athelind: (facepalm)


Oh, jeez.

io9 just published a column looking at the History of the X-Men, and how it becomes even more absurd when you compress it into the decade-and-a-half or so of Marvel's sliding timescale.

When I read the opening line, I was excited: someone invoked the Marvel 1:3 time ratio!

I know I read about that in a Stan's Soapbox from the '60s -- but I've never found any other official reference or verification from the House of Ideas; just that one, off-hand blurb, offered in the blurry sans-serif type of Stan the Man's stentorian prose. When the whole run of those columns was republished, once online and once in trade paperback from Marvel itself, I tried and tried to find that specific entry, to no avail.

It must have been in a letter column or something. I know I saw it.

But, lo! thought I, here's someone else referring to the same thing, as if they'd found the factoid from an authoritative source! Did they see the same Soapbox or lettercol that I did, in a dusty tome of ancient lore? Did Stan or some other Marvel exec ever repeat the proclamation? I hope the article doesn't just mention it in passing and breeze on by. I'll be really happy if they give a ref ...

... oh. Oh, my stars and garters.


The reference the article gives is to the Comic Book Time page on the TV Tropes Wiki:

In a "Stan's Soapbox" in the mid-1960s, Stan Lee stated that, as a general rule of thumb, they were trying to keep the then-new Marvel Universe on a one-to-three timeline - every three years that passed in the real world would be a year of Comic Book Time. Deliberately or otherwise, Marvel actually managed to stick pretty close to that right up until the early 1990s when, during one of the X-Men's 30th Anniversary comics, Professor Xavier mused about the things he'd been doing for the past 10 years - starting with the founding of the X-Men.


I know that TV Tropes passage well.

I wrote it.

... I think I need to do some editing. I am certain that I read that blurb about the 1:3 ratio in an old Marvel comic, but I'm no longer certain where.

One shouldn't leave dubious source material scattered 'round the net.

If you can't cite a source, you're just making it up.


Cross-posted to Kiby Dots and Ditko Ribbons.
athelind: (hoard potato)

"Hollywood Is Lazy, Unoriginal and Risk-Averse", whines yet another critic.



These columns crop up all the time, and nine out of ten of them give the impression that this is some horrible slide into the abyss from some mythical golden age.

The irony, of course, is that they been appearing since the film industry began.1

These guys forget2 that, as I've mentioned before, the classic John Huston/Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third film version of the story in the span of a decade, and they were all adapted from a formulaic, low-brow pulp novel.

The smart, arty flicks that this particular critic extols have never been a major component of the studios' output. "Risky" movies have always been "risky". The shitstorm that Welles had to wade through to make Citizen Kane is as epic and as well-known as the movie itself.

When Harris holds up "movies based on comic books" as one of his keynote symptoms of this "new" plague of creative barrenness, I wonder if he's including movies like A History of Violence and Shutter Island?3

Really, it comes down to this:
  • Hollywood is afraid to make risky movies because movies are expensive.
  • "Risky", by definition, means "might tank in the box office and lose skillions."
  • This has always been true. The only difference is in the number of zeroes represented by "skillions".
  • DUH.


For every Citizen Kane, there is a Waterworld.4




I should really sit down and write an Onion-style opinion piece lamenting how derivative and unoriginal film critics have become, how they rehash the same column over and over because it's guaranteed to get attention, and how shopworn remakes like "The Day Movies Died" will never be as good as timeless classics like 1963's "Christ, Yet Another Giant Lizard Flick".

Or maybe I already have.


1 Really, they predate the film industry. I've heard both some damned funny riffs and serious laments about the stage equivalent of the "generic formulaic blockbuster" in the eras of Gilbert & Sullivan, grand opera, and Elizabethan theater. Frankly, what I've read about the works of Aristophanes suggests that a good bit of his oeuvre involved similar digs at his predecessors and contemporaries.
2 I'm being generous here. It would be unseemly to suggest that someone who presents himself as a professional film critic would simply be unschooled in the basic facts of the history of the medium.
3Inexcusable Cheap Shot: while Blaming EverythingTM on Hollywood's desire for "known Brands", Mr. Harris says, Jonah Hex is a brand because it was a comic book. (Here lies one fallacy of putting marketers in charge of everything: Sometimes they forget to ask if it's a good brand.) Just because a lousy movie is made doesn't mean the source material is lousy.
4...and an Ishtar, a Cutthroat Island, a Mr. Bug Goes to Town....
cross-posted to KDDR

athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
This is a link to someone else being smart:

Don’t worry guys, everything isn’t a Mary Sue, by Kelly "Coelasquid" Turnbull.

