Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E17, Tricksters

From some antique creative figment
Comes a new Trickster, just as malignant.
He acts without pity
And holds hostage the city,
But the O.G. Trickster seems indignant.

He says the kid stole his swan song,
But turns out he was steering us wrong.
The new one, though lesser,
Frees his predecessor.
Seems they were in league all along.

A fight with The Flash is soon blazing
Whose cleverness merits some praising,
But mostly of note
For the part they devote
To Barry's first real shot at phasing.

Afterwards, Barry finally tells
Eddie his ID and compels
Him to help out
To make it come about
That Iris stays away from Wells.

With this ep, the show neatly doffs
Its stumbling blocks, shudders, and coughs,
And I can't help but feel
This is the ideal
Of balancing arcs with one-offs.


The episode's biggest surprise
Is the story the flashbacks comprise.
Despite what's been said,
The real Wells is dead,
And this one is just Thawne in disguise.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why I Hate The Term "Graphic Novel"

Page from Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

I hate the term Graphic Novel, but I hate the term Sequential Art almost as much, because each term has roughly the same problem. In the term Graphic Novel, the Novel element gets the emphasis. Not only does this sell the artist short, but it reeks of trying vainly to leech credibility from another medium that hardly has enough credibility to sustain itself. Call me cynical, but a medium that counts Dan Brown and Snooki among its most profitable contributors, no matter how old and venerable, is not one whose blood it is wise for even the most vampiric of mediums to imbibe.

But Sequential Art has roughly the opposite problem, in that it places the art in a place of exclusive privilege, making only a fleeting reference to the whole story element of what is ostensibly a storytelling medium.

If we are to describe this medium of words and pictures, Comics is as good a word as any. It is its own entity, not a hodgepodge of only tenuously related words meant to make the whole enterprise sound more credible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E17, Suicidal Tendencies

Digs and Lyla are getting remarried,
And hope to honeymoon unharried,
But find that they fast
Get caught up in the past
They'd hoped had been briefly buried.

Waller seems eager to tap
The two for an overseas scrap.
Deadshot comes along,
Which seems a bit wrong,
But the mission ends up as a trap.

We get flashbacks of Deadshot as grunt,
Recently returned from the front.
And at bloody long last,
We get looks at the past
That actually are relevant.

Meanwhile, Ra's kills with the aim
Of making Ollie take the blame.
Ray, as a tech wiz,
Learns just who Arrow is,
But he's still not convinced it's a frame.

Felicity and he dispute,
And she makes him give up the pursuit,
But not before he
Flies off on a spree
In his budget Iron Man suit.

While some bits lack dignified style,
The rest can still raise quite a smile.
So, after a fall-off,
Suddenly all of
This episode is quite worthwhile.

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E14, Love In The Time Of Hydra

Last time, big secrets were revealed
And we glimpsed the new playing field,
And who should appear?
Edward Olmos is here,
As head of a parallel SHIELD!

They say Coulson's in no mental shape
For anything more than red tape,
And by that same coin,
They ask Hunter to join.
He says no, then makes his escape.

Ward remains quite hard to find,
And alarmingly un-confined.
He lives day-to-day
On the run with Faux-May,
Both with vengeance quite firmly in mind.

They infiltrate an army base
To meet an old goon face-to-face.
But for all Talbot's spittle,
It comes to quite little,
And doesn't do much for the pace.

Skye is now out of the lab,
But is now somewhere equally drab.
So her seismic plot-age
Is confined to a cottage
For some superpower rehab.

Some bridges were finally burned,
But given Hunter wasn't turned,
It's folks with no mission,
Just growing suspicion
Of things that we've already learned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E16, Rogue Time

To keep a tidal wave at bay,
Barry ran 'til his legs gave way,
Running so fast
That he went to the past,
Albeit by only one day.

Though he's warned the tiniest ping
Can alter the pendulum's swing,
We all know he'll stave
Off the huge tidal wave,
And, in doing so, change everything.

And with this new temporal dawn,
Iris' love is now gone,
Captain Singh survived
Cisco's still alive
And Captain Cold's a mafia Don.

As always, the show simply pantses
Itself when it tries at romances.
Barry's in a daze,
Acts in stupid ways,
And nearly dashes all his chances.

The baddies have Cisco in hold,
Making guns that shoot heat, fire, and gold.
But through pain and doubt,
He soon gets himself out,
Though Flash has to bargain with Cold.

