Friday, January 31, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#105)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)

1041. Stenax. The Stenax are huge ol' demonic-looking gargoyle people. Their considerable size and presumable physical strength makes me think of the Disney Gargoyles cartoon, although the resemblance basically ends at the fact that they're big, modestly demonic-looking winged people.

The Stenax have the power of natural flight, and traditionally built their cities in a way that only flying people could properly use them. In the time of Xim the Despot's empire, 25,000 years before the era of the films, they were among the races Xim enslaved. More recently (mere hundreds of years ago), a special idol of immense religious significance to the Stenax was buried in an earthquake. This idol's value to the Stenax was such that the whole of them refused to fly as long as it remained buried. In recent times, their homeworld Stenos would become a center for various forms of criminal activity, apparently because the Stenax preferred to ignore offworlders.

When a scoundrel uncovered their idol and sold it to the Imperial governor of Stenos, the Stenax immediately took to the skies, killing the governor and his guards. Not long after the Battle of Endor, the Stenax would wipe out the Imperial garrison on Stenos and then started massacring non-Stenax inhabitants of many other nearby planets. Eventually, the New Republic contained the Stenax and put a permanent blockade around Stenos. The Stenax Massacres would become known as one of the nastier events in recent history.

The Stenax are also known to have lifespans in the neighborhood of two hundred and fifty years. It is noted that "few winged species" possess such long lifespans, but that strikes me as pretty silly (off the top of my head I can think of the Duinuogwuin and Galidyn, species who qualify as winged whose lifespans make the Stenax look like mayflies).

Rating: 3/5. Part of the reason I'm rating them relatively low is because it's just too typical that a big, powerful, and intimidating species would cause such trouble.

1042. Stennes and Stennes Shifters. While these have two different entries and are counted as separate species, I'm inclined to stick them together because they're very closely intertwined, and because the Stennes article is only about a paragraph.

The Stennes and Stennes Shifters developed on the planet Stennaros. The Stennes Shifters are a genetic offshoot of the Stennes that all have Force powers, namely a telepathic ability to cause people to not notice them and the ability to feed on the lifeforces of those around them. While few Stennes Shifters used these talents to cause trouble, in the wider galaxy they swiftly picked up a reputation as predators, and thus all Stennes Shifters were soon hunted. Even the mainline Stennes would turn on them, making even Stennaros an unpleasant place for them to live.

Finally, about five thousand years before the movies, there was a large-scale conflict involving the Jedi Order and the Old Republic. Stennaros was devastated by warfare, and the mainline Stennes became violently xenophobic, while the Shifter population dwindled to a few million (keep in mind that there are millions of sapient species in the galaxy, and that number becomes a lot smaller) and largely faded into legend, letting the Shifters pretend to be mainline Stennes (from whom they are indistinguishable in appearance) and blend into society. Many Stennes Shifters now live on the margins of society and rather seem to be doing all right, all things considered.

Rating: 4/5. There's a lot of layered history here, and I like that.

1043. Stereb. The Stereb are large and look a lot like humans to me, although the writer who co-created them told the artist to draw them as "big hairless Wookiee guys," which I have to admit is a kind of great description.

They aren't very advanced, and built stone cities which are described in the following likewise amazing dialogue:

What--Oh, you mean the Stereb cities?
The stone things.
They belong to the Stereb. They're those tall guys. This is their planet.

That we all should have the opportunity to write such incredible dialogue.

Rating: 2/5. They get an extra point because they're those tall guys and this is their planet.

1044. Stictex. The Stictex sound like they're eight-legged winged insects of large size, except for an odd piece of description that indicates they have twelve "optic nerves" on stalks. I'm not quite sure what that's supposed to mean, although I must admit I think it sounds visually interesting.

Rating: 3/5, because their description sounds interesting.

1045. Stokhli. The Stokhli are known as the creators of the Stokhli stun stick, a weapon designed to subdue living beings without harming them.

It should be noted that a Stokhli stun stick apparently goes for 14,000 credits, which is relatively comparable to the price of a used landspeeder on Tatooine and the amount of money that Han Solo owed Jabba the Hutt. Also, a Stokhli stun stick is actually essentially a cross between a real world stun gun and one of Spider-Man's web shooters, which arguably puts it among the greatest personal weapons in all of fiction.

Rating: 2/5 for their association with an interesting weapon. Interestingly enough, the stun stick was originally developed for hunting.

1046. Strathen. The first contact the Strathen had with another species was with the Duros (see the Duinuogwuin link earlier).

Rating: 2/5. Mainly because it reinforces the idea that Duros are one of the species who have been spacefaring the longest.

1047. Stribers. The Stribers are among the rarest members of the Iskalonian School, a group I've mentioned a bunch of times and ought to work on making a special index for or something. Their rarity is such that it is thought that they will be extinct within a few generations of the Battle of Endor.

They are telepathic and naturally diplomatic. They also look a little bit like grey aliens.

Rating: 3/5. As I've noted most of the times I've mentioned them, I like the Iskalonian School as a concept-a multiracial society of peoples who all happen to be primarily aquatic.

1048. Stromma. The Stromma of Oristrom (which is a great nonstandard name link) were defeated at some point by the Quesoth, and would become their allies. Later, they would be conquered by an alien warlord, then liberated from that warlord by Grand Admiral Thrawn and his Empire of the Hand, an organization dedicated to keeping warlords and empires and things in the Unknown Regions from leaving the Unknown Regions. They would then ally with the Empire of the Hand, and then would withdraw from services in Thrawn's forces because they believed that he would be defeated when he went to battle with the warlord, who was on the Quesoth homeworld and had the Quesoth as his main allies.

