The Flash TV Series is a Breath of Fresh Air.

Two episodes in and I am all aboard the band wagon for The Flash. It is unadulterated superhero fun balanced with drama, something that has been lacking in DC Comics media for a long time. Something that Marvel has been getting the balance right in their movies since Iron Man came out.

I love DC Comics but since The Dark Knight came out they’ve been on the grim and gritty train in every aspect with no end in sight for their movies. If Man of Steel and the concept art for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a sign of things to come for their movie universe then I’m glad The Flash TV series exists.

A lot of the reviews and comments about the show complained about the corny lines but to me, the investment I have in the characters in only two episodes in strong enough to actually enjoy them. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is hopeful, optimistic and the nerdy underdog with the incredible powers I want to cheer for.

Carlos Valdes as Cisco is easily becoming The Flash’s version of Felicity, the techy side character that keeps the show feeling light with his quips while Jesse L. Martin as Joe West steals every scene as the father figure pushing Barry in the right direction.  The emotion in his face in episode two both at the midpoint and at the end just pulls at my hearts strings, but I am the sentimental type. Plus Tom Cavanagh, formerly J.D.’s slacker older brother on Scrubs has me on the edge of my seat at the end of each episode now, wondering what he’s up to while pushing Barry to become a better hero. I never would have thought that Tom Cavanagh would be the type to have such intense scenes.

I don’t mind the corny lines, because it keeps the show light and fun. What’s the alternative? Superman kills General Zod and lets a large population of his city die? Is anyone at Warner Bros. tired of The Dark Knight Returns motif? Does Wonder Woman really need to wear mud colored armor? Isn’t Superman supposed to be a symbol of hope? According to Warner Bros., no, not anymore. So instead I’ll take the Flash and hope its high ratings will show Warner Bros. that grim and gritty doesn’t always necessary mean good. The world is grim and gritty enough.

Here’s hoping “Civil War” is better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Reported yesterday, Robert Downey Jr. About To Join Captain America 3 And It May Be Civil War. If you don’t know, the basic premise of the Civil War storyline was a rift between Captain America and Iron Man over how superheroes should be handled. After a very public tragedy Tony Stark joins the government in establishing a superhuman registration act where every superhero must register their secret identity with the government and work as a kind of police force rather than vigilantes. Steve Rogers believe this is a violation of every superheroes civil liberties. Be warned after this there will be spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Forget the movies for right now. Let’s just talk about the comic for a minute. When it came out Civil War was a big deal for Marvel and selling very well. In the early 2000’s the Avengers had disassembled, gotten back together and reformed with new members so after all these years of building them back up Civil War had a high potential for exciting drama by breaking them apart again. Here’s the problem, it was so poorly executed.

In the main series Mark Millar claims he was trying to show both side of the argument, you know with Iron Man and Maria Hill acting like fascists, cloning their dead friends whose clone kills another one of their friends, imprisoning their friends in another dimension and generally attacking anyone who is anti-registration. We’re not talking about arresting his friends after a trial, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man planned on imprisoning them indefinitely essentially taking away their civil liberties. Then, at the end, we’re supposed to believe Iron Man is in the right because a bunch of emergency personnel stopping  Captain America from taking Tony out to prevent more bloodshed? It’s such a sloppy ending, trying to put all the blame on Cap like Iron Man isn’t responsible at all for the collateral damage going on. I mean, by the end Iron Man needs to control villain with nanites in order to have people to fight against Captain America and we’re supposed to believe he is in the right?

All the other writers working on their respective titles didn’t help either. While Millar was trying to avoid any one side becoming the underdog in the main title, which I believe he failed miserably,  it was more black and white within the other books. Thinking of it now, if in his mind both sides had a fair point it paints a clear picture of Millar’s politics. Iron Man was clearly the villain and Cap and his team were the underdogs. In the aftermath, Cap ends up being assassinated making him a martyr and Tony is left being the most hated character in the Marvel Universe. It Takes Matt Fraction to make Tony Stark completely braindead and forget all about the Civil War when his brain is rebooted in order to return Iron Man to a more favorable light.

