Tag: sad marvel fangirl

A room with a view

by on Nov.01, 2011, under Life with Frood, Photography

avatarIt has been a month of big changes. When we moved to Scotland — a return to home territory for me but a new country of residence for Frood— we initially lived in Fife. I was born and mostly raised in Fife (even if my most potent childhood memories are all of the west coast, Highlands and Islands), so the territory was one with which I was gratefully familiar. It’s hard enough making a change of job that significant without having to learn a new geography as well, at least when the job requires a good local knowledge.

Fife, in passing

After a year or so I transferred to Edinburgh, as Frood was working there and was tired of the lengthy commute and the seasonal rail fares taking up a significant chunk of his monthly pay. We’ve been living and working in and around Edinburgh for four years, which is by no means the least time I’ve spent in any one place, although it’s towards the bottom of the scale.

Dark TowerI am restless by nature, easily bored and always looking for the next intellectual challenge. I doubt I will ever be satisfied with going in to work to do the same thing day after day. My comfort zone is not static. It’s more of a bouncy castle, floating in a swimming pool on the deck of an ocean liner in the middle of a storm.

Fortunately, just as my feet were growing itchy again, the desire to get back to dealing with the technical specialisms of water pricking at their otherwise insensitive soles, an opportunity came along.

This month we’re in the process of upping sticks and moving to where granite rock glistens in the salt spray of the North Sea and radon seeps from the ground in quantities insufficient to have any significant health implications, never mind be enough to activate the Marveliser (dammit). Here the local tongue is the Doric and I will be as linguistically handicapped as Frood, for my knowledge of the Doric starts and ends with poorly-remembered episodes of Scotland the What? from an old audio cassette we used to have.

I have managed to get lost three times in the last week, a decent sense of direction apparently being insufficient when there is a complete lack of familiar place names and/or landmarks. I am learning that it gets dark damnably early, especially since the clocks went back, and that the warnings about it being cold did not take into account the preferences of a cryophiliac like me. My ride to work in the mornings is short enough that I arrive before I’ve really got going. The supermarkets have the same names above the entrance and yet their selection of goods is both entirely expected and unfamiliar: along with the dubious pre-packed pizzas and DVDs for £3 I can buy daikon radish at the Morrison’s on King Street —an item of exotica never seen in Granton’s Waterfront Broadway store— and, wondrous wonder, CR2032 batteries, yet I cannot buy gluten-free plain flour there. The Sainsbury’s in Berryden, in addition to the usual range of chocolate and teabags, sells special handles for poach pods but doesn’t have any Spanish smoked paprika or Clearspring white miso.

Cultural and consumable differences aside, what has struck me the most is something both more and less mundane:

A room with a view

That’s the view from my office window. This is my lunchtime run route.

I think I’m going to like it here. I hope Frood will, too.

Now I just need to find somewhere selling Celestial Seasonings Apple and Cinnamon Spice tea.

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I am a terrible fangirl

by on May.04, 2011, under Reviews, television

avatarOff work sick with a severe chest complaint that this morning has seen the doctor put me on Hulkinator medication and yet another course of antibiotics1. So, apart from doing a bit more research and coming up with a whole new line of plot to explore for the Russian piece (working title Winter’s Weeping) and fiddling about a bit with ideas for the fixed-gear zombie utopian near-future piece (Carmageddon? And yes, I did say utopian, if only because cycling on the M4 around Bristol has been a long-standing fantasy of mine), I’ve been pondering the last two episodes of Doctor Who.

I’m a fan. I’m not a Whovian, because my credentials extend only as far as owning the box sets for Eccleston onwards and watching certain episodes of Tennant’s run when I’m in serious need of cheering up. I haven’t read or listened to any of the extended universe (with the exception of the Minister of Chance) and have no desire to buy any of the classic titles with Tom Baker or the rest. Well. Maybe the Romana episodes, but only Romana 1. I admit that I own a copy of the terrible movie, number 8’s only TV outing, poor chap, and have a better than average grasp on how the Time War is supposed to have affected his mental state in the ensuing generations (and then only because the average person couldn’t give a stuff). But that’s as far as it goes. Seriously.

That makes me a bad fan. I’m pretty bad at being a fan in general. I’m a bad Marvel fan, too.

Why am I a bad fan? Well, as far as I can tell, the job of a fan is to squee relentlessly about how awesome something is and find excuses for any and all flaws (cough Liev Schreiber cough the hair cough what they did to Deadpool cough NO I HAVEN’T FORGIVEN THEM coughcoughcoughcoughcough). A fan is not supposed to hold up a creator’s offering and judge it with a critical eye. One is supposed to celebrate the NEW and EXCITING style and the INNOVATIVE use of VISUALS and HIGH DRAMA.

