My Top 12 Episodes of Batman

Chaos in Print

Well, now that I’m making money, I decided to send away for my most coveted book: Batman Animated by Paul Dini & Chip Kidd. This tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the making of Batman: The Animated Series. As I write this, I’ve already read it 12 times over! It’s got: original character designs, storyboards, the genesis of each character, a complete episode guide and just stuff about the show. I love this book so much, that I just had to do something to commemorate my getting it. So then, here I present to you, my Top 12 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series!
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Making Friends, Influencing People, and “Cool”

Chaos in Print

I had an experience recently that made me look back on my varied past. It was at the big midnight screening/premiere of X-Men at the Silver City cinemas. I was there a good hour early to get a good place in line, and I was just kicking back, waiting for the others to show up, and delving into my new book. It wasn’t before long before my friend Dexx showed up (as always, names altered to cute handles to protect the innocent), and he brought with him some of his friends from the big city. As the introductions were going out, Dexx introduced me to his friends as “the coolest guy on the planet.” So, with that high praise ringing in my ears, my mind started wandering, and I couldn’t help but ask, how did I grow into everything I hate?

Let me let you in on my high school experience. You know how every high school seems to have that one guy who still picks his nose, watches way too much Star Trek, and never leaves the library? Well, even he made fun of me. While everyone else in the school would head on down to the Pier for lunch, or just sit in the hallway and neck, I’d plug in the TV in the lab and watch The Flintstones. During spares, others would sit in the hallway and neck, while I’d work at getting some homework done and freeing up the evening. I consistently won awards for being the top student in the fields of English, Social Studies, Mathematics, and the Sciences, but that didn’t mean squat unless you were brining home the school division championship in volleyball. I was an academic, a philosopher and thinker. And that made me a freak.

I had great resilience, though. If there’s one thing that I learned out of all this, it was independence. There are many times in your life when you will be forced to stand alone. While the wolves are circling it is you alone who will have to fight them off. Other people would rather make fun of your situation than help you, and self-reliance is what will get you to the top. That is true independence.

Another thing I learned (that would be two things, then) is you have to take pride in who you are. People out there are actually making a living as “image consultants.” You pay them a ridiculous amount of money, and they change your public persona to make you popular. This world is full of people who would rather conceal who they are than show it. The best defense to insults and people who hate you is to learn how to not care what others think. When you don’t care about what others think anymore, it’s like a release.

And that’s how I survived high school. At graduation, I was going to walk down the aisle escort-less, with those I had grown to hate staring at me, as a symbol of how all the accomplishments I had made in high school were done by me alone. But, some girl whose name completely escapes me wanted good seats at the ceremony, and asked if she could be my escort so she could sit in the escort section. Regrettably, I’m a nice person, and I said she could. And high school drew to a close.

Soon, it was off to college, and I prepared for the whole process to start all over again. Cliques would form, and once again I would be booted off to the sidelines. But college was weird. I’d watch The Flintstones in the floor lounge, and others would sit and join me. During free time, I’d go to the study lounge to get some homework done, and there would be others there doing homework. And I was no longer the best in all my subjects, as were a lot of other people. For the first time in my life, I realized I was normal. There were others like me in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, independence is great. But you don’t have to be lonely to be independent. You can stand alone on some things, but it’s good to know that friends will be there when it’s time to quit standing. And when you don’t care about what your friends think, it’s great! When you screw up, they know why. And they won’t make fun of you. It was great!

So for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to be with “the in crowd.” Actually, at a place such as university, I guess you could say there were several in crowds. University is a place large enough where they can all co-exist in peace and harmony. You can have what high school would call “geeks” over in one crowd, “jocks” in another, and all those that defy categorization. Whichever one you happen to be in is “the in crowd.” To be more specific, your in crowd.

I was fortunate. I don’t know why, but somehow I figured out a way to float between crowds. For most of my freshman year, I seemed to be with the drama geeks. Second year came, and I moved onto computer geeks. In third year, I stuck with the computer geeks, but managed to branch out to a few artists, and even the most restricted of groups, Brad Goertz and his Dag-ledites. If it weren’t for that final group, the column would probably never have been published. Now, was there any special skill to this drifting from group-to-group? Did I have to change who I was in order to fit in? Not at all. All I did was hang back and be myself.

