April 20, 2017
Finally finished the last episode of Iron Fist. Is it amazing? No, it’s not. But it’s not completely awful. There was the shadow of something really good there and there's still potential. When Iron Fist fires on all gears, it manages moments of real fun and feels like classic 80s-era Chuck Norris/Van Damme cheese.
If you take a moment and really consider it, the showrunner and the writers had an unenviable task. Iron Fist is the last show before The Defenders so it had big shoes to fill. It also also had to tell its own story, shore-up connections to the other Netflix shows, and be sure it set-up some things that would be needed for The Defenders.
Regardless of any of that though, there will undoubtedly be a second series of Iron Fist. Despite being panned by critics, it scored big numbers for Netflix. So here are my thoughts on how to make second season better:
Pacing—beyond anything else, if they fix the pacing it will help the show immensely because the pacing was terrible. Just terrible. The whole thing with Rand Enterprises and the Meechums that eats up so many of those first episodes should have taken maybe an episode. Not to mention by the time the climax came in the last episode, it lacked punch.
Excitement—an unstoppable martials arts master, a lost city, ninjas, a form of super-heroin, a dark secret of immortality that can bring people back from the dead? That all sounds like the makings of non-stop awesome. But somehow, Iron Fist manages to often be boring. Absolutely positively boring. There were a couple of episodes that felt like they went on forever to the point where I’d pause the episode to see how much time was left. Yes, I get Danny’s enemy this season is ultimately himself but you can stick to that theme and not be boring. Season 2 needs to up the excitement and the action factor by like 10 fold.
Fight choreography—Fight choreography for television programs has come a long way, a long way. If you’re going to have a show about an immortal weapon, the fight choreography needs to be top-notch. Iron Fist’s choreography was so-so at best and sometimes really kind of awkward, especially since I watched the first season of Into The Badlands right before I started it. Some of that can be fixed by giving Danny his mask so they can have an actual martial artist doing the bulk of the fight scenes instead of Finn Jones looking like he’s trying really hard and hoping his arm is in the right place.
Danny Rand—I like that Danny is often earnest. I like the on one level his growth is stunted and he’s still a kid. I like that he suffers from PTSD. But somehow, and maybe this one is just me, he manages to often be unlikeable and kind of off-putting. That needs to be fixed. (Daredevil Season 2 had the same problem though—Matt Murdoch was the least interesting character and it’s supposed to be his show.)
Mysticism/Buddhism—There are plenty of legit schools, sects, treatises, concepts, and ideas from real Buddhist esotericism that Iron Fist could have drawn from and used in the show: vajrayana, mantrayana, shugendo, shingo, kuji-kiri, mikkyo, etc. But even when they pulled out made-up Hollywood-Buddhism-like-new-age-double-talk, it was weak sauce. And the mysticism angle can easily been used to allow Danny to communicate with the previous Iron Fists to reinforce the idea that the Iron Fist is a title and role that transcends race or sex.
April 14, 2017
Yesterday the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in a combat operation. The tunnel complex being bombed in Afghanistan was financed by the CIA during the the 1980’s bankrolling of the mujahideen’s conflict against the Soviets—the very same conflict where Osama Bin Laden first cut his teeth. Since that conflict the complex has been used by everybody from drug-smugglers to ISIS. The foreign policy of the United States generates unrest and conflict with long-term consequences that it must later go and confront, creating a Möbius Strip of suffering and death that only benefits corporate interests and the unquenchable greed of the elites.
Yesterday, however, also marked the 98th anniversary of Eugene V. Debs' imprisonment for sedition. Debs was a union organizer, founding member of the IWW, 4-time Socialist candidate for president, and a Hoosier. He was arrested and convicted for speaking out against the Wilson administration, World War I, and urging people to resist the draft in a speech he gave in Canton, Ohio. What Debs said in Canton, Ohio, is just as true today:
"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.
"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.
"And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace."
March 31, 2017
Justice League trailer? Yeah, I'll pass. Looks like more of the same.
I loathe the whole Snyderverse aesthetic. There's no sunshine or color. Everything has that fascist state feel: enormous and symmetric with sharp edges. The people all look depressed. The heroes all look jacked, cut, and/or mean.
And while it's supposed to be a joke, there's no more appropriate response to "what are your super powers again" from the Snyderverse Batman than "I'm rich." This is the world of the Ayn Rand dude-bro hero after all.
Space Jesus is dead.
March 30, 2017
March 28, 2017
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is currently available to stream on Hulu. I haven't watched it in years, so I gave it a viewing over the weekend...only to promptly remember why it had been years since I've seen it.
I know this film has a cult following and I know a lot of geeks love it but I just don't get it. I really do not understand it at all. In fact, not only do I not get it, but I think it might be one of the few movies that I actively dislike. The film has a great cast and promises to be the adventures of this 80's-version of Doc Savage where the Man of Bronze and his Fabulous Five fight aliens when they're not rocking out in a band. Instead, the film delivers something dull, boring, frustrating, and all-together unfunny.
