Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shag Dog Story

Wolverine Boy [Billy Tatum]: "We did it! We fought Mechanon. And beat him! I told you guys we could do it if we worked together."
Snakes On A Plane [Jenny Wong]: "No. No, we did not. The Liberty League beat Mechanon.
 We stopped his robot Schnauzer thing from getting into the National Secure Data Depository. Barely."
Captain Super Ultra [Billy Washington]: "We beat Mechanon's dog in standup, heroic battle! All the Liberty League did was short circuit a robot or something. Actually, I don't know. I couldn't really focus by that point."
Twilight [The Girl Currently Known as Mistress Penance Yes, I know that I dropped that last time. No. Look, semi-omniscient narrators don't have to explain themselves. No. "Semi-omniscient" isn't the same thing as unreliable. If I were unreliable I'd be sneaking in snide asides, like in Vanity Fair. No, that wasn't an attempt to avoiding your question. I ...look, I made Nita cry. I'm not proud of it. Could we please drop it?]: "The Mechanic is so dreamy. And his gadgets are cool!"
Jenny: "Because
 his work?"

Mrs. Wong [Formerly Princess Celestial Mare, archenemy of Wong, the Chinese Laundry Boy]*: "Okay, everybody, keep the compresses on and press hard." 
 Brad, that's a perfectly lovely haircut, but since you have to keep that dressing dry until Friday you'll have to wear a shower cap. [You get the part where she's encouraging Brad to keep showering? It's called positive reinforcement, folks.]  I can lend you one of Henry's." 
Mrs. Wong [some more]: "Anita, stop squirming. I've stitched up enough people to know how to keep the pain down. I told you that those piercings would just be trouble." [And that would be negative reinforcement. Heh. Nobody's perfect.]
Mrs. Wong [Look, this is what she does. She's a soccer mom. Well, not exactly soccer....]: "Jenny. You're in charge of looking out for your friends tonight. Your father doesn't want any more blood on the shag!"

Henry Wong [Who would much prefer to remember the "Furious Fists of Wong" days] from the top of the basement stairs: "Or ranch dip, Billy Tatum."
Jenny: "That's dad code for 'he's springing for pizza.'" 
Billy Washington: "Yeah. We got it."
Billy Tatum: "Hunh?"
Mistress Penance [Shut up. I know it's stupid.]: "We beat Mechanon's dog fair and square. So Mr. Wong is buying us pizza. And lending Brad a shower cap. Bet it's hideously 70s."
Jenny: "No, Dad hates Mike Myers. Except for  So I Asked a Murderess to Marry. His shower caps all have dragons and Taijitus on them and like that."
Mistress Penance: "You know that there was a real '70s, right?"
Jenny: "That there be a real past behind the veil is of no moment to those on this side of it."
Mistress Penance: "How did you make your voice go all spooky and stuff?"
Jenny: "What are you talking about?'
Mistress Penance: "What you just said?"
Jenny: "Hunh?"

Billy Washington: "Funny as it would be to just let you guys go on, Jenny was obviously channeling." 
Billy Tatum: "Which is totally cool! It's all dunh dunh dunh, like real superheroes! We are so on the way out of the basement! Let's have beanbag chairs in our secret base!"
Brad: "I  like the rec room! And if we get our own secret base, Mrs. Wong won't bring us shrimp chips anymore."

*No, seriously. When Wong got into the superhero business in 1961, "Wong the Chinese Laundry Boy" was a step up from being, say, "Chop Chop the team cook." On the bright side, he got to rock a Chinese afro in the mid-70s. Also, Princess Celestial Mare sounds way better in the original dialect. Though if I tell you that her husband has a secret crush on Nancy Travis, you might put two and two together. What? It's a nice nose! 