That's an awful lot of political hopping around.

Rating: 3/5. I'm giving them a point extra because I just learned that Nuso Esva, the warlord mentioned above, was created by Timothy Zahn as Thrawn's Moriarty.

1049. Strutters. Strutters are cartoonish ostrich/roadrunner people from Endor, known for their vanity and generally thought by the Ewoks and other inhabitants of Endor to be frivolous and silly. Considering that they apparently carried modern-looking hand mirrors on the primitive world of Endor, I'd have to agree.

Rating: 2/5, if only because that's kind of funny.

1050. Suiraons. Suiraons resemble lizards and enjoy basking in the sun.

Sheesh, I'm sick of stereotypical reptilian characterization.

Rating: 1/5.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Video Title Strikes Me As Perhaps Slightly Unfortunate

Apropos of essentially nothing (other than the fact that this happened to be sitting in my favorites), here's a music video somebody did compiling footage of the amazing Sammo Hung.

I don't think I've ever seen anybody perform a jump kick with real physical consequences before. It's kind of amazing.

-Signing off.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Synapses Firing Randomly (#1)

So you know those car commercials where they depict the car evading something ridiculous, like an avalanche or a monster.

And somebody in Japan clearly thought this was a neat idea, and did this with the series Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan.

And I thought "Eh, cool enough, that's a neat series and the titans make as much sense as anything... [synapses fire randomly] Okay why did I think of this?"

"Sure your SUV is cool guys, but look what this guy did in a West Coaster!"

-Signing off.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#104)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)

1031. "Squidges." The "squidges" are an ambiguously canonical race that somewhat resemble grey-style aliens, though they also have some sort of skin patterns rather prominently on their heads, necks, and a few other places.

"Squidge" is possibly a degrading epithet applied to them by another race, and as with the Skrillings, is all we know to call them by. However, we don't have any indication it's what they're stuck calling themselves.

The (ambiguously canonical) story in which they appear features a pair of youths somehow finding C-3PO long after the movie era, implicitly many centuries or longer, hearing the barely functional droid tell stories of Luke Skywalker, and, after the droid and one of the youths are killed, the other finds a lightsaber in the droid's remains and claims there is still hope.

I hope that kid had some majorly awesome combat potential, because otherwise that's a real tragedy waiting to happen. (The reason most people don't use lightsabers? Because they're dangerous as heck just to hold.)

Rating: 3/5. This is mostly based on appearance.

1032. Sronk. The main known feature of the Sronk is that they use some rather idiosyncratic hand-based metaphors in their speech, such as "seeing things full-left-handed," which apparently just means seeing something personally. (Confusingly, Wookieepedia gives the example "seeing things first-hand" as a translation.)

We know little else, except that Grand Admiral Thrawn stomped all over their planet once, and thus they, like many others, were very worried by rumors of him returning in the buildup to the Caamas document crisis.

Rating: 2/5. Y'know, more science fiction writers need to consider what parts of their native languages are idiosyncratic and then break the languages down and build brand new idiosyncratic metaphors for aliens. (Even closely related languages on Earth can have very different choice for simple things-in German, you "make" a picture rather than "take" a picture.)

1033. Srrors'toks. Srrors'toks are rather ugly cat aliens.

They have short fur, usually golden/yellow or grey and black tabby-striped, and this fur doesn't provide much insulation; some also have differently-colored manes. Some develop the skill of ventriloquism, with the apparent intent of confusing enemies by making themselves sound like they're more than one individual or coming from different directions.

Also notable is that they have a big dumb rigid honor code, like way too many Star Wars aliens, which involves the life debt.

Now, I've never really talked much about the life debt, but here's the thing: It's kind of problematic, at least as far as I'm concerned. Always serving someone who saved you once forever, until one or the other dies? Man, why would anyone do that? It's in complete defiance of societal sense, and the fact that this is at least the third species I know of (the others being Gungans and Wookiees) that does something like it is painful. I can't complain as much about the one that started it, Chewbacca's life debt to Han Solo, because unlike many cases of this sort of thing, 1) Han got in a lot of trouble helping Chewbacca out and Chewbacca knew this, 2) they actually became great friends, and 3) never once did Han actually take advantage of Chewie. And Srrors'toks definitely follow those they owe life debts to regardless of how horrible their debt-holders are to them. I'm seriously inclined to think that any sensible society that followed a "life debt" honor code would at the very least not acknowledge debts to those who don't follow their own honor, because frankly that's a few metric tons of bull.

Now, there is a thing in this case that interests me: Apparently, if a Srrors'tok incurs a life debt to two different people who are sufficiently violent enemies, the Srrors'tok can cancel the older life debt, or ignore both of them. They aren't supposed to incur a second one on purpose, but if they do I imagine it's a very pleasant experience for the Srrors'tok and not so much for the former debt holder.

Rating: 3/5. Mainly because of the interesting detail on how the life debt thing can end.

1034. Ssamb. Ssamb are superficially spider-like creatures created by the DarkStryder, the formidable organic supercomputer thingy created by the Kathol, to guard itself against intrusion. I say "superficially spider-like" because they have six legs, no proper heads or segments, vertebrate jaws (which essentially just emerge directly from their bodies), and little stinger-like tails of some sort, and other than their legs, don't even vaguely look like arthropods. About fifteen hundred of them are known to guard the DarkStryder, and because it created them apparently from scratch, it seems dubious there are any more of them than that.

Rating: 3/5. I generally don't necessarily have anything wrong with aliens that don't resemble arthropods except superficially, but I wish people would choose their descriptions of such more carefully than they do.

