Archive for January, 2012

Rest in Peace – Chuck: Part 1

As you may or may not know, I recently wrote about Chuck and how disappointing it has become in recent history. At the end of my examination, however, I suggested that things had been improving over the last few episodes and I had held out some hope that the show might finad a way to end on a high note. Well, my TiVo currently holds the final four episodes of Chuck, as it concluded just this past weekend. Will I be disappointed yet again, like a bad boy’s girlfriend, constantly surprised that he hasn’t changed? Let’s find out!

 

It's been a while since the show saw a really good twist with the intersect. Season four's finale does not count as a GOOD twist. Clearly you haven't been watching season 5.

Have you been watching Chuck? Because it's been watching you!

 

 

Episode Title:

 

Chuck versus Bo

 

TiVo Logline:

 

Chuck and Sarah must go to Vail on one last mission, where they get some help from Bo Derek; Jeff and Lester Continue their mission.

 

Reactions:

 

Well we’re off to a bad start for my finale marathon. Sarah and Chuck pitch converting their security firm into a cyber security firm, so they can cut the gunplay out of their lives and settle down for real. That’s not the problem, the problem is that less than five minutes into the episode Casey suggests that they get rid of the Buy More. Honestly, it’s like NBC doesn’t even read my ranting blogs!

 

The tone of most of the show’s humor seems to be back where it belongs, which is reassuring, but there’s three more episodes to go, and plenty of time to ruin things. Besides, there are still a few lingering off-color jokes staining the script. For one, the word “rainbow” may never cease to creep me out. Still we’ve got plenty of fun moments like Morgan’s connection to Bo Derek that outweigh the weird moments and are reminiscent of the fun from the first two seasons, when the show was at its strongest.

 

I love that Jeff and Lester end up using a plot device from Doctor Who's battle against the Silence in order to "continue their mission"

"What did we do last night?" "I don't know, last thing I remember is being written almost completely out of this show for nearly two years"

The episode focuses on Morgan, the character who probably best embodies the fun that this show once captured with every episode, and puts him in the line of fire in a way that’s very similar to classic Chuck. Making matters even more hilarious, Jeff and Lester (the comedy relief duo) are trying to play spy at the same time. There’s a Hangover subtheme playing throughout the episode, and surprisingly it doesn’t seem clichéd.

 

I’m excited to report that this may actually be one of my favorite Chuck episodes of all time, and trust me, I don’t say this lightly. I had to work hard to get myself to start watching this marathon, and even when I did I expected to want to gauge my eyes out by the end of the first episode. The humor was right on, there was action, but not an unnecessarily convoluted or dramatic spy story behind it, plus there were some nice references to earlier episodes sprinkled in for the fans. My main concern is that this sense I have after part 1 of 4 is a false hope. The only way to know is to carry on…

 

 

Episode Title:

 

Chuck versus the Bullet Train:

 

TiVo Logline:

 

Sarah and Chuck face Nicholas Quinn on a Japanese bullet train; Casey faces a difficult decision.

 

Reactions:

 

Well it’s good to have the intersect back on the show, but I do find it slightly annoying that they’ve blatantly ignored some of the rules they established early on. First off, when someone’s brain downloads all the information of an intersect computer, it has traditionally required a shutdown and reboot. That means that the user faints, though sometimes briefly, and it doesn’t work instantaneously. Secondly, I was pretty sure there was some clause suggesting that only certain people’s brains were wired in such a way as to accept that amount of data. That was the reason Chuck was originally sent the intersect, despite being alarmingly underqualified to be a spy in all other ways.

 

Don't answer that, somehow I feel like any answer to that question is going to make me aware of some horrible part of myself.

Not actually from this episode, but with Chuck completed as a series, how else am I supposed to justify posting my favorite bizarre lingerie moment from Chuck?

In order to get to the end of the series, though I’m going to have to strain my suspension of disbelief and soldier on. I suppose they have Sarah constantly wearing preposterous lingerie under her mission attire to help distract from these suspension of disbelief issues, by bending them back in the other direction. I’m not going to complain about that, but I’m still cross about the intersect thing, since intersect lore is like the core mythology of the show!

 

While this episode is much more serious in tone than the previous one (Bo Derek), it’s still showing some of the strengths of earlier episodes. For example, just like the Bo Derek episode, the B story is tied into the A story in a way that’s both relevant and funny. This was one of the show’s strongest aspects early on, story and characters aside. It was something I respected about the series, especially because I’m so poor at writing B stories myself.

 

I love that a PSP and Virtual Reality Goggles are required to save a life. Do Japanese businessmen really just carry VR goggles around?

"We have something better than a Buy More, we have a train full of Japanese people." This is the kind of Chuck logic I’ve missed since the first season.

