Presidential Championship Bout!

Round one on the debates is over and done with and Obama got stomped pretty bad out there.  He looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but on that stage.  There was a lot of build up to this debate, and many of his supporters were confident that their image of Obama the amazing orator was going to come out onto that stage and mop the floor with Mitt Romney.  Didn't happen.  Then there was a period of silence as those supports tried to make sense out of what had just happened.  Then the excuses started flying.

It was the altitude of being up in Denver.

He was playing "rope-a-dope".

There was a strange sudden onset of narcolepsy.

Those of you that have followed me for a while know I'm a fight guy.  When you have two guys going after each other in the ring most likely someone is going to get beat.  There's always those post fight interviews with the guy who loses, and often the guy who lost has some sort of excuse.  It really just makes them look like a bitch.  If you get beat, you should just admit it graciously, and go back to the drawing board to try harder.  Political fighting is different from real fighting of course, so if you get beat you'e supposed to make excuses, and try to spin things.

The day after the election Obama goes out and says "That wasn't the real Mitt Romney."

Really?  In that case Bizarro Mitt Romney done kicked your ass.  The thing with this campaign is the Obama camp has been trying very hard to define who Mitt Romney is.  They've painted a picture of an old fuddy-duddy who can't connect with people and only cares about rich folks.  It looks like they've actually bought into that too.  That wasn't smart because if you start having a lot of delusions about who your opponent is and buy into them, you are going to be in for a world of hurt when your real opponent shows up.  Romney came off charming, intelligent and in command.  The guy looked presidential.  Whether you agree with him or not on issues, he was outstanding in that debate.

We have a serious miscalculation by Obama in this round.  But really, there wasn't much hope for him to win an economic debate with Mitt Romney.  Where do we go from here?

Next week is the debate between the Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  Not a very good follow up if you're camp Obama.  Biden is prone to gaffes and has a history of making comments that don't totally jive with the administration's agenda.  Really, all they can hope for is that Biden doesn't say anything that hurts the campaign.  So, if this week Biden doesn't makes things worse then he's succeeded in his job.

That'll take us to the final two debates between Obama and Romney.  One of those is going to be on foreign policy.  Typically those favor the incumbent, but right now, its really shaky.  If you had asked me last month if Obama had that one in the bag with the bin Laden trump card I'd have had to say "yes".  Doesn't matter that it was the intelligence gathering techniques that Obama himself objected to that led directly to the mission being possible.  The meme of "Obama got Osama" has caught on as if the president himself had pulled the trigger.

But now we've had the terrorist attack which killed our people in our embassy, including our ambassador.  Obama was running around saying it was the result of an anti-Islamic film and it was protest that got out of hand when it was obvious to anyone following the story that it was a terrorist attack.  Protesters don't bring RPGs.  There's records that the ambassador requested more security and it was denied.  The scene as of this writing has not been secured by the FBI, so its possible that sensitive documents that could endanger more people are out in the open.  To make things worse for the President, its out that he doesn't attend many of his security briefings.  Skipping out on meeting with foreign leaders to go on The View doesn't help either.

Its really not looking good for the Obama camp.  There's a ton of openings for Romney to exploit.  Still, in the fight game there's a saying: "You never want to leave it in the hands of the judges."  In politics, its almost always going to be in the hands of the judges, and we hope the judges (being the voters of course) are paying close attention.

When six year olds attack...

This is not really about kids doing things, but about grown people who claim to be intelligent, but insist upon fighting their battles as a child would.  Kids get upset when they don't get their way.  So do adults, but one hopes that we handle things in a better, more mature fashion.  And we have to handle things more maturely because the way kids wage their battles does not succeed when faced with an opponent with any type of backbone or intellect.

The tools kids have to wage their campaigns are very limited.  They include, causing a scene, yelling really loudly, and just flat out lying to hopefully somehow change the perception of reality around them.

This brings us to what went on at Chik-Fil-A this past week.  As I posted before, some people got all ticked off at Dan Cathy for making statements supporting his view of marriage.  His statements shouldn't have surprised anyone as its no secret that the man is a strong Christian.  However, the dum-dums out there began wailing about hate speech and intolerance.  This is the lying in hopes of changing perception of reality.  Cathy made no statements about hating anyone.  Also his stores do not discriminate at all in regards to hiring or serving customers.  That's tolerance.  That's the definition of tolerance.

The yelling loudly, was mostly done in the way people yell loudly nowadays, on the internet.  There were all these posts and articles denouncing Cathy and his company.  Most of them distorting the truth.  Media matters even posted forged documents.  Then there was the moron who decided to film himself being a complete douchbag to a poor girl working at the drive-thru at a Chik-Fil-A.

Finally, we get to the causing a scene portion in which same sex couples kissed in stores and took pictures, with one couple proclaiming "We win".

But who is the real winner here?  Chik-Fil-A.  They posted record sales this week.  They didn't really react to the same sex kissing thing except with a few amusing bits of giving sandwiches and lemonade to a few of the couples.  That guy who made the video?  He got fired from his job.  So this little campaign against Chik-Fil-A has completely backfired.  This is good, not only because it reaffirms that civilized folks won't cave to an irrational mob, but also because I love Chik-Fil-A.  Its my favorite fast food place ever.

This of course isn't the first time groups have used these tactics.  Remember the stupidity that was Everybody Draw Muhammad Day?  That was been a bunch of people got ticked off that nutjob Muslims made death threats to artists making cartoons of Muhammad and a Dutch cartoonist was actually killed.  This was a case of there being a legitimate issue, but the group that decided to take action did so in the stupidest way possible.  The plan was to put so many pictures of Muhammad out there that Islamic rule about not depicting the Prophet (because they consider that idolatry) would be crushed in the name of freedom of speech and expression.  What actually happened was stupid people got their lulz on and Pakistan shut down the internet in their country.  Why did they do that?  Because the people in that country did not want to see those pictures and it makes western civilization look like a bunch of douchebags.  So the internet, being the biggest tool for free speech around, got shut down because of people abusing that freedom.  Probably good thing because I don't want to see what kind of government gets elected over there riding a wave of anti-western sentiment.

And of course there the biggest example of people throwing a collective hissyfit like a gaggle of petulant children: the Occupy goobers.  Remember when these pinheads were running around saying how they were going to change everything and weren't going to leave their little camps until things changed.  They didn't even know what kind of changes they wanted made, but as long as people who had more money than them suffered, they were cool with it.  Massive fail.  The only thing that happened there was sexual assaults, people getting stuff stolen, money getting wasted, and dopes now have a police record.  But at least some old hippies got to relive their glory days, right?  And the pathetic thing is some people just can't let this one go.  They want to be the liberal version of the Tea Party or something, but have netted zero results in anything productive.  So, the all the lying, yelling, and causing a scene amounted to squat.

So what do we learn from this?

Being louder doesn't win a debate.

You can try to distort truth, but people will only put up with a certain amount of BS.

Causing a scene to try to bully an issue will always fail against having an issue or idea strong enough that a scene forms on its own.

The thing is, these three examples do have legitimate issues at the hearts of them.  Equal rights for homosexual couples, artistic freedom of expression, and current economic/social-political climates are all things that should be up for intelligent discussion and debate so that one day, hopefully, we can make some meaningful progress that everyone can live with.  However, there'll always be those that have that gut instinct to stand in the middle of the grocery aisle and scream and bawl because mommy didn't buy the Lucky Charms.  When and if those people wise up and grow up we have another generation coming up and there's a lot of them with a very entitled mentality that leads to this sort of crap.

