Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fed Up With "Heaven"

What is up with this sudden resurgence of New Age near-death Heaven nonsense?  Movies like Heaven Is For Real and God's Not Dead, and books, including one from a neurologist, for crying out loud, are all touting the idea that there really is an Afterlife, that Our Loved Ones are "there" waiting for us, et al., ad nauseam.

People should know better than to trust the delusions brought on by a lack of oxygen to the brain.  I have no trust in hallucinations caused by dying brain cells, even those in a neurologist, who should know better.

I attribute most of our modern world's ills to religion.  I admit it.  Sunni vs. Shia, Hamas vs. Israeli, and every other variation thereon in the Middle East can be laid squarely at religion's door.  It's getting to be like the old Hatfields/McCoys feud, in that nobody can even remember what started it off any more.  And don't even get me started on abortion and meddling in Women's Health issues.  My God is better than your God.  My God's Messenger is better than your God's Messenger.  And I'm going to shove mine down your throat for your own good, whether you like it or not.

It's all a load of crap.

And it's never going to stop, especially not as long as we keep feeding the fire with fuel like the drivel that is Heaven Is For Real.

How the same species can put a wonderful robot explorer on Mars and still eagerly lap up this kind of crap makes me despair for our future.  Not that we have much of one, since a lot of climate change denial is either based on religious imperatives -- after all, their God did give them complete "dominion" over the planet -- or worse, is encouraged, because hey, after all, anything we can do to get the End Times here sooner has got to be a Good Thing, right?

We're worse than chimps.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Geek Summer 2014

We're only halfway through the summer of 2014 and it's already been an interesting time for geek culture.  There's been the usual mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, and San Diego Comic-Con International hasn't even started yet.

Definitely on the "good" side, it's been a really good summer for one of my favorite writers in comics, Gail Simone.  Simone has written for both of the Big Two comics companies, as well as some indie work and work for smaller publishing houses like Dark Horse Comics.  She is currently writing two of my absolute favorite books, Batgirl from DC and Tomb Raider from Dark Horse.  Sadly, she will be leaving Batgirl in a few issues over creative differences with the publisher, but her run on the book has been absolutely amazing, including the addition of Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon's transgender roommate Alysia.  I'm not a comics historian, so I can't state for a fact that Alysia is the first transgender character in comics, but she is certainly the first one in a major title from a mainstream publisher.  Simone's writing is thoughtful and deeply complex and personal and her characters are utterly believable, even in a setting which involves the lead character putting on a costume and going out to fight crime as a vigilante.  Her additions to this portion of the Batman canon will give other writers inspiration and material for years and years to come.

She is also the writer for Tomb Raider, a book based on the recent hit videogame which revitalized the classic videogame character with a complicated retelling and reimagination of the adventure which turned archaeologist Lara Croft into the badass character which has been depicted in the Tomb Raider games for over a decade.  The comic takes up immediately following the events in the game and is the sequel that gamers only dreamed about.  It's wonderful.  Search out Gail Simone's work, even if you don't read comics.  You will not be disappointed.  If you are, contact me here and I'll buy the book back from you.  But I think my money is safe.

As for summer movies, the one I've been waiting for all summer is just a couple of weeks away now:  Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you had asked me ten years ago to name the least likely comic book to be made into a movie, Guardians would have been on the short list.  But here we are, and it looks great.  Review to follow once the picture opens on August 1st!

This week also marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of the Bat-Man in Detective Comics #27 back in 1939.  There are all kinds of events planned for the anniversary, including an appearance by Batman himself at my local comics store, Comix Connection on the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg, PA.  I think it's pretty amazing that the character has survived through repeated reinventions of itself, even with the campy 1960's Adam West TV show.  Just about every Bat-book DC publishes will be out this Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary, as well as a variety of free Batman masks from the various eras and incarnations.

Finally, the thing that I am least looking forward to, the Batman origins television show due out from Fox this fall, Gotham.  I haven't seen it, and it may yet prove to be a pleasant surprise, but there a lot of little signals that are warning this fanboy to stay well away from Gotham.  Not the least of which is how the inevitable committee of writers is yet again (A) making seemingly unnecessary changes to the Batman story in order to put their own "artistic" spin on it, and (B) how they are in particular messing with one of the iconic Batman characters, Poison Ivy.  In the comics, Pamela Isley was the victim of harassment and experimentation by her mad scientist boss, the end result of which was her transformation into the ultimate femme fatale, Poison Ivy.  In Gotham, the character's name has been changed to "Ivy Pepper" -- apparently we viewers are too stupid to realize that Pamela Isley was going to be turned into Poison Ivy at some later point without her having "Ivy" in her name.  I can't tell you how much I hate this.  They kept Selena Kyle, who will become the Catwoman, and they kept Edward Nygma (yeah, I know) who will become Riddler, and Oswald Cobblepot, someday the Penguin.  Why mess with Ivy?  It just doesn't bode well.

There are some other things later on this year that I'm looking forward to, notably comic book adaptations for television like The Flash and Constantine.  But that's fodder for a later post.  Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the summer, including all of the insanity that is Comic-Con which, as usual, I will attend only from the safety of my living room.  No overnight lines to get into Hall H for me!

And besides, Gail Simone isn't going either.  ;)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Post 9/11, No News Ain't Good News

At least, not for me.  It's almost 13 years since 9/11, and I'm finding that I have developed an interesting neurosis:  the longer I go without news in the morning, the more anxious I become.

On September 11th, 2001, I was at home, alone, with my wife at work and my daughter at her 4th grade class.  I was cleaning the house and had just turned on the television in the family room "for company" while I was vacuuming.  I don't recall what network was on; I think it might have been the Today Show on NBC, but whatever it was, the reporter had a view of the city behind him and I tuned in just in time to see the second plane crash into the Towers, live on TV.  (The only other time I saw anyone actually die on television was when I was in the 4th grade, and I saw Jack Ruby gun down Lee Harvey Oswald during that now-infamous prisoner transfer.  Needless to say, I did not cope very well with either one.)  Later in the morning I saw the Towers fall, fully realizing how many lives had to have been lost.  Later in the week I learned that a friend who worked at the restaurant at the top of the Trade Center narrowly missed being killed when he ran home to get the eyeglasses he had forgotten.  He suffered terrible survivor's guilt for this, and ultimately took his own life a few years later.  A devastating day for so many.

There are mornings when the three of us might like to sleep in and enjoy the quiet of the season, whatever season that may be.  But now, for me, the longer I go without checking the news, the more anxious and worried I become.  I worry that some new awful thing has happened, something that will change our world entirely and forever, and I worry that I am enjoying my peaceful ignorance at some horrible, horrible expense.  To the point where I am, in fact, enjoying nothing at all.  I try to cope, I really do, but I only find some peace when I turn on NPR and realize after a few minutes that nothing has crashed, the President is still alive, and to the best of our collective knowledge, no meteors or comets are about to crash into the planet and extinguish all life.

It's sick, I know.  It's a neurosis.  I'm not sure what to do about it.  I guess as neuroses go, it's relatively harmless, since the worst thing that happens is that I interrupt the peace and quiet of the morning to turn on Morning Edition to make sure that everything is still the way it was yesterday.  I will say that seeing the new World Trade Center building fill that awful hole in the New York City skyline on my last visit to the City helped quite a bit.  But I think I will never be able to spend the day completely unplugged from the news, not ever again.