I just added the blog for White Shadow Dojo. Even after a quick reading of their posts it was clear to me that they'd be worth following. I like how they respect both old and new approaches to martial arts training. Give them a read and see what you think.
This happened earlier this year, but it's way too good not to pass along now:
A burglar in Scotland was shocked to discover that the home he was ransacking actually belonged to the Norse God of Thunder, Thor!
Or, at least, it belonged to 39-year-old body builder Torvald Alexander, who was returning home from a "fancy-dress party" (that's Brit-speak for costume bash) in his divine attire of red cape, breastplate, and horned helmet!
Thor charged at the burglar (somewhat safer to do in the UK, where guns are harder to come by) and the scared thief jumped out the window. Presumably this was to avoid capture and internment on a slab of rock while a serpent drips stinging venom into his eyes... (Look it up, I'm not doing all your work for you...)
I know. You're thinking, "Holy Crap! That sure would scare me to death if I looked up and saw the Odinsson!" And well, you might if the Thunderer looked like one of the two incarnations above... But this is Torvald's actual costume... Note geek chic decor in the background.
However, I'm sure I can one up this next Halloween. I mean really, dude, where's your Hammer? (Or do you think that's why they only photographed him from the waist-up?)
Wired's Danger Room blog ran a snarky semi-editorial about a Fox News piece concerning Special Forces doing aerial patrols and seemingly random searches of vehicles in Afghanistan. Apparently the wunderkinds at Danger Room objected to the fact that no useful information regarding the military strategy or tactics was released. It was all cool video of the SF Operators with their super-M4's jumping out of Black Hawks and searching Afghan civilians.
Hello? Why would you expect the Operators to give up the real inside story on an ongoing operation?
Why can't you -- like me -- just go "Cool! They're wearing MultiCam!"
It easy to be cynical about the small "piece of the elephant" you see in this video. I admit that the piece is feel-good fluff, but what do you reasonably expect? But there's a snippet near the end of this companion piece that reminds you why these guys (in their MultiCam) are out there in the first place. And no, the Special Forces aren't all there harassing locals by doing elaborate traffic stops... That's some classic counter-insurgency work.
This just boggles my mind. Why would anyone do this? Apparently, the screws were undone from one side of the sign and it was ripped from the moorings on the other. Due to the size and weight of the sign, it's obviously the work of a group of conspirators.
Who would want this? Neo-Nazis? What good does it do them? Holocaust survivors are probably unlikely. Art collectors? What does this fetch on the art black market? And isn't it a little big and obvious to hide even in a private art collection?
I actually felt a little sick reading about this. It is an afront to everyone of goodwill, not just Holocaust survivors or Jews in general. This is a piece of humanity's cultural heritage -- admittedly, it's a dark piece, but it reminds us all how low our species can sink. I don't go around thinking about Auschwitz or the Holocaust every moment of every day, but it's part of my back brain; and it informs my opinions about grave matters. I recognize the importance of keeping these reminders around for future generations to ponder -- so it will become part of their back brains and inform how they think and act. Hopefully for the better.
Coincidentally, the sign greeting visitors to my hometown was stolen a few months back right off of main street. I wouldn't necessarily equate the two in terms of gravitas, but as I drove by the temporary sign this evening (It reads "Our Town Wants Our Sign Back!"), I thought the two incidents had an eerie similarity in some respects: The thefts are both senseless. Neither sign could possibly mean as much to the individuals who took them as they do to the public at large. Both involved planning and logistics unlikely to have occurred quickly over beer and drawn up on cocktail napkins. Both make you scratch your head and ask, "Why?"
So, from my little corner of the interTubes, let me raise my voice and say this to the douchebags who took the Auschwitz sign, "Humanity wants Our Sign Back!"
Okay, okay... So what if they take one of the most iconic and best-loved scenes from Fantasia and try to mix it with the modern angle of Harry Potter, with maybe a dash of the fantasy hipster favorite Harry Dresden novels... You'd get The Sorceror's Apprectice. Oh, boy...
I won't bore you with blow-by-blow details about my trip to visit the Mouse House in Orlando, Florida.