So be ready.

And eat more chicken.


Eat More Chicken, You Haters!

You see that delicious thing right there?  That there is a chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A, OR SO IT SEEMS!!!  Really it is a decisive instrument which a bunch of bigots use to spread HATE!  HATE HATE HATE-ITY HATE!  You see those pickles?  Pure evil.  Created by eeeeeevil Christian sorcery to make the hate grow faster.


And how do we know this?  Because the CEO of Chik-Fil-A said in an interview that he supports traditional family values.  Therefore, he must hate gay people.  Doesn't matter that he said absolutely nothing at all about gay people, or gay rights, or gay marriage.  He supports traditional marriage and that's not gay, so he must HATE GAYS!


OR, he may just support the traditional family structure and has a different opinion than some people.


But that still hasn't stopped a bunch of dummies from boycotting the restaurant, and claiming that people that do eat there are "supporting hate".  So instead of having a reasonable dialog about a subject in which both sides could possibly find some common ground and everyone live happily, we call the folks on the other side hate mongers and grab up the torches and pitchforks.


I eat at Chik-Fil-A twice a week.  Why?  Because I can't afford to eat there three times a week.  The food is excellent.  I always have impeccable service.  The staff is always friendly and helpful.  The place is an absolute delight.  Am I supporting hate?  No.  I'm enjoying the food I have loved since I ate at the Chik-Fil-A at Greenbriar Mall which was right across from the Space Port arcade which I'd go to to play Joust.


The restaurant has not hid anything about its founders having Christian values.  I haven't seen one open on a Sunday yet, even though that's up to the individual managers.  Those people working in there, they aren't there to hate gay people.  They're just working and trying to give people the food the want in a pleasant place.  The people eating there, are eating there because they are hungry and like the food.  There's no insidious plot at work here.


The people who are saying the store is supporting hate are pricks, plain and simple.  Its not hate to have a different opinion on something.  Until the restaurant chain alters its corporate policy to cater any and all events calling to harm against a group of people free of charge, they are not supporting hate.


Now, for you boycotters.  If you are not going to go to those restaurants anymore because you don't feel comfortable eating there now, that's your right.  You're being really silly, but that's your right.  If you're one of those goons up in arms calling for the store to be run out of your town because the CEO has a differing opinion than yours, well I guess you're an example of why we really aren't as accepting of diversity as we like to think.  Somebody's prejudiced around here, and its not looking like Dan Cathy.

Railing at Social Media and the Fools Therein!

What's really fun is that the fool in this instance would be me.  Everybody gets a bit tired and cranky sometimes, and boredom is a factor too.  So, when I spotted a picture my buddy on Google Plus posted mocking Republicans and mentioning pigeons crapping on a chessboard, I figured I'd have a bit of fun.  So I played the "I'm a republican, why are you picking on me card" and feigned some mock indignation.  Allen fell for it.  He's a nice guy, and sure we don't agree on some thing politically, but he's a straight shooter.  I was going to let him know I was just screwing around, but then he got his rant on.


Internet/social media propoganda 101
Reality check people: -- IF I (or anyone for that matter) posts a graphic attacking: Atheists, Christians, Democrats, Republicans, Nerds, Jocks, Redheads, Long Hair's, Blondes, Jazz Freaks, Music haters... etc....... there is a 99% chance the post is EITHER simply meant as humor and/or intended as propaganda against the extreme elements of whatever group is being mentioned..... If you see such a graphic and believe that it is specifically targeting you? --- Think twice, chances are, you're wrong (unless of course you ARE a backwards ignorant trolling bigot who deserves to be called out---- but really, assuming I have you in one of my circles--- you really think I would have left you there if I actually felt that way?--- jeebus, grow up people


Now this brings up a really excellent point.  We get bombarded by information on the internet.  Ideas are flying about.  If you're going to go on a social media site, you have to have a thick enough skin to be ready to deal with what other people post. They may say things you don't agree with.  They may post something they think is funny that offends you.  The main thing is: most likely they are not posting it to particularly offend you.


Now, there's another side of this coin.  When you're posting something about a group of people, you have to remember that you're posting about a group of people.  I'll make fun of our Pop Star-in-Chief or his walking gaffe machine VP, but I'm a bit hesitant to go after Democrats as a whole.  I have friends and family members who are Democrats.  My aunt is a Democrat, and I love my aunt to pieces.  So I don't want to post anything that'll upset her if she happens to see it.  So if you're posting something about a group of folks, you need to be prepared for possible fallout if someone you know and like doesn't like what you may have insinuated about them.


So, my bit of trolling of Allen yielded some pretty cool results.  Unfortunately, someone else decided to chime in.  We'll call him "Jay", mainly because that's his name.  On Google Plus is you scroll over someone's name you can see a little pop up giving you a couple of bullet points about them like location and occupation.  Jay's bullet point said he was a "thinker" and I should have backed away right there.


Unless you're one of the shambling dead craving brains, you are a thinker.  Don't put that in you occupation unless possibly you work in one of them there think tanks, which I always been curious about.  And don't put "free thinker" in there either.  That translated directly to "kook".


But I made the mistake of poking fun at the Thinker, and that always brings out a rant.  Its never a good rant either.  You're always kind of hoping for some Dennis Miller quality rant that just rails on with insightful, poignant things and is so amazingly clever that even though they're dumping all over you, you've got to give them props for freaking amazing their rant is.  Nope.  Its always them trying to show that their intellectual shlong is bigger than yours or anybody else who happens to read it, and even if its loaded with perfectly poignant facts as to the topic at hand, its so frakking boring that you have to fight the urge to just respond "tl;dr".


So, don't ever troll a "Thinker".  Its never worth it.  Just no fun at all.  I did try to get the guy to lighten up and make it obvious that I was indeed just screwing around, but Thinkers think serious think-stuffs, and have no time on this here intarwubs for shenanigans.  So I got blocked, which is a shame, because as everyone knows: I'm a complete delight to be around.  I dunno.  He might have just been having a bad day.


So, what did we learn today?


1: Allen Marshall makes an excellent point that needs consideration.


2: Forethought before posting probably needs to happen more.


3: Being a "Thinker" can be mistaken for being a knob, so we gotta be careful of that.

Not looking good...

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is coming soon wrapping up Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  Not particularly excited about it, because I didn't like THE DARK KNIGHT.  The movie, while well done, was really all about the Joker, and I was there to see him lose, not win.  Even the staunchest supports of that movie have started to admit that it was too long, too depressing, and batman got his cape and cowl handed to him.  However there's the notion in the air that the previous movie being the second of a planned trilogy would be made up for by Batman's ultimate triumph in the last installment of the trilogy.


The previews don't really fill me with confidence.  


What makes me even less confident is that a tie-in game is being released.  In this game you play a criminal that is looting Gotham during bane's attack on the city.  You can't play a good guy.  You can't play a policeman.


This further gives me the impression that in the Nolan films, the villains are the real stars, and Batman's just there to give them someone to fight.  Yes, Batman does have one of, if not the best rogues galleries of any superhero.  However, we've seen what happens when the villain gets the top billing in a Batman flick.  Schwarzenegger.  'Nuff said.


I'm really on the fence about even seeing it for the sake of reviewing it at this point.

Thoughts on Snow White and Huntsman

Saw it over the weekend.  Beautiful scenery.  Chris Hemsworth did his thing.  Charlize Theron was absolutely venomous.  Nice to see Nick Frost is anything.