Kelly is a professional animator who also does the invariably-entertaining webcomic, Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. This essay not only deconstructs the currently-hip notion that any protagonist who bears any resemblance to the author is a "Mary Sue", it also discusses at length how to use Maslow's Hierarchy as a tool to write convincing characters and conflicts.

I thought it needed sharing -- and preserving for future reference.


Cross-Posted to Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons: Mary Who?
athelind: (Parallel Worlds)

Evidence Emerges That Laws of Physics Are Not Fine-Tuned For Life



I admit it: even the weak versions of the Anthropic Principle make me twitch. Yes, if we're observing the universe, its physical conditions must allow us to exist; fine, that's kind of a "duh". Stronger versions get increasingly ... problematic ... as their proponents start dwelling on what a "fortunate coincidence" it is that all of these underlying physical constants line up just right for the perfect bowl of porridge rise of Life As We Know It ...

... and then they start talking about how the Universe must have arisen in such a way ...

... and then they just lapse into "GLAARGLE BARGLE PROOF OF GOD" and start speaking in tongues.

Yes, there are more sophisticated and defensible versions of the Anthropic Principle out there, but nevertheless, the concept has turned into something of a buzzword for those who want to dress up "intelligent design" in a costume that will get them into big science conferences as well as Kansas school board meetings.1

These are the people most likely to start harping on how amazing it is that the value of little terms buried deep in complex equations like the cosmological constant are exactly perfectly optimally perfectly wonderfully exact to promote the development of blah blah blah blah blah.

This is why Your Obedient Serpent uttered a joyous and most undraconic "squee" when Futurismic pointed out this article that indicates, hey, you know what, Doctor Pangloss? This may not be the Best of All Possible Worlds, after all!

Of course, as a militant agnostic, I'm just going to sit back and make popcorn as this news prompts a stampede of would-be Oolon Colluphids to get themselves run over at the next zebra crossing.


1A similar fate has befallen James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis", which has been Flanderized by both detractors and some proponents into "WOO GODDESS". The elegant systems mechanics behind the Gaia principle play an important part in my own weird version of pantheism, but that just makes it that much worse when Princess Priestess Raven Shadowscroft in beads and sequins spouts the words in the middle of some pompous Aquarian rant.
athelind: (Eye - VK)
Those who just read my pearls of wisdom via their friends lists may not be aware that the topmost entry on LJ page is a mash-up of a CAPTCHA test and the Voight-Kampf test from the opening scene of Blade Runner.

On 18 January 2011, that entry got a word-salad comment that looked like a random text generator used a series of metaphysical screeds as a seed source:


Hey

Those who possession of to the standard faiths call that the expert of their obedience rests on revelation, and that pronouncement is confirmed in the pages of books and accounts of miracles and wonders whose disposition is supernatural. But those of us who take great discarded the belief in the mysterious quiescent are in the attendance of revelations which are the purpose of faith. We too entertain our revealed religion. We have looked upon the lineaments of men and women that can be to us the symbols of that which is holy. We acquire heard words of sacred wisdom and facts in fact spoken in the possibly manlike voice. In sight of the domain there set up hit to us these occurrence which, when accepted, despair to us revelations, not of abnormal doctrine, but of a natural and sure credence in the incorporeal powers that spark and labour in the center of [a person's] being.



Given entry in question, I can't tell if this is just some kind of random spam, a blind idiot translation of something from another language, a sincere if TimeCubist rant, or an amazingly clever metacommentary.

Think on that one for a moment. I cannot ascertain the degree of sentience that generated this comment. Someone (or something) has responded to a parody of a test to determine your humanity with a response that is recursively ambiguous. Seeded randomness? Automated translation? Schizoid human? Clever post-modernist? I can't tell.

I was tempted to leave it there, but [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking provided some compelling reasons to delete it (especially since LiveJournal lets you mark such unwarranted commentary as spam). I hope that copying and pasting the text here won't trigger the spammer's search engines, but I am far, far too lazy to turn the blurb into an image.


athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)

This Will Not End Well.