But I do want to say a few words about Expedition Everest, the roller coaster in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
I'm not a big roller coaster fan. Meaning that I don't like Big roller coasters. But I was really intrigued by some of the things I'd heard about this one -- including that the Yeti stalks the coaster. Did somebody say, "Yeti?" I am so there. I mean, it's not like I'm likely to go to the real Himalayas anytime soon to catch a glimpse of the real Yeti in the flesh? Given how I managed to miss Nessie in two trips to Loch Ness, I figure my chances of coming home with a scientific discovery are pretty slim anyhow.
This was an impressive bit of Disney Imagineering. The queue takes you through an extremely detailed mock-up of a mountain outfitter's office first. You almost expect Karen Allen to walk in and challenge you to a drinking contest. Then you wind your way through a faux Buddhist temple -- complete with distressed prayer flags, statues and devotionals to the guardian spirit of the mountain: Mr. Yeti himself. The fake Buddhist temple was -- sadly -- more impressive than the real Buddhist temple I frequent! The final building in the queue is the outfitter warehouse/Yeti museum.
Yes, a Yeti museum. And the most impressive thing about the Yeti museum is that it seemed to be a REAL museum to the Yeti phenomenon! They had pictures, books, and artifacts I recognized as real, or replicas of existing items. We could devolve into a semantic argument about "real" when it comes to the Yeti, but what I'm saying is: it was very hard to tell what they were making up out of whole cloth, and what they borrowed from the existing lore.
As for the ride itself... The coaster has no loops or inversions. At 200 feet, this fake Everest is the tallest mountain in Florida. The ride does move backwards. the tracks switch, which is a little disorienting. It plummets through some very dark passages. It also has a pretty spectacular ascent (through another meticulously re-created, faux monastery ruin), and an outside drop that left me with my stomach upside down. The ride did not disappoint.
Do you see the Yeti? Well, let me give you a first-person view of the ride, and then a broader overview from several perspectives. The second video may load a little slow, but provides some better views of the different areas with accompanying James Bond music. Neither film substitutes the g-forces.
Oh, and if anyone knows where I can procure one of those fake bronze statues of the Dancing Yeti Mandala -- let me know. They weren't in the gift shop and I want one.
Let me tell you something. I'm old enough to remember when the kid across the street got Pong in his house. That was some serious cool. I had Pac-Man fever. Atari games? No way; I was all over Activision.
The guy across the dorm hall from me was techno-geeky enough that he had both Nintendo and Playstation. The 1.0 versions -- or damn close to it. I spent many an hour in his room playing games. but that was also about the same time I got uninterested in video-gaming.
The controls got too complicated. They added buttons. Now the contollers have more buttons then players have fingers. Why? Added interactivity, of course. But all the "push left twice, while simultaneously mashing A, then C, and finally B three times" in order to pull off a super-special finishing move was just too much for my mind to transmit to my fingers. So I eventually quit playing.
But have you seen Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? It's a vertible thing of beauty. Get the prestige edition and you get working NVGs! (What's an NVG? watch the video...)
I'm serious thinking about going out and getting an xBox... Fortunately for my wallet, I don't have the money right now for the system and the game. I might be able to afford going to the mall to salivate over the box.
While we're on this topic, let me say I'm looking forward to the Matt Damon movie Green Zone. The trailers look pretty good, and it's been awhile since I got a decent techno-thriller movie. I need a Bourne fix, and this looks pretty close.
My 20th high school reunion is next year! And I've been thinking about it on and off for awhile. Hell, I might even go.
I wonder what happened to everyone. Some classmates I'm still in touch with, or have had other reasons to check in on over the years. I think we all know that guy who peaked in high school and hasn't achieved any greatness since.
I was reminded of this recently when I learned they recently released a 20th Anniversary special edition of Say Anything, the teen romance film starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. The release of this special edition DVD was practically timed with the release of John Cusack's big budget John Emmerich disaster porn epic, 2012,
Talk about peaking in high school... jeez.
BTW -- THIS appears to be the original 1980's era music video of the infamous boombox song. No, I don't understand it either. That Peter Gabriel is one weird dude...
Last Tuesday saw the re-arrival of V, the remake of an 80's sci-fi show that was vaguely about WWII as prosecuted by evil Nazi space lizards and casting the United States in the role of Occupied France. Apparently no body thought of Red Dawn, or how gun-toting middle America might react to an invasion by oppressive aliens from anywhere...