Now, I've got a pretty good ability to suspend disbelief.  You have to when you come up a comic book nerd.


Dwarfs?


Fine.


Fairies?


Fine.


Evil queen doing evil queen spells?


Fine.


But I've got to draw the line when they start referring to Kristen Stewart as the 'fairest in the land".


That's one weird looking broad.





When the women who are supposed to look unattractive look more attractive than the star, you've got problems.

Comic Reviews (6-6-12)

THIEF OF THIEVES #5 has hit the spot I've been waiting for.  Really the first four issues have been establishing the characters and the situation.  Its been a lot of exposition, but its been masterfully done and completely engaging.  We have Conrad, the master thief who walked away from the life, and now we have his son who is looking down the barrel of what looks like a long, hard prison term.  At this point we now have a hint of where this story is going to be going.  I'm quite pleased.  For a bit I thought it was going to turn into a guy breaks his kid out of prison type thing.  I should have known better.  Kirkman plotting this, and Spencer writing it, I definitely should have known better.  This is a caper book.  The problem with reviewing caper books is that there's so much going on, but everything's spoiler.  I can say this.  We find out what happened to his ex-partner/brother-in-law.  We meet some new interesting characters.  We also get an idea of how Conrad plans on getting Augustus out of jail.  Of course with a book like this, I severely doubt that everything is as it seems.  Sharp written, and beautifully illustrated.  Seriously, if you haven't been buying this book, you need to start.


MORNING GLORIES #19 also came out because its that time of the month.  You know how it is.  You spend most of the month with everything being fine and dandy.  Then there's that time of the month where you're emotional and confused and possibly bloaty and wondering "what the hell just happened, and what did I just read?"  Yep.  Its PNS.  Pondering Nick Spencer.  And that can be quite difficult when it comes to this book.  Here, we focus on Hunter.  I like Hunter. He's likable.  He means well.  He's late for important stuff.  He's sympathetic.  We get some more of Hunter's backstory, much of it involving his mother.  Now, while all of this is solid ground for us to go from, as soon as we venture off the solid ground that is Hunter, we're off into a completely topsy-turvy, whiskey tango foxtrot ball of what 's going on and why is this happening?  Zoe's trying to kill Hunter.  She's an important piece to this game that is being played, and we're still not sure exactly what this game is because we've been dumped into the middle of it from issue one.  And as confused as I am about everything that has gone on in this book, and I've read every issue and still am not 100% sure about what's going on, I CAN'T STOP READING THIS BOOK!  Its too interesting!  Spencer has instilled this notion in me that all of the insane stuff that has gone on in this book fits together somehow, and I'm only just now starting to put the corners of this thing together.


DRACULA WORLD ORDER #1 is Ian Brill's first creator owned effort.  Its a fairly solid work and I dove through the first issue painlessly.  The world building is handled expediently.  The character designs are interesting.  Alexandru, Vincent, and Mai are looking to take on a world run by Dracula.  We have Alexandru who is Dracula's son.  Vincent is the last of the vampire hunters.  Mai is a prisoner who has had her genetics messed about with by a vampiric mad scientist.  The design of Dracula is striking and quite different than what I'm used to seeing.  Very menacing.  There was a bit of an eyeroll moment in which Dracula seized power by transforming "The1%" into vampires and I had to laugh thinking whatever's left of the Occupy morons would be all over this since its kind of a metaphor for how they view things.  I don't know if Brill buys into all that, but it makes for an interesting enough story.  The artwork is very good.  I was actually a bit surprised by how good it was.  All and all, this has the makings of an interesting series, and is off to a pretty good start.  This book is in limited release, but can be downloaded at Comixology.

Being stupid and paying for it

I was driving home from karate last night and while on the 168 bypass I saw a car flipping in the median.  The headlights were spinning, and parts were flying off of it.  I quickly pulled over and ran over there to see if i could help.  The car was upside down.  Others had quickly run over to vehicle.  The guy inside was screaming and actually had people thinking there was a woman in the vehicle, with how high pitched and panicked he was.  He had been wearing a seat belt and the airbags had deployed.


One of the people who ran to his aid was the guy he had been racing.


I know this because a big fellow who was standing next to me saw the whole thing.  The two cars go next to each other.  Each honked their horns.  Then they took off.  One car lost control.  The fellow who told me this had been behind them when it happened.  I saw where he was parked and he had his kids in the car.  I couldn't help thinking about how much worse this could have been.  I thought about how many times I take my kids down that same bypass.


I felt every ounce of sympathy for the driver leave me.


Yeah, I stuck around until police and fire fighters got there.  I was ready as we saw a bit of smoke come from the engine to do whatever we had to to get the driver clear if the car started to burn, but fortunately it didn't come to that.  Police showed but fairly quickly and I waited until i got the OK from an officer before heading off for home.


I'm not wishing ill on the driver, he's had about enough ill visit him last night.  Not sure of how injured he is.  I know the vehicle is totally.  I'm just happy no one else got hurt.

SO Close

My dojo competed in the battle of the 7 Cities Tournament yesterday.  My daughter competed, and she did alright.  Got a couple of finalist medals out of it.  My other students did well.  Had a few get some trophies.  The demo team did well, and put on a good show.


I competed at the end of the day.  I was a bit tired, but I shook that off.  My family was there and that was extra incentive.  Most of all, it was my birthday, and I wanted that forms championship belt.  The last few years, a Tang Soo Do stylist named Jerry has been dominating in the forms division.  Nice guy, but that's who I was gunning for.  He wasn't there, so it was pretty much wide open.  There were still a lot of strong competitors out there, so I knew I had to bring out everything I had.


The weapons division went horribly.  I hit a slick spot on the floor and nearly fell, but managed to catch myself and continue.  But that slip cost me dearly and I was completely out of placing.  No problem, I'd just make up for in in the empty hand competition.


I did Hakutsuru for my kata and this was the first time I'd used it in competition.  Usually I did a combination of Hakucho and Shiho Kosokon.  That's scored well for me, but I knew I needed to take things up a notch.  I was one of the first three up, which usually isn't a good thing.  But that fine because I had my form ready.  Its a white crane form and I got out there, and well....





I killed it.  Just threw the gauntlet down for everyone to try to catch my score.  There were a lot of those guys who came damn close too.  Seriously strong forms out there.  It the end though I got first place and it was on to the grand championships.


My dad and stepmom had to go, but they saw me win, so everyone was happy.  On I went with the four other division winners to see who gets the belt.  I was to go third.  No problem.  The first girl was pretty strong.  The second girl was someone who I've competed against a few times, and she's very good, but she slipped in the same spot I had slipped in the weapon's division, and she managed to catch herself as well, but it cost her in the scoring.


I got out there and put everything I had into the kata and it paid off.  My scores were strong, but would they hold up against the last two guys?  They went out there and nailed there forms and I'm running the numbers in my head.  They both had me beat.


So, much to my surprise, after all the scores are calculated, i get announced as Grand Champion.  I'm floored.  They call me up, and i stepped forward like a kid who thought he might possibly be in trouble for something, but they said I won, and the look on my face had to be one of a man who was utterly perplexed. This was what I was after, and all I could think was "someone's math is off".


