DC Weekend

I’ve been dealing with a cold since the end of the week, and I definitely hit bottom after running a variety of errands during the snow storm in Indy on Saturday. Since Saturday afternoon, I’ve largely alternated between sleeping, imitating sleep, and watching dumb movies and TV while prone or semi-prone on the couch.

It’s at this point bedrock tradition for me to watch dumb television and movies while sick. I don’t normally like to sit for hours binging a show or movie after movie (though I’ll do the same for a book or game without complaint), especially if of only mediocre quality or worse, but sick days are my big exception to the norm. Brain idling, entertained by pretty moving pictures, waiting out the discomfort: it’s downright pleasurable to me at such a time.

Though not always the case, this sick weekend had a theme: DC movies and TV. I re-watched Suicide SquadBatman v Superman, and a good portion of the first season of Arrow; I also watched the 2017 Justice League film for the first time.

None of these things are great, but that’s the point. They’re dumb, and they’re enjoyable (enough) to watch. My Arrow re-watch might even continue, as I was surprised by how charmed I was yet again by the campy soap-opera take on superheroes. And, confession here, I actually like the DC franchise films. They’re not good, but most of them fall solidly in the B- to B+ range. They’re all overly long, overly dark (in terms of color saturation and narrative tone), and burdened by poorly considered plot contrivances. But they’re largely just a counter-cultural product to the smooth Marvel formula (counter-cultural to the extent that a big corporation can be counter-cultural, a Pepsi to Coca-Cola). DC movies are oddly ragged, ungainly films that all feel desperate to say something, if only there weren’t a dozen different creative and corporate hands meddling with the final product each time. And, well, I just like DC characters more.

I’m not a “comics guy.” I’ve read comics, and I will continue to do so. I’ve always preferred graphic novels to serialized comics, though, and not for particularly pretentious reasons, but simply because I prefer a more contained, tightly honed story. I prefer graphic novels to comics like I prefer films to television and like I prefer standalone novels to book series (not sure I’d go so far as to say I prefer short stories to novels, even though I do think I prefer the crafty efficiency of a good short story–I just tend to read novels more consistently). And I’ve typically preferred non-superhero comics to the superhero kind. I’m also largely bipartisan (or simply agnostic) when it comes to Marvel versus DC. That all said, my childhood rooted me in part to DC: the Tim Burton Batman films, the Teen Titans show, and the DC Animated Universe strongly influenced my tastes regarding caped crusaders and the like (the only Marvel counterpart I particularly recall in my formative years was X-Men Evolution). And in more recent years, Young Justice and the CW collection of shows carried my interest forward (even if the latter eventually became simply too much for me to keep up with).

What I’m trying to say is that, while I do have a familiarity with superhero franchises, I don’t feel like my identity is bound up in these characters. While the cinematic versions of DC characters have typically been darker than what I might prefer, I don’t feel like I have to treat anything in this territory as “canon” or a “defining” vision. It’s all just fun times, and these new films are at least offering something that does feel different.

In that context, I’d avoided Justice League for a while because it looked like a fairly generic superhero team-up film in a genre flooded with that type of apocalypse-punching, alien-invasion scenario. But I found that I greatly enjoyed the film, generic plot and all. Maybe I was just loopy enough to get peak enjoyment out of it. But Ben Affleck was absolutely delightful as Batman; this version of the Dark Knight not only provided a nice redemption arc from the previous title but was also one of the funniest versions of the character I’ve seen in a while. He was lighthearted; he smiled; he said authentic things. Plus, the film provided plenty of fodder for anyone partial to shipping Batman and Wonder Woman. For that matter, Wonder Woman continued to be a badass warrior, and she also had her own opportunity for inner growth that felt like a natural progression from her solo film–she was returning to the world, processing her grief and trauma from the Great War, and taking up the mantle of a leader. The Flash was hilarious and awkward and lovable, Aquaman was about as interesting and cool as Aquaman could ever hope to be, and Cyborg had enough screen time to feel defined if alien (though to the extent that Cyborg works, I’d credit Ray Fisher’s acting rather than the rather mundane dialogue that he delivers). Superman remained a weak point for me, though after some initial Super Dickery on his inevitable resurrection, he actually got to act like the superheroic ideal for the closing minutes of the final act.

Look, it’s not the greatest film out there. But no superhero film is. And sure, Justice League isn’t even the best superhero film, or the best of the new DC films. But it was a fun ride, and I’d watch it again. Especially on another sick day.

Return

Well obviously I didn’t post at all over December after my announcement that I’d be cutting back. It truly ended up being a quite busy end-of-year for me, and things were capped off by a week-long stay with family in Florida. This week should finally mark a full return to normalcy for me, and part of that is returning to the old Sunday/Thursday posting schedule.

This post is a bit of a cheat, since it’s just an announcement of my return to posting, but I have to start somewhere!