This is the first in a series of fan fictions set in the Champions Universe (a property of the Cryptic Games Studio licensed to DOJ, Inc. for the pen-and-paper Hero Games RPG line). It features the adventures of the teenaged descendants of Philadelphia's superheroic defenders of the "Gold" and "Silver" Age, the Liberty Legion. The new Liberty Legion has been operating for several years now as a mostly self-described auxiliary of Philadelphia's real superteam, the Liberty League. 

Most of these members, however, are new. Except Billy Tatum. He's experienced. Like Tatum O'Neal in that movie. You know, the one where she's sexy. Except Billy's not sexy, although he does have facial hair. 
Mechanon is a robot archvillain in the Champions Universe, and probably Champions Online. The Liberty League appears, unstatted, in the Mechanon sourcebook, The Book of the Machine By Steve Long, as well as Champions: News of the World, and, more recently, the 6th Edition Champions Universe. There is no robot Schnauzer in Book of the Machine. But there should be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The World Needs More Canada!

So what the heck's wrong with this? It's not a national anthem. It's not a real star singing the not-a-real-national-anthem. The new words don't bother me.
I mean, c'mon. There's this. And everything else. Anthems are lame. Say what you will about party hack communists, but "the Internationale/Unites the human race" gets it right because it's the opposite of (almost) every other national anthem's "my country rocks" theme, even if it is still about about  eternal war against the world outside our head because the one inside isn't to our liking.

Oh, wait. It sucks because Michael Bublé is teh smarm. And the inauthentic way the song is performed makes it wrong.

But --aargh! Who are we to propose tests of authenticity and inauthenticity? What Michael feels is right for him, we have no argument against. I suppose that some musicologist could get some traction, but that's most definitely not me, though I could ask my buddy Brandon next time I see him.

So we don't worry about other people's attempts to be authentic or not. Unless, say, your family murders twelve colonies worth of your boyfriend's closest friends, neighbours and acquaintances. What do you say then? (Link to something that can only live in the Youtube crèche. And, no, you're not being inflicted with my horrible ideas about what constitutes good mood music. It's someone else's horrible ideas, instead!) 

If your boyfriend then says that the Cylons who did this can't possibly be human, even though they clearly must look human, he's obviously in denial about you being a Cylon. BUT, male denial doesn't work that way. We may look oblivious, but we do know what's going on. Denial is a way of asking you to work with us. 

What's that mean? What is Helo asking for? For not-Boomer to say that she's grown emotionally --that isn't going to work. "I was pro-Cylon, but I'm too hot for your bod to stay that way?" Nope. Flattering, but no way. Helo, by contrast, frames his denials around his loyalties to the dead. Only a machine could live with knowingly kill 20 billion people. You're not a machine, so....
That's not a denial of not-Boomer's past. Because Helo will work with that, if not-Boomer will work with him. That's why he didn't shoot her when she said, "trust me."

So he wants to reconcile your relationship to his loyalties. What's a girl to do? Oh, you could defect, or just admit to yourself that you've defected, but that ain't much for loyalty. Yes, as it turns out, there is a way out of this bind. Maybe the writers will rebel against characters get off the plot train, but the heck with them. Ha, writers, ha! Here's a version of Hamlet where everyone dies because Fortinbras shows up with a machine gun and the antidote. Maybe he calls Claudius, "dude!" Maybe H and F do the "beautiful friendship" thing. Instead of tragedy, kick-ass summer action blockbuster, thank you very much. Suck it, writers.

How? Stories don't get work if you get to throw out the script if you don't like where it's taking you.

Except in life! Life is not a story! You get to do exactly whatever is right, whenever you need. Moral judgments aren't inevitable. Decisions made in the past don't have to bind right now. Being a genocidal Cylon then doesn't mean being a genocidal Cylon now. Can't get out of the genocide? Get out of being a Cylon! 

So you say, Oh noes! It's all unauthentic. You're really a Cylon, and can never not be? Screw that. If going forward means being inauthentic, then bloody well be as inauthentic as you like.