This episode does take an extremely dark turn near the end, but there are two things I can say in defense of that. For starters, Chuck has always had a tradition of dialing up its drama factor for its season finales in the past. Sometimes this has actually worked to its advantage, because when they did it in season two it blew my mind, and it was pretty amazing. Secondly, they’ve finally taken the opportunity to address an aspect of the intersect that I’ve wondered about since its very inception. This wasn’t exactly the answer I expected, but it does make sense. Plus, it all lead to a nice touch of continuity that proves to me that they do still remember their past.

 

The Halfway Point:

 

As I said, I’ve been marathoning the conclusion to chuck, but there’s enough to talk about for two updates, easily. I’m going to take a break here to reflect a little and my next update will conclude my experiences with Chuck.

 

I said before that Chuck vs Bo ranked highly in comparison to most other episodes, and while Chuck vs the Bullet Train was also pretty good, it doesn’t live up to that level of praise. I’d grade Bo Derek a solid A, bordering on A+ as an episode, whereas Bullet Train gets an A- bordering on a B+. Considering what I thought of most of season 5 to date this is a huge step up, and it’s really starting to feel like the show I once loved above all other currently airing shows.

 

The last time I wrote about Chuck for the Cove of Solitude, I complained primarily about how the show lost the sense of its core, both in regards to the comedic tone of the series and the increased focus on its weaker dramatic aspects. Taking a look at these episodes we have one which is much more heavily weighted by comedy, and one which is certainly more dramatic, which provides an excellent point to compare these episodes to the rest of the series as a whole.

 

The comedic side of Chuck has made a very strong showing to get this party started. Throughout the run of the series it’s been pretty typical for each episode to fall mostly on one side of the dramady divide. Since season three, most of the episodes have been either dramatic or a type of comedic whose style and tone haven’t really meshed with the world that Chuck had already established. Here we see an episode whose spy plot is pretty heavily rooted in comedy, plus a more traditional style of Chuck B story. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten this much enjoyment out of one of their B stories…like since season 1 a while.

 

Overall the greatest strength of the comedy here is that it seems to remember its seasonal lineage in more ways than one. Not only do we see a return to form that calls back to a while ago for the series, but we get our first glimpse of self-awareness at how truly awful one of season 5’s major plotlines was. This episode plays off the continuation of that story, but ruthlessly pokes fun at it as well. It’s another of the many signs that the showrunner and the writers have got their priorities straightened out.

 

It's a nice little physical representation of how things have changed, and yet how they've stayed the same, considering his Nerd Herd uniform.

This image represents the happy ending that Chuck, as a character, has been seeking for five years. Will the ending be happy for them? Will it be entertaining for us?

So far things are looking good for the shift back to drama as well, even though it still has logistical issues as is often the case for the series, it is at least doing some things right that have been ignored in the past. For one, they’re clearly building towards a serious emotional conflict between our chief cast of characters by raising the stakes to the stratosphere. As I’ve said before, Chuck has managed to make good use of intense story arcs in the past, but the series also managed to make a mess of a few as well. This is potentially a high risk high reward situation, but there’s always a danger of failure when the risk is high.

 

Generally speaking, these episodes show huge improvement out of the season 5 that has elicited many groans and much rage from me thus far. Hopefully they’ll continue to channel all the momentum they’ve gathered over these episodes into an exciting and entertaining conclusion worthy of the greatness the series once held. However the two-part conclusion that aired just this past weekend will have to wait until next time. Stay tuned!

Advertisements

Cardfight Vanguard – Ride 8: The King of Knights Enters the Fray

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reactions:

 

This episode introduces a new type of deck, known as the Megacolony. They’re bugs whose abilities generally pertain to keeping your Units from standing, which means they can’t attack or boost. This episode also marks the first appearance of the King of Knights, Alfred, who becomes one of Aichi’s chief Trump cards. He gets stronger for every other Royal Paladin card you have on the field.

Code Lyoko Double Feature – Episodes 8 and 9

Episode 8 – End of Take

 

Suggested Title: Crucified Alien vs. Cyber Predator

 

Premise: When a conceited film director comes to town he locks down the factory to shoot his next film, preventing Team Lyoko from accessing their beloved super computer while providing Xana an improbable weapon to fight our heroes.

 

Summary:

 

For some reason, the principal holds an assembly to screen a movie whose content seems inappropriate for a middle school class, then the director of said film shows up just long enough to explain that he wants to shoot a movie in the factory. Yes, that factory.

 

Ulrich volunteers his services to James Finson as factory tour guide. Ulrich’s attempts to make the place seem inhospitable backfire hard, but he does get offered a consultant position on the movie due to his knowledge of the factory. In a plot contrivance I’m too lazy to explain Sissi also gets a bit part in the movie.

Crucifying something is just asking for it to come back to life, worked for Jesus AND for Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days

And Mel Gibson thought the backlash from Passion of the Christ was bad.