Okay, now onto the movies. Presumably Tony will create Ultron in Avengers 2 as a force for a good to protect the world which will fail. Feeling guilt ridden over this he’ll appear in Captain America 3 to begin the rift between Steve and himself. I’m not sure how they will execute it but this is supposed to lead into a Civil War storyline in Avengers 4.

The problem so far is that out of all the superheroes that exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now, only Daredevil, which has not even been released by Netflix yet, has a secret identity. Tony Stark outed himself in the first Iron Man, Steve Rogers is a legendary WWII veteran, Thor has no secret identity, Black Widow outed herself, Sam Wilson and probably Clint Barton in bringing down S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury is in Europe, Coulson is underground rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Hulk has caused enough destruction at this point that Bruce Banner is probably known.

There’s definitely potential for their to be enough superheroes for a Civil War by the time Avengers 4 comes out. So far we know we’ll have Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Quiksilver, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. So if there are three years between Avengers sequels and Avengers 4 comes out around 2021…

Oh god, 2021? Could they really have long term plans for that long? Will I even care about these Marvel movies?

Anyway, it might be a better idea to have Tony and Steve’s fallout center not around a government legislation as Tony has already proven to not trust the government with his tech but maybe centered around something else, like say, the creation of a killer robot? Maybe that creation of the killer robot is what causes Tony to not trust himself while Steve, due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fallout from Winter Soldier doesn’t trust the government thanks to Hydra infiltration. Then again, if Tony already doesn’t trust the government I can’t see him trusting it anymore after he learns everything about the Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. scandal.

So there’s potential to have a whole slew of super heroes running around by the time Avengers 4 comes out. For me though, the heroes versus heroes storyline is kind of boring. It may be a trope but I’d much prefer if by the end of Civil War a much larger threat reunites Cap. and Iron Man to take on said threat. That’s just me though.

The Appeal of Pete Holmes’ Podcast: You Made It Weird.

I love podcasts, to a ridiculous level now. I listen to podcasts more than I do music and more than I watch television or movies. Think of it as talk radio but without the limitations of, well anything. Anything can be a podcast, and anything is a podcast.

One particular podcasts though that I’ve stuck with since it started was by stand-up comedian Pete Holmes, former host of the Pete Holmes Show that ran earlier this year. Beginning in 2011 with the running theme of talking about comedy, sex, and religion. At the beginning, when Pete is learning how to host a podcast this theme is strictly enforced but when it fades into just being the underlying themes of the show is when it really takes off while the length of the podcast starts to get longer.

It is essentially WTF with Marc Maron if it was hosted by Pete Holmes, but the host is what makes the difference. I’m not going to compare the two but Maron’s podcasts tend to delve into what has happened in the guests’ life while Pete’s podcast explores what the guest thinks about life.

It appeals to my brain on a couple levels, all having to do with curiosity. After writers, comedians tend to be the group that hold in the highest regard followed by musicians. So on Pete’s podcast I get a peek behind the curtain. I get to hear comedians not only talk about their own personal beliefs about comedy but about their lives. These are people I admire for their ability to make me laugh opening up about the screwed up childhoods, families, and experiences they had or their individual philosophies on what the meaning of all this is.

I don’t know what your perception is of comedians but if it is shallow in anyway I highly recommend giving any comedic podcast a chance, not just You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes because, and T.J. Miller put in nicely on a recent episode, the last generation of comedians such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks were activists on stage while the newer generation rising in fame in the 21st Century have become the philosophers. You’d be surprised at the depth these people get into, which I imagine comes from having to think about life in order to find what is funny about it.

On top of that it scratches that curiosity that comes from our culture of celebrity. These are people I admire, so in a sense they’re my celebrities. Therefore on Pete’s podcast I get the celebrity gossip of straight from the source. Some people read gossip magazines or websites but I get mine out of their mouths on podcast.