Honestly, I missed the new version (something about knowing the space aliens are lying from the beginning ruins it for me), but I know they've made a few changes to the human side of the story. I might also point out that Morena Baccarin (above) is smoking hot as the eeeeeee-vil alien leader, Anna -- but I digress.
One of those changes is that a Catholic priest is one of the principal human characters. Apparently he doesn't trust the "Visitors." I have to admit, I enjoy mixing my science fiction with religion. Often, there's no consideration for this basic human impulse in a high-tech science fiction background. When it's treated right, putting the two together can be very interesting -- say in the post-apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, or the subtle background of Firefly. And although I got a huge charge out of the ending of the new and improved Battlestar Galactica, I appreciate how it went way over the top for many viewers with a sudden literal Deus Ex Machina; an example of poor execution of religious elements in sci-fi. In some ways, the Mormon elements of the original Battlestar were better...
A basic question inherent in the current V scenario is obviously, "How does the proof of extraterrestrial life affect a priest's faith?" Does he hate them solely from a reactionary world-view? I don't know, maybe I'll watch to find out.
But I read, with great interest, an article that appeared in last Sunday's Washington Post entitled, "When ET phones the Pope." It seems that Vatican recently convened a conference of astrobiologists, legit scientists who examine the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.
Believe it or not, this isn't a new question for the Church. Giordano Bruno, a 16th Century Italian monk, theorized that other planets existed, and that intelligent life likely existed on them.
That much of his theory seems to be okay with the modern Church. Fr. Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer, was quoted in the article as saying that the possibility of "brother extraterrestrials" poses no problem for Catholic theology.
Really? Well. Why not?
Possibly for the inverse of the reason Giordano Bruno was executed back in the 16th Century. The second part of Bruno's theory was that Jesus Christ was incarnated on each of these planet supporting intelligent life and replayed his Passion appropriately. However the Church leaders considered the first part of the theory at the time, the idea of "multiple incarnations" was -- and still is -- too much.
Christ died -- once -- for our sins.
So, what the Catholic Church is really saying is that it has no problem with extraterrestrials so long as they accept that Jesus Christ was incarnated as a Homo Sapien and died for the sins of all sentient beings everywhere. I'm sure that some perfectly logical aliens will accept this...
...Assuming that aliens we meet follow human logic.
Who's to say that intelligent extraterrestrial life wouldn't have their own vivid religious life? Maybe they'll come to proselytize us! Consider that humanity has many instances of first contact between cultures, and in the most recent cases, the more technologically powerful culture tends to bludgeon the less technological culture into submission and erode the traditional cultural values. So what would really happen if mile-wide saucers appeared in the skies tomorrow? Would we convert the lizard creatures to follow the "Book," or would their ways slowly usurp our own?
While scientists point to the constants of math and physics as a common language between humanity and any alien space brothers, there is no guarantee that a universal constant exists for emotions or faith, both seemingly necessary for the religious experience. What if a devotion to cold logic is twisted in the extraterrestrial such that they regard humanity's religious enthusiasm as a flaw in the species?
Or a threat? I mean, no one could possibly look at the way religion has influenced the course of human history and see a threat -- could they?
My point is... we should pay more attention to HP Lovecraft's idea of cosmic horror: when we finally meet the alien, we must contend with the utter "alien-ness" of it. Given that we have such a hard time understanding each other here and now, maybe we aren't ready for that yet.
The truth is... I've been busy. I've been busy with a million things. We had a huge Summer blow-out party in September. If you're just hearing about it now -- you weren't invited. My daughter turned five and started kindergarten (real school, sniff) that same week. She's been testing that new pair of wings and that keeps a guy pretty busy.
At that party, i handed a copy of my old Beowulf movie script -- which predates the animated Zemeckis/Gaiman movie -- to my friend and fellow blogger, Dan Dorman (see his blog in the list on the left). This got me thinking about returning to fiction writing. Although no words have been put to paper yet, I did start reading a better class of fiction. If you don't see the connection between reading good fiction and writing, you just don't understand the writing process.