 

Finson is worried that information about his movie will leak to the public, probably due to his controversial Alien Jesus protagonist, so he takes the phones of everyone on set. Xana does what he does to everything that anyone ever leaves lying around and possesses the fake alien with his cyber ghost. Meanwhile Ulrich sneaks down to the terminal to keep Jeremie posted about the situation on set, but Sissi has followed him, leading to this unfortunate exchange:

 

 

They could have at least changed the color of the um..."goop".

Considering they had Sissi pulling fan service in the pilot, I fear for the motivation behind this exchange.

Ulrich: “You can’t tell anyone about this, or else!”

Sissi: “Or else what? A monster’s going to squirt goopy goo all over my face?”

Xana Alien squirts goopy goo all over her her face.

Awkward.

 

As the alien chases the pair through an elevator shaft and eventually goops them to a wall (since apparently he can do that), the director wakes up the crew and starts a manhunt for the missing alien. The rest of Team Lyoko takes advantage of the distraction to sneak past the one guard and virtualize Odd.

 

Odd and Aelita get chased onto a giant ice slide by 5 mosquito-like monsters. At the other end, the pair find themselves facing down two identical towers, not sure which one is actually active, Aelita uses the dues ex computer sense to eenie meenie minie mo her way to victory. Is it some Buddhist meditation thing or is it just a full on plot device? It’s impossible to say.

 

As Aelita shuts down the tower, the alien gets Ulrich and Yumi in its grips, but we all know the drill. Shut down just in time, return to the past, much rejoicing. The second time around, Ulrich uses the director’s narcissism to get the director to change his mind about the location. He can’t stand using a location that someone else used for a movie. The day is saved!

 

Reactions:

 

This episode seemed like it was trying to take on the conventions of the horror genre, especially considering that they actually put a horror movie in their story. If that was the goal, they didn’t do an especially good job of this, though. It doesn’t really apply or subvert any of the usual elements of horror movies other than the literal movie monster.

 

On that note, why does the fake alien get real super powers? I mean something like super strength I can buy, cause maybe Xana can optimize its muscle movements, or just throw a punch with unnatural force, since he is the puppet master.  However, the alien gets sticky spider web vomit or something which begs the question: if Xana could bestow that type of power to someone he’s possessed, why not give evil Yumi a dose of Spiderman breath? It just seems odd that he wouldn’t grant superpowers to most or all of his possessions? Clearly it was Xana’s doing, as the fake alien would not have functioning goop launchers powerful enough to trap multiple people to a wall. Insurance would never cover that production!

Besides, considering how much possession happens on this show, there would be WAY more vomit if that was the case.

I suppose you could argue super-vomit is a side effect of possession, like in the Exorcist, but this is some carefully controlled puke.

 

Back in the episode Cruel Dilemma, Jeremie established that virtual beings have two senses: sight and hearing. This episode provides an interesting corollary as Odd complains of feeling cold in the ice sector. This could mean one of many things. Beings who already exist with five senses might retain them on Lyoko. Since Odd knows that ice should be cold, it could be psychosomatic association. Of course, knowing Odd, he may just be cracking wise and making it up entirely. In short, we manage not to learn anything useful from this potential revelation, but if you’ve ever wondered what being inside a supercomputer was like, this is some food for thought.

 

 

Episode 9 – Satellite

 

Suggested Title: Phoned-In

 

Premise: Xana utilizes the least likely method of hacking a military satellite he can manage, possibly in the hopes of avoiding detection. Meanwhile the school has banned cell phones, causing an uproar amongst the students.

 

Summary:

 

The episode begins with every cell phone in the school ringing simultaneously. I’m not sure what’s less plausible, all of those calls ringing without crashing a cellular network or the fact that every student tries to answer their phones in the middle of class. The students pick up and hear no voice on the other end, but then the teachers confiscate every student’s cell phone and lock them up

 

The kids react variously to this digital age injustice. Sissi organizes a protest to have the cell phones returned, which Yumi actually joins. Jeremie launches a scan to find a tower and Ulrich and Odd try to break into the teacher’s lounge or something to retrieve their phones.

 

The principal’s reaction is simultaneously startlingly oblivious and bafflingly nonsensical. Oblivious in his ignorance to the unusual nature of the incident and nonsensical in that his retaliation is to shut down the school’s antenna so even if kids replace their phones they can’t use them on campus.

 

At this point Jeremie starts performing generic science to figure out Xana’s plan. And get ready cause this is convoluted. It seems Xana took control of the cell antenna to try and take control of “the main TV dish” which should allegedly allow him to control satellites out in space, including military satellites. The team heads to the factory to save the day and Kiwi conveniently breaks out of the room after them so he can act as a plot device.

 

Jeremie figures out that the specific satellite that Xana wants to control has some sort of space laser on it. The boys reason that Xana’s target won’t be the factory since he could hit himself, but rather Yumi who’s still at the school with the protestors. To warn her, Jeremie stuffs a note under Kiwi’s collar then sends him to find her.

