train robot, a drill tank robot, and a lion robot] and crams all of them into a single design? GaoGaiGar isn't the handsomest mecha out there, but as my discourse upon him should indicate, the design has grown on me. Except Liner Gao. Replace that with a rocket ship.)
Robot that most radically defies physics: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. (That robot ought to collapse into a black hole larger than a galactic core merely by thinking about existing, much less actually existing. Considering that its dimensions render it thousands of times larger than the Milky Way galaxy by volume, and it's probably supposed to be mostly solid [as opposed to the vast voids of space] it's probably as heavy as the freaking detectable universe. Not to mention the fact that there's no way a structure that large could exist without bending and warping in on itself, or that the robot's punches would be constrained by the c limit [that is, it'd be impossible for it to conduct a battle in a human lifetime, or even the typical star's lifetime, especially when you consider the time dilation that would be created by the robot's gravitational field], or the fact that it'd be ending all life in the universe by yanking their planets out of their orbits to itself, shredding galaxies, etc., etc., merely by its presence.)
Robot that was the most horrible killer: Ideon. (It destroyed the universe. 'Nuff said-Cosmos doesn't hold a candle.)
Robot that isn't really a Super Robot but deserves an honorable mention for being a greatly loved character and all that: Optimus Prime. (Yes, there's irony in this being said after yesterday's post. Also, to clarify, making that picture wasn't really responsible for the post being so short, I just thought it was funny.)
Monday, November 17, 2008
(Courtesy of MonkeybarTV. No, really.)
I had planned on doing something serious for this post, but Optimus Prime here (and a slow computer) ate up all the time I would have used for it.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I'm hardly surprised. There's a pretty concrete reason for this: I ramble.
And not just the rambly ramble either. I ramble over periods of time measurable in glacial movements or tectonic plate displacement. That is to say, I focus on some topic or another for a few months to a greater or lesser extent, and then dip into another one.
Reading this blog must be like having a conversation with me.
I was right! It is like having a conversation with myself!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So what did I learn? Well, I learned that this anime...
...has a Japanese pro wrestler based on it.
Yes, you read that right.
A Japanese pro wrestler based his career, and for that matter, apparently his gimmicks, on mimicking an anime protagonist. (By the way, the wrestler is better known than the series.)
Oh, Japan, how you amuse me.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Archimedes is purported to have singlehandedly been responsible for the defense of his home city, Syracuse, against the freaking Roman legions. Obviously, not through feats of physical prowess or any such thing, but by means of "toys" which had no "scientific value." Some of these supposed devices and tricks include the famous "heat ray" and the less well known but in some ways more impressive (and awesomely named) Claw of Archimedes. What was... The Claw? (Imagine that in the Little Green Man voice chorus from Toy Story.) It was, based on contemporary descriptions, a massive crane arm that tipped over attacking ships. Incidentally, the defenses, impressive as they were, were eventually overwhelmed, and Archimedes was stabbed and killed by a Roman soldier who had been sent to capture him, according to report because he was busy contemplating a mathematical diagram he was poring over. (His last words were supposedly "Do not disturb my circles [mathematical diagrams]!" although there's no mention of such in the earliest account of his death.) On a less exciting note, he was also supposed to have designed a number of implements, mathematical formulae, etc., including a massive ship which was supposed to have been the biggest of the era.
Then there's the amusingly named Hero (or Heron), regarded as perhaps the greatest inventor of the ancient world. He's supposed to be the originator of many useful inventions, such as the siphon (which he apparently applied in the world's first fire-extinguishing water pump). Of course, many of his inventions are probably improvements on the earlier inventor Ctesibius (AKA the hardest to spell Greek inventor), who made a number of things, including the predecessor of the pipe organ.
Then, there's the probably purely fictional Greek Inventor, Daedalus. He's most famous for designing the wax wings which Icarus flew too close to the Sun with. He also did a ton of other things, including, according to one myth, shove his brilliant nephew off of a cliff because his nephew was too smart. (His nephew was called Talos in some accounts. Also according to these accounts, Talos [also known as Perdix and Calos] was responsible for creating a way of housing human souls in machinery to make them immortal, which is an eerie and possibly intentional parallel to the other Talos, a giant made of bronze that defended the island of Crete, upon which Daedalus lived for many years, and for whose ruler he built the Labyrinth.)
How could an adaptation of these guys' lives, preferably a horrifically historically inaccurate one, not be totally awesome?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This company was founded by the father of a soldier who was killed in Iraq the week after he had requested body armor. It uses off-the-shelf parts and simple hardware to create cheap, highly effective robots to help soldiers on the front lines by detonating IEDs and even carrying wounded. A typical model of robot offered by large corporations for this sort of task costs $250,000. This robot, the LandShark, costs only $70,000.
What have you done to support the military? I know I'm humbled.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Mazinger Z is a well-loved series among super robot afficionados, but it hasn't aged as gracefully as it might have...
"It serves him right to be hit by his own torpedo. Ha ha ha!" Seriously, who does he think he is, Elmo?
-Signing off, in a certain amount of amusement.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Note to self: When a guy who is covered in magical armor says "You think so?" when you tell him he's the same old lame guy, run first, shoot later.