I actually don’t have any updates for Vampyr or Little Dragons Cafe, as I haven’t played either over the past month. But I have already played a lot of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, despite only getting the game at the end of December. I mean, I still suck at it, but I’ve played it a lot and have a lot of fun with it. So one of my first posts back will probably be my impressions of the game.

In addition to that, there are several films I want to post about, and I’d like to discuss my favorite games of 2018 and maybe what I’m most wanting to play in 2019, and I’d really like to dive into why I’m loving the Switch so much, and as of today I’m determined to actually get back into my Arena play-through. More ideas swirling about, and while I don’t want to spend all my writing time devoted to the blog, I’m excited by the reality that I actually have more time on evenings and weekends now to devote to writing in general, so I think this could be a productive year in that regard. It’s nice to be in a position to only work a single job again, and I hope that that stays the case for quite a while.

So that’s all I have to say for now, except to add in closing, I hope your new year looks bright!

Schedule Change for December

Hi all! Thank you for reading this blog. I expect I’ll have more posts coming up over December, including future updates on my experiences with Vampyr and Little Dragons Cafe, but I don’t plan to keep to the usual Sunday/Thursday schedule for this month.

Posts will be less frequent through December, though I’ll probably still schedule them for Sundays or Thursdays when they come. Just the usual end-of-the-year rush of activities and events!

I plan to be back to regular updates in January. Until then, happy holidays!

Return / Updates

I was accidentally away from the blog for a while. On return, I decided to make a couple changes.

First, I’ve changed the WordPress template I’m using to hopefully make things more streamlined. Now there’s a greater emphasis on text, which is after all the primary format of this blog. I think images still look fine with the changes. And the stream of past blog posts feels less overwhelming to me now. I genuinely liked the walls of images until I didn’t anymore. (There are some other minor tweaks, like the addition of displayed archives.)

Also, I created a Facebook page for this blog. If you like the blog, I’d be flattered by a like of the page, but it’s basically just there to make it easier to publish new posts to Facebook now.

If you like (or dislike) the changes, feel free to let me know.

I think I’ll be back to regular posts now. It’s funny–I’ll schedule stuff through holidays, but then it’s after the holidays that I get behind.

(Header: Oil painting by Samantha Melvin, 2016.)

Self-Promotion Sunday

Today I just wanted to make an announcement: Eleven-ThirtyEight, the fantastic Star Wars fan site known for its thoughtful essays produced regularly by its staff writers and occasionally by guest writers, has published an essay of mine: “Droids, Sex, and Consent: Should It ‘Work’?” I’m a fan of the site and its creative team (I guess that makes me a fan of fans), and it was really cool to be able to contribute something and see it published.

Mike Cooper, the editor-in-chief of the site, provided what was, in my limited experience, excellent editorial support. He was restrained in suggesting changes, and the changes he did suggest all improved the work (of course, to the extent that there are any remaining problems with the piece, in craft, perspective, argument, or otherwise, the fault lies with me).

While I certainly hope you’ll check out my essay, I’d like to also suggest that if you haven’t read anything else on Eleven-ThirtyEight, you should definitely peruse past works by its staff writers. They’re an excellent team of creative and critical thinker/writers, and I look forward to reading each new thing to come out of there.

Pictures from Park & Street

I have a random collection of pictures for today. Some are from a trip to Eagle Creek Park from the end of April, and I’ll start with those.

My wife and I were joined for an afternoon of walking the park trails by a couple of friends, one of whom I would describe as a formerly avid birder. This birder friend really improved the experience, calling out birds I definitely would have otherwise missed and identifying many birds I didn’t recognize (and even helping to confirm a few that I did recognize). Unfortunately, while we could see far through the forest with mostly barren tree limbs, the tangle of limbs also meant that I took far fewer bird pictures than I would have liked (without even attempting to capture the tiny gnatcatchers and titmice and the like that we saw), and most of the photographs I took were really bad bird pictures (as usual, I guess).

Here’s a silhouette of a brown-headed cowbird (it was a lot more obvious in person, especially with its plop-plip call):

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And here’s a blurry pileated woodpecker against a tree:

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Here are some cute coots:

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And worst of all, here’s a bunch of trees (we saw a beautiful bald eagle fly so close overhead–it was amazing, and I was in awe, and by the time I thought to take a picture, he was swooping out of sight; if he’s in the shot at all, it’s behind the many tree branches):

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It’s not a bird, but I would also like to call special attention to this half-sunken treasure chest, lodged against a raft of driftwood, that obviously has some sweet loot:

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Outside of the park trip, there’s not really a consistent theme to everything. I have just one other bird picture–if I recall, it was a red-winged blackbird, but the photo’s just another bird silhouette (it’s at least an intriguing silhouette, I think).

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There are, of course, the usual combination of trees and water features that I like:

Finally, some animal friends near my work:

I know it’s pretty self-indulgent to share these pictures, and I recognize that I don’t have any talent, but it’s still fun to share some of the things I see! If you looked through the photos, I hope you saw something that you liked.