Talking to Dan got me in the movie review mood, so that one reason why the life-support I've thrown this blog has been movie news. Movies are safe topics. I haven't had much else to say -- and I promised myself I wouldn't write anything overtly political -- which is the other "easy" blog topic.
I took the family to the Renaissance Festival one weekend. That's always fun.
Why no martial arts posts? The easy answer is that I've been getting my fix by posting on a major martial arts web forum. But I've been wrestling with my martial arts practice over the past few months. I have lots of ideas, but I'm not sure they are well-formed enough to carry a full essay in this space. But I have been training.
By default, and not for my lack of trying to avoid it, I've been mostly responsible for taking a new Bujinkanshodan through his curriculum. This consists of the kata in the final portion of the Tenchijin no Maki. I know there are some out there who are already rolling their eyes about kata training; but this is the curriculum. I've actually found it very enlightening for me and it's been crucial in my re-evaluation of my own practice. I've even... considered teaching on a consistent, regular basis! But my wife will kill me if I do this and don't get paid.
In my own training, I've sought out some cross-training opportunities to improve some specific weak points. There's been a lot of TaeKwon Do in recent weeks. Bujinkan kicking is rudimentary at best. I won't say a heel stomp kick is useless, but I'm looking to expand the arsenal and improve my kicking mechanics. TKD is one of the premiere kicking arts. It helps that my training partner also enjoys sparring using Kyokushin bare-knuckle rules rather than Olympic TKD rules. I've had some very interesting exchanges. I'd like to be doing more BJJ or try out Judo, but the opportunities haven't been there in the same way. I'm sure their time will come.
As often happens, certain themes emerge in my activities, and for the past six months, the theme has been: Vikings. I decided to start painting my next Warhammer 40K army and chose Space Wolves -- essentially Space Vikings with some werewolf imagery thrown in for good measure. I'm not quite halfway through painting my initial army list. Here are some samples of my work:
An HQ choice; a Rune Priest with plasma pistol.
Another HQ choice: Ulrik the Slayer, a Wolf Priest character.
Part of my first Grey Hunter squad, including a Wolf Guard (second from left with a power sword).
A detail of two converted Grey Hunters.
A full shot of what's complete so far. 28 models, 2 HQ (Rune Priest and Wolf Priest), a pack of Blood Claws, a pack of Grey Hunters, 1 model from the Long Fangs Pack I'm currently painting, and a pack of 5 Fenrisian wolves.
Geeked out yet? I think they're looking pretty good and I'm enjoying the converting and painting opportunities.
Anyway, I've been reading a lot about Vikings to get in the mood and understand the mindset while painting. I recently finished a fantastic translation of Norse mythology. I'm re-reading Neil Gaiman'sAmerican Gods and I'm eyeing up the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf (which is not, strictly speaking, about Vikings). Heck, I've even gone so far as to pull plans off the Internet for building a Viking shield from scratch and I'm seriously considering making one.
So... Yeah, I've been busy. And it's going to be busier still with the Holidays coming. I got talked into spending Thanksgiving with my wife's family in Disney World. I've been learning to speak "Mouse" and hide my wallet. There's always something... I'll try to add some new content over the next few months, but...
Look, the bottom line is: if you want good, meaningful blog posts; you have to let the bloggers live their lives and have some material to blog about. I'll be seeing you around.
The feel is much grittier than the old cartoons. As you can plainly see, people don't get shot out of their airplanes and parachute to safety. Nope, bullets and blades word very effectively in this cartoon.
The story was written by Joe neophyte and Badass poet Warren Ellis. 'Nuff said.
OK, it might excite some of you and elicit retching from others... But come on... Compare that werewolf transformation with this tripe. Blech! The only nice thing I can say is that the patently obvious CGI at least looks like a real giant wolf. (Come here, boy. Let me pet your glistening coat. Wait; could you take that the wrong way?)
Werewolves are all tooth and claw, fangy predators ready to have their amoral, instinctive ways with your civilized flesh. At least I'm getting that vibe from the Del Toro movie. All I'm getting from the latest installment in the Twilight Saga is an urge to give in to my daughter's demands for a puppy.
I want to say a few words about a decent human being.