1035. Ssi-ruuk. The Ssi-ruuk (singular Ssi-ruu, possessive Ssi-ruuvi) are among the most xenophobic, racist, and generally nasty species in the entirety of the Star Wars galaxy (I'd have to do a careful tally to be sure, but out of the ones I can remember offhand, they're probably in the top five and definitely the top ten), coming from the Unknown Regions, a peripheral area that has never been under the dominion of the larger galactic society. (Other prominent inhabitants of the area are the Killiks, who moved there after their seeming extinction in the central parts of the galaxy, and the Chiss.) They have a strict caste system built entirely around scale color, with intermarriage forbidden and the brown-scaled results of mating between different castes often put to death out of hand. They also kept the P'w'ecks, probably a Ssi-ruuk subspecies, as slaves, and are happy to enslave anyone else they meet.

And we're not talking the kind of slave that has at least some hope of humane treatment, either, because one of the reasons they like slaves so much is because they created a form of technology based around a process they call entechment. The crux of entechment is that it sucks the Force-based lifeforce out of a living creature and infuses it into a droid, providing the droid with a long-term power source and also enslaving the victim's mind as the droid's intelligence. (It was also shown that an enteched intelligence could be permitted to act under its own volition, and there was a Ssi-ruuvi ally who had willingly been enteched for the sake of immortality.) Enteched beings provide a ridiculous amount of energy, and so the Ssi-ruuk used enteched slaves to power their starfighters, tiny autonomous droids that required only two souls to compete with the power sources of the rest of the galaxy (I'll point out that an X-Wing has been calculated to have power output on the scale of the entire North American power grid).

It gets better. While traditionally the Ssi-ruuk used their P'w'eck slaves to power things, they discovered that humans provided even better power sources, ones that might well never run out (P'w'ecks only actually last for months, apparently), and were eager to invade the galaxy at large to harvest the entire civilization. They even discovered the connection between the Force and entechment (they are among the species that lack Force sensitives) and figured out how to use a powerful Jedi to entech people remotely.

You might be wondering, with all of this horrific stuff, just how anyone could stand against them. The answer is simple: They're dirty cowards.

Specifically, Ssi-ruuvi religion states that a Ssi-ruuvi soul can only reach the afterlife if the Ssi-ruu dies on a consecrated homeworld. (The consecration can apparently only come once they've taken a place over, although the ceremony takes only an hour.) This is very important to the Ssi-ruuk, who believe they're in for a good afterlife and that failing to reach it means an eternity of loneliness, and so they work really hard not to die off their homeworlds and use very conservative, defensive tactics. Their cowardice thus takes the teeth out of any serious attempts by the Ssi-ruuk to expand out of their home territory, and compared to many other self-important races, they're not very successful.

Hm, I've gotten this far and haven't even mentioned that the Ssi-ruuk are usually depicted as large (about seven to eight hundred pounds) carnivorous dinosaurs, who have tongue-like smelling feelers in their noses and speak in a musical, whistling language.

The Ssi-ruuk invaded the periphery of the wider Galactic society after the Emperor found out about them and suggested an alliance; their incursion came roughly simultaneously with the events of Return of the Jedi. Their attack was driven back by a Rebel task force that intercepted a message that had been intended for the Emperor, and the Ssi-ruuk sat on their duffs for a while after that.

Then there was a Keeramak, a messianic figure, born among the Ssi-ruuk, and they believed it was time to conquer the galaxy. They started a plot involving faking an uprising by the P'w'ecks and brown-scaled Ssi-ruuk, but this didn't work out for them, and the Keeramak was killed. This happened more or less simultaneously with the Yuuzhan Vong showing up and attacking the Ssi-ruuvi homeworlds, and the Ssi-ruuvi Imperium was forced to flee under military dictatorship to some other territory. As far as is known, they're still basically homeless.

Rating: 5/5. I rather like the combination of features here-strange technology, a distinctive design, and certain powerful capabilities being offset by culturally ingrained cowardice.

1036. Ssither. Ssither look rather like cobras with arms, although the face of the illustration on the page looks rather like it's a very different animal than an actual cobra.

They're quite large, able to rear up to a height comparable to a human's while still having quite a bit of their length on the ground to use as support, and are apparently collectively telepathic, though also capable of speech.

Their culture was quite primitive, but then they were enslaved by somebody or another. Then their star exploded, but fortunately for them immediately beforehand there was a group of Rebels in the area and they rescued as many as they could, dropping them off on another planet somewhere.

Rating: 4/5. They're pretty cool-looking.

1037. Ssty. Ssty are apparently furry, have little claws that they use as fingers, and have a reputation as cheaters.

Rating: 1/5. Eh.

1038. Stacchati. Apparently, the appearance of their eyes were the basis for a certain kind of droid's eyes. Considering what the droids in question look like, Stacchati probably look kind of... derpy.

Rating: 1/5.

1039. Stassians. They presumably exist.

Rating: 1/5.

1040. Stellan. The Stellan apparently lead a peaceful life, and do so by getting rid of anyone that they regard as a potential problem at an early age, putting them in spacecraft and setting them adrift in space.

What nice people.

This means that most Stellan in the wider galaxy were originally brought there by the slavers and pirates who snatch these people up, since the Stellan society doesn't do anything to protect these people.

Rating: 3/5. They're awful but plausible, and I could totally buy this being a thing that happens.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Warning: The Tags (and Comment After the Video) Are Spoilers For the Clip

I've watched a few of these "How It Should Have Ended" things, and this one is far and away the best (yes, even better than the one with Darth Vader), or at least the one most suited to my particular tastes:

Sooner or later, there will be an actual Power Vacuum Megazord (I'm pretty sure there isn't one just yet), and I'll look back at this and laugh. (Not that I wasn't going to look back at this and laugh anyway.)