David Tennant got me interested in the New Who. It was his fault. Tennant’s Who was brilliant, genius, dappy, occasionally unpredictable, deeply flawed and carrying a deep, desperate sadness inside him because he knew where the bottom line was and knew what it was like to stand there and hold fast despite everything in the universe wanting nothing more than him to give up and give in. Where Number 9 was still on the rebound from the Time War, Number 10 had come to grips with the awfulness of what had happened and the things he had done. He wanted to be better than that while still knowing, somewhere, that he was already the best because there was no one else.

He was that kind of man.

I was sad when Tennant left, but Matt Smith’s entrance showed promise and it was Stephen “Blink” Moffat who was taking over. Stephen “I wrote all the really good ones” Moffat. I mean, it couldn’t not be good, right?

And yet, by the time I’d got to the end of the series and was gnashing my teeth over the Bill & Ted ending (acausal loops being a particular bugbear of mine), the complaints regarding Russell T Davies’s tendency towards the Doctor = magic/God/Messiah were looking unfair, to say the least. RTD’s Doctor had limitations. Even at the end, in Waters Of Mars, when he did get a bit God-complexy, the humans turned round and demonstrated that he was really being monstrous and that limitations on power are a good thing. Doctor Ten said “Time can be rewritten” and did so. But the people who needed to die still died.

Doctor Eleven said “Fezes are cool” and handed plastic Rory the sonic screwdriver that would release him from the Pandorica, because plastic Rory had used the sonic screwdriver to release him from the Pandorica. And that’s not magic/Godlike? Where are the limitations if time can be rewritten and all he has to do is decide to do something in the future so that something in the past can make that future possible?

Don’t get me started on the Christmas Special. Jumping the shark is so boring, like the blue stabilisers. Let’s take the shark for a ride instead. And, while we’re at it, change the thought patterns of someone in a way that renders the events leading up to the episode unlikely at best.

Gnash, gnarr, gnash.

Thus we come to the new series, so hotly anticipated it achieved the highest ratings of any BBC America show ever, and set the fandom abuzz with effervescent praise:

…the credits roll and a nation is left yelling at the screen in shock and awe.

Really. Personally I was left with the sour taste of disappointment and the feeling that I’d been watching some sort of alternate-universe Doctor: Ultimate Doctor Who as opposed to Earth-616 Doctor Who.

Back in Forest of the Dead River Song had this to say:

When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it will never end. But however hard you try, you can’t run forever. Everybody knows that everybody dies. And nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment accepts it.

Apart from a short bit of preamble, The Impossible Astronaut kicks off with the Doctor saying that it’s time to stop running then, not to put too fine a point to it, wandering over to an ambulatory spacesuit and getting himself (apparently) shot to death.

So. Here we are. We have begun with the impossible. We know that the Doctor isn’t dead. For one, this is the start of the new season and it’s called “Doctor Who”. I know they carried on Taggart after Taggart died, but still. It wasn’t terribly successful. There are also the Singing Towers at Derillium to consider. The Doctor sees River there — it’s the last time she sees him before the Library — and gives her the red sonic screwdriver. That was “her” Doctor. Fairly late in his timestream, almost at the end of hers (we’ll come back to that). Older, wiser, someone who has made entire armies turn back (and I don’t think she was referring to the night at Stonehenge). I don’t care that they’ve burned the body. Moffat might have once suggested that Matt Smith’s Doctor will never regenerate again but I doubt that one writer or actor can claim to own a character like the Doctor in that way. We could argue that Easter Island, Jim the Fish and the visit to the Singing Towers come before the invitations to the Impossible Astronaut Picnic. Just because Derillium was the last time River saw the Doctor before the Library, it doesn’t mean that was the last time the Doctor saw River. But still, Taggart Law applies. He’s not dead. It’s only episode one.

Then the Doctor reappears (bazinga), 200 years younger, calm as you please and for some reason is reluctant to go adventuring until Amelia Pond persuades him with fish fingers and custard. When has he ever been reluctant to go adventuring? Remember the episode in which he met Martha Jones in hospital? There they are, on the moon, contemplating going outside for a wee look.

“We might die,” says the Doctor.

“We might not,” says Martha. Big grins all round, she’s a girl after his own heart and has earned a space in the TARDIS.

Oh and the instruction to Amy and Rory to go off and make babies… ENOUGH WITH THE PREGNANCIES ALREADY. Seriously. What is it with Moffat and the idea that women should be, or be about to be, or have been not too long ago, pregnant? It reminds me of Absolutely’s Mr Nice relaying the facts of life to his children (scroll to 16’53):

“People get married and have babies. Any questions?”

The Doctor, under the written supervision of Mr Moffat, appears to be utterly obsessed with humans having babies. River Song gets kids after being uploaded to the library. In The Lodger the Doctor advises Craig and Sophie how many billions of people there are in the world and tells them that’s the number to beat.

It is possible to be successful, happy and fulfilled as a female without having produced more humans. Not having children is a valid choice and it bugs me that Moffat is giving the message that the natural and inevitable and desirable consequence of a woman building a stable heterosexual relationship is pregnancy and motherhood.