That's Canada. The inauthentic country. No culture, no ethnicity, no national history. We used to have all that, but it was based on hating the Frogs, so we rewrote the song. (Check out the comments for bonus hate!) And now we're post-authentic. Well, more on that later, elsewhere.

As for the world, better get used to it. You're getting more Canada. First we get rid of race, next, culture. Then all we have left is this:

 And this

In our secret labs, we are combining this DNA. The prototypes already walk the Earth: a post-cultural superman who will reign over the age to come!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monsterbird Lizard



This is my niece and I figuring out what we could do with the Windows 7 splicing tool. Google Blog was the first thing I could think of to transfer it over to my sister's old XP machine so that we could print it. I could erase this testimony to my Luddism.
But, heck, it's my blog. 

Just Say "Uncle." Or "Auntie." That would work, too.

Scene: A super-battle! Not one that's going well, unfortunately. Which is surprising. It's a little hard to believe that robbing the Senior's Center is such a good idea. Except maybe on the day of the big Mah Jong tournament. So you might expect C-list supervillains. That said, there are superheroes who would be challenged by that.

Captain Super-Ultra [Billy Washington]: "Um, why'm I draped across a scooter?"
Little Old Lady [which is in no way suspicious]: "I'm 90 years old. I'm not exactly going to heave you over my shoulder to get you across the street."
Billy: "Got to get back, help my friends..."
Little Old Lady: "Not that you should listen to my advice, but I think Onslaught has punched you quite enough for today. Besides, he's mad at you for breaking his nose, and your little friend with the knives is doing quite well enough on his own ....OUCH."
Billy: "Don't worry, he heals fast."
Little Old Lady: "You know, back in my day, superpowers were things like being faster than a speeding train, not growing a new spleen when the old one gets ripped out. I remember once when Bulletproof... Did I ever tell you about the days when I was the Black Cat?"
Billy: "Only every Sunday, Auntie M... I mean, old lady whom I have never met before."
The Black Cat (Mrs. Jonah Abraham Washington of the State of Pennsylvania): "And keep it that way. So, is your little friend going to throw another of those elemental energy bolts, or will she just lie there for the rest of the battle?"
Captain Super-Ultra: "She's resting, Ma'am."
Auntie Miriam: "Well, she's a very pretty young thing, but someone should tell her that drooling is
 never ladylike. Neither are her hairdo or her costume, mind. What's wrong with kids today? She's got the figure for a catsuit, and you can't say that about many Asian girls."
Captain Super-Ultra: "Auntie Miriam!"
Auntie Miriam: "William Jefferson Clinton Washington, if you can't maintain secret identity protocol, I can't do it for you. But when the Man does to you what he did to Dr. Twilight, don't come running to me!"
Billy: "Times have changed, Auntie."
Auntie Miriam: "That's not what those charming Wayan brothers say on TV. But never mind that now. I recognise the dear thing. She's Wong's daughter, isn't she? Hmm... amd that's the harlot's boy there, throwing chemical control powers around?"
Billy: "Mrs. Neilson isn't a harlot. She had to go find herself."
Auntie Miriam: "Don't you be sassing your Auntie, young man, especially not with that hippie dippie stuff. Boy needs a mother. And a father who can keep a real estate license. Now, Wong would never forgive me if I let anything happen to one of his, and I used to have a boyfriend with chemical control powers...get your little friend over here."
Billy: "You're coming out of retirement? And I don't remember anything about a chemical controller boyfriend back in World War II."
Auntie Miriam: "31st Century, not WWII. Same time as I met Wong. Oh, the stories I could tell if it wouldn't violate space time causality and possibly create a universe-swallowing black hole. Or violate my confidentiality agreement with that delightful Mr. Short and void my royalties for "Lastest Crisis on Nigh-Infinite Earths."
Bulldozer, King of the Ring, Last of the Red Hot Lays, Iatollya of Rock-and-Rollah [No, seriously, he had some business cards made up that say that. Some of them have "Iatollya" whited out and "Ayatollah written over it]: "Keep the beat on the fast kid, Onslaught! And lay some fire on that blaster, Buzzsaw! It looks like he's coming to!
Onslaught: "Big mouth for a guy who can't get out of an entangle!"
Bulldozer: "Me and Lash will be back in it as soon as we can figure out how to get out of this cagey-thing. Jeez. There's a catch right here. Why can't I make it work? Ack! Let go of my thumb, bitch!"
Aunt Miriam: "So. No. I'm not coming out of retirement. And just as well, because the only thing a 90 year old cat can do is make terrible smells and miss the litterbox. I'm going to use my native wits, which should be more than enough for these bums."
This is the point where the narrator's union rules require me to describe our heroes' glorious victory. But let's put it this way. There's lots of tricks that a veteran superhero can teach a newbie chemical controller, but it doesn't feel like a victory when your enemies run away to wash their costumes in tomato juice. 