 

Waspsters (those mosquito things from the previous episode) stand in the path of Aelita and the others. She nearly has poison sprayed on her, since apparently that’s something waspsters can do. Odd acts as a distraction, letting Ulrich and Aelita get to the spot where the tower SHOULD be, but as usual they can’t find it.

 

In fairness to him, though, I definitely wouldn't have predicted quite this preposterous level of accuracy from the space laser.

I bet Jeremie's the kind of guy who says "How hard could it be", "What could go wrong" and "At least this day can't get any worse!"

Yumi rallies the protesters and suggests they get the support of people in town to grow their movement. I think the plan is to avoid the laser, but doesn’t moving Xana’s target into a highly populated area just jeopardize more innocent lives considering his weapon fires from space?

 

In an astonishing moment of self-unawareness, Jeremie muses “I wonder how accurate that laser really is”. As if answering this question, Xana locks in on an infared image of Yumi, specifically. Sort of brought that one on yourself there, didn’t you?

 

Why is it that Yumi's always the one in the most life-threatening situations? First the digital sea, now this!

Good thing this laser has airbrakes. Too bad that doesn't make sense.

Aelita finally tracks down the tower, which wasn’t being hidden at all, it was just inside a cave beneath them the whole time. Maybe we should actually make a map of where all these towers are some time, so we don’t flail around and nearly get killed by space lasers for no good reason.

 

And this just in time moment was the most laughable yet! A laser beam (a beam of LIGHT, mind you, traveling at LIGHTspeed) stops in midair when Aelita enters the code, rather then annihilating Yumi and a good chunk of the school’s track.

 

Reactions:

I will refrain from accusing Xana's French origin as a scapegoat for his ineffectual strategic planning.

So the French have a military laser satellite and a factory that seems to produce only trouble and supercompter viruses? I always knew they were holding back on us!

Another fun world-clarifying fact for the day comes from Jeremie’s computer as he monitors Xana’s targeting laser zoom in on Yumi at school. It starts from a global map then narrows in…on Europe, where it finally focuses in on France and then Kadic Academy! That’s right, this French-Canadian show turns out to be about French France! I don’t think I ever knew that, but anything that makes this show more absurd is a welcome addition in my book.

 

There was once an episode of the NBC show Heroes that my college friends and I watched and never forgot. Two high school students were in a science class where they set up bunsen burners for some kind of experiment before the teacher wrote the word “Evolution” on the board and moving on to that subject for the rest of class (the scene ended with a class bell ringing). Even though those are both subjects in the field of science, you wouldn’t teach them in the same class session, not even if you were in some sort of general science course.

 

I bring up this scene because something similar happens in today’s second episode of Code Lyoko. The teacher asks about what happens when two neutrons collide, which would be a question for a physics class…which you probably wouldn’t be studying in Junior High School (unless France is way ahead of us in the public school department). However, the board only has “y = ax + b” written on it, which would be pretty basic algebra, a subject that makes perfect sense for these students to be studying, but is unrelated to the question. I can’t tell if this is physics class or algebra where the teacher is a being a jerk, but I CAN tell you that this moment seems even sillier in light of something from next week’s episode. Stay tuned to find out why!

Examining the Jetsons – The Future’s Past in the Present

Strictly speaking, the Jetsons was a show before my time, but that hasn’t stopped me from watching shows before. I spent at least one summer watching shows on TV Land to get a sense of TV history (hey, I have to rationalize the wasted time somehow). When I was young, however, there wasn’t quite the abundance of syndicated cartoons to just haphazardly air when a network ran out of original programming. For the most part it was classic Disney, Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera shorts, but key shows like the Flintstones and The Jetsons also made a fair showing back in the day.

 

For a while now I’ve been able to appreciate shows in a different, at least somewhat more sophisticated way than I could when I was younger. In this more recent history, wherein I am a student of various television genres and the origins of various stereotypes and tropes frequently used throughout visual mediums such as television and film, I have had interest in revisiting The Jetsons to learn just how much it has colored our notions of what “the future” might hold, as well as determining exactly how well the series holds up.

This is what a return to the past looks like, by the way, I don't think I've posted a picture before.

See what I did there? You Code Lyoko fans know what I’m talking about.

 

Luckily for me Cartoon Network has started running a block of the Flintstones and the Jetsons each day, meaning that with the help of my TiVo I can marathon a few episodes and give you some of my impressions. I’ve already shared a few of my musings on the subject via Twitter, and I hope to incorporate more expressions of this type as time goes on, but for now let’s return to the past!

 

Episode Title: The Space Car

 

TiVo Logline: A bank robber hides his car in the Jetsons’ garage.