The romantic strife tends to smother
Its vastly superior other.
But though it lacks style,
The ep's still worthwhile
For the scenes with Cisco and his brother.


Mason Bridge is about to arrive
At the truth about how Wells connives,
But before that gets out,
Reverse-Flash comes about,
Kills him and destroys his hard drive.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Limerick Review: Arrow S3E16, The Offer

So, Ra's still wants Ollie as heir
And exploits those about whom he cares.
Ollie agrees
So he'll let them go free,
And so they escape from his lair.

Ollie's misdeeds through the season
Have, oddly enough, not been pleasin'.
So, though he was missed,
Everybody's still pissed,
And mostly for very good reason.

A new crimelord's after the prize
Who's sewn shut all but his eyes.
But the police cap
Still gives Ollie the rap
For not telling of his daughter's demise.

Ollie's jealousy is a farce
That Felicity finds hard to parse.
Folks shut out the voices
Of sensible choices,
And the flashbacks are still a right arse.

Disowned, Nissa thinks on a whim
To teach Laurel how to be grim.
While Ra's does his harm
To drive Arrow to his arms
By turning the city against him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E13, One Of Us

Skye's dad wants these powers of hers
To be free of S.H.I.E.L.D. saboteurs,
He starts a project,
Going 'round to collect
Some superpowered prisoners.

The team has its own problems to spar,
And things only get more bizarre,
But though they're detained,
Skye's dad's campaign
Puts him squarely on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar.

Meanwhile, May gets her ex, with glowers,
To consult with them for a few hours
And though Skye is annoyed,
He still plays Sigmund Freud
To help her control her new powers.

The team wants to live and let live,
But Skye's dad doesn't want to forgive.
Mercy is refused,
But that's all defused
When Inhumans take him captive.

Just to add to a well-crowded field,
Some more layers start to be peeled,
For when Lance inquires,
It quickly transpires
Someone's started a parallel S.H.I.E.L.D.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Limerick Review: The Flash S1E15, Out Of Time

A lot happens in this episode, so I am actually going to lay down a mild SPOILER WARNING for this whole recap, with extra-spoilery stuff marked off at the end.

Weather Wizard enters the show,
Avenging the death of his bro,
And finds out a name:
Det. West is to blame,
So he really has it out for Joe.

Barry and Iris have their tells
That set off their partners' alarm bells.
Meanwhile there's fretting,
And everyone's getting
Suspicious of Harrison Wells.

Even as the truth starts to dawn,
The end seems already foregone.
So get out your feels
As Harris reveals
He really is Eobard Thawne.

He reveals he's not from where he's at,
And he's free of the wheelchair he sat.
Cisco gets wise
And sees through the disguise,
But Harris swiftly takes care of that.

Weather Wizard so alters the clime
That a tidal wave's all set and primed.
And to make it re-route,
Good old Barry runs out
Running so fast, he travels through time.


So Cisco was picked as the one
To die in a twist meant to stun.
So before we dismiss:
I have issues with this,
But the scene was certainly well done.

One more thing: I was a fan
That when the Chief's hurt for a span,
During his E.R. stay,
His worried fiancee
Just happened to be a man.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Limerick Review: Cinderella

So, Disney takes another shot
At untying a fairy-tale knot.
And whatever they've done,
We've all seen the old one,
So I won't waste your time with the plot.

The source loyalty's not dogmatic,
And though the key bits remain static,
With Chris Weitz as writer,
The story is tighter
And markedly less problematic.

So a lot of the flaws we recall
Become an issue to forestall,
Like, early en route,
The couple meet cute
To make sure they've met before the ball.

Sure, these aren't dramatic right hooks,
But scenes like this improve on the books.
And it has to appear
So it's passably clear
That he likes her for more than her looks.

Bonham Carter's godmother's pace
Eschews the traditional grace.
And I rather suspect
That her kooky affect
Will, for some, feel a bit out of place.

Frequently, jokes will pass by,
But each dip for laughs comes up dry,
And that gets cemented,
For each joke's augmented
With somewhat slapdash CGI.

The lame jokes do make me frustrated,
And tempt me to simply berate it.
And I guess if it's strewn
With unfunny cartoons,
You may just as well animate it.

But then sometimes it does come through,
And does something lovely or new,
Like one scene that comes late,
When Stepmother narrates
The whole story from her point of view.

Or when Ella, for all of her toil,
Is quickly taken for a royal,
And takes the dance floor
To an exquisite score
By Branagh's cohort, Patrick Doyle.