The Amazing Spleen [Brad Neilson]: "Dude, your Auntie is one amazing woman! Is she going to help us again?"
Billy: "No. But I think that the moral of this story is that you're going to be helping her. Remember how you said you needed a summer job? Her son was transferred to Babylon six years ago, and there's a lot of fixing up to do at the old place before she ..moves on. And someone has something to learn about area of effect attacks that don't result in everyone having to walk five miles to get home."
Brad: "Your car's right over there! And, umh, don't I get a say?"
Billy: "No-one's riding in my car until they've had a change and a shower. Or five. Including me. And about the job, Auntie says. But do me this one little favour? Could you call my parents next time they show
 In Living Color reruns down at the Center?"

This is the third in a series of fan fictions set in the Champions Universe (a property of the Cryptic Games Studio licensed to DOJ, Inc. for the pen-and-paper Hero Games RPG line). It features the adventures of the teenaged descendants of Philadelphia's superheroic defenders of the "Gold" and "Silver" Age, the Liberty Legion. The new Liberty Legion has been operating for several years now as a mostly self-described auxiliary of Philadelphia's real superteam, the Liberty League. For the few people who might be
 unaware of the fact, I would add that Bulldozer, Onslaught, Lash and Buzzsaw are minor supervillains from that setting. They might even be on Champions Online MMO.  Although I doubt it. "Steve Short" is a famous comic book writer, and in this universe many comics are authorised accounts of the adventures of actual heroes. Hence my hilarious reference to a crossover series! Bulletproof is the World War II era "defender of Brooklyn" who subsequently  became a member of the 31st Century Champions 3000, about which there is even less caring than Bulldozer's Internet-specific existential status.  Dr. Twilight was a Black Golden Age hero whose career was ruined when he was publicly exposed as Black and a Communist. Alert the Wayans! No. Wait. Superhero Movie has already been done. There goes my chance at Hollywood. Not that I'm bitter, Mr. Zucker. No sir.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Patience is a Virtue, and Virtue is a Grace; and Graces are a Little Girl, Who Wouldn't Wash Their Face

So if you're really old, like me, you remember  the 1970s, and various Marvel writers flailing around in Spider-Man, trying to  match the early success of the "mystery" villains, meaning mainly the Green Goblin. Basically, Spider-Man is a luckless loser of a bachelor forever being attacked and enmeshed in bizarre circumstances by a mysterious masked villain who turns out to be the most unexpected enemy of all! At the beginning, Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin, and also the father of Peter Parker's best friend! Woah. Heavy. By the end, we had the Hobgoblin.

(Doofus or dweeb --you decide! Image from Wikipedia.)

In the middle, which is to say, those same fabulous 70s, we had the Jackal, a wacky evil mastermind with an animus against our hero that led him to send a pre-cool Punisher, Grizzly and Tarantula against our webslinging hero. We're an awful long way down the road leading from Green Goblin to Hobgoblin here. 