(Also, there was some dope commenting on the video who was wondering why it "took people so long" to chuck nukes in the wormhole. I'm sorry, but that was addressed in the frikkin' movie and you need to work on your listening/comprehension skills. (They did think of it, and it didn't work when they tried it.)

-Signing off.

Monday, January 20, 2014

We Dig Giant Robots

Since I've been relying awfully heavily on silly Chinese tokusatsu for content lately, have a Pacific Rim music video to the Megas XLR theme.

I'm having a hard time imagining how this could be more perfect.

-Signing off.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#103)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)

1021. Sock-headed Worm People. The Sock-headed Worm People (this seems like a conjectural title, don't you think?) are from a cut story, and thus ambiguously canonical.

They look only sorta wormlike, in that they have annelid-style (i.e. earthworm style) body segments and their body shapes are kinda similar, but otherwise they're stocky-bodied little lumps with tentacles. They supposedly come from a desert planet.

Rating: 3/5. I like how they look, even with the apparent cartoon mouth.

1022. Soomans. They're some kind of cartoon bug people.

They were once threatened by invasion, but nothing much came of it because it was a Droids cartoon tie-in comic. Then some other guys came and massacred millions of them for jollies, possibly disgusted at their survival.

Rating: 3/5. There's a pity point in there.

1023. Soothsisters of Pelgrin. Xim the Despot killed all the Soothsisters of Pelgrin for them predicting that his empire would fall.

Later, his empire fell.

Rating: 2/5. It can't be said for sure that they're actually an alien species as such, but if they were, I'd probably bump them up another point if they went in the directions I'd tend to think they ought to go.

1024. Sorkis. The Sorkis (singular Sorki) are ambiguously canonical, amphibious and preferentially aquatic humanoids. They so strongly prefer underwater lifestyles that only one percent of the populace of their own capital city, which is above water for convenience of administration and junk, is actually made up of their own species. They can't speak Basic (English), instead speaking a dolphin chatter-inspired tongue.

They apparently invented a virtual reality-like form of psychotherapy, which like all fictional forms of magically entering people's heads is stupid dangerous to a degree that makes you wonder why people think it's a good idea.

Rating: 3/5. The main thing I like is the description of the capital city.

1025. Sorrusians. The Sorrusians are near-humans with hyper-flexible bone structures that apparently let them squeeze through much tighter places than humans.

Rating: 2/5. Eh, if you're going to make near-humans with one anatomical difference, it might as well be something interesting instead of something worn out and overdone.

1026. Souma. The Souma are ambiguously canonical cat people. There are five times as many female Souma as male Souma, and the male Souma are apparently stupid and "relegated to menial tasks." I... kinda doubt that's how that'd work, exactly; if you've got stupid, rare males, then you'd be using them as studs, not menial laborers.

As for appearance, their main notable features are thick coats of fur and "frank, gentle eyes." ...That sounds a lot like my new cat.

Rating: 2/5. Hum, very average so far today.

1027. Spider People. The Spider People are/were spider people (SHOCKING) who live(d) on a planet of insect people. This naturally made them enemies of the insectoid natives (which is silly, but meh), but they were seemingly exterminated after retreating to the planet's implausible cave complexes.

The reason for the tense ambiguity is because they're implicitly extinct, except their last known environment is filled with "cave spiders," which appear to be related to them and which seem to be intelligent, possibly sapient.

They're said to have been quick to jump to conclusions. Sounds to me like that's a trait of those who think they're extinct.

Rating: 3/5. The implicit fact that they're still around, letting outsiders believe they're extinct, is interesting.

1028. Spiners. The Spiners' homeworld of Worxer was destroyed by a supernova, and the fact that they could no longer acquire certain vital nutrients from their home meant that they were becoming sterile and gradually going extinct. (I have doubts that a civilization in the Star Wars galaxy couldn't come up with nutritional supplements for that sort of thing, but whatever.)

Anyway, the Spiners' claim to fame is that they have porcupine-like quills (SHOCK) that they can shoot as projectiles with enough force and accuracy to kill. Not only can they do this, but they can fire them really fast, and then regrow them at probably impossible rates, thus being able to fire hundreds of projectiles in the span of a few minutes.

Sounds exhausting, especially since their projectile firing is explicitly powered by muscular action.

Rating: 3/5. If they'd had a more interesting name, perhaps.

1029. Squalrises. I'll get this out of the way: Every time I read "Squalris" I hear "walrus" and then I'm disappointed that they aren't some kind of walrus things.

Anyway, Squalrises are some kind of yellow-skinned humanoids whose homeworld is fortunate enough to sit along one of the biggest, wealthiest trade routes in the galaxy, and has been an immensely wealthy planet since the modern hyperdrive was invented and proliferated 25,000 years before the movie era. Probably as an acquired trait, Squalrises have a particular reputation as hard bargainers. In an RPG, Squalris players would have less agility, but starting bonuses to durability (attributed to a thick hide) as well as to detecting hidden agendas and to initial wealth.

Rating: 3/5. Eh, somebody has to be the well-heeled and well-established guys.

1030. Squibs. The Squibs are diminutive, rodent-like nomadic Jawa types, i.e. technology scavengers, and seedy merchants (the two occupations are, of course, related). They have a frikkafrakkin' ton of history and material.

One of the most notable things about the Squibs is that the first character in Star Wars fiction to go by the name Mace Windu was actually a Squib. It would later be explained that the Squibs see the Jedi Mace Windu as Big Time Hero of Beyond-Squib Eliteness (an actual title given as an honor for great heroes by the Squibs) for saving their planet once during the Clone Wars.