Also, HULKNOMAN SMASH! (Look at 1:50 to 2:00.)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I decided to put up both because one video has nicer footage and whatnot and the other has better music. (Figure out which is which for yourself.)
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Raideen, also called Reideen, was probably the first super robot to do no small number of things. First, it was an ancient robot with mysterious origins which could only be controlled by descendants of the ancient civilization of Mu. (The robot was powered by Mutron energy. Heh.) The robot itself also had an innate intelligence of some kind, which is also a relative first. (Grendizer was apparently able to distinguish its owner from other potential pilots, and would shoot those intruders who came too close, but that's the only other instance from the era that immediately comes to mind.) It was also, apparently, the first title super robot that transformed. Unlike many later transforming robots, Raideen didn't use its transformation, the "God Bird mode," for utility purposes. He used it...
...to kill things very dead.
Also, the pilot of Raideen was typically teleported in and out.
Another innovation of sorts within the series was the fact that Raideen was hard to pilot. Not "difficult to control." If you weren't careful and healthy, Raideen would kill you. (Well, maybe. I suppose it probably didn't happen.)
Raideen was pretty influential. It had two sequels/remakes of sorts, one of which was so badly paced that a reviewer claimed that a single robot punch ate about fifteen minutes of screen time.
Obviously, it isn't quite that bad, but that's still pretty bad. (If I recall correctly, that bow-shot thing was a response to being shot at from behind.) The Reideen (yes, spelled differently for no useful reason) series' version of the robot also had a pseudo-teleportation ability called "Flash Drive." Heh.
It also had an "unofficial" or "spiritual" remake, RahXephon. Aside from that, the features of Raideen which were unusual for the time period have been used and re-used to the point where they're practically anime cliches.
-Signing off, with more stuff added now.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
But when I thought about it, I realized that there's a feature of the comic which Sims tends to gloss over that should not be overlooked: Dr. McNinja is a genuinely conflicted character.
"Of course he's conflicted!" you say. "He's an Irish-American ninja with a medical degree!"
What's remarkable about it, though, is that McNinja is a character of genuine pathos, whose inner self is revealed with a surprising level of subtlety. And, of course, far more remarkable is the fact that this occurs in the same comic which features a disease that transforms children into fifty-foot lumberjacks, ninja robot bears, and a ghost wizard that uses a spell called "Knife Attack" that makes the victim believe everything is made of knives.
These are not things that can normally coexist in the same fictional universe, much less the same story. Subtlety is not usually the trademark of a comic where a guy punches out snakes.
-Signing off, before I feel any sillier trying to talk about this than I do already.
So, if you're legally registered to vote, vote. (If you aren't, I shouldn't need to tell you that you shouldn't vote. If you're illegally registered to vote somewhere, GREAT SHAME ON YOU.)
Also, no matter who wins or loses, no rioting, guys. I mean it.
-Signing off. I may do an extra post this evening.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I mean, really.
Part of the reason I'm not a huge sports fan is because I've never been athletic enough to get involved in sports, and as a result, am relatively minimally aware of the mechanics of the games. (Exceptions to this include soccer, which I played [very badly] for a few years when I was a kid, basketball, which everyone asked if I played for years because I'm 6'3" barefoot [my answer was always "I hate basketball," primarily because everybody was always asking if I played it], and football, which is reasonably simple and watched religiously by my mother and very casually by my father. That, and I read an essay for a class that explained the difference between modern American football and its original incarnation. I don't get excited about football, but it was a fascinating essay.) Further, a lot of people call their particular sport "the GREAT AMERICAN GAME/PASTIME/FISHCAKES."
Excuse me, but I don't see what makes your sport the American game. There is only one sport that can truly claim that title, although I don't watch that one either: Stock car racing.
What qualifies stock car racing as the American sport? It's quite simple:
- The game involves cars, the chosen form of transportation for Americans, even now.
- The game is a race, meaning that the winners and the losers are determined by the speed of the competitors. Americans are always in a hurry, and racing is thus representative of their natures. (I, by the way, am rarely in a hurry, even though I'm nearly always on time, and that's one of the primary reasons I don't watch racing sports.)
- The game is blatantly commercial. The participants' vehicles are positively slathered in advertising. How much more American could it get?
There's only two things the game is missing that could possibly make it more American than it is already:
- Semi trucks, full of products associated with the sponsor companies, replacing the cars. (And there'd be a rule or something that they'd have to drive like actual semi truck drivers, who seem to think they're racecar drivers anway.)
- Dilapidated highways upon which the races take place.
...Is it just me, or would that be totally awesome? I know that if nothing else, I'd watch/read a TV/comic series about something like that.
(Note: The commentary here is not meant to be criticism of American society. I'm simply stating facts. I'd rather live in America than just about anywhere else.)
(Further note: Yes, I know that there was at least one comic book series about racing semi trucks on highways, and that some people have probably treated semi truck racing as some kind of underground sport. I want to see an official, corporate sponsored one, where the semi trucks have great big NASCAR-style advertising covering them completely.)
(Final note: Obviously, I'm being rather frivolously silly with my commentary. I don't care.)