Here comes the tournament promoter with the belt, and the cash prize money.  I've known this guy for years.  He's honestly excited that I finally won the grand.  The missus is one her cell phone calling my dad.  She excited.  I'm sort of excited, but it all just seemed so wrong.  Then I saw one of the other competitors looking at the scores.  He, rightfully, called for it to get re-checked.  


Scores got recalculated, and then with tons of apologies, the belt and cash prize went to the guy who won the weapons division.  Now, the guy who called for the scores to get checked did not win, nor did he think he had, but he knew something was wrong.  The woman who slipped also wanted the scores rechecked because she trains with the promoter and wants to make sure everything's above board.


But again, lashings of apologies from everyone, and no belt for me.  Ah well.  At least I got to touch it.

Comic Reviews (5-30-12)

THE WALKING DEAD #98 continues the "Something to fear" storyline which will be leading us to issue 100. You know something is up when the person behind the counter is freaking out over the issue with a complete, "I can't believe that happened" look on their face.  Yes a main character gets bumped off in this issue and I honestly didn't see that one coming.  Its true what Kirkman says about this comic: "No one is safe."  The battlelines are drawn between Rick's group and this mysterious Negan.  Lately with the group taking out an entire herd of walkers its seemed like they were ready for anything.  Granted, Rick's group is still as tough as they come, but its looking like Negan's group is a serious threat.  Now we have the loss of an important member of the group, which has me seriously wondering if Rick and the others will be able to hang on to their community in the face of this threat.  There's some critics that say the series moves a bit slow, but they certainly can't complain about this issue.  Plenty of action, and all of it brutal.


ANGEL AND FAITH #10 is an absolute hoot.  The quest to get Giles back takes an amusing turn when we meet Giles' Great-Aunts.  These sisters have used every trick in the book to stay young and beautiful, but now with magic gone, the bill has come due.  Christos gage and Chris Samnee do a huge gear shift in classic Whedon fashion.  When things get really heavy like they did in the last storyline, when its time to turn around and deliver some fun.  The sisters are an absolute hoot, as is how Angel and Faith react to them.  I had some real laugh out loud moments here.  At the same time, we also move along with "Giles Quest".  This is a really well done issue.  I had a blast with it.


ROCKETEER ADVENTURES 2 #3 serves up three stories again.  David Lapham and Chris Sprouse give us a nice story with with Cliff and Betty thinking about their future and what could be.  There's a story by Kyle Baker which is better off skipped.  The last is by Matt Wagner and Eric Canete which is an interesting retelling of the Rocketeer's history.  Sprouse and Canete both really serve up for beautiful art, and this is added to by a sweet pin-up by Eric Powell.  I would have liked some more action with this issue.  The stories show a lot of love for the character, but now a lot of punches thrown and bullets flying.  Not bad, but hopefully we'll get more action next issue.


ZOMBIES VERSUS ROBOTS ANNUAL 2012 came out, and to be honest I only picked it up because Drew Moss drew one of the four stories in there.  Sam Keith did art on a story in there too, so that's a bonus.  It was interesting in that Keith and the other artists have a really quirky style, and that really made Moss's stand out with his cleaner style.  I'm not a big ZvR fan, and this issue isn't going to get me on the bandwagon, but it wasn't bad at all.  The "Summer" story was the stand out for me, but of course I'm biased there.

Book Review: "Alpha" by Greg Rucka

For months I've been diligently and steadily working my way through all the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Frankly there hasn't been much of anything that's kept me from breaking stride with this. The volumes sit in my car and are read whenever I get a chance.  In fact I'm nearing the end of it.  The home stretch.  I'm looking forward to completing my journey through the Holmes mythos.


And then Greg Rucka just had to put a book out, and when that happens, I'm dropping whatever I'm reading and picking it up.


I've read all his Atticus Kodiak novels.  I've read all of his QUEEN AND COUNTRY work.  In fact I was eager for more Q&C, but here we have something different.  ALPHA gives us a whole new protagonist, Jonathan "Jad" Bell, and all the excitement we could want from a Rucka novel.  This book shines.  The characters are pitch perfect.  The action isn't forced.  The suspense is high.  As with every Rucka novel once it gets going its nearly impossible to put down.


The premise is straight forward, there's a suspected terror attack eminent on a major theme park, and Bell needs to stop it.  What sounds simple is given a ton of beautifully crafted twists that make this book amazingly compelling.  First off is the park.  Before you even start reading, there's a map of the park, Wilsonville.  We quickly get a feel for this park and the characters that inhabit it.  We find out all about Gordo, Betsy, and pooch; the Flower Sisters; and Clip Flashman.  All of this is laid out to the point that it seems tangible.  Wilsonville comes alive just as much as Disneyworld or Universal Studios.


As always with Rucka's work the character's are fully realized.  Jad Bell is very likable in that this man is a professional who holds his job and what is right in the highest regards.  He's lived a very rough life, which we get a brutal taste of in a flashback scene.  We get everything we need to know about this man very quickly.  He's not the only character we get to know well as we also follow his opposite number, Gabriel, in this.  Gabriel is a sleeper agent who is going to be running the attack on Wilsonville.  Here's a really nasty twist to this: you almost start to like the guy.  It would be so very easy to write this guy as a total scumbag.  Still, Rucka inserts a very sympathetic side to him.  No doubt that what he's doing is completely wrong and horrible, but there still that little bit of him that's completely in love with his girlfriend that makes you like the guy just a bit.


I do love the little moments some characters get.  We see these park employees under the worst possible circumstances and we see them doing their jobs and doing right by the park guests.  We see people in the control room that know that something really horrible is possibly happening and just by staying where they are it could mean their lives, and they keep doing their jobs.  On the other side we get glimpses of the men pulling the strings behind this operation and, oh, how we loath them.


The one thing that stuck with me just a bit was the timing of certain events and how coincidence was such a factor.  Jad's ex-wife and daughter are scheduled to visit the park when the threat is imminent.  Jad's daughter is deaf and Gabriel's girlfriend is an ASL (American Sign language) interpreter.  It seemed a bit too coincidental, but it certainly served to up the drama level and gave both players in this game a high emotional stake.  Its pretty easily forgiven too since Jad's daughter and Gabriel's girlfriend are both delightfully written.


This book moves.  Rucka gives us plenty of information to go on and conveys it interestingly.  He doesn't beat us over the head with facts we don't need, and when he gives us something extra its always entertaining.  The flow is fast paced and easy reading.  There are time in here where chapters overlap events, in that the same thing is covered in three different chapters from three different perspectives.  While I could see this going horribly wrong and getting tiresome, that's never the case here.  Every different perspective is fresh and gives us a vital new take on things to totally flesh out the events.


I loved every bit of this book, and its looking like the start of a strong new series from Rucka.  I left this book wishing I had the next one right in front of me.  He's devious like that.  Typically, when you get to the end of a Rucka chapter there's a little bit there compelling you to say to yourself "OK, I know its two in the morning and I have to be up at six, but just one more chapter..."  This whole book not only left me satisfied, but sunk a hook in me craving more.