Rating: 4/5. They're not my favorite space scavs. They're also not my favorite rodent people, because saber-toothed rat people. But they do possess quite a bit of cultural material and are clearly popular to use... though they're also inconsistently portrayed by different authors, e.g. some of them speak in weird pidgin dialects while some don't.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Pinnacle of Cheesy Dub Dialogue

In this (rather brutal) fight clip, we see one of the best bizarre/comical lines I've ever seen in anything, around 1:45:

"This is the part where I turn you into a box!"

While it's a fairly accurate description of how the magic sealing is graphically depicted, that doesn't really make it any less hilariously incongruous.

The part that makes me smile the most is probably the fact that, since this is a rather half-hearted dub in many respects, it's impossible to tell if they did it on purpose.

-Signing off.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Don't Worry, That's Normal

Continuing along the vein of silly and ridiculous things from the Chinese tokusatsu series Armor Hero XT, here we have a clip from what is apparently the last episode. (Reminder: Armor Hero has an official English-language YouTube channel, and they have clips from throughout both series and full episodes of the early part of the first one. And clips from the movie. Yes there's a movie. Yes it's also silly. It has a cockroach army, who are of course guys in cheap costumes, or rather probably one guy in a single cheap costume that has been digitally replicated about five hundred times.)

I think my single favorite thing from this clip is the Pyro Warrior going "Ah! Ah! I'm blind!" and the other guy going "Don't worry, that's normal!"

It's mildly amusing on its own. But then we see the costume change that occurs shortly thereafter to represent the powerup:

He couldn't see before his costume changed; he'd gone blind. (Pretty sure I'm simplifying a tad; there were more steps than that and I think he could see again before the transformation.) Now his costume has changed, and he's got a visor that appears to be made of solid, opaque metal. (And he can see again.)

Mockery aside, there's something else kind of interesting about this: Apparently, the villain has time manipulation powers maybe? And he knows that the protagonist's parents died, and that the protagonist wants his parents not to have died, and somehow he can talk after he's been blown up, and in order for his threat to actually be ended, he needs to be "sealed."

And the Pyro Warrior guy can't bring himself to push the button.

Hey, a thing that actually resembles an interesting plot twist!

(Ouch, that came out a bit harsh. I really do actually like it on a non-ironic level. It's just that some of the story around it is... not so enjoyable on a non-ironic level. But that's for another time, I'm sure.)

-Signing off.

Friday, January 10, 2014

You Deserve This! Eh!

A clip from Armor Hero XT, the probably non-sequel continuation of the Armor Hero tokusatsu series:

The (sort of) drama of this moment is, of course, rather hamstrung by the fact that the voice actor they chose for Captain Cuffs (yeah, I'm pretty sure that's actually his name) is the genuinely derpiest voice actor I've ever heard. (And I've watched Space Thunder Kids, thank you.) Watch the automatic closed captioning for even more silliness.

It's made even funnier by this set of screenshots taken from a clip from the previous episode (which is hilarious out of sequence, since one will be thinking of Captain Cuff's brutality in the other clip and then see the petty playground behavior in this one):

Incidentally, with names like Cuffs, Joseph, and Sabin, which are the real names (in the dubbed version) of these monster people (yes, Cuffs is also a monster person), you have to wonder if they chose English-language names out of a hat or something.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#102)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)

(I've excluded Smoke Demons because there's no clear evidence that they're either sapient or even alive, much less a species, even if it deprives me of an interesting article this go-round.)

1011. Sloogarians. The Sloogarian homeworld is named Sloogaria. This is worth noting even though it's not that unusual for the names to match up, especially since this article has a disproportionate number of derpy names.

Anyway, Sloogarians are apparently some form of scavenger, as they apparently like to eat things such as bantha droppings. The picture of a Sloogarian I've seen looks like something between a worm person and a bedsheet ghost.

The only known Sloogarian is named Squishmael (drop the first three letters or say it aloud, and you'll catch the literary reference, even though the reference doesn't have to do with anything), and is known for telling tall tales to get others to buy him drinks.

Tall tales about major series characters that he's unlikely ever to have met (namely Han Solo and Darth Vader).

Rating: 3/5. I'm sufficiently entertained by that.

1012. Sludir. The Sludir are six-legged, two-armed creatures. They range from good-sized if low-slung to rather enormous; even a small Sludir is quite a bit larger than an average-sized human being by weight, and at least one known newborn weighed forty kilograms, or nearly ninety pounds. They're described as reptilian yet have manes of hair, and have somewhat dinosaur-like heads. (Notably, one Sludir basically looks like Dino-Fabio.)

They're also protected by armored skin, which protects significantly against physical blows though not against blasters, and take great pride in keeping this armor healthy and repairing it with a special soap (seriously).

Apparently, Sludir women naturally have the ability to delay their pregnancies once they're near full term so that they don't have to give birth in dangerous situations; they can maintain this for nearly a year. (This did not have anything to do with the huge birth weight of the known newborn; the delayed pregnancy halts growth.)

In traditional Sludir society, there was a strict caste system which put warriors above artisans (skilled workers) who were above regular workers. The legal system and method of promotion were built around combat, and honor in combat is basically the number one thing for any given Sludir, though dying without heirs is also considered great dishonor, because they're sorta ancestor worshipers and believe in making descendants to remember them. (One known Sludir let his brother-in-law kill him in a gladiatorial match because he knew his wife was pregnant, but that the brother-in-law was childless. Holy cheese. Said brother-in-law was later killed by said pregnant wife in a different gladiatorial match, which kinda makes that moot.) Sludir don't like ranged weapons, running, hiding, taking cover, or subterfuge. The society also had various caste-appropriate rites of passage.