Was Patrick Swayze the greatest actor ever? No. But by all accounts, he was as nice a guy as you'd ever want to meet. And he managed to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation. Here's a guy who could play the romantic lead, the tough action hero, and a dramatic leading man and be convincing in any of them.
Was he in great movies? No. But he was in some memorable ones, and some culturally relevant ones.
Dirty Dancing Ghost The Outsiders Uncommon Valor Red Dawn Roadhouse Point Break To Wong Foo... Donnie Darko
I take that back, one or two of those probably do qualify as great.
Roadhouse is a cheesy movie, no doubt. But he took the part because he loved martial arts and wanted to showcase his skills in that movement discipline too. And as cheesy as some of those lines can be ("I want you to be nice... Until it's time not to be nice"), they ring true for martial artists. Swayze was a martial artist almost as long as he was a dancer. He took up karate because he was being picked on by bullies who made fun of his mother's dance lessons. He showed them. His discipline -- a product as much of the dance as the martial arts -- kept him going and working through a horrific and painful fight with cancer. The man was a fighter, God love him.
There's a nice obituary in Entertanment Weekly that quotes his co-stars over the years saying all the best things about him. But the quotes ring true. They seemed to really love him.
But the best thing in the article is a picture of Patrick Swayze caught in mid-ballet leap -- tights and slippers -- in 1976. The look of bliss on his face is transcendent. He is one with the universe in his happiness. If you don't honestly look at the picture and smile, you're missing a soul.
Watch it one more time, and try hard not to be jaded. The man could dance.
You can pick your jaws up off the floor -- they'll be there again soon enough.
Who's in this?
Col. John "Hannibal" Smith (I didn't realize Hannibal was just his nickname...) = Liam Neeson Templeton "Faceman" Peck = Bradley Cooper "Howling Mad" Murdock = Sharlto Copley B.A. Baracus = Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Oh, and they signed Jessica Biel too.
In case you're wondering, the script is straight action; not campy fun. I guess that means that bullets actually hit people and car crash victims don't walk away from multiple roll-overs. They're filming in Vancouver.
I assumed the A-Team isn't a Vietnam era unit, but what's with the international cast? Will they remain American Special Forces? I realize it's not like the TV show ever made much sense, but what's the link to the term "A-Team" otherwise?
So... If you've been reading my blog with any regularty, then you've probably got some curiousity about my reception of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
Do I think it jumped the shark?
Gloriously so. And then it was stabbed repeatedly by Snake Eyes before being burned by red and blue laser beams of insanity.
Let me digress for a moment... At the Wisconsin State Fair, reportedly, they are introducing the wonderful new snack of Chocolate-covered bacon -- on a stick. Clearly, this treat is not for everyone. It is way too much of several good things: chocolate, bacon, and the convenience of a stick. Over-the-top, certainly. Some will stay away because they have the good sense to know the snack is bad for them. Others will tempt fate, taste it, and decide chocolate-covered bacon on a stick is not for them. Some will say, "I like chocolate" or "I like bacon" but decide chocolate-covered bacon is not for them. Many will enjoy the snack for what it is and then quickly move on.
Of course, you've guessed by now that the GI Joe movie is very much like chocolate-covered bacon. According to the box office numbers in already, people are tasting chocolate-covered bacon on a stick this weekend. From what I've heard, the buzz is good: people are enjoying it. There are naysayers. I'm not one of them. I know chocolate-covered bacon isn't good for me, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. And... I'm waiting for the next State Fair to have it again. Yes, I'm already mentally in-line for GI Joe: The Cobra Strikes Back!
The movie is way, way over the top. But just when you think it can't possibly be any more mock-serious, or use a cheesier line, or be more campy, they up the ante. Just when you think, "They aren't really going to go there" they do, indeed, gleefully go there. If you're 8 or 12, the lunacy can indeed be taken seriously. If you're 38 (and know the characters), you enjoy the sheer madcap fun of the craziness. I added that caveat about knowing the characters because the movie is so light and fluffy, so quickly paced through such a silly plot, that it spends no real time introducing the characters for the benefit of non-geeks in the audience. You have to be ready to buy into the Joe Universe from the moment the movie starts.