Comic Reviews (5-23-12)

Going the start off with RAGEMOOR #3 which is a completely twisted nightmare of a book.  There's absolutely no hope for any of these characters.  The two leads Herbert and his servant Bodrick are absolutely screwed.  They live in a living castle and the only reason they're still alive is the castle allows it.  They can't escape.  They can't beat the castle.  I'm not sure if Herbert is hapless or just completely beaten by the place he's in.  This is beyond "The fall of the House of Usher".  This is "The House Fell a Long Time Ago and is not Happy at ALL about the Entire Affair".  Combine that with the weird creatures wandering about and its just incredibly creepy.  Jan Strnad and Richard Corben have both done a masterful job in creating this impenetrable air of dread and discomfort.  This issue center a lot around Herbert and Anoria.  He wants her.  She wants the poacher fellow who's been around.  The castle wants an heir out of Herbert and sees Anoria as the best bet, especially since she's trapped there too.  Needless to say, the castle isn't too happy with that poacher fellow.  This book isn't for everyone, but for folks like me who studied Gothic literature its fun to spot all the little bit in there that are straight out of the genre.  Its a great work, in a really horrid way.


We move on to NO PLACE LIKE HOME #4.  You haven't seen the reviews for issues 2 and 3 because the shop hasn't gotten them in.  Some sort of shipping problem.  So I've gone from issue 1 to issue 4.  This makes issue 4 the most unintentually hilarious thing I've read in a long, long time.  I get through issue one and we meet the three sisters who are all coming back to their hometown.  There's some sort of terrible secret there.  The sisters seem interesting enough, so I'm going to stay with the title to see where things go.  Fast forward to issue four and what do we get right on the first page: a flying monkey.  That's right its a flying monkey.  Now, you people all know the rule: everything is better with monkeys, so this book is now the greatest thing ever.  What's more, its a homicidal flying monkey.  Its like Bufkin from FABLES declared "F--- THIS S---, heads are gonna motherf---ing ROLL!"  It seems tornadoes ask as portals and sometimes flying monkeys get through to our world, and they're complete pricks.  The sheriff apparently ganked one when he was a kid, which is no doubt why they made him the sheriff.  So all the good old boys are all "Dear God, no!  Not another flying monkey!"  The sister that's still running about is all "OMG!  Why didn't you ever tell us about the flying monkey?!"  Most likely because if they had you'd never ever come back to visit.  And the flying monkey?  He's all "RAWR!!  GIVE ME YOUNG WOMEN AND OLD PEOPLE HEADS!"  Well, actually it just goes "SKEEEE!" a whole bunch but the language of the flying monkey is is very utilitarian.  Kinda like Tim Allen when he grunts.  Means a whole bunch of stuff.  The best scene in the whole comic, and yes this is a spoiler, either suck it up, or skip ahead, is when the old hippy with the Pink Floyd shirt opens the door to his house and finds the flying monkey dragging his ol' lady down to the basement.  He's just standing there, and she's yelling at him to do something.  The old hippy tells the monkey to stop that, but the monkey don't listen, most likely because the old hippy is an old hippy and nobody listens to them anyhow.  He finally shuffles over to the basement door, mustering up the last of his old hippy courage and the monkey bursts back out and delivers a big flying monkey pimp slap, and drops the old dude.  I then took out a pen, and breaking my long standing rule about writing writing in my comics added the word balloon over the flying monkey saying "SKREE!" which translated from the flying monkey language is roughly: "B----, YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE!"  So, yeah, I love this book for all the wrong reasons.

Kirkman is Hardcore Sexy and he Knows It!

Hey guys.  Its Sunday May 20, 2012, you haven't heard much from me this week, and this is The Side.  I knew this day was coming.  I'm putting the brakes on having a set update schedule.  At least for now.  I'm a bit burnt out, and when I didn't have much of anything ready for the last two updates, that was pretty much a sign.


I'm still going to be doing weekly comic book reviews.  As for other stuff I'm not going to be posting as much.  Sure, I'll go after something if the mood really strikes me, or if something cool happens, or I want to review a movie.  Really, I've been having the serious itch to getting back to writing fiction and I've really missed that.  I don't have the luxury to still at the computer all day and type, so something had to give.


That's that.  Here's some nerdy stuff.


COMIX!!


Y'know, you take your kids and try to raise 'em right.  Try to teach them a proper trade.  Try to give them the means to fend for themselves.  Sometimes though, they just don't get it.  This is what we see in THIEF OF THIEVES #4, which focuses not on Conrad, but on his son, Augustus.  As we saw at the end of the last issue, the guy is in jail, and its his third strike.  As much as Conrad has his illegal act together, Augustus is the exact opposite, and that's plenty for a certain beautiful F.B.I. to use to put pressure on the kid.  We're still in the opening act of this story and getting to know all the players.  Spencer is really taking his time with this.  Issue one we met Conrad.  Issue two we met the ex-wife he wants back.  Issue three we meet the agent who wants to bring him in.  Now we meet his son.  This is an amazing example of taking your time with proper exposition and getting to know the characters and the world they're in, and still making it fun and interesting reading.  This story doesn't move incredibly fast, but there's so much really good stuff here that we're enjoying the ride.  Top notch work.  This continues to be one of the top new titles of 2012.


THE ACTIVITY #6 is a straight military thriller.  A seemingly easy mission into the democratic Republic of the Congo goes Tango Uniform in a big way.  No fancy spy-tech.  Nothing over the top.  One could easily imagine this story actually happening.  Its amazing.   There's a bunch of action, and its all so incredibly controlled.  Its another single issue story so if you go right now and grab a copy you can go into it completely ignorant of everything in the previous five issues, and have no trouble whatsoever.  The writing and artwork are incredibly tight.  This is real substantive storytelling without any flash and trash.  Really an amazing comic.


THE SHADOW #2 is a bit difficult.  The story is easy enough to follow and there's plenty of action.  Cranston and Lane are heading for China before World War II and Nazis ambush them on the flight.  Simple enough.  Writing is good.  The Art is good.  There's only one problem: The Shadow is a complete prick.  He's really an unrelenting one as well.  We don't see him acting nice, charming, or anything unless he's using it as a front as Cranston.  In his private moments with Margo Lane he's completely in "Shadow mode" in terms of attitude.  There's been that train of thought that Batman is the real identity and Bruce Wayne is the front.  I don't really agree with that, however this is that paradigm right to the core.  I'm kind of on the fence here.  I'm enjoying the story a bit,  but really don't like the main character.  I'm hanging in there for issue three before I make my final call as to if I'm going to continue with this title.  Its not a bad book, but i just don't know if its for me.


HARDCORE #1 starts up a sci-fi thrilled from Robert Kirkman and Brian Stelfreeze.  If you see Marc Silvestri's name on the cover, that's all he did: the cover.  No problem because still book is great.  We meet Agent Drake who is the pilot for a program which allows him to temporarily take over another person.  The tech unit that makes this happen is called a "Hardcore" and I'm not exactly sure why, but that's where the name of the book comes from.  The program is used by the government, buy its creator has different plans for it. .  This is the type of premise that I'd expect to see in a summer sci-fi movie.  Its clever, and sets up the conflict very well.  The pacing is that of a summer movie opening act.  We get enough to go on, a little bit about the characters involved, and then the hook sinks.  I'm really excited to see where this goes, so I'm all in.


MUSIC!!


This guy absolutely kills it.







Alrighty guys.  For now, The Side is retired.  More reviews next week.  Take care.

Got nuthin'

No really update today.  The Missus has returned and yesterday was spent cleaning up a bit so at least there'd be a relatively clean room in the house for her.  No more single dadding it for me.  

We Drink, We Kick, We Die, and We Eat!