They were, as all this suggests, a primitive culture when the Empire showed up. Because their honor code makes them terrible at actual warfare as opposed to ritualized combat, the Empire rolled right over them and made the lot of them into slaves. (Thus we see the value of the Ewok lesson: It doesn't really matter how fancy or advanced your weapons or armor are if somebody sneaky drops a big darned rock on your fool head. Another lesson applies, of course: It doesn't matter how big and awesome a dinosaur-centaur-man you are if the other guy's got a gun.)

Slavery was pretty hard on Sludir society. Most of the Sludir who managed to thrive turned out to be those who were willing to do what it took to survive until such time as they became ranking criminals, often slavers, themselves. The aforementioned Dino-Fabio was one of the more successful ones. Sludir in general didn't get along with the Rebellion, since they were expected not to kill their superiors in ritual combat while seeking promotion there, though apparently those who did join the Rebellion were very devoted to it.

We don't know much about the Sludir after the fall of the Empire, except that their homeworld Sluudren was apparently a nasty mess and many returning Sludir threw up their hands in disgust and returned to the galaxy at large when they saw it.

Rating: 5/5. Eh, I was waffling a bit, but they've got so many interesting quirks, and when I thought about it I realized that they're more realistic than most of the dumb warrior races you see.

1013. Slughs. The Slughs are ambiguously canonical humanoid gastropods (!) that apparently all have some form of "evolutive muscular illness," whatever the heck that is supposed to mean, that kills them over time. They also can't move without mechanical exoskeletons, and apparently can't live for more than a few days without one. They apparently are hunting for a cure.

All members of their society are capable of tinkering with and repairing their exoskeletons, which strikes me as a pretty necessary talent, and apparently they frequently upgrade their exoskeletons with combat modifications. This makes it a little clearer that they were created for an RPG supplement.

Rating: 4/5. They're power-armored slug people. Simple but fun. My only problem, ironically, is their disease thing, which is clearly intended to be their primary notable feature.

1014. Sluissi. Sluissi are one of those humanoid-above-waist-snake-below-waist reptilian species. They also have cobra-ish hoods. Unusually for reptilians, they are apparently incapable of what we would call anger, or at least impulsive anger, and are exceptionally patient.

The Sluissi are known as excellent technicians. This is mainly because they're extremely methodical. They don't work quickly, but they do exceedingly thorough work, and usually improve on things in the process. They're mainly known as shipwrights, building and improving on ships, and while the Empire occupied their homeworld for its support of the Separatists, they apparently didn't treat them too badly, mainly because mistreating them to get more work out of them apparently just doesn't work.

Rating: 4/5. They're reptile people primarily known as shipbuilders.

1015. Slyte. Nubblyk the Slyte was, presumably, a Slyte.

Rating: 1/5. Sometimes, I'll boost a rating if a character is interesting, but we don't know significantly more about Nubblyk than we do about Slyte.

1016. Smotls. A Smotl worked for a Hutt.

Rating: 1/5.

1017. Sneevels. The Sneevels of Sneeve (, usually you don't expect that sort of name to be derived from the planet's name... and their language is named Snee!) are monkey guys with too-large anthropomorphic pig heads. They have quick reflexes, love danger, and emit strong musky smells linked to their emotions. They apparently are also known for being omnivorous to the point where they may eat plates as well as the food served on them.

Their dedication to thrillseeking might serve higher causes, but often is just an adrenaline addiction. Among the endeavors they've been known to undertake are hyperspace exploration, extreme sports (such as podracing), and high-energy physics experiments. (Consider the scale of the Star Wars galaxy and particularly the Death Star, and then one must wonder just what a high-energy physics experiment looks like in that setting. It's probably not a good idea to be in the same galactic quadrant as one of those.)

They're known for being abrasive and unpleasant, and are even compared in personality to Dashades, whose hat is that they're hired killers.

Rating: 3/5. I got distracted by thinking about the implications of physics research in Star Wars.

1018. Snivvians. The old unpleasant nickname given to Snivvians in the toy-based material is "snaggletooth." Nice. Not that "Snivvian" is that much better, because it sounds like "snivel."

Anyway, the Snivvians have thick skin that provides insulation in place of heavy fur, have big snouts and good senses of smell (well, one presumes a good sense of smell, but it never mentions that part explicitly-it just says they "make good scouts" because of their large snouts). In the early days of their space exploration, slavers found them and caused them trouble, but the Old Republic brought that under control.

Their society is known for its artistic pursuits, stemming from their homeworld's long, brutal winters; supposedly, this eventually ingrained a biological need to be involved in the production of some form of art. Many have abandoned their native language, though others retain it "for symbolic, subtextual, or fashionable reasons" (emphasis mine).

Snivvians are supposedly known for having "sociopathic tendencies," and are apparently trying to breed it out of their population. Notably and bizarrely, apparently when twin male Snivvians are born, one always turns out to be a "psychotic genius."

Rating: 3/5. There's quite a few really... strange details here.

1019. Snogars. Snogars apparently had a revolution at some point where they rejected all technology; this wasn't a bright move, because their world was and is in the throes of a deep ice age, and they kinda needed that stuff. The one story featuring them involved them trying to force offworlders to repair the heating units in their deteriorating cities.

They're basically human, but may be bigger and have lion's-mane facial hair (which is misleadingly described as them being "furry").

Rating: 1/5. Pretty big meh there.

1020. Snutib. The Snutib resemble praying mantids. Like many insectoid species, they allied with the Killiks when the Killiks were causing trouble by being Killiks.

Rating: 2/5. They get a point because I like mantids.