Turns out that the Jackal was none other than kindly old Professor Warren, who used to teach Gwen and Peter physics at Empire State University. And when Gwen Stacy was killed in a fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, old Professor Warren got kind of upset. (She was probably the only student who paid attention in lectures, and he got attached. It happens). So, naturally, he had his  lab assistant clone Gwen, and also Peter, from some tissue samples he collected from the class. Because that's what physics profs (never mind the geneticists!) did back before "ethical research." Nowadays you can't even give pregnant women untested drugs to quiet away their endless hysterics, or infect black men with interesting diseases! In those days, if you wanted to clone yourself up some students, you could just hump the work off on one of your lab assistants. (He would have got one of his graduate students to do it, but the clones would have been six months late and "theoretically engaged.")  At least at the good colleges, as you probably didn't see many "homicidal rampaging clones" at the local community college in those days. Now? Meh. Who knows?

Imagine the Jackal's surprise when his Peter clone turned out to have Spider-Man powers (well, obviously)! He then did the most logical and super-villainy thing he could think of with his windfall -pitted two Spider-Men against each other in a battle to the death! The clone died, Warren/Jackal died, clone Gwen Stacy fell down a plothole, and everything went back to normal, all forgotten. Unless you were me and kept thinking, "oh, that poor clone."

(Image from Comics Should Be Good.)

Until,that is, the October, 1994 issue of Amazing Spider-Man, when the not-dead-at-all clone returns under the vastly significant pseudonym, "Ben Reilly." Ben has been living his own life after apparently dying five years before (comic book time), but has now returned to New York because he has heard that Peter/Ben's sickly old Aunt May, who raised him, oh blah blah angsty blah, is dying. Ben and Peter, as good superheroes do, hang out, fight, trade costumes, become family. Peter is married to Mary Jane at this point and expecting little May, who is going to have an uncle. Ben settles in, working at a coffee shop and having all the luckless bachelor loser adventures that Peter can't, anymore.....
Which would have been a nice plan for rejuvenating the franchise, but it didn't work out. Maybe market research suggested that the 10 year olds who didn't read comics anymore would be confused about there being two Spider-Men. So instead the writers had Peter discover that he's the clone. Oh! Existential crisis! No longer entitled to the life of the Peter Parker persona, clone-Peter and MJ punish themselves by moving to Oregon,  and Ben assumes the mantle of Spider-Man. 
And the readers ...revolted. In December of 1996, Poochie dies while returning to his home planet. Or, in this case, Ben dies (and disintegrates, because in reality, he is the clone, and clones disintegrate into goo when they die,  bECUZ THEI R NOT REEL pEEPLES!1!!) Aunt May comes back from the dead, baby May dies or something, and it turns out that the Green Goblin faked his death and has been orchestrating the whole plot all along as his ultimate revenge on Spider-Man! Which is a pretty lame revenge, if you ask me.

But, then, no-one asked me. I was happy with the Clone Saga --well, the whole "Peter is the real clone" thing seemed a little too much, but the rest, I was fine with. In particular, I liked Ben Reilly. So when Mightygodking joked recently that the "readers demanded the Clone Saga," I was reminded of some of Grace Park's scenes in Battlestar Galactica, and thought to myself, "yes. Yes, I did."

Take a good look at that still from the opening of the first season of Battlestar Galactica. What do you see? An actress doing a good job of portraying twin characters. One of them is a pretty admirable person, one of them is pathetic. Park's directorial instruction seems to have been, "strong and determined, on the left; damaged and weak, on the right." Throw in those great costumes designs and the obscene, walking-dead planet of Caprica, and you have a moment of true emotional power.