In the back of my mind, I’m still that kid watching Flintstones in the lab that no one would hang out with. That always leads me to sub-consciously ask this question of my friends: “Why do you like me?” Obviously, the strategy of being myself in high school did nothing for me. So why is it now working later in life? Have I really grown into everything I hated?

One of the few friends I had in high school once made the comment that I must have matured at a young age. He could think of no other explanation as to why I hadn’t forsaken my studies and joined in the non-stop partying. Perhaps there was some grain of truth to what he said. I matured at a young age, and now finally my maturity matches my age. With that, I can blend in with the crowd and finally be “cool.” I’m not everything I hate. Everything I hated grew up, and now we get along. Of course, I think calling me the coolest guy on the planet is a bit of a stretch. That title still belongs to “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Business Proposal #1

Chaos in Print

I have this little problem. I dream too big. See, we’ve all got these goals that we want to accomplish in our lives, but I have this nasty tendency to set the bar a little too high. It especially hurts right now, when people are pressuring me to do something with my life. So then, I’ve decided to take some of my big dreams, and put them down on paper for your enjoyment. Here is the first in what will probably be a series.

In the ever-expanding multi-channel universe, there seems to be a channel for everything. We have the Golf Channel, the Outdoor Channel, the Learning Channel, the Cooking Channel, the Home and Garden Channel. We’ve got channels for everything. But there is one niche market that has yet to be filled. I think that the time is right to start up the Anime Channel.
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Tragic Legacy

Chaos in Print

Did I ever mention how much I love the Batman and Superman cartoons? I just do. They’ve got compelling storylines, good characters, and a striking retro design to them. They definitely raised the bar on Saturday morning. So, when the local station that carried Superman quit showing it, my instant thought was “How am I going to watch Legacy; the upcoming final episode?” Fortunately, my good buddy Chuck has satellite TV, and still got it. So, I begged my good buddy Chuck to tape it for me.

Chuck did, and I am forever grateful. But then, Chuck took it upon himself to torture me. I don’t know if it’s just that Chuck is forgetful or what, but every time we got together he was all “Oh! I forgot all about it! I left the tape at home.” I didn’t want him to mail it to me, because I’d heard horror stories about tapes getting erased in the mail. So when I spent the weekend with Chuck, I cornered him and said “GIMME THE TAPE!” After some digging, he found it, and I took it home. The next day, I sat down to watch Legacy.

I was spellbound. I was captivated. It was filled with so much iconic imagery. Superman, leading masses of tanks and soldiers against the forces of earth. Lex Luthor, hoisting a Kryptonite missile atop his shoulder and taking out Superman and Supergirl. And Part II! Where do I begin? Superman, powerless thanks to his cell lit by red lights and about to receive a lethal injection of Kryptonite, turns to Lex Luthor and says “Now that you and I are about the same strength, will you grant me one last request?” Luthor nods, and leans in to hear Superman’s last request. Superman winds up, slugs Luthor, and Luthor goes flying across the room. Superman, taking the portal device, and generating a portal to Darkseid’s planet, and silhouette in darkness. Superman emerging from the portal, his face cloaked in darkness except for a red glow from his eyes. He then lets loose with a heat ray blast that vaporizes all of Darkseid’s troops. Darkseid, bruised, battered, and being carried away by his followers turns to Superman and says “I am many things Superman, but here I am god.”

And at the end, when we’re getting the characters comments (thank to a news report) about whether Superman should be given a second chance or not. Lex Luthor, his neck broken from Superman’s punch, mutters “No man should have the much power.” Jimmy Olson saying “He’s saved this planet 10 times over! We owe him a second chance!” And the final scene. Superman, on the roof of the Daily Planet, turns to Lois Lane and asks “How do I earn back the trust of a planet?” Lois then kisses Superman, and says “One person at a time.” It ranks up there with the best of all the episodes of Superman. I daresay it was the best.

