Midnight Ramblings XI

Chaos in Print

NOTE: Damn it!! How many times do I have to go through this? I’ve got this friend, here called “Neelix.” Every once in a while, I e-mail him all my thoughts about what’s currently bugging me in pop culture. I started posting them as columns. Got it? I’m not saying this again.

Hey Neelix!

I don’t know why, but Pokémon has been foremost on my mind lately. YTV has just begun re-running the whole series from the very beginning again, and I noticed something very cool. The very first episode of Pokémon begins with a Game Boy screen in the middle of the TV screen. On it, the opening screens of the Pokémon Game Boy game are playing out. Then, the picture slowly grows to fill the TV screen, switches to color, and the music switches from tinny Game Boy beeps to full orchestrations. I thought it was a very clever homage to Pokémon‘s origins.

While I’m on this Pokémon rant, I’d like to thank you for inviting me up to your place for that DVD weekend. I finally got to hear the running commentary on the Pokémon: The First Movie DVD. It was actually quite interesting, if you’re into Pokémon. They talked about some of the troubles they’ve had dubbing it for North American audiences. The one that sticks out the most was when they were talking about Meowth. In the original Japanese version, Meowth is a poet and philosopher. In fact, they mentioned that on the Japanese version of the show, Meowth sings the closing credits song, in which he outlines his outlook on life. However, in the American version, they decided to make him into a wise-ass. This change was OK, until one scene near the end of the first movie. Meowth is getting ready to fight his clone, when he decides not to, and gets all preachy about the dangers of violence and that we’re all the same underneath. Now, while this is perfectly in character for the Japanese Meowth, it’s out of character for the American Meowth. The translators had a hell of a time trying to turn that scene into something American Meowth appropriate, and they were incredibly close to cutting the scene. But they liked the message of that scene, so they left it in. Some other nifty tidbits about Pokémon: The First Movie, and the show:

– 20% of the film was re-animated for North American release. Any scene with computer animation is one of the re-done ones.

– The original Japanese title of Pokémon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back was…Mewtwo Strikes Back.

– The woman who does the voice of Misty actually won an award for her work on the show. Not only is she the voice of Misty, she’s also the voice of Jessie, the odd female guest star, and three dozen pokémon.

– The American translation director of both the first film and the series also does the voices of Chramander, Psyduck, and a few other pokémon. He started doing it little realizing how many times they would be popping back up.

– You think these translators would be more insistent of subtitles. They HATE trying to match up the dialogue with the number of “mouth flaps” a character has. They loved the character of Mewtwo, because he’s psychic, and speaks without opening his mouth.

And speaking of Pokémon, let’s talk about “Weird Al” Yankovic. I picked up the soundtrack to Pokémon the Movie 2000 the other day for one reason only: the new song Weird Al contributed to it. I’m a little disappointed. How do you feel when you think that one of your heroes has sold out? Weird Al’s song is called Polkamon, and my original intonations were right. It’s a standard Weird Al polka, in which he rattles off the names of several pokémon. He doesn’t even go through all 150! It’s also a short song, clocking in at 2 minutes on the nose. It’s a performance he phoned in. The rest of the album is pretty weak, too. It sounds mostly like leftover 80’s pop. Why would Weird Al contribute to something like this? My only thought is a truckload of money was backed up to his door. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that this album sucks, or that I feel like buying the soundtrack for the first movie “for completeness.”

But who knows? Maybe my worries are unfounded. Maybe Weird Al did this because he’s a fan of the show. Yeah, that’s it! Weird Al loves Pokémon. He was having lunch one day, he was inspired, and he scrawled out Polkamon on the back of a napkin. He then called the producers of the movie, told them what a big fan he was, and asked if he could stick this song in the next movie. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. Why, Weird Al, why? Oh, well. I’ll get over it.

Enough of this talk of Pokémon, now! Let us talk about my true passion: action figures! I swung by the official Star Wars action figure site the other day, and learned all about the big packaging re-design that’s coming up. As you know right now, classic trilogy figures come in a green package with Darth Vader’s face in the upper left corner. The Episode I figures come in a red package with Darth Maul’s face in the upper left corner. Both kinds come with COMMTECH chips. The new packages will be green. In the upper left corner is two classic Star Wars characters: Darth Vader’s iconic helmet in the background, and young jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in an attack pose in the foreground. Yup, they are standardizing the packs for all figures. Also, they won’t come with COMMTECH chips anymore. Now, they’ll come with “Jedi Force Files.” It’s a little booklet, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about that character but were afraid to ask.