Seriously, did those guys have any idea that a dragon started that TV Tropes page?
athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
What happens if the Doctor picks up a party of first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons player characters? It's guaranteed that at least one will have a Bag of Holding, and there might be a Portable Hole in the party, as well.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of AD&D1*, bringing either of those into the TARDIS will result in some kind of Negative Space Wedgie that automatically kills the whole party.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of Doctor Who, however, the resultant Very Bad Thing will result in Several Minutes of Tension and Possibly A Cliffhanger, but it will be resolved by the Doctor invoking technobabble, running around the TARDIS console, and possibly pulling out the Sonic Screwdriver.

Combining the Narrative Conventions, I estimate a 30% chance, +5% per Regeneration Level of the Doctor, that the Doctor will not only neutralize the Anomaly, but that the solution will also incapacitate or eliminate or eliminate whatever aggressor the party was confronting when the TARDIS appeared.

This assumes that this is the Doctor's first encounter with the party, of course. If he's established an emotional stake over at least the course of an episode, that probability will drop to 25% + 2%/Regeneration Level.

In any case, a bad roll will, of course, result in the restoration of the full AD&D1 narrative conventions.


*In particular, unlike most forms of narrative (including later RPGs), AD&D1 eschews the principles that the narrative must continue to a dramatically satisfactory conclusion; in other words, Total Party Kill is not only an acceptable outcome, but, in extreme examples, a desirable one.

Desirable to some participants, that is.

athelind: (Warning: Motivation Hazard)
... I'm also going to give up The TV Tropes Wiki for the duration of Lent.

It tends to be my default time sink when I don't feel like doing anything useful.


athelind: (Default)
... I'm also going to give up The TV Tropes Wiki for the duration of Lent.

It tends to be my default time sink when I don't feel like doing anything useful.


athelind: (facepalm)
Apparently, there's a group out there encouraging people to red shirts on Fridays to "support our troops".

Here's a link to their site, which plays really, really cheesy music. You've been warned.)

Yes, let's wear red shirts on Friday to underscore how nameless and expendable our troops are.

I know that not everyone is a Star Trek fan, but even a cursory Google search would have suggested the Unfortunate Implications.

athelind: (Default)
Apparently, there's a group out there encouraging people to red shirts on Fridays to "support our troops".

Here's a link to their site, which plays really, really cheesy music. You've been warned.)

Yes, let's wear red shirts on Friday to underscore how nameless and expendable our troops are.

I know that not everyone is a Star Trek fan, but even a cursory Google search would have suggested the Unfortunate Implications.

athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)


YES

.

athelind: (Default)


YES

.

athelind: (hoard potato)
[livejournal.com profile] paka posted a "D&D Meme" last night. I'm not going to answer the whole thing; regular readers have probably deduced that I haven't played enough D&D in recent decades to be able to answer them. One question, however, pushed one of my buttons:

8) Halfling or Gnome?

I've been saying this since AD&D1: Why does D&D even HAVE Gnomes? They're REDUNDANT. The ecological niches that Gnomes traditionally fill in folklore get filled by either Dwarves or Halflings. In TV Tropes lingo, they're not "Stouts" and they're not "Cutes".

Really, there's nothing for Gnomes to DO except fill up an unused folklore name; that's why every single edition and sub-edition and variant setting gives'em an entirely different gimmick and identity. If you look at the First Edition version, it was really a half-assed, gamery attempt to cash in on adapt the Gnomes from the Huygen & Poortvliet coffee-table book that was so popular in '78.



When the Tolkien Estate groused about them using "Hobbit" in the first printing of Greyhawk, they should have just dubbed THEM "Gnomes" instead of "Halflings", and been done with it.
athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] paka posted a "D&D Meme" last night. I'm not going to answer the whole thing; regular readers have probably deduced that I haven't played enough D&D in recent decades to be able to answer them. One question, however, pushed one of my buttons:

8) Halfling or Gnome?

I've been saying this since AD&D1: Why does D&D even HAVE Gnomes? They're REDUNDANT. The ecological niches that Gnomes traditionally fill in folklore get filled by either Dwarves or Halflings. In TV Tropes lingo, they're not "Stouts" and they're not "Cutes".

Really, there's nothing for Gnomes to DO except fill up an unused folklore name; that's why every single edition and sub-edition and variant setting gives'em an entirely different gimmick and identity. If you look at the First Edition version, it was really a half-assed, gamery attempt to cash in on adapt the Gnomes from the Huygen & Poortvliet coffee-table book that was so popular in '78.