No spoilers here folks. I waited until Sunday just so I wouldn't influence any opinions. Let me know: Did you enjoy your taste of chocolate-covered bacon on a stick?
Actually, make that two days... Here's a sample of things brought up on the blog io9 over the past 48 hours...
Iron Man 2 spoilers... The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy anniversary... Lovecraftian horrors as art installations... Japanese giant monster movies... Woody Harrelson's zombie movie... Dollhouse... Tron and Tron Legacy... Crop Circles and UFOs... The NEW Ernst Stavro Blofeld rumored to appear in the next James Bond movie... An Alien prequel... What to avoid when you write your next techno thriller... Space Pirates... Vampires...
If you aren't already readin io9 I can't imagine why. They have something for everyone. io9 is listed in my blog roll on the left hand side of the screen.
Hisstank.com has published a few words from Ray Park on playing Snake Eyes in Gi Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It's buried about halfway down this article after Di Bonaventura's rambling about the GI Joe submarine and the hassle of naming it.
The most startling -- even scary -- revelation is that Snake Eyes will add a bit of breakdancing to his duel with Storm Shadow. Park calls this an homage to Snake Eyes... I'm guessing from the cartoon. I don't recall Snake Eyes II: Electric Boogaloo being part of the comics, but maybe I've just blocked the horror from my memory.
Park discusses how fighting with "katana swords" is sort of his style. Funny, I don't recall too many katana being used in wushu... He's really excited about the bladed tonfa. (Must... resist... pedantic... urge... to point out... Tonfa... ugh... aren't a ninja weapon... Aiiiieeee!!!) And don't believe him for a minute that Storm Shadow "just" uses swords. I have an inkling about this bit of misdirection; which is also a sort of homage...
All kidding aside, I expect the martial arts sequences to be among the best parts of the film. Hopefully they will make up for the dreadful drek like watching Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) hit on Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) for no good reason related to the plot or mythology.
My friend Dan, of Dan Dorman on Film, recently brought up a film (which will remain nameless) basically designed around making teenage girls' private parts tingle. I joked with him about the movie that first made me tingly. And now, I share that moment with you...
I tried to find a film of the scene. I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but... I think this is fun the way it is... Enjoy.
Before reading any further, understand that back in the 80's... I actually paid to see Michael Dudikoff's American Ninja in the theater.
The metaphorical body hasn't even hit the floor yet on GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and I'm already looking forward to the next wave of the New Ninja Boom: Ninja Assassin, brought to you by the Warchowski Brothers. This is a modern-day story and re-hashes the basic plot of orphan trained to be the premier assassin in a clan of assassins, but now on the run from his adopted family. Mayhem ensues.
Let me emphasize something at this point: MAYHEM ENSUES! Even the crew refers to this as a "strange side project."
This is not high drama. It is not art. It is -- I kid you not -- the reappearance of Sho Kosugi in a ninja movie. Don't hate on Sho Kosugi. It's an excuse to kick people in the face, and then disembowel them with a katana in the name of good, clean fun.
Well, wouldn't you know it? Query the interTubes and you tend to get some answers... There's production rumors on Wikipedia, of all places, regarding the Captain America movie. It seems the current thinking is that it will be set entirely in World War II.
So how does this young generation test multi-million dollar military equipment?
Check out this video showcasing the way the Delta 6 Accelerator Suit enhances the natural abilities of the wearer. You have to wonder if Tony Stark is thinking about suing for intellectual property infringement.
I'm kinda a Captain America Fan. Not in the sense that I have all the comic books back to the days of my youth. Except for the Red Skull, and by extension, Hydra, I can't name a single villain in Cap's rogues' gallery. And I'm blissfully ignorant of the late-Seventies -- or was it early-Eighties? -- television show.
I'm really a fan of Captain America, icon. I have a poster of the above image in my cubicle at work. It's gotten a few nods of approval, even from those who would normally disdain a grown man having anything to do with superheroes in a professional environment. Such is the power of the Captain America image. At least as much as Superman, Cap is a big, blue, boy scout. Everything he stands for gets summed up in his look.