 

Thoughts:

 

I don’t know exactly what to make of this sequence where Jane does a frightening job driving with her learner’s permit. Whatever idea they’re trying to play for humor seems either dated, sexist or both. There’s something I enjoy about the police officer pulling them over “to the nearest roof”, though, the Jetsons has a lot of nice touches like that, which build the world.

 

Wow, now here’s a truly inspired vision of the future! The police officer pulls up a screen on his hovercycle, which immediately contacts a judge to rule on the traffic violation. Well not quite immediately, first “it’s time for the commercial”, and the judge plugs a spot removing product. I’d say that’s fair. I am however concerned by the officer’s follow-up: “You’re lucky, the judge is a lot easier now that he got a sponsor”. I hope that’s not a sign of rampant bribery to come.

I'll just be happy if I can reach a point where I never have to parallel park again.

Sure the Compact-Tansforming Car is more practical for the same purpose, but it's not nearly as satisfying or destructive.

 

Oh excellent! This episode contains the future car dealership, which was one of the few Jetsons ideas I readily remembered. After a brief presentation explaining how cars of the future are made from recycled materials, George and Judy see a slideshow of new cars: one with a (laser) solution to limited parking space, one with a separate pod for unwanted passengers (mother-in-law) and a compact car that converts itself into an actual woman’s compact.

 

 

Episode Title: The Coming of Astro

 

TiVo Logline: Elroy finds a puppy; George prefers electronic dogs.

 

Thoughts:

 

I can’t wrap my head around this. Elroy brings home Astro, a dog at least twice his size, and in an effort to endear him to his mother, Elroy gets Astro to say “Ri Rom”. Jane’s reaction isn’t “Holy crap! A talking dog!” or “Yawn, another talking dog” but the peculiar middle ground of “’Ri Rom’? What kind of talk is that?”

 

George, having an aversion to dogs, upsets his family when he tells them they can’t keep the dog, but he does what any sensible person would do: repurposes a supercomputer at his office to solve his personal problem. Imagine what you’d be doing at work if Facebook could start solving your problems. Of course the computer comes up with a science-fictional solution: a (nuclear powered) robotic dog.

Seriously, I'm four episodes in and the Jetsons have encountered criminals twice. What's up with the future?

The electronic pet shop owner demonstrates how Lectronimo deals with burglars. “I’ll just put on this burglar mask, he HATES burglar masks," he explains, getting that pesky exposition out of the way.

 

This episode obviously boils down to an old fashioned mutt versus machine battle of the dogs to see which is fit to stay. Lectronimo wins the fastest fetch, finding a hidden bone, and standard pet tricks. Ultimately the notorious cat burglar breaks in (after delivering a soliloquy about how much he hates dogs) and exploits Lectronimo’s only weakness, transferring his burglar mask to someone who is not a burglar. Astro accidentally apprehends the cat burglar in a terrified fit and secures his place in the family.

 

 

Episode Title: Jetson’s Night Out

 

TiVo Logline: George and Mr. Spacely connive to attend the robot football game.

 

Thoughts:

 

The portrayal of journalism throughout these various episodes is quite interesting. They show quite a few instances of televised news on various video screens, but in this episodes there’s also the “newspaper” which is a disk delivered daily with video headlines. The multimedia concept is somewhere between modern internet and modern newsprint.

 

There are so many methods to avoid walking in the future. In this episode, George’s kitchen chair moves itself to a tube leading him to the garage. Then, a mechanical arm lifts his kitchen chair into his car, where it becomes the driver’s seat.

How's the weather up there? Heh heh, classic.

I'm sure they have a machine that controls the weather, it's just a particularly difficult-to-push button, so it rarely gets used.

 

Here’s an interesting notion. It’s raining at the start of this episode, and when the Jetsons ask their building’s superintendent to do something about the weather, he turns a “weather control knob” which adjusts the height of the building, moving them up into the clouds and over the storm.

 

This one actually elicited a pretty good laugh from me. Jane complains about doing the dishes after breakfast, so Judy volunteers to clean up. She muses to herself “it’s been so long since I’ve done the dishes…let’s see, you press the dish disposal button…” which she does, causing a massive piston to crush the tabletop and everything on it. Then a broom sweeps all dish fragments into a compartment on the wall.

 

Here’s something people don’t often talk about when they mention flying cars of the future: running out of fuel. George does so on his way to work and his car falls out of the sky. He has a parachute, but it doesn’t launch in time. Good thing this is a cartoon!

 

In the future, we’ve replaced athletes with robots. Well, at least football players. Probably to avoid concussions. The coach of either team sends commands to all of the players on his team. It’s almost like watching a full sized game of Madden. I knew Let’s Plays would be appreciated some day.

 

Was there ever actually a point in time when mink coats solved every problem with your wife?