That, though, is not what I'm going to talk about here. Notice that not-Boomer has reversed her part. Talk about stale visuals --but, a stale visual that takes us in a new direction, because this what TV twins do when they want to assert their individuality, and it seems pretty darn dumb for the Cylon clone whose job appears to  be to convince Lieutenant Agathon that she is, in fact, Lieutenant Sharon Valenti to choose this line of self-expression. He's got a gun, not-Boomer! That said, Helo is a guy, so he presumably won't notice. So who is?

 In the first of three episodes that I've rewatched since my last posting on this theme, not-Boomer has reported back to her handlers again, telling them that, "we had sex." Wow. In the next two, she and Helo are genuinely on the run, after not-Boomer turns. This is a pretty key interview. And what, exactly, happens here? 

Spies sometimes turn when they're not doing a good job, and this is one of those sticky workplace interviews you have sometimes where it becomes clear that you have not quite aced the assignment. Two attractive, healthy young people all alone in each others' company for three weeks, and you've had sex? Promotions all around! That being said, what the Tricia Helfer model asks, isn't, "does he love you," but, rather, "did he tell you he loved you?"

I mean, what is this? Mean Girls? He's a guy. Words will follow deeds at some remove, and boy, howdy, have there been deeds. So what more do you want, Doctor Laura? An engagement party? More-or-less, it turns out, and if Helo won't go along, not-Boomer is to kill the boy.

The things they tell you about motivating deep cover agents in Clone Cylon Management School these days! Not-Boomer runs away, all but singing the Colonial Anthem as she goes, and Clone Tricia looks after her, saying that "Sharon" is getting too involved in her assignment. The other handler, master of the obvious, says, "I notice that you call her Sharon, now." Clone Tricia puts her slip down to the emotional neediness that not-Boomer has picked up from the humans, but we get to see not-Boomer return to Helo, wake him up, and tells  him that they're going to run even harder now. "What's changed?" He asks. "Trust me," she says.

That ain't neediness, Clone-Tricia. That "trust me" is a tell that something is going on here that not-Boomer can't share with Helo. It implies that not trusting is an option. Will you go along with whatever she's planning for you, Helo? And the answer is, yes. Things may get better, or they may get worse, but they will get better or worse with not-Boomer. 

The hair-part is not a message to Helo. It is a message is to Clone Tricia. And that message is that not-Boomer is not just one iteration of a lineage of clones. She is a person, and a person who chooses to live a life. The great mistake of the Clone Saga is to assert that if you were not authentically the individual that you thought you were, that you can never be the person that you want to be. 

And that is what is stupid and wrong in the Clone Saga. Not-Boomer doesn't want to be Boomer any more. She wants to be the babe that got Helo. (Hopefully she won't settle for just being that, but the point is that she is going to define herself by what she does, and what she does will not include killing this man who loves her.) In the same way, it is utterly irrelevant which of Peter or Ben is the "real" clone. What matter is doing what is right: right by New York, right by old Aunt May; above all, right by little May, the life that's coming.  

It's not who you are that counts. It's what you do. Whether you are born into this world a baby or a fully-formed duplicate of someone else, it only matters if you think that you are somehow bound to what you were, that to be "real," or "authentic," you must be true to some essential being. "You're a Cylon. You have to kill Helo." "You're a clone. You must move to Oregon." (Yeah. Me not understand, either.) Some people "keep it real," while others keep it fake, and that's bad.

Look. If being "real" means doing something bad or stupid, don't be real. Be fake. It's better. Or you'll just be giving in to the people who think that once a clone, always a clone.   

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rain of November

(Image from:
When it rains like this, there are electric lights on all day here in Vancouver, but they cannot break the gloom.
Days like this send you inside yourself to a world of regrets. And yet there is still joy in rain on the roof, a log on the fire. And recall, because regret and recall are two sides of the same sentiment.

Last night, we welcomed our honoured dead back into the world. For this 11 days, we walk with them in the rain so that they can be happy in the company of their grandchildren. Wear a poppy, and if you have not made grandchildren for your honoured dead, you might want to think about starting, because that is the way we make good on what we owe to our dead.