Leaving the baby-factory undercurrent aside, hard as it is in this particular double-episode, which is all about making babies, there are the inconsistencies.

I don’t mind confusion. As a matter of fact I enjoy a lack of exposition where that exposition is unnecessary. However, I do not enjoy the feeling of having to go back and rewatch something several times because the failure of things to add up makes me think I’ve missed something, especially when it turns out I haven’t. Here are a couple, although there were more, and I’m not going to start on the last series.

The Doctor asks Rory if he remembers the 2000 years of looking after Amy in the Pandorica. Rory says yes. How does that work? They restarted the universe. The universe that exists now isn’t that one because it has Amy’s parents in it, for a start. Rory is no longer a Nestene duplicate, so how could he remember? He wasn’t there. And if he was there, is he still plastic?

When Amy is at the children’s home, why does she resort to putting the black marks on her skin even though she (apparently) still has the implant (which, by the way, was enormous and would have bloody hurt, not to mention rendered the hand practically unusable)? Let’s, for a moment, consider that between first telling herself to get out and seeing herself with black marks, she has been sucked away in the time machine first seen in The Lodger and no longer has the implant. Why then, is it found on the floor in the room from which she is ultimately kidnapped rather than the room with the Greys hanging from the ceiling? That loose end had better be tidied up at some point, and not by destroying the universe again.

Has the Doctor ever been the sort of person who would blithely give the whole of the human race a post-hypnotic suggestion to commit genocide? Because that’s what he does, and I’m not accepting the argument that it was the Silents (or Silence, I’ve seen it spelled both ways) that did it to themselves: without his intervention the message would not have been distributed. He was also just a little bit too gung-ho happy in the final shoot-out too. This is Doctor Who, not Gunfight at the OK Corral.

And, assuming that this worked, by Moffat’s own rules Amy and Rory should already have been programmed to respond to the sight of one of the aliens by killing them because they were both born long after 1969.

River’s assertions that they are living their lives back to front doesn’t add up either, not when you take the Singing Towers at Derillium into account. Are we really supposed to believe that the time the Doctor gives her the red sonic screwdriver, knowing she is going to her death, as old as he is then; that the day he cries over her he doesn’t kiss her? She doesn’t get a kiss from her “old fellah” on the last time she sees him before she goes to the place where she will die? He was all up for a quick snog from Madame de Pompadour but he’s not going to give Professor River Song a farewell kiss because the next time she sees him he won’t know her?

Funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you —the real you, the future you, I mean— you turned up on my doorstep with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Derillium. To see the Singing Towers. Oh, what a night that was. The towers sang, and you cried. You wouldn’t tell me why but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library. You even gave me your screwdriver.

And, even assuming, for the sake of argument, we look at this from only her perspective, because she hasn’t been to Derillium yet, this still doesn’t make sense because she’s just seen the Doctor when he’s 200 years older than the one she saw the time before. The evidence is already there that:

We’re travelling in opposite directions. Every time we meet I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days when I see him. But I know that every time I do he’ll be one step further away.

isn’t necessarily true. As an experienced time traveller, who knows that it’s possible to go forwards and backwards, she should know this.

The deliberate use of “dropped from the sky” by both River and Amy in order to confuse Rory was lazy writing. Yes it’s just a saying. But while it’s one that could be used of a man who arrives unexpectedly in a blue, time-travelling spaceship, it’s not likely to be used of someone with whom one has grown up in the same small village. The idea of Amy describing Rory, the boy from her village, as dropping from the sky is utterly implausible and done purely to make Rory and us think that maybe it’s the Doctor she loves after all. That’s blatant manipulation purely for the purposes of dramatic effect and the audience deserves better. We’ve had an entire episode devoted to which of the two Amy loves that way: it has been resolved. Move on.

It may well be that confusion is the new black and actually everyone is very happy to be left with far more questions than answers. It’s fair enough that people like the feeling of not having exposition laid on with a trowel and everything tied up neatly. Maybe they prefer the big special effects and the bangs and the gun battles and the melodrama. Perhaps what I see as being mashed together so that the joins are still visible is really a brave move in not pandering to audience expectation.

And yet I can’t help but feel like I did when they remade The Italian Job — the original was tight, witty, sharp, poignant, even camp. It was genteel. It had a mellow kind of joyful exuberance:

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

The new one was slick, polished, modern and had big bangs that were celebrated as opposed to being cause for exasperation:

Charlie Croker: That’s Left Ear. Demolition and explosives. When he was ten, he put one too many M-80s in the toilet bowl.
[Cuts to the exterior of a toilet stall. Suddenly the door bursts open from an explosion. The toilet is spraying a fountain of water up]
Kid On Left: Damn, that was cool. How did you do that?