 

 

Overall:

 

One of the truly impressive insights I’ve noticed through the episodes I’ve rewatched so far is the prediction of human nature prevailing in the face of technological advancement. For example in The Space Car, Jane gets a video phone call in the morning and puts on a “morning mask” of her own face, so her friend doesn’t see her before she’s gotten ready in the morning. On a similar note, George sets up a cutout of his face and a generic audio message to trick Jane into thinking he’s at the office in Jetson’s Night Out.

 

In the future where the Jetsons live, fashion, transportation, food and even tasks as simple as getting dressed are fully automatic! In the event of a power outage we’d sit in their bedrooms naked, hungry and confused as to why we couldn’t move between rooms in our houses. More to the point, it puts us in a ripe position to be conquered by artificial intelligence. Maybe this world is the same as the Terminator continuity, for all of his efforts, John Connor has just constantly delayed Skynet to the point that we have flying cars before it takes over.

 

The Jetsons on the whole says a lot about both consumerism and human nature. All of our chores and many of our jobs in the future are reduced to pressing a button or series of buttons, and yet we still have maids and complain about all sorts of tasks. But ultimately the presentation of everything feels like a sales pitch, especially the unusual number of legitimate sales pitches throughout the series. The earliest episodes in particular don’t even feel like a TV series so much as a commercial for a home of the future or something.

At least we have those classic dollar sign burlap sacks to look forward to. They're way classier than wallets.

Fallout from an economic collapse would explain the rampant crime of the future, though that may just be from all of the corrupt, sponsored judges.

 

Interestingly, though, despite the rampant commercialization of everything from Sprockets to Space Cars, I have to assume at some point between now and the Jetsons the economy finally collapses and we rebuilt it from the ground up. In Jetsons’ Night Out George tries to bribe Elroy not to tell Jane about his shenanigans with literally nickels and dimes. In an episode I watched before I began writing this, George bribes the member of a successful pop band to take the night off for $10. Not only does the drummer agree to take the night off, he says something to the effect of “I would take the whole week of for $10”.

 

In a weird way, I think this is the most comforting thing about this infamous vision of the future. We worry so much about the economy, and it surely has caused its share of problems, but in the end it’s likely that we humans will adapt. Adaptation is the skill that got us this far, and I’m sure it will get us flying cars as well!

Defend the Cove, Defeat SOPA and PIPA!

Hello readers, sorry for the late post today. It’s partially due to my own shortsightedness, and partially due to today’s subject matter.

They must be doing something right, Yugi, Jaden and Yusei never had to worry about Big Brother

Why can't we just solve problems like adults? By playing a high-stakes children's card game.

 

Now anyone who knows me personally knows that I am not politically inclined. By my nature I am an entertainer. I try to diffuse even minor confrontations with my light-hearted attitude and a sarcastic quip whenever possible. Serious issues, particularly derisive ones usually shut my brain off the way a mindless anime about saving the world by playing a children’s card game disengages most other people’s brains. Unfortunately, some issues cannot be avoided, no matter how non-confrontation you are, and right now America and the internet are looking down the barrel of an issue that hits pretty close to home for a producer of internet content such as myself.

 

As I was getting at just a moment ago, I am usually woefully under informed about political issues, and I won’t pretend like I’m not, but since I decided to talk about this new legislation today, I had to spend some time reading up on it, so as not to completely embarrass myself. With that out of the way, let’s look at SOPA and PIPA.

 

You may have noticed some of your favorite websites interrupting their regularly scheduled updates today, or even blacking out their existing content from being accessed regularly. That’s because today is a day for the internet to protest these dangerous pieces of legislation. Sites participating in this boycott are attempting to make a statement about the fate that may befall the internet if the United States government allows this broad new power to fall into the hands of a few powerful people working for someone else’s agenda.

 

Those of you who aren’t so politically inclined may be asking, “What are SOPA and PIPA?”. The short answer is that they are the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, respectively. The medium-sized answer is that they are a pair of legislative threats to free-speech and unregulated internet access here in the U.S., as well as a threat to small businesses hoping to utilize the internet to do business, under the guise of putting an end to internet piracy. The long answer is…well, long.

 

The Congressional Seal seems way scarier than the Seal of Oricalchos under the SOPA/PIPA regime!

Aw man, I found the greatest image ever, but congress is censoring it!

The internet has always been a place to share and express ideas, but under the effects of SOPA and PIPA, any site utilizing user-driven content would need to be heavily monitored and regulated by its webmasters in order to prevent their whole site from being the target of a government embargo.

 

These acts function by classifying a website as either “domestic” or “foreign” based on their domain name and IP address, of course anyone who knows anything about the technical aspects of the internet knows that these types of designations aren’t all that simple to make. This is besides the point, though it does exemplify the degree of thought and expertise that went into the drafting of this legislation. It should also be noted that SOPA and PIPA allegedly seek to target “foreign” sites, yet they do not lay an adequate foundation on which to determine which sites are foreign.