Naturally, when you see something this good, you have to watch it again. I hit rewind on my TV/VCR combo unit. Soon, I was met with a horrible grinding sound, and the machine automatically shut down. This had only happened to me once before, and I feared what it meant. I turned the machine back on, and hit eject. I was greeted with more grinding sounds, and my fear was confirmed. My TV/VCR unit had eaten the tape. I peered inside to see that the tape itself was hopelessly entangled in the heads.

If this were a conventional VCR, my course of action would have been clear. I would have pulled out a screwdriver, opened up the VCR, and tried to untangle the tape. But with a TV/VCR combo unit, that would have proved too complicated. I grabbed each end of the tape, and gently tugged back and forth, trying to work it loose. Whatever I did, it just wasn’t coming out. There was only one option left. It was the most drastic thing I could do, but sadly, it had to be done to save my TV/VCR unit.

I pulled out my pocketknife, and cut up the tape. With a gentle tug, the remnants of the tape came out. I ran the head-cleaner tape through right away to clean out any remnants that might have been left.

I was putting the head-cleaner tape back when I heard someone yelling for me from the office. It was my Dad. “MARK!! I wanted to scan this in, so I put it in the scanner, randomly picked this icon that says ‘scan,’ and scanned it in. Now where’s my file?”

“I don’t know, Dad. That’s a stupid program I never figured out how to use. Why didn’t you just hit the big button that says ‘scan’ on the scanner and do it the easy way?” I then pointed to the big button that says “scan” on the scanner. (We have a fairly idiot-proof scanner.) Needless to say, I wasn’t really in a tech-support kind of mood, and I yelled at my Dad a lot more than I should have.

We live in a fairly technology-dependent society. I have embraced technology fully. It has become my religion in a sense. Whenever one of the cashiers at work bangs on the Interac machines and curses those “stupid computers,” I give her a dirty look. Whenever the family car acts up, my mother instantly accuses the onboard computer of “frying.” I instantly offer up a mechanical reason for the problem: “Well, look here, Mom. Looks like the tire went flat because there’s a nail sticking in it, not because of a faulty circuit in the computer.” It seems that I currently live in a world of Luddites, and in this world I have become the great defender of technology. So when my VCR turns on me and eats my tape, I can’t help but feel a little . . . betrayed.

Here, I go and devote my life to defending you to those people and you turn on me. Why is that? Is it that technology isn’t respecting what I do for it? Or perhaps it’s all some giant cosmic tease to prevent me from watching Legacy. First, the fates go and take away my channel from me. Then, they curse Chuck with forgetfulness to keep him from giving me the tape. Then, after I get a brief taste of it, they make me destroy the tape. But I am not completely destroyed. YTV has picked up the rights to Superman, and I’m sure it won’t be long until they broadcast Legacy. And then, I will tape it again. Actually, forget taping it. It’s too…analog. Before I tape it, I’ll wait for DVD-RAM to have become cheap and affordable. Then, I’ll slap it straight on a DVD. Praise technology! What a wonderful legacy it leaves.

Movie Review – Space Cowboys

Space Cowboys

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, James Cromwell, William Devane, and some others.

Well, summer is drawing to a close, and there was still one last movie on my must-see list. I had been reading about Space Cowboys online for a while, back when it was going to star Harrison Ford. It always seemed like a good premise, and I thought it could be kinda cool. And, since it featured a bunch of marquee stars from my parents’ generation, I thought I would be a charitable son and take them to see it.