I am afraid that the new Doctor Who might be falling into the pattern of characters conforming to plot, like so many things I used to enjoy. In this case the plot is brighter, bolder, BIGGER and more WHIZZ-BANG EXCITING with LOTS OF HECTIC ACTION and THINGS GOING ON. Have we forgotten that it’s possible to do lots and lots of running without it ever tipping over the edge into frenetic?

I really hope not.


1: According to various sources there are between 1 and ~4kg of bacteria in the human body. Given that I’ve been on antibiotics of one sort or another for around 2 weeks now, you’d think I’d have lost some weight. But no. Dammit.
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I bet River Song would prefer Campag

by on Nov.30, 2010, under Cycling, Rant

avatarI’ve been watching Doctor Who on DVD lately, and at the weekend I saw the Forest of the Dead. I expect I’m the only one who felt the episode utterly failed right at the end because the amazing River Song — adventuress, criminal, Mrs Doctor — finishes her existence as mum to three children who will never grow up: the eternal mother.

It is possible to have a career and have kids, although by no means easy, but not every woman wants that, and River Song never struck me as the sort of person who, with an entire virtual reality at her fingertips, would settle for a life of taking the kids to the park and reading them bedtime stories; and it bothers me even more that this was in a programme ostensibly for children. I hate the idea that little girls are being told that you can have your career as an archaeologist and run around adventuring, but at the end of the day what will keep you happy is looking after children, even though they can’t possibly have been made with the man you love (what with him still being alive and out in the real world).

Kids aren’t stupid. They absorb these messages.

There seems to be an idea, somewhere in cultural consciousness, that what women really want to do is stay at home and make babies; not get all oily and discuss gear ratios or whether Batman is more of a psycho than Rorschach. We want to have babies and ultimately we’re only interested in and good for things that are in some way related to the making of and caring for babies. And that hopelessly outdated idea is being perpetuated by happy endings that involve a bedtime story and a goodnight kiss.

I suppose this is also what bothers me about the way those who want to encourage girls onto bikes go about it. There appears to be a de facto assumption that girls aren’t interested in bikes. It is related, I think, to the de facto assumption that women can’t write horror or science-fiction, or don’t like playing games like Bioshock.

I wrote the following piece about the love of bicycles back in 2004 — 6 years ago, FFS. I think it bears saying again, because I still feel the same way.

It was when I caught myself talking to it that I thought things had gone too far. This was not a case of a friendly word of encouragement when trying to break top speed on the long descent on the way to work, or a muttered epithet on the steep climb up past three-fingered Pete, the lollipop man. I was sitting on the toilet at the time – we have a toilet downstairs, in a cubby hole attached to what was once a utility room before we moved in. Now it’s where they live: four of them now. There are more in the shed and another one has even claimed a space in our marital bedroom.

I’m not entirely sure how this happened, how these things came to be such a huge part of our lives. They all have names, even the ones that don’t belong to me (in case you thought it was just me being anthropomorphic), and they all have character. Ivanhoe is my spouse’s indefatigable Dawes Galaxy. Then there is Andy’s Cannondale Bad Boy: a long-suffering, Marvin the Paranoid Android type that resolutely goes by the name of Dave. Fingal is my Orbit Harrier, with a tone reminiscent of Noel Coward and a jealous streak. Max is the Specialized Hard Rock I bought for dismal winter commuting and towing the Bob Yak. He’s a real trooper and has a penchant for fast, slippy descents on the tracks and lanes they laughingly call ‘roads’ round here. Peregrine is the relatively new Pinarello Galileo I bought for no other reason than to cheer myself up, currently only 3 months old and still as excitable as a puppy. The other half has recently bought a Giant Terrago, second hand, and they haven’t developed enough of a relationship yet for us to find out what it’s called.

Out in the shed are the relegations, including Percival the Raleigh Dynatech XC80 – my first proper bike – and Vercingetorix the generic mountain bike never really designed for off-road. All the bikes in the shed are somewhat sad and slightly reproving and we keep meaning to find good homes for them.

It’s a bit mad, really. Even so, we know that if Andy tries to do any maintenance on Fingal it will go badly because Fingal is a one-woman bike, a bit like a border collie, and doesn’t like to be touched by anyone other than me unless it’s a paid professional and I have a good excuse. Max, on the other hand, enjoys being fussed over by just about anybody, Ivanhoe is apparently above such things and Dave is stoic in his sense of being neglected. They have an entire room in our small house dedicated to them.

I spend a large part of my time campaigning for my and other people’s rights to take them and their kin on the road. I can now tell what size allen key I need at a glance and I can overhaul a set of Ergopowers. It wasn’t like this four years ago. Four years ago I couldn’t even spell Campagnolo, never mind be in a position to admit to taking their side in the pseudo-religious Shimano vs Campag debate. Four years ago I had trouble getting a front mech to shift properly. Now I can build my own wheels.