OSU!  Its Sunday, May 13,2012, I think I've washed all the sand off of me, and this is The Side.  After a pretty trying week, I wrapped it up with the Zanshinkan/Seireikan beach workout.  It was a bit of a light turnout as it seems everyone had something going on this weekend.  Still, there was about twenty of us out there, so it we had a good number.  The workout started with a half mile run to warm up.  Then on to stretching and drills. Bill Sensei led us through the kata Empi Ha which my school doesn't do, so it was new and exciting for my students.  Its a nice form which Bill Sensei learned back in his Goju-Ryu training, and he's recently added it officially to his kata list.


I wrapped things up with a bit of a tribute to Darrin Sensei who passed away two weeks ago.  I showed the group three particular techniques that he had showed me.  We didn't go full blast with them as we did with Darrin's training sessions as those left me bruised to weeks.  Still the applications got across, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.


After that it was off to Red Robin for burgers and a healthy round of shooting the bull.  I was quite exhausted the whole way home, and passed out on the couch.


COMIX!!


THE WALKING DEAD #97 kicks off the "Something To Fear" story line which will be taking us up to the 100th issue.  The last storyline gave us a brief glimpse at another community and this is looking good for Rick and his group.  Rick's group has some serious muscle.  The Hilltop has a lot of supplies that Rick's group needs.  WE saw Hilltop has a problem with some guy called Negan who has a group of his own.  Seems he's been extorting goods from Hilltop.  Rick's volunteered his groups's aid in dealing with Negan in exchange for supplies.  That's pretty much enough to give us a good idea as to where this current storyline is going.  This issue gives us a little look at some of Negan's crew.  Nothing terribly impressive.  They come off as sort of culties, referring to Negan as if he was some sort of spiritual leader.  However, its looking like this is the tip of the iceberg.  We also get some big news about Glenn and Maggie which kinda has me worried about them.  it seems when things start going really well for some characters that the bottom is going to drop out from under them at any moment.  We're at another point in which the group is a well oiled machine and for the most part have a handle of things.  this is pretty much the cue for Kirkman to lay waste to the cast with something horrible.


MORNING GLORIES #18 bounces us back to the events concerning the Woodrun.  This book is crazy, and I mean that in a near schizophrenia type of way.  Its been tough to pin down some of these characters, and there's been a lot of weird stuff going on.  This time around we're focused on Jun or Hisao or whichever his real name is.  We get some back story to him.  We get the "not that there's anything wrong with that" reveal about him.  More importantly, we get a bit of a look at the playing field.  We know Morning Glory Academy is up to something weird and horrible.  We know there's an organized resistance against them.  There're buckets of straight weird all over the place.  We know know that there's some kind of plan against the Academy, but we're light on the details.  The reveal about Jun isn't really "graphic", but its pretty in your face, and I'm wondering how the fans of the book are going to react to this.  Personally, I've liked the character since I started reading the book, and this doesn't bother me.  I do imagine there's going to be camps on bother sides of this, but i doubt its going to be a big deal.  This comic still flies under the radar even though its is very good.


MUSIC!!


Time for some drinking music.





Time for some coffee.  See y'all Wednesday.

Good-Bye, Gloria.

Hey Gang.  Its Friday, May 11, 2012, I'm pretty tired of writing about certain subjects and this is The Side.  This hasn't been a terribly fun couple of weeks.  Sure, I've gotten to nerd out big time last weekend, but that seems like a vacation from the crap-fest that has been going on.  Let's face it, when you've written memorial pieces two times in as many weeks, things are kinda sucking.


If you've been reading this regularly, you might recall that the Missus has been in Kansas helping her ailing mother, and the family.  My mother-in-law took a turn for the worse and passed away just after midnight Wednesday morning.  She was an interesting lady who always seemed to be on the move.  She reminded me of my aunt and late uncle in that regard.  She doted over her grandkids.  She was very good with a pair of scissors and really knew a lot about taking care of hair.  She did my haircut when I donated my hair to Locks of Love years ago.  We were at odds over little things here and there, but all and all I did like her.


She appreciated my mischievous side and got good laughs at some of my antics.  Which brings me to one of my favorite memories of here.  It was right after the girls were born and being premature by a good two months they were still in the hospital.  This involved daily trips up there to see them.  Gloria came over from Kansas to give us a hand as I was working, and the Missus was recovering still.  We headed up to see the little ones, and chatted as I drove us.


This area is really weird in that we've got the PETA national headquarters, and CBN inside of a half an hour of each other travel wise.  Gloria told us that she couldn't stand Pat Robertson.  She was a Christian, but there's plenty of Christians that don't like that old kook.  We had our fun driving along and making fun of how ol' Pat prayed away a hurricane years before and such.  We then stopped in and spent some time with the girls.


Afterwards, Gloria treated us to lunch at Panera Bread.  That's not a place I typically eat, but it was nice so no complaints.  We stood in line to place out order, and then I spotted him.  The man himself.  Dressed in a blue and gold track suit, with the collar pulled up and hat on, but there was no hiding it.


It was Pat Robertson.


My mind whirled.  What were the freaking odds?


So of course I had to bring this to Gloria's attention and I kept encouraging to go up to him and tell him off.  Failing that I tried to get her to get him to bless our lunches for us.  She couldn't help but giggle even though she probably had the urge to smack me upside my fool head.  Unfortunately, there was no Gloria/Pat confrontation.  My money would have been on her, of course.


I'm glad that things weren't more drawn out there at the end and her suffering was relatively brief.  Definitely been rough for the whole family.  She's in a better place now, and that's a big consolation.





I'm holding off on my comic reviews until Sunday.  See y'all then.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Hey gang.  Its Wednesday, April 8, 2012, and this is The Side.  The Missus's trip to Kansas has gotten extended a bit.  I'm pretty much exhausted, so I'm not terribly clever today.  Being sick doesn't help either.  Right now I'm functioning on vitamins, pills, and caffeine.


MOVIES!!!


THE AVENGERS knocked it right out of the park.  Pretty much the only people who didn't like this movie are snobby twit critics who take their jobs way to seriously.  It broke the box office record, and a sequel has already been green lit.  This is going to follow sequels for Thor, Ironman, and Captain America.  There's a lot of expectations going around, so I'm going to share mine.


As far as over all, I like how they've handled things.  Going into the next sequel cycle, I'd like some build up to a show down with the big bad they showed during the first extra scene in the credits.  The Infinity Gauntlet was shown during Thor, so maybe play with that a bit.


As for the Thor movie, I think an obvious choice in villains is The Enchantress along with the Executioner.  I'm not too stoked with piling on villains for movie sequels, but these two go really well together.  The Enchantress can be a fun foil to the Natalie Portman played Jane, and make for an interesting pseudo-love triangle bit.  Meanwhile you've got The Executioner there for the big time throwdowns that are a must for these flicks.  And if during a big battle a certain glove gets lost and the six certain gems get scattered, I'm seeing no problem with that.


The Ironman movie is a bit trickier.  Marvel isn't wanting to use Chinese characters as major villains in these movies for fear of a possible backlash and maybe accusations of racism.  This sucks because a lot of fans are wanting to see the Mandarin, especially with everything they hinted at in the first movie.  This also rules out The Radioactive Man.  My next thought would be The Titanium Man, but using him right after the Whiplash/Crimson Dynamo gestalt seems too soon.  Back-to-back Russian armor wearers might not go over very well.  This is where we hit tricky ground because we're ruling out a lot of top flight opponents.  I'm thinking its about the right spot to put in M.O.D.O.K. and introduce AIM.  Probably won't have the goofy yellow jumpsuits, and the M.O.D.O.K. design will need a bit of tweaking, but I think that would make for a fun ride.  Might also be a good place for a missing gem or two to be recovered.


