no cape no mask

who needs a costume when you have words?

Month: October, 2012

Let Fly! Take Aim!

archery jokes

Sooo, Arrow has arrived! Well, it arrived Monday, and anyone without a torrenting issue (or principles) has already seen it, but I have vowed never to let legality-based tardiness deter me from posting, so:

Ollie Queen is many things to me. Passionate. Flawed. Proud. Arrogant. Witty. Dashing. Honourable.

Fictional. To be clear.

But as I may have previously mentioned, I know not to expect my visions to be carried over between media. Christian Bale did not represent my Batman, Brandon Routh wasn’t my Kal-El, and Ben Affleck was, at best, a bargain basement Halloween Matt Murdock. I’m glad he’s directing now.

So having endured the crappy Arrow banners across the top of my DC comics (grrr), borne witness to Stephen Amell’s crazy shredded (but also thick, like someone laser-cut sides of pork into a torso shape and strapped it to a himbo) and mad-scarred bod, and repeated to myself over and over “It will be different. That is fine. It will be different. That is fine…”, I tuned in.

Well, Amell’s physicality and opacity (some might call him wooden, I think he’s got some presence so I’m going with the “o” word) are the best things about the show. That’s a lie. The washed-out hi-def rockiness of the island where Ollie is stranded for 5 years is the best thing about the show, scenery porn on a Nat Geo scale. Everything else is like someone put Smallville in a blender with Dark Knight Rises and then sifted out all the asymmetries, all the room for contemplation. All the ideas.

We can spot the bad guys because the narration points at them like a kid in a schoolyard. They are non-specifically bad people who cuss and do bad things we don’t see. I believe they may also be visually impaired and therefore deserving of some sympathy, especially the bald dude (budget Luthor) who fails to notice the 2 inch arrowhead WITH A MODEM ON IT sticking out of the faux panelling behind his evil wing-chair, flashing as it downloads $40m from his accounts. How’s he going to afford corrective laser surgery now? Bad Arrow.

Dinah Lance is Ollie’s love interest. The writers (Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg stand out particularly as influences, having both worked on particularly non-interesting Green Arrow runs for DC comics) make a point of showing that Dinah has a mad-on for Ollie because he totally cheated on her with her sister who then drowned in the shipwreck he survived… and Ollie pulls a Bruce Wayne a la Batman Begins (the scene where he clears the party by calling the attendees out as phonies and parasites) to “protect” her from being drawn in by his chiselled smoulder….

But they’re so kissing by season’s end. Actually, Arrow is “gritty”, so they’ll probably bone (she’ll keep her bra on) “out of nowhere” and then stuff will get, wait for it… “complicated”.

The Queens are all rich screw-ups, aside from the Maid who is clearly, touchingly, heart-string-pluckingly dumb as a box of rocks if she thinks Ollie was a “good boy” before his island trip. But there’s a nice class statement there about the servers being more humane than the served, which nicely subverts Ollie’s comic roots as one in a long line of Aristotelian (i.e. high-born) DC heroes, so okay, fine. In fact, urban decay and corruption are major themes in Arrow, as the prodigal heir to a tainted legacy returns to protect the victims of his lineage’s misdeeds (or a 1%er turns Hero of the 99%), moving (emblematically) into a now defunct factory that belonged to his father. Of course, that’s all also a nice way to get Ollie into a bitchin cool warehouse-style pad and show him getting sweaty under high-contrast lighting, but hey, whatever.

Tommy Merlyn (Merlyn being Ollie’s nemesis in DC lore) is slightly too effete and soft to be a feasible future foe, but he’s obviously the Luthor to Ollie’s Clark (see how they switched it up so the guy who’s the Luthor proxy has hair but the villain is bald, so it kind of works on multiple levels because a bad guy is still Luthor-lite but so is a good guy… for NOW!).

Ollie learned parkour on the island. He also got burned and broken a lot, which makes you wonder how many episodes we’ll go before this happens as an old injury betrays him.