Another part, and I have this experience with writers as well, I get to learn about the process. Stand-up comedians are essentially a kind of writer, aurator, performer combination and just like writers, comedians tend to have narcissistic tendencies so of course they want to talk about the career they are passionate about. From Pete’s podcast you learn the jargon, you learn how comedians develop, how they develop differently, how they write jokes and what it’s like behind the stage. I didn’t know what barking was before listening to his podcast, nor did I know there was a difference between the comedy scene in Boston, New York and L.A. I learned which clubs, theaters and places are great to perform at in a certain city and state and how the comedy boom began, ended and how the alternative comedy scene rose to compete with the club scene.

The best part though is just how funny comedians are being themselves, not their ego version of themselves that perform on stage. When you listen to You Made It Weird it is like being in on the inside jokes, and you get to hear material before it’s material, when it’s just something they thought and decided to say. Then what happens is you hear about a stand-up you’ve never heard before become humanize and you say to yourself Oh, they have an special or an album out? I’ll check that out. 

Pete Holmes stand-up comedy is fantastic, real great comedian. His talk show, now cancelled, was a sort of filter version of his podcast plus his stand-up. His podcast though? It’s an exploration of comedy on a depth that I explore stories in college as an English major. That’s why I love it and I highly recommend anyone giving it a chance.

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes on Nerdist.com

His podcast in Itunes: Subscribe here.

Goldman’s The Princess Bride is the best adaptation of Goldman’s The Princess Bride conceivable.

After just finishing reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to watch the movie that was adapted from it.

The movie, I believe, was better for once. A rare occurrence but one that I will argue my case for.

In my opinion, the movie was better.

In my opinion, the movie was better.

It certainly helps that the screenplay was written by the author of the novel. Most screenplay writers when adapting a book make changes to the story to not streamline the story for time but often change plot points, character motivation and character development that they feel fits better in a film and puts their own twist on the story. Nothing wrong with that mind you, change is part of adaptations. What William Goldman did however was instead take the novel he had written and streamlined it for film without cutting any part of what made the story charming and engaging.

Goldman managed to make a film version of his novel without cutting anything that makes it great.

Goldman managed to make a film version of his novel without cutting anything that makes it great.

Let’s get the negative parts of the adaptation over with that way we don’t have to dwell on it too long.. Out of all the characters the one that suffers most from the change from book to film is Prince Humperdink. His character looms over much of the plot in the book. A  much more intimidating, sociopathic and physically capable figure who poses a major threat to Westley and Buttercup’s romance. His abilities as a great hunter and tracker are explored with greater detail to back up his claim, rather than in the film when the characters just state it as fact. It could be argued that his tracking of Westley and Buttercup in Guilder showcase his hunting skills in the movie but I was never really sold by it too much. 

While Chris Sarandon did a great job as Prince Humperdink he comes off as more of a sniveling schemer who is in fact quite weak compared to the strategic military-like mind of the Prince Humperdink of the book.

What else the reader will get from the book that we don’t get as much in the movie is the backstories of Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. If you love those characters then I highly suggest you read the book. You get both of their upbringings, their trainings and how they end up with Vizzini. Their friendship blossoms in the book as well as Fezzik’s love for rhyming that the film just lightly touches upon.

Speaking of Vizzini, while I would never want to lose Wallace Shawn’s portrayal of the character we don’t get a great understanding that he is fact the planner of the trio. He just comes off sort of silly and dimwitted next to Westley. With the use of backstory we learn that the trio had been successful before in doing mercenary work like this in the past using Inigo’s fencing skills, Fezzik’s strength and Vizzini’s plans. Lastly, and this isn’t the movie or the books fault, but if you’ve seen the movie before you read the book the surprise of the Westley being the Man in Black is ruined for you as it is hard to disguise someone’s look and voice to make that surprise work especially considering when it came out.