-Signing off.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Armor Hero is Hilarious

Some presumably unintentionally hilarious screenshots from the official English YouTube release of the first episode of the Chinese tokusatsu series Armor Hero (which I am glad to see dubbed because now I don't have to listen to the original soundtrack):

They're amusing as-is, but they're even funnier with the voices. The evil overlord guy is stereotypically booming and deep (and uses awkward phraseology and is also just plain stereotypical), while his minion John (I presume that's not his name in the original Chinese) is really campy, to the point where my sister can do a nearly perfect impression of his voice.

The special effects and writing aren't really on the same par as contemporary Japanese tokusatsu, and as noted the voice acting and translations are kinda goofy, but the costuming is really nice and it's rather fun to watch in a bit of a train wreck sort of way.

-Signing off.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Invid's Guide to the Star Wars Universe: Alien Species (#101)

The Massive Index (Posts #1-#100)

1001. Skakoans. Skakoans are from a planet with a high-pressure methane atmosphere. (I've noted in the past that methane atmospheres are a weird thing to actually breathe as such. It's got to do with chemistry.) Thus, they generally visit the oxygen-based worlds that most of the Star Wars media takes place on in "pressurized" suits with their own air supplies and whatnot. Of course, it's kind of hard to properly pressurize a suit with great big openings in it everywhere (which most Skakoan suits have-generally, one can see roughly sixty percent of a Skakoan's head exposed, even if all the important orifices are covered-oxygen wouldn't be kind to the skin of a creature not used to it), so that begs a few questions.

Skakoan culture is fairly well-established. They have some kind of bizarre religion centering around a few really weird things that seem to actually exist. They are widely believed to be emotionless, since their voices are mechanically altered to travel through different atmospheres and their faces are all covered, but are actually no less emotional than anybody else. They also tend to be rather xenophobic, which probably owes to the relative fragility of their protective gear. If one sees a Skakoan off the homeworld of Skako, it's probably on important business.

The Skakoans ran the Techno Union, one of the various megacorporations that led the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the Clone Wars, which is probably a testament to their organizational and technical skills and knowledge. At the end of the Clone Wars, the Empire persecuted the Skakoans for their role in CIS leadership, and so they retreated to Skako and resumed near-total isolationism. This isolationism would end up protecting them from the Yuuzhan Vong.

Also, apparently Skakoans can't eat solid food. One presumes they consume liquid diets.

It's worth noting that all Skakoans identified on Wookieepedia are labeled as male. I'm not sure how one would tell considering the bulk of their suits...

Rating: 3/5. While I complain about the pressure suits, I'll admit they create an interesting look, and I suppose they could be functional; it's just that I can't imagine why you'd want to have a metal plate basically stapled to your face rather than a bubble helmet.

1002. Skandits. Skandits are blue fox/raccoon/squirrel people who are less than two feet tall. If you've been reading for a while, you might guess this makes them characters from the Ewoks cartoon, among the basically thousands of teeming hostiles one must deal with living on Endor. You would be correct.

They're apparently known for being aggressive and unpleasant. It isn't known whether the Skandits are native to Endor or not, for Endor is rather a hotbed of shipwreck activity.

Rating: 1/5. Eh.

1003. Skeebo. At least one Skeebo (from the planet Skeebo) thought something smelled really bad.

Rating: 2/5. I like the name "Skeebo."

1004. Skels. Skels are inhabitants of the planet Hoth. They have largish heads and small bodies, and big piggish snouts. They also have long, shaggy white fur, as anything that lives on an entirely quasi-arctic planet should.

Behavior-wise, they're essentially sort of primitive goblin people, savagely attacking basically anything that moves.

It's not terribly surprising that Skels were created for the "Design an Alien" contest.

Interestingly (and a bit mysteriously), "skel" is also in-universe slang for a bounty/prisoner.

Rating: 3/5. This is mostly because they look kind of interesting.

1005. Skeïtos. All we seem to know about the ambiguously canonical Skeïtos is that a ship that was identifiable as one of theirs had been devoured by an ambiguously canonical quasi-living ghost ship called the Gorgorror (which I persistently mistype as "golgorror").

Rating: 2/5, because that's an amusing umlaut.

1006. Skrillings. Skrillings have remarkably distinctive noses, with what amounts to a stack of four tubes combining to service eight nostrils. (You really kind of have to look at it to get it.) These service the Skrilling sense of smell, which is apparently incredibly powerful; apparently, the deep inhalations a Skrilling performs can be heard as a whistling sound, supposedly for miles.

This strikes me as a distinct problem for a scavenging species, which the Skrillings are. Specifically, the Skrillings apparently can't properly digest anything except "well-aged" meat, preferably that which has gone to decay for a week or longer. Since acquiring meat of the right age is difficult, Skrilling society developed a complicated tradition of haggling barter to avoid open conflict. While outsiders are prone to finding this irritating, Skrillings recognize this and will take different tactics with others, making them very versatile at bargaining with any group.

Skrillings are native to a planet known only as Agriworld-2079. This planet belongs to the M'shinni, whose hegemony utterly obliterated any pre-contact culture the Skrillings might have had. In fact, "Skrilling" was originally a derogatory word meaning "bone-picker." As such, I suppose it's technically an ethnic slur and wouldn't be good to use, except it's all they have.

Since their home was forcibly transformed into a massive corporate farm, the Skrillings adapted. Many Skrillings came to work for the M'shinni hierarchies, while others left to become wandering scavenger-merchants, something like planet-hopping Jawas, with the added caveat that sometimes when they pick over battlefields for goods, they also pick over the dead for flesh. Other Skrillings became spies for the Rebel Alliance, presumably because the M'shinni supported the Empire. Some Skrillings joined a non-violent civil rights movement. There's also a famous Skrilling smuggler who worked for Jabba the Hutt (he was surreptitiously killed by a rival during the battle on Jabba's sail barge). Finally, there are several known Skrillings who became members of the Jedi Order.