I’m a little disappointed in my self-control. I went to Toys R Us the other day, to check up on the latest in the action figure universe. I wasn’t going to buy anything, just look. So what do I do? Drop $35 in action figures. But I think it was worth it. I was going through the aisles, just checking things out, when what do I spot? McFarlane Toys’ Bob & Doug McKenzie action figures! I was torn! Should I buy them? I mean, it’s friggin’ Bob & Doug McKenzie, in plastic! For me to recreate all those classic scenes from Strange Brew! This decision weighed heavy on my heart. Should I, or shouldn’t I? These were pretty pricey figures: $17 each. I finally decided that I would wait until next time. But then I took a closer look. There was only on Bob left, and one Doug left. “Mark,” I said to myself. “There may not be a next time.” And I bought them. They are friggin’ cool figures, and I don’t regret my decision one bit.

Next time I go action figure shopping, I’ll probably do an X-Men: The Movie shopping spree. Actually, an interesting tidbit on the X-Men action figures. Famke “Jean Grey” Jannsen was on Late Night with Conan O’Brian the other night, and talking about how the action figures were always on the set of the movie. She also then pointed out how she and other cast members would put the action figures in lewd positions. Her exact quote: “We had them humping each other all the time.” Oh, how creative these Hollywood stars are!

Anyway, my system is flushed of pop culture oddities now. See ya!


The Funniest Things I’ve Ever Written (According to Kenten)

Chaos in Print

So, I’ve got this friend Kenten. He’s been a major character in my columns, but normally I change his name. This time around, though, his true name gets dragged through the mud. Here I go and spend days crafting my columns, but Kenten always goes and declares these mini-ramblings I throw off the top of my head “the funniest things I’ve ever written.” Just for you now, I’ve compiled that funniest things I’ve ever written, according to Kenten. Hey! And it just occurred to me that Kenten was always responsible for their creation. I hope you’re happy, Kenten!
Continue reading The Funniest Things I’ve Ever Written (According to Kenten)

Movie Review – Pokémon the Movie 2000

Pokémon the Movie 2000

Directed by Kunohiko Yuyama; English translation directed by Michael Haigney.

Starring the voices of Veronica Taylor, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Addie Blaustein, and Phillip Bartlett.

When I reviewed Pokémon: the First Movie, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Transformers: The Movie. Well, all those little Poke-freaks got something we TransFans never did: a sequel. And this time, I decided to pay the full $7 to see it at Silver City.

Like The First Movie, it’s a double feature of sorts. It starts off with Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure, in which Pikachu, Togepi, and the gang tumble into a hidden valley populated with nothing but pokémon, and have a day of fun trying to get out. Then, our main feature starts: Pokemon: The Power Of One. We are introduced to Jirarudan, a pokémon collector with a devious scheme. When the three titans of fire, ice, and lightning are brought together, they will have the pokémon battle to end all battles. And I mean it, their battle will end the world! Fortunately, it is prophecised that Lugia, the titan of water, will rise to quell the fighting, but will only succeed with the help of a chosen one. Jirarudan seeks to capture Lugia to complete his collection. Enter our heroes, Ash, Misty and Tracey. With their new friend Melody, they seek to stop Jirarudan and stop the fighting. And did I mention that Melody openly hits on Ash, much to Misty’s chagrin? Well, she does. Is Ash the chosen one? Can he complete the quest required to help Lugia? Will Misty admit to her true feelings for Ash? Will Team Rocket renounce their evil ways and help to save the world?

Ultimately, two things make this better than The First Movie. 1) It’s not preachy at the end. 2) No sickeningly sweet pop songs underscoring the climax. A lot more of the Pokemon universe has been revealed, so the American translators feel more comfortable making a few in-jokes for fans. Hell, those cards that kids collect even figure into the plot! It has a stronger story than the first, and feels free to take a more jokey attitude. While not destined to be a classic, it’s a treat for fans. And I said this with The First Movie, and I’ll say it again: anime just looks good on a big screen

One final note: I’ve seen X-Men twice, and failed to spot Colossus. I’ve seen Pokémon 2 only once, but managed to spot all 3 of Brock’s cameos!