In fact, that tends more to disarm
Than scenes taking place on the farm,
It's rarely saluted,
But Branagh's better-suited
For royal courts than rustic charm.

It can get bogged down in joke-making,
But there should be zero mistaking:
When it is bad,
It might dwindle a tad,
But when it's good, it's just breathtaking.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E12, Who You Really Are

Lady Sif appears on a beach,
Her memories just out of reach.
But even given that,
We never get at
Just why she's so stilted in speech.

The ep, using this, of course links
To some fish-out-of-water hijinks,
But all of this play
Is just pointless delay,
And not as funny as it thinks.

It was a nice little tweak
For the alien creature they seek
To tie into the arc
When we had him marked
As one more monster of the week.

Seems he's a Kree soldier, disguised,
And he gets them full apprised.
For us and the crewmen
The source of Inhumans
Gets succinctly summarized.

But all this talk gets Skye thrown,
And she goes all human cyclone.
After that twist and shout,
All her secrets are out,
But Bobbi's got one of her own.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Limerick Review: Chappie

In Johannesburg, one year from now,
The city's crime-ridden, and how...
The police, long-term,
Allow a tech firm
To build robots to speed the plow.

The intro, with robo-cops seeking,
Is cool beyond any critiquing,
The visuals telling,
The people compelling -
A shame that they had to start speaking...

The dialogue's so much commotion,
Of somewhat indeterminate notions.
It's quite apposite
That the film's biggest hit
Is the robot - who acts through his motions.

The gangsters who take Chappie in
Have an idiosyncratic spin,
But through the course of the flick
Their posturing schtick
Starts wearing distressingly thin.

The Hugh Jackman villain's beginning
Does give him a strong underpinning,
But since his plan stinks,
We're confused how he thinks
This could possibly end with him winning.

The robot himself does disarm
With a startling degree of charm,
Even when he's riled,
He acts like a child,
And doesn't intend any harm.

For a movie that isn't that bright,
The philosophy could have been trite,
But seen through the prism
Of transhumanism,
It actually gets a lot right.

But all of your hopes will be crushed,
As that clever stuff soon gets flushed
When Jackman attacks,
There's an action climax,
Then an ending that feels oddly rushed.

The "growing-up" scenes do impress,
But the film feels the need to digress,
With an odd result -
The robot parts exult,
But the surrounding plot is a mess.

What we have is a film with good parts
That may briefly steal our hearts,
But that somehow gets drawn
With weird bits bolted on
That make it end worse than it starts.

It's pretty without being gaudy,
But the story structure is just shoddy.
In the transhuman vein,
It has its heart and brain,
All it needed was a stronger body.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hit Song Limericks, Week of 3/14/15

1. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

As rare as the old Golden Fleece
Is a hit whose appeal will increase.
And though not every line
Is one we should enshrine,
The song is a straight masterpiece.

2. Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran

It's one thing if a music star
Makes a hit that's bad and yet bizarre.
But I'll lose my shit
If I hear one more hit
With a dude and his goddamned guitar.

3. Sugar by Maroon 5

I trotted out this one to flout it,
But if I had more to say, I would spout it.
All of that's null.
The song is just dull,
And there's no more to be said about it.

4. Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding

The song's meant to have some allure,
But becomes just a chore to endure,
Though lodged in the sound
They seem to have found
The perfect insomnia cure.

5. FourFiveSeconds by Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney

Although the song is oddly brief
In its working class angst and relief,
The nice, laid-back chorus
A Beatle made for us
Serves as a pleasant aperitif.

6. Take Me To Church by Hozier

As gloomy as a British fen,
An ironic chorus of amen,
And its lack of cheers
Sets it out from its peers,
So I'm glad it's still in the top ten.

7. Style by Taylor Swift

The song has a charm I'll ascribe
To its driving pseudo-80s vibe.
pleasant low synth
Puts it up on its plinth,
And makes me happy to imbibe.

8. Blank Space by Taylor Swift

Blank Space is still pleasantly bleak,
With a certain psycho-ex chic,
But loses its heat
In the dull-as-mud beat
That ends up being where it's weak.

9. Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey) by The Weeknd

Earned It tries to simmer and steam,
But is lacking the requisite gleam.
Though it might be lacking,
The orchestral backing
Does make it sound like a Bond theme.