Details is what is key. If you like details I highly suggest reading the book because you get better details of every main character and some characters who never get named in the movie. That was what was a shocker for me, that those small characters didn’t get cut from the movie at all. Yellin, the man who has the key to the castle, the Albino who helps Count Rugen torture Westley, Miracle Max’s wife, the lady who boos Princess Buttercup and even Prince Humperdink’s parents who do nothing to move the plot along in the book at all still make appearances in the movie. What else is significant is all the best lines from the book make it into the movie as well. In this day and age book readers usually have to prepare themselves for their favorite line or character to be cut. Not so with The Princess Bride, everything from As You Wish down to To The Pain make it into the movie. Reading the book in a sense was like reading more detailed version of the script while also getting new details about all the best characters.

What was removed from the movie that it benefitted from was two things. First of all, while entertaining, the framework of Goldman translating S. Morgenstern’s much longer version of The Princess Bride into the short version his father read to him as a kid tends to go on too long and interrupt the flow of the story. The part the movie uses involving the grandfather and the grandson in place of Goldman and his father still has the great framework of the story being read to a child without so many interruptions like in the book.

The other part that the movie loses from the book is the horrible ending. Not horrible in the sense it was poorly written or ill conceived but it is so anti-climactic and covered in loose ends that it reduces the rating I gave the book by a whole star on Goodreads, all to sell this weird theme of life isn’t fair. The movie has a much more satisfying ending to both cap off the main characters of Inigo, Fezzik, Buttercup and Westley and ends sweetly with the Grandfather and Grandson. The book’s ending fails on on all fronts.

Inconceivable! A movie would actually have a better ending than the book? It's true.

Inconceivable! A movie would actually have a better ending than the book? It’s true.

So do I recommend the book? I certainly do as I am the type of reader who enjoys the little details along with a good plot. Ultimately though I do believe Goldman did a better job of taking his novel and making into a much better screenplay and film.

In Praise of The Hobbit Illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

Recently, I purchased a new edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit illustrated by Jemima Catlin thinking hey, this might be a great version to read to my nephew in the future or my kids if I decide to have any. I was taken aback when my copy arrived in the mail on Saturday.

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The Illustrated Hobbit

 

You can’t discern it from the photo but this edition is heavy. Not heavy like a big leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings but more like a children’s book that would endure the abuse of being carried around by a child.

To claim our long forgotten goldddddddd.

The cover is flecked with gold bit that shine in the light.

Not just in the title but in the tree Bilbo is leaning and and the animals on the right is bits of gold that really makes the cover stand out. The outside of the cover feels like felt, soft like a stuffed animal.

The Green Door of Bag End.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Each chapter begins with an illustration like this. I must admit this is one of my favorite illustrations of the green door of Bag End.

"Who spilled ale on the map, who was it? huh?"

Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you.

Larger illustrations like this are sprinkled throughout the chapters. What I enjoy about, and this is no way a jab at Peter Jackson or Alan Lee (who a lot of Peter Jackson’s designs and looks are based on) but I am glad all the characters don’t just look like imitations of the movie versions.

Take that, words!

Considering The Hobbit, or There and Back Again as Bilbo names it, is actually written about Bilbo some people believe the stone giants were in fact made up by him.

Then in pages like this, with the battle of the stone giants, it spreads over the pages as if the words of the book are in the story itself. This similarly happens in the scene with Gandalf lighting the pinecones and throwing them at the wargs.

Beorn to be wild.

So soon they were all seated at Beorn’s table, and the hall had not seen such a gathering for many a year.

Then full page illustrations like this are done for big moments in the books like say, meeting a sleeping dragon. I’m not going to spoil that here as it is a nice surprise when you see it.

This isn’t a review of The Hobbit. I mean, the text is exactly the same as it is in any other volume of The Hobbit, except maybe The Annotated Hobbit. Where this volume stand out is the illustrations. If I were a teacher, this would be the volume I’d read to my kids to introduce them to the world of Middle-Earth and fantasy fiction. If I were a parent of a young reader this would be the volume I’d give them for Christmas or their birthday.

The binding is quality material, beautiful yet durable. The illustrations are beautiful yet still approachable for children and the story is of course a brilliant faerie (in the traditional sense of the realm of the fays) tale.

Somes gems from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

I think it was Neil Gaiman who recommended it on his blog years ago, but I was going through my wishlist on Amazon when I came across this book.