Honestly, it's probably also one of the few movies I wish they would actually remake. Or that they'd just hand the property over entirely to someone else.
March 25, 2017
If you like spy fiction and don't mind subtitles, Deutschland 83 is very good. It's about about a young border patrol guard pulled from his post by the Stasi and set to the West Germany to discover intel about new nuclear missile deployments by NATO. And it has a great 80s soundtrack.
March 24, 2017
March 23, 2017
Been reading Gramsci (thanks to SPACED!). While I’m still parsing everything in his Prison Notebooks, what I understand about his theories of the hegemony and the intellectual (traditional and organic) make a ridiculous amount of sense to me. Can you call yourself a Gramscist? A Gramscian?
March 22, 2017
March 2, 2017
Look at the headline: “Trump Inspires The Dow to 21,000”.
This is what’s wrong in America. We treat anything to do with the free market like it’s a person or a force of nature to be appeased with blood sacrifice and rain dances or, hell, like it’s fucking magic that’s going to fix everything (“Dear Free Market, bless Mommy and Daddy and…)
But it’s not. It’s simply a construct. And you can’t “inspire” a construct. I mean, think about it. Seriously, now. And since it’s a construct, it functions however it’s set up to function and that’s in a way that’s not mutually beneficial or even fair to everyone.
Notice too when the free market functions well, it’s always framed in those kinds of terms: inspired, encouraged, invigorated, fueled by hope. Like the Dow was just really sad and disheartened and all it needed was a little encouragement to do what we always knew it could do it, to work at it’s potential. But when the free market goes badly it’s back to being talked about in more inanimate terms. And that’s absolutely purposeful.
February 23, 2017
February 20, 2017
Another long-unavailable story I wrote years ago is now up for free at Wattpad. "Maiden's Prayer" was my first story featuring Terrence Bledsoe and/or Ella Dodge (the second story is available in Crime Factory: First Shift). I placed my Hollywood fix-it man story years ago (long before Ray Donovan) at the now-defunct Darkness Before the Dawn.
Read it for free here.
With the success of Netflix’s Voltron re-imagining, I keep thinking about one of my all-time dream projects…writing for a new Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (or Battle of the Planets or G-Force, if you prefer one of its many other titles/incarnation) anime...or manga...or comic book...or light novel. Hell, I just want to write Gatchaman.
February 17, 2017
"Japanese priest and techno DJ, Gyōsen Asakura, has created a temple devoted to techno. "Based in Fukui City in Japan, the Shō-onji templed throws 'techno memorial services' with Asakura leading the monthly Buddhist-style ceremonies."
February 16, 2017
Finally watched Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain on a Netflix. It's a ridiculous amount of fun. It's basically an Alistair MacLean novel set in China after the surrender of the Japanese during WWII. So if you're a fan of those "men on a mission" movies they don't really make anymore, you need to check this one out.
February 15, 2017
Is it really that Americans are particularly "anti-intellectual" or does most of what we tend to label "anti-intellectual" have everything to do with frustrations over class, rising income inequality, and college becoming ever more unafforable?
Personally, I think it's the latter.
January 19, 2017
I think the thing that causes us the most trouble as human beings is our reluctance to deal with things simply as they are. Seriously. You name it. Whether it’s a situation or someone’s behavior or your relationship or your job or your living/work situation, chances are the thing that causes you the most grief comes down to not seeing it all clearly, as it is, simple and without judgment.
You know, all too often we want something a certain way when it’s just not that way, but we continue on as if it were and cause ourselves nothing but more and more difficulty. Or we become so focused on how we want something to be that we can’t see anything else and something that we could fix or change or even just feel bad about then let go never gets resolved.
I see this all the time in the day job. Someone comes to our office with a situation, I lay out the options and those aren’t the options they wanted so they go barreling off doing something else or spending all their time making a fuss about something that cannot be changed, instead of just solving it right now and moving on. Chances are you probably see someone doing this exact thing when it comes to relationships. Whether it’s how they want their partner to act or something they want their partner to do or stop doing, I bet you’re sitting on the sidelines thinking, “That ain’t gonna happen” or “Do you now know who you married?”
This is even something that you see a lot in Bob’s Burgers. It’s Bob’s character flaw—totally connected to his inability to not let things go (Gene calls him on this in the episode “L'il Hard Dad"). Next watch through, pay attention to how often the conflict of the show arises because Bob acts as if something is a certain way when it clearly is not.
Now, it's important to note, that this is not me saying we shouldn’t feel our feelings, right? Or even vent our frustrations (“Man, if so and so would just—” or “If the train ran through the south of town instead of—”) You should feel however you feel. I mean, feelings aren’t the problem, it’s how we relate to them. Denying them isn’t helpful to us, nor is letting them run our lives. But it's important to remember that just because we feel a certain way about something doesn't mean it's going to change or go away. That comes down to our actions.
January 18, 2017
January 17, 2017
Hulu added the first season of The Story of God hosted by Morgan Freeman. It's worth a watch if you're interested in this type of thing. Each episode has a theme (Creation, Death, Evil, etc.), then examines what different religions believe and how the idea has changed historically.