Which is why I wonder what they can possibly be thinking in producing a Captain America movie. Last year's Iron Man was just the opening salvo in Marvel Studio's planned Avengers series. This was teased with a post-credits scene in which Samuel L. Jackson, playing Marvel Universe super-spy/badass Nick Fury, invites Tony Stark to discuss the "Avengers Initiative." Then Tony Stark showed up in The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2 is in production now... And The Mighty Thor is in pre-production with no less than Kenneth Branagh directing. The "capper" if you will, will be a Captain America movie in 2011 or 2012 before shoehorning all the actors/egos into an Avengers movie.
I thought Iron Man was pretty good movie. It was not (Dan, this is aimed at you) Oscar material. But Robert Downey Jr. was perfect as Tony Stark and everyone looked like they were having a great time. This was the opposite of The Dark Knight, which was a fantastic movie, but everyone on screen looked like they were suffering from existential exhaustion. It's no wonder Heath Ledger imploded, and Christian Bale has exploded on several occasions since.
But expectations for Iron Man were low. It was easy to be surprised. The Incredible Hulk was a dud. We'll have to see if Iron Man was lightning in a bottle when the sequel comes out next year. And since all indications are that The Mighty Thor will include all the "forsooths" and "verily", and other pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue the book was known for... well, my expectations for that are low too.
But Captain America... Cap is about what brings us together. He's all our better angels personified. He's about, in the word's of Bruce Springsteen singing about the flag, "certain things are set in stone / who we are/ what we'll do / and what we won't." A Captain America movie better be released on 4th of July weekend (as GI Joeshould've been... but then again, we're stuck with UN Joe), it better make my heart beat fast, bring a tear to my eye, and remind me why I'm proud to be an American.
What story do they tell? Will Cap seem relevant, or a preachy afterthought? Can you even make a movie that will do Cap justice, or will he just seem like a laughable, hopelessly naive, old fashioned boob? Can they stick to the origin story setting him firmly as one of the Greatest Generation, or will he be "improved", "modernized", and "rebooted?" If ever there was a time when we needed a Captain America movie, it was in the year or two after 9/11. But to release such a movie ten years after the event is to be several years to late. I guess we'll see... But Cap deserves the best possible effort.
Well, it's finally done. I've had the plans for a tameshigiri target stand for several years now, but I never got around to using them. I started to gather the materials a couple of times, but ran into some problems finding the right sizes. I also didn't think I had the right equipment to do the job.
I was right. But a co-worker volunteered to help with the project. He had the woodworking experience and equipment, and also the interest in having the finished product. So together we made two of these things.
Tameshigiri is the practice of cutting objects with a sword. In older times, these objects were the bodies of criminals -- sometimes dead, sometimes still alive. Traditional sword arts maintaining the practice of tameshigiri use rolled tatami mats as targets now. The dowel peg visible in the top shot holds a mat upright. Mats make good targets as the resistance is very similar to a human limb without all the politically incorrect gore.
As per usual, the Bujinkan (at least the American Bujinkan) does things somewhat differently and manages to annoy the traditional arts while doing so. We'll cut tatami mats when we can, but we'll also cut foam pool noodles, milk jugs, and plastic two-liter bottles. You can fill the jugs and bottles with water for stability. (Just be sure to do a thorough clean-up of your blade before it gets put away.) Some curious members have even been known to buy roasts and try cutting through actual meat and bone. This sends the traditionalists into fits.
Let me just say this about cutting plastic bottles: they come cheap and I can still recycle the cut parts. It's green; even Al Gore will approve.
I put a small table top of scrap wood on top one of my pegs to hold milk jugs and bottles. I plan to put a similar table top on a longer dowel in order to vary the target height.
This is a view of the three-inch hole for the peg. The three-inch hole is sufficient to hold the stuff in place.
I was going to link you to the plans. However, it appears the company has removed them from their website in favor of finished stands for about $95. You'll not it looks prettier than mine -- but mine was about a third of the cost. Maybe I'll work up the gumption to reprint some version of the original plans on this site at a later date.
Guy Ritchie is directing an updated version of Sherlock Holmes starring the Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. The director is playing up the physicality of this character, who is traditionally depicted as being brainy over brawny. To that end, the amount of wire fu expected in this movie is guaranteed to be more than in all other Sherlock Holmes films to date -- even if it doesn't quite approach the levels of The Matrix.