Rating: 5/5. I'm... kind of surprised by how much I really like the Skrillings. They look interesting, they have an interesting backstory, and while there are a few details about them I find silly, I can deal with that. I haven't even mentioned that they're hairless, yet classified as egg-laying mammals.

1007. Skups, or Sionian Skups. According to legend, another species genetically modified the ancestors of the Skups and sold them as slaves to the Hutts. Their homeworld, Sionia, is in or near Hutt space, and I don't know if I think that makes the story more or less likely. (Why would the Hutts buy something they probably felt they already owned?) On the other hand, apparently their genetic variation from individual to individual is very high, and some are called "biomorphs," although there's no real explanation of what this might mean. (It may have to do with physiognomy, or it may not-there's only one named Skup character.)

They kind of resemble a certain sort of stretched-out cartoon people; the known example of a Skup is also always wearing a hat that covers most of his head, heightening the effect.

Skups (or at least Anky Fremp, the lone named Skup) have skin that is described as "the color of dianoga cheese." Dianogas are sewer creatures, and one of them was the creature that attacked Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trash compactor. I do not want to consider what "dianoga cheese" might entail.

Anyway, apparently Skups are known for being skilled in non-violent criminal professions, primarily thievery, but not so good at the violent ones.

However, the only known Skup is associated with Greedo, a character whose history has since been extensively rewritten, so it's ambiguous as to what's up with all that.

Rating: 3/5. Lots of interesting little details, and it's connected to Greedo's original history, which I kind of prefer to anything that anybody could come up with for the character. (Greedo should never be anything more than an angry, stupid young street tough, which is exactly his behavior pattern in A New Hope. Poking someone with a gun is popular in movies, but it's also stupid because now the other guy can reach your gun. End rant on revisionism. [Greedo's history is one of the few places where later changes bother me; I'm pretty much fine with a lot of the rest.])

1008. Sliiskiis. The Sliiskiis come from the same ambiguously canonical source as the Skeïtos, though their relation to the Gorgorror is unclear from their article (in fact, their relation to anything is unclear from their article).

Rating: 2/5, because I like the preponderance of the letter "i" in the name.

1009. Slith. The Slith were relatively unknown in the galaxy until roughly the rise of the Galactic Empire; they were rendered extinct a few decades later when the Yuuzhan Vong "purified" their homeworld, the moon Yavin 13.

As their name mildly suggests, the Slith were snake people. Like, actual big ol' snakes. Their language consisted of rubbing sounds their scales made against the ground. They preferred live prey, which they obtained with paralytic venom.

Since they lived in a harsh desert, they valued water, and especially animals called twilight lizards, whose bodies retained high proportions of the water they ate. Their societal structure was rather similar to that of lions, with a few males and many females in a sort of clan or tribe, the females doing the most hunting while the males were bossy and probably contested with rival males. While they were patriarchal, they also had an ancestor-worship religion that was dominated by female shamans.

They apparently wielded tools with their tails and mouths.

Rating: 4/5. For a bunch of dead desert snakes, they're pretty interesting. I just regret that there was never a Dark Lord of the Slith.

1010. Sljee. Sljee are among the relatively more alien aliens of Star Wars, being sort of circular mobile stump-things with probably radial symmetry, walking on many thick little legs while using a roughly equal number of tentacles to manipulate their environment. They also have a mass of six segmented antennae which are tipped in olfactory organs. They are often mistaken by the less-traveled for animals or even ambulatory plants.

While Sljee senses of touch and hearing aren't that different from a human's, Sljee are blind and rely heavily on their senses of smell. Inexperienced Sljee thus have trouble in galactic society, unable to distinguish individuals or even species at first; an experienced Sljee can pick out an individual or positively identify a familiar species from hundreds of feet away. While this is a valuable and unique skill, apparently most Sljee prefer to remain amongst their own kind.

Other than the matter of their interaction with the galaxy at large, another thing we know about the Sljee is that there's a piece of one in Gorm the Dissolver's leg. Who is Gorm the Dissolver? A disturbing weapon created by Arkanian mad science that is part droid, part various biological components, who became a bounty hunter after the war he was built for ended. He apparently has always been a mix'n'match Frankensteinian cyborg, but when pieces of him get broken, he'll just replace them with whatever he can find, sometimes specifically chosen as a sort of trophy. I don't think we want to know how a Sljee bit got there. (It's also, considering Sljee olfactory capabilities, a worrying potential trait in a bounty hunter.)

Rating: 5/5. I like the Sljee.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Massive Invid's Guide Index Post (#1)

About ten posts ago, I started realizing just how monolithic and intimidating my Star Wars guide series was becoming. It took longer and longer to go back and find things, and I decided that, if only for my own sake, I really ought to get around to creating an index post.

I reckoned it would be good for my readers, too, since not only does it now have a full hundred posts (and hopefully more every week), but I started it over three years ago. I used to do a number of regular features on here, and while I'm hoping to revive at least one of those, this is the only one that's really held on.

(When I finally finish with the Star Wars aliens, I might hunt down some other fictional alien species rather than do other things in Star Wars, mainly because I find myself increasingly fascinated with the mechanics of building fictional races/aliens. I'll probably pick on do Star Trek first.)

Future index posts probably will be individually smaller, and will link to the other index posts.

Because of this post's sheer enormity, I'm going to put a jump here. (Also, it's so large it'll probably take me a week or so to truly finish it; currently, it's still under construction.)