1811dictionaryofthevulguartongueoll

A used copy wasn’t very much. Not the 1.95 that appears on the cover but something like 3 or 4 dollar. I started browsing through early this morning and decided to share some gems with you. Warning, some of them are indeed, as the title says, vulgar but in a strange archaic way. Some of them are still kind of gross.

Apple Dumplin Shop – a woman’s bosom

Banbury story of a cock and a bull – a round about, nonsensical story.

Barrel Fever – he died of barrel fever; he killed himself drinking.

Cackling Farts – Eggs.

Covey – A collection of whores. What a fine covey here is, if the devil would but throw his net!

Death’s head upon a mop stick – A poor miserable, emaciated fellow.

Dicked in the nob – Silly. Crazed.

Eternity Box – Coffin.

To Flash the Hash – To vomit.

Frenchified – Infected with the venereal disease. (Even in the 18th Century France was the butt of jokes.)

Gap Stopper – A whoremaster. (So many of these words are about prostitution in some way. I haven’t even touch the precipice of how many words there are about whores.

Hobberdehoy – Half a man and a half a boy; a lad between both.

Jerrycummumble – To shake, towzle, or tumble about.

Indorser – A sodomite.

King’s Pictures – Coin, money.

Laced Mutton – A prostitute. (That one is especially vulgar.)

Line of the Old Author – A dram of brandy.

Member Mug – A chamber pot.

Nimgimmer – A physician or surgeon, particularly those who cured venereal disease.

Occupy – To occupy a woman; to have carnal knowledge of her.

I think that’s enough. Going through this now I am getting a theme of 18th century England slang. It involved a lot of words for having sex, prostitutes, brothels and venereal disease. I mean what I posted here was just me going in alphabetical order randomly picking words by placing my finger on the page, and I still got words along the sex with prostitutes and spread of diseases theme.  Maybe P – Z is just filled with words about how happy they are in 18th Century England, but I doubt it.

I Actually Miss Thesis.

     Hear me out. I know this is some kind of St. Joseph’s College blasphemy but I actually miss writing thesis. It sounds strange but it was probably the most fulfilling writing I’ve done yet and will be until the novel I am writing is actually done. Everything about it was stressful but the healthy kind of stress. I woke up every day with a purpose, a goal, a deadline and work in a subject I actually enjoyed. If that is what having a deadline on a novel feels like then I am ready to have a deadline.

     I am not just talking about the writing part either. I mean all of it. I miss cataloging all research on index cards, then dividing them into piles of cited and not cited. I think fondly back at pouring over old books in the library, photocopying their pages and underlining in pencil all the parts I need. I still remember the joy I felt when I discovered Evernote’s document camera, where I could photograph whole documents instead of spending all my change photocopying them. Once that happened it was only one update in the app. store later that all the highlighting tools of Evernote’s other app, Stitch, was now implemented into Evernote just when I was running out of documents to cite.

     I don’t know if I’ll ever dive as deep into any piece of literature as I did with Macbeth but thinking about it now I sure would like to. I am not a fool, I know this feeling is part nostalgia and part feeling completely and utterly unfulfilled at my lousy part time job. Still, when I saw the thesis topics for 2014 included one for The Lord of the Rings I felt a void in my chest that I wanted to fill.with hours of research, writing and editing. Each day and each week I knew I had a set amount work on it that I need to accomplish. Today I was thinking of thesis and almost said out loud “What if I just start writing one for the hell of it?” I mean, that’s not crazy right? People do that, I know they do. I’ve heard people like Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor talk about it.

     I am not a fool. We were given seven months to work on thesis. Novel writing may be like that but editorial work definitely does not have that long of a deadline except maybe feature articles which are meant to be much longer. I don’t know if I would feel the same way with shorter deadlines but it has to be better what I am doing now. What I mean by that is compared to Senior Thesis, which basically was my job for me at the time even, what I am currently doing to make money feels meaningless and ultimately makes me unhappy. I’ll take short and stressful deadlines over that anyday.