All in all, this is solidly passable TV. The unfortunate thing is that, much like wannabe blockbusters blowing their budgets on “the big scene”, it feels like Arrow spent time finding the right leading man (buff, twinkly eyed, young, not too charismatic, not too grim) but skimped on the rest of the production. Except the lighting.

Count the green filters in this show. Compare it with the Ed Norton “Hulk” movie. Winners on a postcard please.

What did bug me though, was the introduction of a device to let the viewer know that this show will run and run, namely a water-stained notebook filled with a list of names Ollie has to do something about, our aforementioned Evil Magoo being the first name crossed off.

This is part of a pattern with content, where for some reason producers feel that if viewers can’t see the invisible highway of future installations stretching out horizon-ward, they won’t bother to get involved. So we get shoe-horned promises that “we’ve got loads more ideas, loads, really, SO many you wouldn’t believe it, so pleeeeease come back”. Setting aside the fact that this is superhero TV, a genre Smallville’s already shown can be milked for decades, the concept’s hardly tricky. Arrows + Bad Guys + fit rich dude with family issues = People’s Champ.

We don’t need to know it’s never going to end. You can’t give us perpetual novelty.

Just make it interesting. Not “teaser”, or “cliffhanger” interesting. We’re smart, we see through that stuff.

Make us care and wonder and not understand. Obscure the invisible highway with ominous fog.

And read some of the comics, for fuck’s sake, the good ones! There’s a reason Ollie’s around for you to re-envision.


Pigs, Chickens, & the All-Numb

dumb, but exciting!

Whenever I need to change my brake pads or repair my bike after stupidly trying to undertake a turning garbage truck, I go to Brixton Cycles at around 08:50 for their daily clinic. It’s a 16 mile round trip through the City. The roads are for shit, all tube-splitting drain covers, metal grilles and potholes, and I’m surrounded by buses. I don’t mind the distance, but its far from a relaxing ride. Why do it?

Because I go for a service and I leave with goodwill. Because the people who work there are genuinely interested in what they do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe every one of them leaves work and goes home to read up on the latest frame moulds or the comparative properties of different chainwheels. I’m sure within their collective a wide group of interests are represented. But when you see them ride into work on touring bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, when you see them effortlessly skid to a halt or nimbly mount the pavement and glide into the store on freewheel momentum, you know these people know bikes and love bikes. It shows. Ever hear tell of the Chicken and the Pig? It’s not quite the Scorpion and the Frog, no-one’s woven a film around it yet, but Brixton Cycles feels like its full of pigs (for those who didn’t click through, that means everyone in there is committed to doing a great job in a great way)!

Every day we sub-consciously register a plethora of signals that say “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. We give them out, too. And it sucks, it completely sucks that so much of the time we’re dealing with things we’re not invested in. What sucks harder is that we numb ourselves to apathy and disdain, because if we let them enrage us every time we’d go crazy. But that can lead to the All-Numb, that dreadful state where we live our lives, outside of interactions with our intimates, in a transactional mindframe, blinkered by the things we’ve come for and the why we’re due them.

Brixton Cycles is just one of many bulkheads against the chicken slave-warriors of the All-Numb. We should be grateful to all the pigs out there, guarding us from the involved.


The Long Grass

No cartoon with this one. This is where I disregard my own precedents out of sloth and tardiness, then try to pass it off as deliberate non-conformity. FUCK YEAH!!

You can chalk this post up to the oxygen deprivation that results from the Filter Bubble, or you can imagine me in loose robes, wild-eyed, dictating this to a scared looking person you’ve never seen me with and who seems uncomfortable with the vigour of the dictation. Either way its late and there’s something clawing its way through my mind.

Somehow in the space of the last three hours, between wandering the streets seeking Peanut M&M’s and carefully preparing Paleo meals with my girlfriend, I had the good fortune to speak with a creator who has brought to market two anthology volumes of independent comics; to read an article reinforcing my belief that the harder you’re working for someone else’s business, the harder you must work for yourself in some equivalence; and to read another article deconstructing the popular assumption that opinions are an entitlement.