We seem not to be the only ones to have been sucked into a love affair with these human-powered works of art. Go to any internet-based cycling forum and you will find people waxing lyrical about their ‘babies’ and spending what might seem like a ridiculous amount of money on something that is, to the outsider, really no more than some metal tubes, wheels, cogs and levers. They share photographs of them with each other as if they were snapshots of their children. It is usual for them to refer to their machines by, if not a name, then at least by make and model.

Frankly I think it’s bloody marvellous. More of it, I say. More people should have Pinarellos in the bedroom or Mercians sitting in the hall. It should be perfectly normal to possess a Giant that practically wags its tail when its owner is within view. These things aren’t toys: they are noble steeds, carrying us through no matter the weather. They are beloved companions, accompanying us to far off places made all the more memorable by the true appreciation of the tea and cake that help weary muscles recover for the next leg. This isn’t about having shaved legs and wearing lycra, or being able to relate tales of broken bones gained falling on a technical single track. The famous Mr Armstrong said “It’s not about the bike,” and I suppose he was right, in some ways for some people. In many ways he was very wrong.

The humble bicycle and its cousins are not just for the racing elite. They bring freedom and joy to a great many. While a shiny new car may cruise at seventy miles an hour, if it breaks down it can cause a considerable hole in the bank account. A bicycle can be maintained by almost anyone for little cost. The fuel that propels a combustion-engined vehicle has a price greater than a dent in the wallet: the human powered vehicle is an excuse to eat cake. A car may eat up the miles but the bicycle provides a direct experience of the landscape. Those aren’t just pretty postcards seen behind a pane of glass. They are ascents, descents, swooping curves and pock-marked tarmac. Mountains are not defined by a crawler lane but by the sense of achievement on reaching the summit. A bicycle doesn’t take you to motorway service stations and multi-storey car parks. A bicycle doesn’t trap you in a traffic jam, listening to endless traffic reports and slowly cooking in your own juices. A bicycle isn’t something that carries you around: it’s one half of a team, and you are the other half.

So maybe it’s not surprising that so many have such a fond attachment to their bicycles. Maybe it’s not so surprising that all of ours have names, and characters that reflect the experience of the human half of the team. Having shared with him the moment of metabolic crash at 2am and the exquisite joy of the sunrise 2 hours later on a 125 mile night ride that was just one of our many adventures, perhaps it’s allowable for me to feel attached enough to my Harrier to talk to him while sitting in their en suite.

Fingal’s indexing is playing up again. It’s just jealousy over the Pinarello. I’m sure he’ll get over it soon.

We’ve moved, of course. We no longer live in a small house somewhere between Exeter and Dartmoor, where the downstairs toilet had a Park Tools TP2 toilet paper holder (I still have it, but there’s nowhere to put it at present). This piece is four machines out of date. Ivanhoe has gone to a new home — Frood rides a Revolution Cross called Spartacus these days — and I have acquired some additional steeds. I don’t campaign so much, having become disillusioned with the general acceptance that bike paths are the way to go, but how I feel about bikes hasn’t changed. We even had one in the marital bedroom to make space for the guests over the weekend.

Women ride bikes for exactly the same reasons as men. There are men who treat bikes as training tools and those who treat them as a means to get to work without having to worry about parking charges; there are men who worry about climate change and doing their bit by leaving the car at home; and there are men who just love bikes.

I’m a woman. I don’t worry about helmet hair or what the latest fashion is. I don’t worry about which lipstick will complement my skin tone and prevent the wind chapping my lips. I don’t worry about these things because my default mode of being is not one that worries about attracting a man in order to make babies.

I ride my bike because I love bikes. I love the freedom, the sense of exertion, the feeling of raw power. I like the sense of accomplishment and independence that comes from the knowledge that no matter what breaks I can fix it. I drool over a Campag chainset as much as the next person and I had to resist the urge to lick my Planet X Stealth when I got her home.

If River Song was a cyclist I suspect she could build her own wheels and would know to expect trouble from one machine on bringing a new one home. She’d be traffic-jamming with the best and she’d have an opinion about the best gear ratios and tyres for fixed gear riding in the snow.

I don’t think that women need anything special to encourage them onto bikes, or to write horror, or to play the sorts of computer games that are traditionally thought of as being for boys. They just need people to stop telling them that the one thing in life that will ultimately make them feel fulfilled and happy, no matter what else is available, is caring for babies.

Get told something often enough and it’s damn hard not to start believing it.

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Land of confusion.

by on Jan.04, 2010, under rambling

My last day of work before the New Year’s break had Munky emailing me to inform me that my birthday present had been nabbed by customs. My birthday was way back in November, and I knew he was getting me something because he’d told me it was going to be late, so you can imagine that the sense of intrigue was somewhat fierce by this point. Being told that it had failed to get through customs made this even more so.

Shortly after I got home Frood emailed me, subject line: “You can has claws!” I opened said email and found the following message and attachment.

“Didn’t get through postal customs.”