Way back in 1958, it was the U.S. Air Force that was making the leaps and bounds in space exploration. The pride was Team Daedelus, who were flying higher and faster than anyone else, and were being primed to be the first astronauts. But then, all good things come to an end. NASA was formed, and for the first astronaut, a chimp was chosen. This pissed off Team Daedelus to no end, and they quit the astronaut corp. Flash forward to the present day. The Russian satellite IKON, which was launched during the cold war, is in a falling orbit. The Russians are reluctant to let it go, and it is soon realized that IKON has the same guidance system as the old NASA space station, SkyLab. (How does an American guidance system end up on a Russian satellite at the hight of the cold war? Just one mystery to be solved.) After some research, it is learned that the guidance system was designed by Frank Corvin (Eastwood), the leader of Team Daedelus, and the last one still alive who knows how this guidance system works. Corvin agrees to help out NASA, but on one condition: Team Daedelus is sent into orbit to fix the satellite, and get the trip into space they were screwed out of 40 years ago. So, the team is re-united: navigator Tank (Garner), who is now a minister, engineer Jerry (Sutherland), who’s constantly horny, and pilot Hawk (Jones), who never really saw eye-to-eye with Corvin. Of course, as they go through their astronaut training, Hawk falls in love with a Sarah, one of the project managers. Can Team Daedelus overcome the machinations of a slimy flight director (Cromwell) and earn their trip into space? Can they solve they mystery of IKON and fix it in time?

This is a great summer film. It’s got action, it’s got comedy, it’s got great special effects. After Babe and Star Trek: First Contact, James Cromwell is becoming one of my favorite character actors, and here he does a great job as Bob, the slimy flight director who has had a few run-ins with Corvin in the past. Jones is quite the scene-stealer as Hawk, the renegade pilot. When we first meet him, and he takes this punk-ass teenager up in a biplane for a “scary ride,” it is just a hilarious scene. True, there are lots of jokes about old timers (one of the running gags is “Oh, he died last year”) but it is a lot of fun. Oh, and I have to agree with all the other critics, that final shot is pretty amazing. Kudos again to Industrial Light & Magic!

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Godzilla 2000

Godzilla 2000

Starring Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki, Hiroshi Abe, and Shirô Sano

One of the first movie reviews I ever did for my website was for the 1998 Americanized Godzilla. Well, apparently the Japanese didn’t like the Yankee take on their classic character. So, it wasn’t long before they rushed an old school Godzilla movie into production. It came out in Japan back at Christmastime, and was a huge hit! So, how did the makers of the Yankee Godzilla react to this? Well, they bought the overseas distribution rights, and put in theaters in North America! How about that?

As I said, this is an old school Godzilla movie, so does plot really matter? We are introduced to two scientists who are at odds with each other. The good one (who looks kinda like late Canadian superstar Bruno Gerrusi) is head of the Godzilla Protection Network, who believes that Godzilla is something that should be studied. Of course, he has a cute daughter, and hooks up with a cute reporter who’s after some primo photos of Godzilla. The bad one is head of the CCI, a government agency who believes that Godzilla is a threat that must be destroyed at all costs. This bad guy is also in charge of salvaging an old meteorite from the bottom of the ocean that’s emminating strange power signatures. Well, the good scientist soon discovers that the source of Godzilla’s indestructibility is a healing factor, which he dubs Regenerator G-1. At about this time, we learn that the meteorite is actually a downed UFO, and this UFO soon goes on a destructive rampage. Turns out the pilot of this UFO wants to adapt to the Earth’s atmosphere so he can conquer, but he needs Regenerator G-1 to help him do it. So, before long the alien emerges from the UFO and surprise! It’s another giant monster. Can Godzilla take down this giant alien and trash a city in the process?

What can I say about this movie? It’s good, goofy, giant monster fun. What I like is how they are trying to incorporate modern special effects techniques with the classic guy-in-a-rubber-suit. There’s this one scene where Godzilla emerges from the water and walks along the beach, where you realize it’s the real ocean and a real beach! They had the guy-in-a-suit walk in front of a blue screen. Oh, and they even do a few little homages to the Yankee Godzilla by doing a few small recreations of scenes from that film. (Oh, and some of the UFO scenes were reminiscent of that other movie by the makes of the Yankee ‘Zilla, Independence Day.) But ultimately, how can you hate a movie with that classic B-Movie ending? You know, where it flashes on the screen “The End,” and then adds a “…?” As I said, good, goofy fun.

3 Nibs