Life is pretty fucking good.

But if I ended there this would be too short and you’d think “oh he’s just taking the piss, first there’s no cartoon, now he can’t even be bothered to write a decent length post!”.

The point is that all around you, behind every door and window you pass during your odyssey toward death, there is another person chasing, decorating, or denying their dream. There’s a poem I read once (and that’s all you’re getting, you wield the Google-stick too, so go wield) about a neighbourhood in New York where a bunch of people kept tigers in their houses, and then left the neighbourhood due to illness/hipsters moving in/the unforeseen odorous effects of tiger-stewardship. For months afterwards police and social services had to be careful of any house calls or other duties in this hood, on account of all the tigers. It was very poetic. Try it next time you walk down a residential street, or even better next time you walk down a street in a central district, look at all the doors you can’t see through, that aren’t clearly marked, and imagine a colossal tiger, all mean on account of constipation from chewing office rental carpet. Picture that tiger lying behind the door staring right through it to you.

I guess what I’m saying is that we’re all the tigers. I believe this in a really wide-eyed, “gosh, Paw” kind of way, but when you actually discover through your reading and the contacts you make that other people are checking the wind with their whiskers, and heading for the long grass, tails a flicking, well…

It’s inspiring.

So if you look at yourself and the people you spend your allotted Earth-person hours with and see no tigers, or only flabby albino ones with cracked claws and fading stripes, then it’s time to break the rules you live by. Time to ask “Why?” until you want to gouge out your own eyes and make them into HB totem poles.

The answer’s in the long grass. Stay downwind.

p.s. comments involving Tiger Blood not welcome. Fuck Charlie Sheen.

p.p.s. tigers love M&Ms.

Tribes. What are they good for?

“What set you claiming?/ Better be the same set I’m claiming” – Cypress Hill

I know, I know, Cypress Hill, wtf.

The other day we’re talking in the store where I work, and the manager, K, hears that we’re discussing The Big Bang Theory. The show, we’re not that smart. K suddenly comes out and says he doesn’t like the show for the part it played in promoting the “geek” label, specifically the way it made it seem like comic-book fans are all socially awkward in various amusing ways.

I hadn’t ever thought of it like that, because I just think Sheldon’s pretty funny and the female characters are terrific together. But K is a grown man who has spent his life working around the comics industry. He likes live music and a range of films and TV. I would never have classed him as a geek. He’s a great guy, and a guy’s guy.

I don’t identify as a geek, or as a nerd. I identify as Taylor, pretty much. If someone says I’m geeky, I don’t object particularly because I can kind of see what they mean, but if you ask me, I’m just me.

Anyway, K then says words to the effect of, “where I’m coming from is the cool kids read comics, its rock and roll”.

I hadn’t thought of it like that. I’d gotten as far as “anyone who out of hand dismisses comics as a medium is a doosh”, but that leaves a lot of room for sneering and condescending, a lot of room for pigeon-holing and labeling. However inclusive Big Bang Theory may claim to be, and however much a group of people numbering in the millions may identify with it and feel validated by it, its cashing in on the social discomfort of millions of people who through no fault of their own are uncomfortable with how society perceives them.

It reminded me of the craziness of the “cool” cycle, and how much I admire people who resist it, resist the shifting definitions for their own convictions about what rocks. Because really, there are two “cool”s. There’s the “cool” that’s sold to you, and the “cool” you find. Only one matters.

Anyone can say anything is cool, think whatever they want, but life’s too big and too varied to be lived in one niche, or even perceived in one niche. Identifying as any category larger than yourself is pointless, at best a statement of the obvious, and at worst a limiting of yourself to better fit other’s sloppy labeling processes. Its also ultimately a knowing misleading of those people, and if persisted in, of yourself.

Hesse says we are each composed of a multitude of souls. [I love Hesse]

Does “geek” seem a fitting name for that? Does anything?