Yeah, I can see why customs might not be impressed.

At this point I jumped to an over-excited conclusion. Because the man in the picture is wearing trousers very similar to the ones Frood had been wearing when he left for work and I’d received that mail from Munky explaining that my birthday present had been caught by customs, I figured that Munky had got these for me as a birthday present and sent them to Frood because he works in a postroom, Frood had taken delivery and this was a picture that a colleague had taken on his phone.

I was so excited. I had visions of filling a room full of cardboard boxes painted as ninjas and running around yelling “Meega nala kweesta!” and “Snickt, bub!”

I mailed Frood back immediately, peppering him with questions, no doubt sowing the seeds of confusion. His response:

“No, they are from a news story. They were seized at the international mail hub in Coventry. So you can’t actually have any claws. “

Only, in my now-disappointed excitement, I failed to see the first sentence and fired back another email suggesting that perhaps all we had to do was present ID to the post office and pay the duty charges and we could get them through. Then I grabbed the phone and called Munky.

Me: Hi!
Munky: Hey you! How are you?
Me: Never mind that. What’s this about claws?
Munky: What?
Me: The claws! The claws stuck in customs!
Munky: What?

And then the whole sorry story came out and finally, with Munky gasping for breath in hilarity at how I had been beaten very profoundly with the coincidence stick until I’d grasped the wrong end of it and clung on like a kitten with a catnip mouse, I realised that I could not, in fact, has claws. At all.


And I still don’t know what he’s getting me for my birthday.

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I just like Deadpool, okay?

by on May.02, 2009, under rambling

It has come to my attention that one of the secret endings (that roll after the credits) indicates that Deadpool’s fate might not have been quite so final.

If anyone gets to see that one, please let me know. I’m going to cling to the idea that Weapon XI wasn’t really Wade. It was a different actor, after all.

I liked the suggestion that one of the endings should have been Deadpool leaning in close to camera and telling the audience “Time to go home now.” That would have been awesome, and made up for the disappointment of his depiction in the rest of the film.

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Sam reviews

by on May.02, 2009, under movies

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I’m warning you now, there will be spoilers. Just one or two. The problem is that I can’t think of any way to tell you what I really feel without revealing a couple of things that would otherwise come as a complete surprise, especially to the fellow Marvel fans out there. What I’m hoping is that all the fans who are as sad as I am will already have seen it and everyone else won’t give a crap.

However, here’s your chance to look away. Look away now if spoilers concern you.

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I heard it was being made, which is probably not the best way to approach a film. Marvel’s track record with movie adaptations is fairly hit and miss. The first two X-Men movies were great; the third one was a great big wobbly pile of shite. Iron Man rocked; Spider-Man was emo even before Venom got in on the act. There are two Hulks. Fans disagree which of them was better (me, I go with Edward Norton, in case that makes a difference to you). The less said about Ghost Rider the better, but then the Fantastic Four films were actually not too bad at all.

I’ve seen them all. Mostly opening night, at the cinema. The sight of the Marvel flicker-flack on the big screen puts a grin on my face that would make an orang-utan proud.

I’m not just a Marvel fan girl. I’m a Wolverine fan girl. So for this movie I didn’t even wait for opening night. I went to the special preview advance showing before the official opening, dragging Frood along with me. I take no blame for Rev Will’s attendance. He said he wanted to come. That’s him on the right.

The opening section appeared, initially, to have been lifted from the Origin story arc by Bill Jemas. So far so good. But then, um. WHAT? Say WHAT? Since when was Sabretooth Logan’s brother? Chris Claremont originally intended Sabretooth to be his father, and the source of the long-term enmity the simple fact that Victor didn’t think Logan measured up to the standard he’d set. Canon has since made it clear that Creed isn’t Logan’s father, but he sure as hell ain’t his brother.

Then follows a quick timelapse special of the two boys fighting through various wars (invariably for the Americans, despite Logan fighting for the Canadian army, but whatever, this is Hollywood). I already knew Liev Schreiber had been given the Sabretooth role, despite being about as non-Sabretooth as you can get. The only way they could have cast someone less like Sabretooth would have been to ask Will Smith to do it. Having said that, Schreiber wasn’t as bad as I expected him to be, but I still think they should have gone to the WWE for their casting.

I found Creed’s continual use of “Jimmy” to refer to Logan intensely irritating and totally out of character for both of them. Just, you know, as a by the by.

We come to Vietnam and Creed’s bestiality has been fed by decades of fighting, and yet Logan is still the noble warrior. When Creed attempts to rape a Vietnamese woman his officer tells him to stop. A fight ensues, in which Logan initially tries to protect the woman and then ends up protecting his brother. This theme arises again and again throughout the film: the notion of brotherly loyalty between Wolverine and Sabretooth. I found it totally unbelievable. Sabretooth is the character who takes great delight in the annual Wolverine birthday bash. By which I mean he bashes Wolverine on his birthday. That was the whole Silver Fox thing and… I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Full Metal Jacket this is not. Watchmen this is not. Where the Comedian shoots a pregnant woman in the head and walks away, here our two brothers find themselves in front of a firing squad for assaulting an officer. I wasn’t aware they did that in Vietnam. But still. Whatever.