When the Tolkien Estate groused about them using "Hobbit" in the first printing of Greyhawk, they should have just dubbed THEM "Gnomes" instead of "Halflings", and been done with it.

LJ on JL

Oct. 11th, 2002 10:49 pm
athelind: (Default)
I like the Justice League cartoon -- most of the time. Some of the episodes fall flat, but others just make me sit back and say "Wow." Even the best of the best, though, don't quite hit every note perfectly.

The latest episode, "Metamorpho", provides a splendid example. I loved it, over all. The central characters, Rex Mason and Simon Stagg, looked exactly like Ramona Fradon's artwork in those original '60s adventures. (More about Metamorpho!)

(Sapphire Stagg, Our Hero's love interest, wound up looking like Generic Bruce Timm Female #2 (Blonde), but that's another rant entirely.)

The complete change in the character's origin wasn't unexpected, and made for a very solid piece of storytelling.

They handled Rex's powers wonderfully. He took full advantage of his abilities, used them in an elegant combination of his classic bits and new, interesting and unexpected applications. Silver-Age characters like Metamorpho thrived on coming up with creative new ways of using their powers.

(I found it a bit annoying that they never quite explained the powers -- the ability to turn himself into any element or compound found in the human body. An old Silver Age fan like Your Obedient Serpent always liked the exposition about the nature of Metamorpho's abilities and what element he used to create what effect, and why. I suspect that those comic-book factoids influenced my lifelong ambition to go into the sciences... but I digress. As usual.)

In short, they treated Rex as a fully-capable, highly-adaptable, competent individual capable of making full use of flexible, adaptable abilities.

Exactly how they fail to treat the regular cast.

JL's version of J'onn J'onnz, for instance, seems to be the love child of Worf and Deanna Troi. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf spent a lot of time getting beaten up any time the writers wanted to show how tough the Alien Of The Week was. In fact, he spent more time getting beaten up than he did beating other people up. On Justice League, J'onn only gets to show off his telepathy when the writers want to show what utterly impressive mental abilities the Guest Villain of the Week has. The erstwhile Martian Manhunter spends much of his time dropping to his knees clutching his temples, much like Commander Troi.

This week, we finally see J'onn do some real shapeshifting. Until now, he's just assumed other humanoid shapes. Of course, he only manages to get his ass handed to him again just to show that This Week's Guest Star Is Tougher.

J'onn isn't the only one who forgets his powers except in situations where they'd be worse than useless. Big Blue himself gets short shrift most of the time -- and this from people who wrote an entire show around him, and have shown a keen understanding of just how to use Powers And Abilities Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men. Hey, Supes! While you're standing there just staring at Giant Monster Of The Week marching down the streets of Metropolis, maybe you could stare at it with some of that heat vision?

Meanwhile, this incarnation of John Stewart has to be the least-imaginative person ever to sling a ring. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. I never thought anything could make me miss Happy Hal and his silly green boxing gloves. Look! Sapphire's plummeting to her doom! I could just make a glowing green grabber or a glowing green net or a glowing green Carmine Infantino hand, but nooooo, I'll fly down and grab her!

And what about teamwork? You know, those barely-pubescent versions of the X-Men over on Evolution could probably whip this JL, simply because they make a token effort at coordinating their powers.

"Hey, GL! Maybe your Wonder Ring can help your non-flying buddy get up to where the action is?" "Nah, I'll just stand here on the roof looking grim."

"Hey! Maybe we could, like, try to hit the thing all at once, or one of us could distract it while the others hit it at different angles!" "Nah, let's just hit it one at a time, like the throw-away thugs in a bad Hong Kong kick flick, so we can get tossed aside just as handily."

I hear the writers are afraid of the sheer power of the characters becomind Deus Ex Machinas. Well, you know, if you've established the ground rules and the powers from the start, they aren't a Deus Ex Machina. If you don't make use of the powers that have been established, the viewer feels cheated and wonders why the character didn't use his or her full abilities. Even the best episodes of Justice League leave the impression that Our Heroes are a bunch of barely-competent dilletantes who can't even keep track of their own abilities, much less work effectively in a group.

The thing that really underscored the candy-ass treatment of Our Heroes this time was that they wrote Rex so well. He made masterful use of his powers, fresh out of the test tube. Hell, he came very close to kicking all their asses soundly from Gotham to Metropolis and back by way of Central City.