 

Basically, the Attorney General and plaintiffs such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will be granted the ability to serve court orders, which will require all links to, access to and services with the foreign and infringing sites to be terminated. Any site failing to comply with the terms of this embargo would itself be in jeopardy of being shut down. I should point out that these sorts of entities (MPAA and RIAA) have notoriously lobbied to control the marketplace, rallying against innovations like the VCR which supposedly threatened to undermine their industries in the past but have proven no more than innovations adding jobs and new technology to the world.

They could have at least called it the Censorship Of Criminal Knowledge or something, so we could say sites were getting C.O.C.K.-Blocked.

The next time you're looking for rants about bad writing or snarky criticisms of anime, this may be all that you find.

 

One of the biggest problems with these acts is their ambiguous wording, which seems specifically crafted to leave patriot-act style loopholes in place for people to exploit while furthering their own agendas in the name of stopping piracy. For one, this legislation puts the burden of monitoring for material that potentially violates copyright on those in charge of the website, however it defines vaguely what constitutes this type of violation. As an example, if someone posted a comment on this post linking to a Russian website streaming pirated movies, not only could Cove of Solitude be shut down, but so could all of WordPress, at least in theory.

 

It’s hard to predict exactly how far this power might stretch, or the extent to which it might be abused, but from what I understand some of the tactics outlines in SOPA and PIPA mirror tactics used in countries like China and Iran to censor free speech on the internet. America once stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity for all, and I know that as a nation we’ve fallen a long way from then, but it would truly break my heart to see us plummet to such lows after our humble origins as a group of people seeking nothing more than freedom of religion and expression from a stubborn ruling entity.

 

Now as I writer and a producer of other types of content, I am sympathetic to the idea of protecting intellectual property and  safeguarding against copyright infringement, but I have to agree with the countless others who have already gone on record as saying these bills probably won’t work as intended, but will instead cause countless problems and incalculable damage to the internet. If you live here in the United States, please do your part to make your voice heard in protest of an Orwellian future. I’m including some links below where you can add your name to petitions against the SOPA and PIPA, as well as learn more about the subject from people who can do a better job of explaining things than I can.

 

That's right, there's an anime about pirates with super powers. It's even better than it sounds!

Despite my love of pirate imagery, piracy is a big no-no. I prefer the kind of pirate pictured above.

 

I hope that I have explained at least vaguely how these acts threaten the internet that I’m sure you know and love, and I hope that I’ve done so in a way that actually makes some coherent sense. I also hope that I can continue to bring you the same content you’ve come to expect over the last few months for the foreseeable future.

 

Learn More:

 

http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/technical-examination-of-sopa-and.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

http://getyourcensoron.com/

https://www.eff.org/free-speech-weak-link

 

Speak Out:

http://americancensorship.org/

https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

Revenge and the Trouble With Tyler

I hope the infinity symbol becomes more significant later. They do touch on it early, but not in great detail.One of the most promising new shows to premiere this past fall was Revenge, an ABC series about psychological and social warfare amongst the rich and powerful inhabitants of the Hamptons. More specifically, it follows the story of Amanda Clarke (alias Emily Thorne) who lived in the Hamptons as a child with her father, until he was framed for financially backing a terrorist attack and getting thrown in prison where he was murdered. With her family gone, Emily suffered a troubled childhood, but was eventually contacted by a friend of her father’s and came into some detailed records about what happened to her father and who was responsible. With this information, she plans to ruin the lives of everyone who played a part in destroying her father’s life.

 

Now the first few episodes of Revenge fell very neatly into an imaginary genre I call “mastermind”. Mastermind as a genre is a difficult sort of thing to explain, but if you’ve seen it before then it would probably make sense to you. An example I often use among friends to describe this type of storytelling is a fairly well-known anime series called Death Note. The basic idea there is that a self-righteous high school student finds a death god’s notebook, granting him to power to kill anyone he wants in almost any way he wants, and he tries to use the power to achieve a godlike status and a world where crime is abolished out of sheer terror. Not exactly a comedy, but I do highly recommend it.

 

Hallmarks of the Mastermind genre include highly complex plans, highly complex plans that involve reasoning out someone else’s highly complex plans, using people as means to an end, a generally implausible ability to read people bordering on predicting their future, lots of turning enemies against one another and tricking people into doing your dirty work without them even realizing it. Basically, you know that weird type of humor in some comedies, where two opponents eventually start saying things like, “I knew that you’d know that I was planning to learn what you knew about what I know”? Mastermind is the anti-spoof of that concept.

The same actress did an excellent job on Everwood, a show you should check out if you've never seen it.

I'll refrain from making the obvious, yet certainly intensional, pun about her last name. I will however say "yowza!"