The Captain America movie has no shortage of bad guys to pull from.  The great thing is he's got a ton of Neo-Nazi baddies, and if you can't kick the crap out of a Nazi, then there's just no point anymore.  Still, I think it would be a good idea to have the main baddie be someone more current, and not a WWII hold over.  At this point, as we saw in THE AVENGERS, Cap is still getting adjusted to the modern world.  Having a modern villain can really build conflict, not just between the two foes, but with Cap's whole situation.  I'd like to have Crossbones for this.  He's got ties to the Red Skull, and would be a good bridge character.  Taskmaster trained him, so having him in there for a bit would also be fun.


After Mark Ruffalo's brilliant performance there's been a bit of buzz about a possible Hulk movie.  I'm game for it as Ruffalo was really, really good in THE AVENGERS and the Hulk had many of the best scenes.  Since I'm picking villain's here, I'd go with The Leader.  Some of us got to chatting about this on Google Plus, so I've thought about it a bit.  I'd have Banner up north, and have him run afoul a Wendigo.  This way you get some good monster on monster violence.  Have the Leader be behind the scenes a bit looking to tap the power of the Wendigo, but he goes after the Hulk instead.  His quest for the Hulk's power turns him into the big headed green guy we all know.


There's also been a lot of call for an Ant-man movie.  I really don't know about that one.  Sure, I'd love to see The Wasp, but I don't think Ant-man as a character has enough to him to carry a movie.  Yes, I do know he was one of the founding members of the Avengers.  However, that's not quite enough to warrant getting your own major motion picture.  Thor, Cap, and Ironman are the Marvel Trinity characters.  Hulk as been immensely popular for decades.  They make sense.  Ant-man just doesn't rank up there.  Introduce him in one of the sequel flicks and work him in there.  The next Ironman film would be the best fit.


There's a lot of characters I think of when I think of The Avengers: Wonder-man, The Vision, Ms. Marvel, The Scarlet Witch, Beast, and The Black Panther.  I doubt you'll be able to had too many more characters into the sequels as it would make AVENGERS 2 an unwieldy mess.  We don't want that.  Work in Ant-Man and The Wasp, keep the cast they have.


For the sequel, everyone's looking to have the team take on Thanos.  May as well give the people what they want.  Whether or not they use the Infinity Gems as a plot device is fine with me.  My favorite Thanos stories involved the gems so I'm obviously biased here.  Either way, it should be a bunch of good summers coming up if you're a fan of what Marvel's been up to the last few years.


That said, if you're wanting to check out the movie and haven't, go to a theater, and don't be a dick downloading the thing.  The studio makes more money that they can use to continue to entertain us.  besides which, watching these flicks on the big screen is completely awesome.


MUSIC!!


Yeah, been a rough few weeks, so I'm tossing this one on out there.







Off to work.  See y'all Friday.

Weekend of Nerd!

Howdy!  Its Sunday, May 6, 2012, I'm getting my geek on, no surprise, and this is The Side.  Got a bunch of reasons to be nerding out this weekend.  Yesterday was free Comic Book Day and I took the girls up to Kings.  We got up there pretty late so most of the free releases were already gone.  Heard they went fast too.  Still, there were some boxes of old comics out and you could grab 10 each.  The girls loaded up, quite pleased with their hauls.  I didn't grab anything, because I think Free Comic Book Day should be about getting new readers, not guys like me who already have a pretty regular reading list.  Sure, if there were some of the releases out that looked interesting I'd have grabbed one to check it out and maybe add something new to my reading list, but first come, first serve, and I certainly wasn't early.


Other big reason for nerding out.  SHERLOCK season two is coming on PBS!





If you haven't seen season one yet, shame upon you.  Netflix instant streaming is your friend, however, and you can watch them on there.  Brilliant series, and I can't wait to sit and enjoy this new season.


So that's more nerding out.  Wasn't there something else?  Some movie coming out this weekend?


MOVIE REVIEW: MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS



Which I'm glad they clarified in the title because I might have gone in expecting more adventures with Peel and Steed.  But no, this is indeed Marvel's big guns gathered together for the movie fans have been waiting for.  Now, at this current time, we are at a point in which we have multiple comic book based movies coming out in theaters every year.  This was absolutely not the case for me growing up, so unlike in my youth I'm not as forgiving of them.  I used to feel a definite need to defend comic book movies even if they weren't very good, because I feared they'd become fewer and further between.  Now, they're a hot property, and they don't seem to be slowing down, so I have no qualms about calling out a movie's flaws, even if the majority of comic book fans loved the films.  Its refreshing to be able to be completely honest about a movie and reviewing it based on its merits, and those alone.


So I can be completely honest in my opinion of this movie.  Let's face it: this is an unprecedented move by a any studio.  They've released separate films introducing these characters to movie going audiences.  They made these movies with big budgets, and very talented actors, writers, and directors, not sparing anything in terms of quality if they could help it.  Multiple individual franchises have been launched, and the intent has been there since they really started rolling with this to eventually make the movie that was released here in the States this weekend.  Expectations from fans were through the roof.  Joss Whedon was signed on as writer/director.  Expectations rose higher.  It was to the point that there did not seem to be any way that the fans' expectations could be met.  I had to make a conscious effort to go into this movie and try to leave my personal expectations for what I'd want this movie to be in the lobby and try to form an honest opinion of the work.


So, with that out there I can say completely honestly, and checking my nerded up expectations at the door: this was one damn fine piece of work.


Let's start this out with the writing and directing from Whedon.  What he did that was really amazing here is take these characters from their separate franchises and place them in one film and still had them ring completely true to how they were depicted in their separate films.  This didn't feel like Whedon's take on these characters.  It felt like the separate writers all had gotten together to handle their particular characters.  At the same time, Whedon managed to have these character playing of of each other beautifully.  It was as if he had had a hand in everything from the beginning of Marvel's big movie push.


This is a long movie at two and a half hours long.  It didn't feel like it because of the excellent pacing.  Its kinetic, without being rushed.  The quiet moments are still packed with juicy, fun conversations that really give you a good feel for these individuals.  Certainly you have to have suspension of disbelief when in this genre, but that's not taken for granted here, as Whedon keeps the story on track.  Its fairly straight forward. Loki is back and he's ticked over what happened in the THOR movie and he's got a plan for some big time revenge and looking to take Earth in the bargain.  There's not a lot of twists, but that's fine because the speed this roller coaster moves at, any hairpin turn in things could easily send it right off the rails.


On to the performances, and here's where this movie shines.  Everyone brought their "A" game to this.  There's been a lot of buzz about Mark Ruffalo coming into to playing Bruce Banner.  Initially there was some dismay from fans who were miffed about having a different actor for the role when every other role was being reprised by the actors from the separate movies.  This has shifted to glowing praise of Ruffalo in his work in this role, and that praise is completely justified.  He was remarkable, especially in his scenes with Robert Downey Junior.  Downey delivered the Tony Stark that the fans love with style, wit, and panache.  Chris Evans was a really fun Captain America.  Chris Hemsworth gave us the Thor we know and love, albeit with a bit less humor than in his movie.  That's easily forgiven considering the circumstances of the story.  I didn't get quite enough Jeremy Renner.  It seemed like Hawkeye got the short end of the arrow this go around, although he did have some really cool moments.  Scarlett Johansson was amazing in this.  Whedon shines at writing strong women, and his Black Widow is no exception.  Some fans have sort of rolled their eyes at her inclusion in this with a "What's she gonna do?  Flash her boobs at the bad guys?" attitude.  To say she holds her own in this is an understatement.  Samuel Jackson's portrayal of Nick Fury is slick and stylish with enough gravity to it to really anchor the film.  We can't forget Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  He's gotten a lot of praise for his performance, and its well earned.  This is a very nuanced character, and and it shows down to every little facial expression.