10. Time Of Our Lives by Pitbull and Ne-Yo

Pitbull has just not got the stuff
To sound either clever or tough.
But though it doesn't stun,
The beat is well done
And the sentiment's pleasant enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Limerick Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2E11, Aftershocks

Last time was our heroes' close shave,
Underground in an alien cave,
Where old Whitehall died,
Tripp got petrified
And Skye caught the Terrigen wave.

Now, Skye has had a good restorer,
But poor Raina's come out the poorer.
She thought she'd be divine,
But the show seeks to mine
Inhumanity for body horror.

Coulson and Co. then enlist
Their pris'ner's unwilling assist,
So that each Hydra brother
Will turn on each other,
Which is really a nice little twist.

Jemma's concern is just that
Skye's condition will be a plague rat,
But we have the acumen
To know she's Inhuman,
And for comics fans, this is old hat.

The show takes a chance to reload,
But happ'ly declines to be slowed.
It's smooth as a harp,
The dialogue's sharp,
And it's just a first-rate episode.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Communication and Technology

I would like to talk about ambiguity in modern communication, because I genuinely do think that it is not really a consequence of, for example, texting per se. Texting is a perfectly valid form of quick communication, and it is enormously convenient. Basically it is the modern-day telegram, except it is massively better than a telegram. And the fact that we do use it to exchange banalities is the indicator that it is better than the telegram, because it is a marker of the efficiency of a form of communication that we are willing to use it for things other than emergencies. That is the sign that a technology has become good enough, reliable enough, and convenient enough that it has really come of age: when we start using it casually.

There was a time when phones were still becoming a thing, when there was a lot of hand-wringing over the fact that people were using phones to chat to each other! To just hold conversations! That is not what the phone is for, the phone is for emergencies! And so on. But again, the point at which you start swapping banalities with a technology is the point at which it has proven itself genuinely useful and reliable enough to be regarded as a mature technology.

And I do think texting is a valid form of communication. It, again, merely replaces the telegram just as email replaced the letter. And both newer technologies are fundamentally better, certainly in terms of convenience for the sender. And then, it can also wait for the recipient in their pocket for as long as they need it to, to give them time to finish whatever they were doing. This advantage bestowed on both sender and recipient is why a technology like texting has become such a successful form of communication in such a relatively short period of time. Similar principles apply in the case of email, obviously.

So I do not think that the problem is inherent in texting, although there are obviously limitations of expression inherent to it because - as with any form of writing - it is very difficult to convey the same nuances of meaning that you can with speech. But I would assert that even that is not entirely a problem inherent to texting, because part of the reason that the emotional nuances in speech are so easily-recognized is that we, instinctively, have built up over the years a base of intuitive knowledge on things like what a particular tone of voice means, what a particular change in pitch at a particular point in the sentence will tend to indicate about the speaker's intentions, etc. and we have this knowledge largely because we have been surrounded by speech all our lives.

Obviously, texts and emails can never have the same emotional range as speech, but I think they are capable of conveying a greater emotional range than they currently do because they are so new. It is only very recently that this stuff has become really commonplace. So no one has been able to be immersed in that form of communication for long enough that a basic vocabulary and grammar of subtext can be allowed to build up. We are stuck with the text and no subtext, no pun intended. Scratch that, I will embrace the pun. TEXT!

I like that idea because I think it does express on a small scale a larger idea that I have been considering about communication technologies and their relationship with social interaction in the modern day. It is not necessarily the communications technologies themselves that are inhibiting social interaction and effective social communication, it is the fact that technology has been changing so quickly - and we are in such a transitional stage with it - that it has rendered a great number of the old social protocols meaningless and/or obsolete. It has eliminated the old protocols of how you ask someone out, for example.

The problem with that as it currently stands is that, because it is such a young technology, a set of social protocols has not been given the chance to establish itself, and so essentially we have a new social grammar but, as yet, no vocabulary. As a society, we are stuck in this peculiar situation where there is a very definite medium for social communication but not enough time has elapsed - indeed not enough time can have elapsed by this point - to make it workable. We do not know how quickly this medium will be replaced - it could be very shortly, in which case a whole new set of protocols will have to begin development, and then the pattern repeats.

The basic question is whether these new communication forms - any of them - will sustain themselves for long enough to permit a fresh set of social protocols to not only emerge but to establish themselves in the culture. If and when that does happen, it will eliminate a lot of the ambiguities in communication, but until then we are rather stuck. It has, by necessity, eliminated the old social protocols before it has had time to put together an adequate plan to replace them, to shamelessly anthropomorphize a patently non-anthropomorphic system.