 

Back to my real point on the matter, the first few episodes of Revenge were glorious. The show was perfectly paced: fast, but not so fast that the details of what were going on would escape you. When Emily came back to town, she came with enough ammunition to start setting things in motion. She outted a few secrets that kept her larger targets off balance enough to keep from suspecting her of any wrong-doing, which is important since everything started after she came to town. Every move she made was masterful, turning foes against one another, finding brilliantly ironic ways to deal with her targets. Emily carved out a place for herself as a woman who was as dangerous as she was beautiful, which was no small feat.

 

Then Tyler happened.

 

Ugh.

 

As a character, Tyler sort of snuck onto the show. He didn’t do anything significant, and he didn’t has some grand reason to be in town. He was just an old college friend of one of the main characters on the show, and he claimed to be in town for a visit as I recall (unfortunately his debut was long enough ago that the episode is no longer on my TiVo). At first he made it a point to appear well-mannered and generous, but he quickly started acting strange. Initially he seemed to be doing things just to randomly bother people, then in became clear that Tyler was actually mentally unstable, which made him highly unpredictable even to himself.

 

So why is this character such a problem? Well for one, the thing that had been most fun about the show was the battle of wits, the struggle to balance action against the suspicion of others. Tyler, on the other hand, just did things haphazardly. He never had a plan, and the ways which he interacted with and/or foiled the machinations of other characters was just never particularly clever, interesting or compelling. There were also some unbelievably convoluted romantic subplots involving him that were so bafflingly out of place and unmotivated that I very nearly stopped watching the show.

 

Then, as quickly as he became a problem, he vanished. Of course this happened at the end of an episode so as the credits rolled I wondered to myself, “Does this mean the show can start being good again, or is the hole too deep to get out of?” Well one episode has aired since that plot resolved itself (as of this writing, of course) and I have to say that things are looking VERY positive. The last episode entitled “Infamy” showed all the promise of the early episodes and at no point during the episode did I want to bring harm to myself or others.

Tyler's so awful he made me hate my favorite character on the show, Nolan. Nolan used to be cool, and then...Tyler happened.

Just look at this guy! Don't you want to punch him!? I want to punch him, but I think I'm biassed by how much I hate the character.

I really hated the Tyler plot that much.

 

So what’s the moral of this televisual parable? As I sort of hinted at last week when I first addressed the idea of Spoiling the Soup, television shows have to experiment. Considering that a show ideally has at least 100 episodes for syndication, something new will eventually have to happen in order to hit the mark. Being creative is hard, being creative and likable is even harder, being creative and likable a hundred times? That’s nearly impossible. However sometimes I worry that the people making these shows don’t make calculated gambles, but rather just roll the dice and hope.

 

Even though TV shows go on and on with new stories and adding new elements as they go, there is a core to the show that should stay in tact; a core that defines the series despite these changes. That core is usually some combination or characters, setting and tone. When you change something about the show that defies the core of the show, it should have a strongly motivated reason. To once again briefly touch on my discussion from last week about Chuck, when Chuck tried to cut out the light-hearted, comedy relief components of their core, the show suffered. It suffered on multiple occasions when the writers made the same mistake over and over.

 

Now I understand why Tyler was added to the show, he was supposed to be an agent of chaos in a world defined by careful planning, control and manipulation. It’s an interesting idea, and he could have been a really interesting factor towards changing the course of the story. Having to account for and work around the unpredictable obstacle could have been an interesting challenge for the players of this dangerous game of social chess. The problem was that the way Tyler’s chaotic nature manifested itself was by just not involving himself in everyone else’s plans, but rather by trolling people he didn’t like, seemingly at random.

At least it's not as generic as the episode titles. They're all like "loyalty", "deceit", and other terms to are so broadly applicable to the show's themes that it could refer to any random episode.

I have no idea what's supposed to be going on in this cast photo, but they're all pretty weird, so I just picked the least sensical one.

 

In this case, Tyler violates the core of what Revenge seemed to be about in the beginning, and seems to once again be moving towards. It’s a show about calculating people using the indirect warfare of the rich to try and ruin one another while protecting their own dirty secrets. Because Tyler was such a wild card by his very nature, he had no knowledge of anyone’s secrets, plans or motives, and his own motives were capricious at best. But now that he has ceased to be such a major player of the political game that is Revenge, hopefully the show can exact its own Revenge by once again becoming a great show that everybody should be watching.

Cardfight Vanguard – Ride 7: The Fearsome Soulblast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Rule: Kai introduces the “Soulblast” ability, which in turn explains what the “soul” is. Every card in your vanguard circle under your current Vanguard is the soul. Once you have eight cards in the soul you can activate a Soulblast ability, like the “Burning Hell” ability of Kai’s Vortex Dragon.

This time I’m going to let the panels speak for themselves, as I feel they tell the whole story. As with Code Lyoko, I’m planning on trying something new next week. Stay tuned!