Big props to Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson.  He's been around since the first Ironman movie, and is really great here.  He may not have had the flashiest moments in the marvel movies, but he's always kept things very grounded, and I've found myself really liking the character even though he's been a bit antagonistic in previous films.  He had all these great little moments in this, and it was really made things fun.


Overall, this movie gave me everything I could have asked for.  It got me engaged in the story.  There were parts that totally cracked me up.  There were parts that made me grin like a child that has been thoroughly indulged.  The movie had a definite purpose and didn't fall into the trap of having unneeded and distracting sub-plots.   The action was incredibly over the top and was still easily followed.  You could see and appreciate every impossibly blow in these battles.  The fast clip editing that is completely annoying in many fight scenes is used very sparingly, and when it comes to the big hits, the camera hides nothing.


I'd pay full price to see it again.


Also, make sure you stay through the credits for some fun little Easter eggs, and a hint as to where a possible and probably sequel will be heading.


MUSIC!!!


Yeah, I'm sticking with my theme today.





I think that'll do it for me today.  Time for some coffee.  See y'all Wednesday.

Return of the Skyrocket

Its a short one today, kids.  Its Friday, May 4, 2012, its the missus's birthday, and this is The Side.  That's right.  My wife was born on Star Wars Day.  That's how we roll.


Yeah, only had one comic waiting for me this week.  Things are still pretty nuts here, with the return of the mssus being under a week away, and Darren's untimely passing..    Let's get to it.


COMIX!!!


THE SKYROCKET #4 hit the stands a bit unexpectedly.  Was not expecting it, but I'm glad that Mike Federali and Os Petroli got this baby on out.  Samantha Robbins AKA The Skyrocket starts out a new adventure when Agent Evans needs her assistance in a hostage situation involving hi-tech crooks.  Pretty straight forward stuff, but a very pleasant ride.  We get fun villains for Sam to fight.  We also get a bit of a twist at the end.  The writing is good.  Federali shines in the little moments, like the early seen with Sam in her lab.  He does a good job of making Sam likable and engaging without falling into the trap of having a female lead who is just an over-developed bosom in spandex.  Petroli plays off of this and does a great job of making her attractive without resorting to cheap cheesecake shots.  This book continues to improve.  Its paced well.  The art continues to get cleaner.  I do like that we see Evans in the field wearing tactical gear as opposed to his suit.  There are a few things that didn't really work for me, like the Sam/Mari throwdown, but that's mainly me coming from a fight background and I'm too much of a stickler sometimes as far as fight scenes.  These are only small misgivings, and even with them, I'm still really enjoying the comic and am definitely on board waiting for issue #5.


MUSIC!!!


Well, since we're having a Federali love fest today...





That's a wrap for me.  See you guys Sunday with a certain movie review.  May the Fourth be with you.

Good-Bye, Darrin

Its Wednesday, May 2, 2012, I'm not having a good week, and this is The Side.  While my mother-in-law continues having difficulties with her health, things haven't been going well here.  I've managed to keep things going, and continue working.  The kids are fed, and occasionally I can find matching socks for them.  I'm still trying my best to keep things going at work and support my buddy while his arm heals.  Things at the dojo are alright.  Money is tight, but that's nothing new.  We got the light at the end of the tunnel when we were finally able to set a date for the Missus to return from Kansas.


Then we got news that we couldn't have expected.


My neighbor, Darrin, died in an accident while whitewater rafting.  From what I'm told he and others fell out of the raft, and he got caught underneath somehow.  The news hit the neighborhood very hard.  Monday night after getting home I went over to visit with the neighbors, and there was laughing, crying, drinking, more crying, more laughing, and more drinking.


I've mentioned the NWA (Neighborhood Watch Association) before and our fun adventures and misadventures.  The neighborhood is a lively place.  Darrin was the heart of the group. Everybody loved him.  He was the guy behind the bar serving the drinks at every party.  He was the first guy to come over when you needed help.  He was funny, kind, and soft spoken.


My main bonding with him was through martial arts.  He was one of those crazy dudes that punches trees and rocks.  His techniques were amazing.  His knowledge of pressure point strikes allowed him to knock guys out even by hitting them on their arms.  That's probably the main thing that really bugs me.  He had all this amazing knowledge, and never got to pass a lot of it on.


He did show us quite a few things though, especially when he visited my dojo.  He was always humble and respectful in there, even though head on I wouldn't have a prayer against him.  He'd put guys all over the room with complete control always doing just enough to get the techniques to work, without being abusive about it.  It didn't matter how big and strong my guys were, he'd have them on their knees in the blink of an eye.  A lot of my students were curious about his techniques.  One memorable moment was when one of the black belts, Kim, was asking about Naihanchin Sho-dan, particularly the moves in his version that weren't in ours.


"Well, these moves here are tearing up the opponent's arm."


"Show me."  And she held her arm out.


"No.  You really don't want me to."


"Come on!  It'll be fine."  She shook her arm as it she was baiting an animal.  "Show me."


Darrin looked at me.  I shrugged.


"She asked for it."


Fuwackity!  He didn't hit her hard, but he hit her arms just right so that the yelp of pain was easily heard throughout the zip code.  I've never seen Kim move that fast ever as she practically jumped across the room.  He felt kinda bad after that, but she was fine.


This isn't to say that Darrin didn't have his moments when he could be scary as hell.  Once some punk tried to bust into the NWA HQ, that being the gazebo we all hang out in.  Well, John caught the weasel, and the police put him in the back of the squad car ready to take him away.  Of course the punk was being a mouthy little prick about the whole thing.  Then Darrin came out.


About 6'4" of a big tattooed, shirtless Irishman.  At the time he had the ponytail.  He walks over to the squad car, and wipes the window to take a good look at the punk.  The twerp was still pretty defiant, but was a bit intimidated.


"How much is his bail?"


"What?" The Officer asked.


"Tell you what.  I'll give you $400, and you turn him over to me.  You'll never have to worry about him again."


At this point the punk was yelling from the back seat, "TAKE ME TO JAIL!"


You see, Darrin didn't like having the peace and quiet of the neighborhood disturbed, unless it involved pretty girls and/or beer.  Like two Easters ago, when the house right by our little court caught fire.  Black smoke billowed over the trees.  The sirens from the fire engines were easily heard.  We all got up on a deck and watched it.  Darrin comes out of his house.


"What the hell's going on out here?"


"House over there is on fire."


"I'm in here tryin' to meditate!  Tell them to keep it down!"


And he went back inside.


So, as you can probably tell, he was quite a character.  This is indeed a very emotional time for the entire neighborhood.  We're all going to miss him.  I know he respected me as a sensei and that means a lot to me.  It makes me want to be a better sensei to really deserve that respect.


Good-bye to a good and honorable man that I was glad to call my friend and neighbor.


MUSIC!!!


Friend of mine turned me onto this tune.  Apparently it was in that Scott Pilgrim movie that I couldn't be arsed with.  I do dig the song though.



That's it for me.  See you guys Friday.