3 Nibs (although its somewhat biased)

A Tree Falls

Chaos in Print

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve developed bizarre emotional attachments to inanimate objects. When I was 8, we were going to trade in our rusty old van for something newer and smaller; a car. But, when we went down to the dealership to close the deal, I burst into tears. I just couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to Henry. (That was the van’s name.) I cried and cried all throughout the test drive, because I didn’t want to give up Henry. So, my parents caved. They bought the car (her name was Lucy), and we kept Henry for another 11 years. When I hit 19, I was old enough to say goodbye to Henry, and we bought a shiny blue pick-up (the little blue mule). I don’t know why. I know it’s just a car, and cars aren’t alive, but I grow attached to them.

I was reminded of this recently when we did some large-scale gardening in our front yard. In our front yard, we had this huge black poplar tree. It was just one large tree. But, age was getting to it. The top third was dead, and had all these large, barren branches sticking out. Whenever we had a large gust of wind, one of these branches would break off, and come crashing down into our front yard. I kept saying we should do something about it, perhaps climb up there and prune out all those dead branches. But, my parents, being the infinite guardians of wisdom that they are, decided that perhaps the whole tree should come down. “It’s dying,” they said. “Better we get rid of it before it blows down and crushes the car.” I had to admit, there was a certain logic to what they said. It was getting to look a little like that Tree of the Dead in the movie Sleepy Hollow. At least the top third. So, the tree was coming down.

The falling was originally scheduled for Sunday, July 9. But, we’ve been getting a lot of rain lately, and the event was rained out. Dad was up at the crack of dawn removing the fence for the front yard so it wouldn’t be in the way. We sat around all day waiting. But, the guy didn’t come, and the tree won a brief stay of execution.

The next day came. I jumped out of the shower to the sounds of chainsaws. I ran out to the kitchen, looked out the window, and there was the bucket truck. They were going to take down some of the larger branches first, and then the tree would come down. I ran downstairs and got dressed. I came back upstairs. I really wanted to see this. What is it about us that wants to witness acts of mass destruction. And so I watched. And waited. The bucket truck soon moved out of the way. Our lumberjack came up with his chainsaw, and placed it against the trunk of the tree. He then turned to his assistant and said “We’re gonna need the big one!” He went back to the truck and got the big chainsaw. He started up “the big one,” and placed it against the trunk of the tree. A few quick cuts, and down it came. I glanced at my watch. I was late for work.

As I drove off, I kept thinking about what I had just witnessed. I couldn’t help but feel saddened in a way. It was one big tree. I remembered the rotting old birdhouse that was in that tree, and how we eventually removed the old one and put up a new one. I remember when we first moved into this house, there was this big gash in the side of the tree. Over the next 11 years that I lived in the house, I watched that gash slowly get filled in and covered up. Was this some kind of inanimate object, or was it actually alive? I mean, on an inanimate object, the gash would not have filled. It would have just sat there. But here, the it healed itself. Like a living thing.

Did I just witness the deconstruction of an eyesore, or a murder? It weighed heavy on my heart. Who are we to define what life is and isn’t? I mean, trees grow, breath, and reproduce. Some varieties even eat. Just like us. But our definition of life seems to revolve around weather something can think, and I’ve never seen a tree show signs of intelligent thought. But should that be enough of a definition? Since we all grew up with the fad of environmentalism, we all know that trees are vital to our existence on this planet. They take our waste CO2, and turn it into the O2 which we all breath and love. So, did I just remove a tree, or did a kill an innocent life form which I needed to survive? Don’t you just love how the everyday can turn into a moral debate?

I returned home that night to be greeted by a stump, no higher than ground level. Such a mighty tree, reduced to this tiny speck. My Mom let me in on some of the facts about the tree that the lumberjack discovered. It was 90 years old, and still quite healthy. My heart sank. If we had just went up there and pruned out the dead stuff like I had originally proposed, it probably would have lived another 90 years. But, it’s gone now. Now we never again have to fear that it will fall in a windstorm and crush the car. The tree also no longer shades our deck, and it gets ungodly hot about mid-afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the front yard is completely barren now. It is still well shaded by four rather large trees of varying variety. And our back yard has five trees of various sizes. But something about that big black poplar I’ll miss. Maybe because it was so big. There aren’t a lot of big trees in people’s yards anymore.