Apparently it tickled.

They are then recruited by our old friend Stryker, although Brian Cox had the sense to turn down this one. He’s still in military rather than religious guise, so I can’t complain about continuity there. They join an elite group of soldiers, all of whom are mutants, for some purpose that isn’t made clear, although by the end it’s obvious that this was the start of the Weapon X project.

Yay! Deadpool!

There are three characters in the Marvel universe I follow with any degree of consistency. Wolverine, X23 and Deadpool. The merc with the mouth is simply one of Marvel’s finest creations, and it’s all thanks to Fabian.

I have no idea who the rest of them are. I don’t care. Deadpool! Squee!

There follows an infiltration exercise designed primarily to show off the various powers of these mutants to the audience, and towards the end of this short sequence Ryan Reynolds shows a glimmer of promise. I begin to think that yes, yes, he really could do it. I mean, he’s not horribly mutilated with a face that looks like the inside of a tin of dog food and a voice that sounds like Demi Moore on gravel, and there’s no sign of him recognising the fourth wall, never mind breaking it, but this is pre-Weapon X, right? There’s still time.

But that’s it. That’s your lot. Not even two minutes of a chance to shine. Then our boy Logan takes exception to a bit of violence and walks away to find a new life in the Canadian rockies as a lumberjack with a beautiful schoolteacher girlfriend (who isn’t called Silver Fox). Next thing we know his old squad is dead, and the implication is that Sabretooth is doing it.

What? But I thought… Deadpool? Deadpool? Noes!!!!11!11! He can’t die! Wake up, Deadpool, please wake up!

He does. Eventually. But you’ll wish he hadn’t. It’s just too painful.

Anyway. Then follows a standard Marvel bit of manipulation to get Wolverine back into the Weapon X programme involving murder of loved ones and revenge and all the usual stuff to bring out the animal in him. Yada yada. I’m not going to bother describing it all in detail because it’s all rather predictable. He gets his adamantium — I was disappointed that they toned it down from the stark brutality of Barry Windsor-Smith — and escapes before they can wipe his memory, leaving a trail of bodies as he seeks revenge on his brother.

The plot seems to have taken a pick-n-mix selection from the various story arcs. The Weapon X programme is sort of classic, but mostly Ultimate. In this one the familiar characters from the X-Men films are kids, as they are in the Ultimate series, being used as the basis for experimentation… Sorry. My brain veered dangerously close to what they did to Deadpool and I had to stop and take a few deep breaths or else I’d have been reduced to a quivering heap on the floor, screaming to the heavens “WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF THE LITTLE BABY JEBUS, WHY???!!”

The Blob, usually nothing more than the butt of jokes and someone too foul to generate sympathy, was really nicely done in this film, and for me was one of the high points. Kevin Durand did a very good job with him. I think, basically, that’s one of the reasons this film was so disappointing. The actors all did a remarkable job with the material they were given (apart from Danny Huston as Stryker, who appeared to believe he was working in a straight to TV flick, or was asleep). But the plot was full of holes and inconsistencies; the characters were forced into actions that were simply not like them for anyone at all familiar with canon; the dialogue was at times trite, melodramatic and downright cheesy (that Wolverine and Moon thing was almost enough to make me gag); the fight scenes were often shot unsympathetically and there was just far too much CGI. Especially that bit at the end when Professor Xavier in a Dale Winton tan turned up in Airwolf. The power effects seem to have been taken straight out of Ultimate Alliance (“XXXOO overhead spin kick!”), although that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it worked very well for Gambit and both Frood and I were move-spotting throughout.

I could see where they had levered in bits to “please the fans” but you can’t just take something out of a story arc and drop it into a context that is held together by the araldite and cable-ties of retcon and expect it to work. You can take ideas, principles, tropes or themes and use those, but not plot points. It was obvious and necessary to focus on Wolverine’s battle to be human rather than animal, because that’s the character’s main conflict throughout his various incarnations. It’s fine, even better, to deal with the memory loss in a completely different way because the Weapon X programme isn’t being played out the way it does in the comics. It’s not fine to dump the future complement of the X-Men into cells and then randomly make the White Queen Logan’s girlfriend’s sister. Pulling plot points straight from the comics and juxtaposing them with major retcons is jarring and unsettling for those of us who know the comics. It’s one of the reasons why the third X-Men film fell down (Morrison did the Logan/Jean death scene far better in New X-Men). The other reason was the wasting of one of the best characters of the entire franchise. And Wolverine makes both those mistakes.