The justification for all the kungfu fighting is, in fact, in the original text. Although it is kind of a late addition. In order to explain how Holmes escaped certain death with his nemesis, the Napoleon of Crime, Prof. Moriarty; the suddenly appeared Holmes says that he used his knowledge of "Baritsu" or Japanese wrestling to break free of the villain's grasp.
"Baritsu" may not sound familiar. It is not a corruption of Jujutsu; well, not exactly. It is a mis-spelling of Bartitsu, a system of self-defense taught in Holmes' London era by Edward William Barton-Wright, who studied Jujutsu in Japan. Hos two primary sources of instruction were the growing Kodokan Judo and the waning ShindenFudoRyujujutsu.
Yes, fellow Bujinkan members... That ShindenFudoRyu. Although, if I remember correctly, he did not study with the the same branch of the Ryu that eventually produced Takamatsu and Hatsumi. I'll have to dig around for that info. I've got it somewhere.
Barton-Wright combined several different systems of Eastern and Western fighting into Bartitsu. It also included elements of cane fighting, boxing, and Savate. There was, in fact a pretty vigorous self-defense and combat sport sub-culture in England at the time. Boxing technique was somewhat more varied, for example, and included some stances and hand movements that would appear familiar to someone trained in an Asian martial art. English wrestling styles were also pretty brutal and included a number of submission holds. Contests were popular and not always rigged (although they had some of that too).
The movie has been hyping the martial arts aspect pretty heavily. There a growing expectation that it will showcase some of the actual methods in use in London at the time, although it remains to be seen if that is true. Downey has been quoted in several articles as saying he really enjoys the martial arts training he's been doing for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, so I've got my fingers crossed that it will be pretty good and show something unusual.
Sorry guys... I was trying to learn how to embed a YouTube video. I followed the instructions the pretty girl in the YouTube "Help" video provided. (I paid very close attention.) It still isn't happening. So, anyway... Please use this link.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie tie-in toys hit the store shelves last week. The official lay-down date was Tuesday, July 7th, but most retailers put the toys out on the more logical Friday, July 3rd to take advantage of the patriotic holiday shopping. (Nothing says patriotism these days like spending money in Target.) The above two-pack is something new I picked up recently, but is not part of the movie line. It's a "prequel" pack showing Snake Eyes in his ninja training with the Hard Master (Storm Shadow's uncle). I include it here because it is cool (as a ninja toy) and also because the Hard Master is in the movie!
Rather obviously I picked up a movie Snake Eyes: Ninja Commando. He comes in his solid black movie uniform, with bandoleer, katana, uzi and a backpack. The grey thing is a spring loaded missile launcher, another toy feature is a zip line. (Nothing says ninja like a zip line.) There is also a peg stand for the figure. There is also a Snake Eyes: Paris Pursuit that has been released. I'm going to try to pick one of these up because he comes in a cool black trench coat and includes a Timber wolf-pet. Whether or not Timber is in the movie... I don't know. I also know there will be at least one more version of Snake Eyes in arctic gear.
Look Dan! You can get a 1/12th scale Rachel Nichols of your very own. Paint her green if you want. I don't think she made it into the Star Trek movie toy tie-in line. I always buy a Scarlett to go with my Snake Eyes. This is Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara: Desert Ambush. She's wearing the black reactive armor from the movie. (Ummm, do you think they know why it's called "reactive" armor? No; probably not...) She has a detailed crossbow, a kid-friendly grappling hook launcher, and a rappelling harness. There is a version of Scarlett wearing the movie's blue/grey/black GI Joe camo uniform (Ugh-lee) but I didn't buy it yet. I'm hoping it's not too hard to chase down again.
I saw two versions of Storm Shadow, one wearing his mask and one without it. I came close to buying the masked one. I'm not thrilled with the Storm Shadow design for the movie. I understand some of the compromises they made to incorporate a ninja with an urban sophisticated look, but I think it could've been done better. Eventually I'll get the masked Storm Shadow. One of the really interesting things about this line is that it includes movie continuity versions of characters that do not appear in the movie. There is a pretty good Shipwreck, for example. (Although Shipwreck was rumored to appear in some versions of the script, his appearance in the film will be a real surprise to me.)