After supper that night, I had to go for I walk. I needed to go next door and check on the future. We look after our neighbour’s yard ever since she went into the nursing home, and we recently tore down an old shack that was on her property. Her front yard is now this huge bare spot. A week earlier, my parents and I went into Edmonton for the Canada Day festivities (that, and we always wanted to see the High Level Bridge Waterfall). There, they were giving away free trees. Being the pig I am, I helped myself to two. I went home, and planted them in our neighbour’s yard. Hey, she’ll probably never be home again, and she’s got the room. But anyway, I looked down on those seedlings. They seem to be doing pretty good. They are still young, but as soon as this rain clears up and they get a shot of sunshine, they will grow like weeds.

And in this death, there is new life. I’ll miss that old tree, but I have replanted. I am ensuring for the future. And who knows? Perhaps, in 90 years or so, those trees will spark another philosophical debate in another young man. And that same young man will plead with his parents not to trade in their car. And everything old is new again….

Movie Review – X-Men


Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, Famke Jannsen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellin, Tyler Mane, Ray Park, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, and Bruce Davison.

It seems, that for the past few years, there has been one summer blockbuster that I await with baited breath. In ’97, it was Batman & Robin (please forgive me). ’99 brought about a near-obsession with Episode I. And now, at the dawn of a new millenium, we have X-Men. I wasn’t too familiar with the X-Men. My only knowledge comes from the cartoon and Cole’s-notes-style breakdowns of major storylines told to me by my friend Kenten. But still, it was enough for me to be primed, and hopefully be enough to erase my guilt over having looked forward to Batman & Robin that eagerly.

In the not to distant future (dontcha just love that setting?) people are born with mutations, giving them super-powers. One such individual is Rouge (Paquin), a teen girl with the ability to suck the life force out of people. When she discovers this power, she runs off to Northern Alberta, where she encounters one of the most well-known mutants in the X-universe, Wolverine (Jackman). Wolverine’s powers are a hightened healing factor (wounds heal instantly), hightened senses, a skeleton laced with the world’s hardest metal, and foot-long claws that pop out of his fists. Soon, these two are brought into the world of Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart), who trains mutants to use their powers, and help humankind adjust to these evolved humans. Among the Professor’s team: Cyclops (Marsden), who shoots energy beams out his eyes, Jean Grey (Jennsen), who’s telekinetic and telepathic, and Storm (Berry) who can control the weather. Soon, this team has to be roused to stop Magneto (McKellan) and his “brotherhood:” Toad (Park), who hops around and has a really long tounge, Sabertooth (Mane), who’s 8 feet tall, cat-like, and nothing but muscle, and Mystique (Romjin-Stamos), a shapeshifter who can look like anyone. Magneto had a diabolical plot afoot to turn all the humans in the world into mutants, and thus force everyone to be treated the same. Can the X-Men stop him? Will Wolverine be able to learn his past? Can they work together as a team?

This movie ROCKS!! Australian actor Jackman, making his North American debut, just completely fills the role of Wolverine. When he makes his appearance, he IS Wolverine. Marsden makes a pretty good Cyclops, and I kinda wish we got to see more of him. Stewart just fills the role of the Professor perfectly, and Paquin brings to life the appropriate fear that a person would have when they learn they can suck the life force out of someone. McKellan is great. Magneto is not really a villain, but an ends-justifies-the-means kind of guy. He wants equality now, and will kill for it. Great doses of action, humor, and even a quick mention to home, makes this the perfect summer blockbuster. While not completely perfect, it’s the best there is right now.

3.5 Nibs

Bag Boy Blues

Life tends to be comprised of big things and little things. Most often, if you pick things apart, you will see that most big things are comprised of little things. I recently had quite a big thing happen to me. Way back when I was still frantically job hunting, I e-mailed a resume to the Jasper Tramway. The Jasper Tramway is one of my favorite places in the whole world, and I would give anything to work there. I applied to be a tram operator; the guy who actually drives the tram up and down the mountain. I tell you, that would be a dream job for me. So, one Sunday morning, my mother frantically gets me out of bed. “It’s the Jasper Tramway!” she said. I picked up the phone, and this is what the guy had to say.
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