It’s a pity, and I have to wonder who’s to blame. The writers? The director? I can’t help but feel you could take the same acting complement, give them the production crew of X2 or Iron Man and you’d have an absolutely stonking movie in which the merc with the mouth would remain the merc with the mouth and I’d have been a very happy girl.

As it is this may not even end up as part of my DVD collection, and the only other Marvel films I don’t own are the ones in the Spider-man series.

Lest you think that my negative reaction is the disappointment of a superfan whose favourite character has been brutally sodomised by the writing crew, I can report that neither of my companions thought it any better and they quite happily tell me I’m a sad Marvel geek.

Let’s hope they manage to do a better job with Avengers, eh?

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What he said

by on Apr.10, 2009, under games, gaming

I bought the game thinking it was going to be a 2-player co-op. Frood would get Spidey and I’d get Wolverine.

Fat chance.

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Sam reviews…

by on Mar.23, 2009, under comics

Astonishing X-Men.

I am, as has been said many, many, many times before, a sad Marvel fan girl (which reminds me to get my comics box out so I can check which series featured that Glaswegian whale mutant). I can forgive Marvel many, many, many things. I own Ghostrider on DVD, FFS. I am that sad.

However, I still find the preponderance of the Most Common Superpower somewhat vexing. It’s not because I’m a feminist (as I said a couple of posts ago). It’s because I’m a realist. I will happily suspend disbelief when it comes to Cyclops shooting optical lasers from his eyes or (just about) Logan staying alive trapped in a glacier by eating bits of his own leg because his healing factor made them grow back.

Well… OK. Yes, I have issues with that latter example. Mostly revolving around amino acids. Like I said: I’m a realist. What this means is that I will accept a particular twist on reality. I will accept that Emma Frost can turn to diamond, or Kitty Pryde can phase through walls. I will accept that Logan has adamantium bonded to his skeleton and Jean Gray is pretty much the definition of will not fucking die, but there are some things I can’t accept.

You cannot be an action superhero with 36FF breasts in that outfit.

Every time I read something by, say, Liefield I want to send the artist a link to Boobydoo. That’s beyond fanservice. That’s just… It’s just stupid.

Here’s for why this makes me want to throw a book at the wall and weep.

I’m 170cm and 63kg (that’s 5’7 and ~140lbs for you imperialists). My chest size is 32DD. I compete in triathlon and participate in long-distance cycling. Half my annual sports budget goes on bras. I would not be able to jog twenty metres without the sort of support offered by the Sportjock Super Sportbra. It would be agony. How Emma Frost, who seems to have a chest size of around 40GG, manages to walk without falling over, never mind fight in outfits that are apparently no more than a couple of pieces of foil wrapped around a ribbon, is utterly beyond me.

Also: figures. I hate to break this to you boys, but while Seven of Nine’s assets are formidable, and all her own work, they are somewhat enhanced by very careful costuming involving seamless internal corsetry. You can’t have strength without muscle. You can’t have muscle and still look like a stick with a couple of peas (or, even worse, watermelons) glued on the front. One of the most unconvincing action heroes of all time was Leeloo from The Fifth Element, but she got away with it by the Power of Cool.

Trust me on this one. If you had a genuine action superhero girl, she would look more like Tessa Sanderson than Sarah Michelle Geller. I’m probably about 10kg (20lbs) heavier than the stated of weight of most women taller than me in movies (anyone remember Vicki Vale claiming to be 108?) but I’m no lard-ass.

The sort of ridiculously low body fat that makes muscles stand out to be counted also results in no boobs. A passing glance at the ranks of female bodybuilders would tell you that. Look at Brigitte Nielson in Red Sonja, back when she looked like she might be able to fight, even though Sandahl Bergman should still have kicked her scrawny ass clear to the other side of Valhalla. Ultra endurance athletes, those skinny whippets who can run for miles and miles and miles: they’re all bone and sinew.

Basically, while I can cope with the leap of faith it takes to accept The Human Torch can fly and Jubilee can generate bursts of fireworks, I can’t cope with the inherent unrealism of the way people are depicted.

Which is why I would like to place Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men up on the pedestal next to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. I’m not a massive fan of Whedon. I think that he has suffered from the common affliction of successful writers: he has become self-indulgent. However, I’ll give him this: his particular penchant for strong women means that the girls of this series are relatively realistic. Even Emma Frost looks like she might be wearing a push-up bra under there and if she took it off she’d be able to see her own toes. An important ability in an action hero, I’d have thought. John Cassaday, the artist, obviously also deserves a great deal of credit. His semi-realistic style is remarkably effective and sets off Whedon’s realistic dialogue.

Hisako: “Can I help”
Logan: “Are you a beer?”

There are still one or two frames where my inner bra-expert cringed a little, but overall this series is a rare thing: a comic book I can read without having my suspension of disbelief come crashing around my ears in a tangle of missing underwiring and absent corsetry.

Oh yeah. The plot’s not all that bad, either.

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