I signed on for the World's Greatest Superheros, not for the Inferior Five Plus Two.

LJ on JL

Oct. 11th, 2002 10:49 pm
athelind: (Default)
I like the Justice League cartoon -- most of the time. Some of the episodes fall flat, but others just make me sit back and say "Wow." Even the best of the best, though, don't quite hit every note perfectly.

The latest episode, "Metamorpho", provides a splendid example. I loved it, over all. The central characters, Rex Mason and Simon Stagg, looked exactly like Ramona Fradon's artwork in those original '60s adventures. (More about Metamorpho!)

(Sapphire Stagg, Our Hero's love interest, wound up looking like Generic Bruce Timm Female #2 (Blonde), but that's another rant entirely.)

The complete change in the character's origin wasn't unexpected, and made for a very solid piece of storytelling.

They handled Rex's powers wonderfully. He took full advantage of his abilities, used them in an elegant combination of his classic bits and new, interesting and unexpected applications. Silver-Age characters like Metamorpho thrived on coming up with creative new ways of using their powers.

(I found it a bit annoying that they never quite explained the powers -- the ability to turn himself into any element or compound found in the human body. An old Silver Age fan like Your Obedient Serpent always liked the exposition about the nature of Metamorpho's abilities and what element he used to create what effect, and why. I suspect that those comic-book factoids influenced my lifelong ambition to go into the sciences... but I digress. As usual.)

In short, they treated Rex as a fully-capable, highly-adaptable, competent individual capable of making full use of flexible, adaptable abilities.

Exactly how they fail to treat the regular cast.

JL's version of J'onn J'onnz, for instance, seems to be the love child of Worf and Deanna Troi. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf spent a lot of time getting beaten up any time the writers wanted to show how tough the Alien Of The Week was. In fact, he spent more time getting beaten up than he did beating other people up. On Justice League, J'onn only gets to show off his telepathy when the writers want to show what utterly impressive mental abilities the Guest Villain of the Week has. The erstwhile Martian Manhunter spends much of his time dropping to his knees clutching his temples, much like Commander Troi.

This week, we finally see J'onn do some real shapeshifting. Until now, he's just assumed other humanoid shapes. Of course, he only manages to get his ass handed to him again just to show that This Week's Guest Star Is Tougher.

J'onn isn't the only one who forgets his powers except in situations where they'd be worse than useless. Big Blue himself gets short shrift most of the time -- and this from people who wrote an entire show around him, and have shown a keen understanding of just how to use Powers And Abilities Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men. Hey, Supes! While you're standing there just staring at Giant Monster Of The Week marching down the streets of Metropolis, maybe you could stare at it with some of that heat vision?

Meanwhile, this incarnation of John Stewart has to be the least-imaginative person ever to sling a ring. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. Fly, Zap, Bubble. I never thought anything could make me miss Happy Hal and his silly green boxing gloves. Look! Sapphire's plummeting to her doom! I could just make a glowing green grabber or a glowing green net or a glowing green Carmine Infantino hand, but nooooo, I'll fly down and grab her!

And what about teamwork? You know, those barely-pubescent versions of the X-Men over on Evolution could probably whip this JL, simply because they make a token effort at coordinating their powers.

"Hey, GL! Maybe your Wonder Ring can help your non-flying buddy get up to where the action is?" "Nah, I'll just stand here on the roof looking grim."

"Hey! Maybe we could, like, try to hit the thing all at once, or one of us could distract it while the others hit it at different angles!" "Nah, let's just hit it one at a time, like the throw-away thugs in a bad Hong Kong kick flick, so we can get tossed aside just as handily."

I hear the writers are afraid of the sheer power of the characters becomind Deus Ex Machinas. Well, you know, if you've established the ground rules and the powers from the start, they aren't a Deus Ex Machina. If you don't make use of the powers that have been established, the viewer feels cheated and wonders why the character didn't use his or her full abilities. Even the best episodes of Justice League leave the impression that Our Heroes are a bunch of barely-competent dilletantes who can't even keep track of their own abilities, much less work effectively in a group.

The thing that really underscored the candy-ass treatment of Our Heroes this time was that they wrote Rex so well. He made masterful use of his powers, fresh out of the test tube. Hell, he came very close to kicking all their asses soundly from Gotham to Metropolis and back by way of Central City.

I signed on for the World's Greatest Superheros, not for the Inferior Five Plus Two.

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