Friday, July 31, 2009

Best Damn Day Ever on io9

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...
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...

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.

Ray Park Speaks! 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.

Tron Legacy Trailer

Disney recently released the trailer for the sequel to 80's classic virtual reality film, Tron. Tron Legacy is due out in 2011.

Sideshow Toys: GI Joe's Duke

Sideshow Toys recently put their latest GI Joe 12" Action Figure on pre-order. This is Duke, GI Joe's First Sergeant.

When I think about you...

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to be a Ninja (on a budget)

So you think you want to be a ninja? How does one do that? Well, there are a few options available. Review these suggestions.

God Bless the Warchowski Brothers

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.

Yeah. I have a strange idea of fun...

Monday, July 27, 2009

More running.

Run, Rachel. Run some more...

And why can't I stop wishing Snake Eyes would come in and deck the Wayans brother for:
a.) Messing with his woman;
b.) Being all "rico suave"; and
c.) Being a Wayans.



Seriously, whoa.

This is one of those things you just can't believe is real.

And you wish it wasn't real.


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.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Viral Video

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.

Avengers Assemble

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 Joe should'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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What you talkin' 'bout, Holmes?

For those of you intrigued by my post on the Sherlock Holmes movie to be released this Christmas season, I want to provide the trailer. Here's the link to the YouTube site.

If you think Sherlock Holmes is slow, ponderous and too intellectual for you... think again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

No Milk Jug is Safe Now!

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.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Dead. And that's the way it is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Sherlock Holmes and his amazing Bare Knuckles

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 kung fu 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 Shinden Fudo Ryu jujutsu.

Yes, fellow Bujinkan members... That Shinden Fudo Ryu. 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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

He Never Gives Up, He Stays 'Til the Fight's Won

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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Check out those pegs!

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.)

Run, Rachel Run!


My home dojo was closed this week for summer vacation. I took the opportunity to visit a friend who teaches a very small Aikido class. When I say small, I mean even with me visiting you could count all the attendees on one hand and still have fingers left over.

I did about a year of Aikido with a different instructor in the late 1990's. It was also a small class and it was cheap. I didn't bother to grade at this, partly because I was only semi-regular and partly because I was stupid. Although training is never about rank per se, it is generally a pretty good idea to rank if you can in order to prove to the skeptical that you have legitimate experience (if not skill) with an art. Anyway, a year of Aikido is hardly enough to say I "know" Aikido, but I got a pretty good taste of it.

Aikido gets a bad rap these days because the emphasis is on "effectiveness" which usually means "ring competitive effectiveness." Aikido is a pretty passive system in the sense that someone has to be looking to invade your space before an Aikido technique can be executed. It's often said there are "no offensive" moves in Aikido. I'll let you find an effective Aikido teacher and train so you can decide if any of the moves offend you.

Something else that's said about Aikido is that it shines best as a graduate program for experienced martial artists. Aikido is all about distance, timing, and angling. (These are, or should be, all concepts familiar to Bujies.) It also requires a certain focus and mindfulness to execute the techniques. In other words, it emphasizes concepts that most martial artists don't start to internalize until they hit black belt in whatever art they are studying. It also emphasizes the "art" in martial art. You can throw sloppy blocks all day and be relatively effective, but sloppy Aikido not only looks terrible, it is completely ineffective -- even within a safe, compliant dojo setting.

Given the informal nature of the class, I asked what to wear. I like to blend in when I visit. I was told a white gi would be appropriate, and I was also welcome to wear a hakama. A hakama is, of course, the set of funny, baggy trousers traditionally worn by the samurai. People wearing them get teased about wearing "the magic pants," or "culottes," or a "skirt." In Aikido wearing hakama is usually reserved for yudansha. I would not have considered wearing them (I had already dusted off a white belt to keep my gi closed) had I not received the invitation. I did second guess myself, but in the end decided I don't often have a chance to wear my hakama and it was an opportunity to practice moving in them. On the hakama went.

I managed to trip on my own hem only twice; and frankly, I think that showed more grace than I expected to have. We moved a lot in the class. We opened with Aiki Taiso, including the rowing exercise to awaken the hips and a pivoting exercise that reminded my daughter (who came to watch) of ballet. Then we practiced kote gaeshi and irimi nage, two of the basic Aikido techniques.

The purpose of cross-training is to go outside your comfort zone and see how you perform. You have to let go of the ego and expect to laugh at yourself. Kote gaeshi is generally described as a wrist throw, so it is broadly similar to omote gyaku. But only in the sense that you finish with an outside wrist throw movement. Omote gyaku can be made to work on a non-compliant opponent. (Yes, this is true; you just have to know the tricks, what to add in, and understand when to use it.) Kote gaeshi utilizes the uke's own momentum by turning with the attack and then abruptly reversing the direction of the hand and projecting the uke away.

I got completely caught up in trying to execute the flowing turn around the attack and found myself clutching wildly for my uke's wrist. I was so focused on the part of the technique that was different, I couldn't perform the part that was familiar to me.

Later, and one of my regular readers will appreciate this, I heard the instructor reminding me to relax and breathe.

Near the end of the class, the instructor invited me to perform irimi nage using him as uke. Irimi nage ("entering throw") is a technique with very few moving parts. It relies mostly on timing and angling, with a smidgen of deception. I was also a little more confident that the instructor could take ukemi properly. The first couple of passes were tentative, but I managed to find the flow (nagare) and fit into the technique rather then execute the technique. After that, I felt real success. I won't say I had picture perfect Aikido, but it felt better and probably looked better.

This is where the "effective" crowd start to chide Aikido about compliant partners and empty drills. My Irimi Nage started working because I found the flow with my partner. We weren't working at cross-purposes. They have a point if the only point of martial arts is to overcome an adversary. But for a few moments on that mat two people trusted each other's skill, found common purpose, and sought to make something beautiful together. Working in concert is probably a far more useful skill in everyday life, and may be one of the hardest to achieve.

I'm eager to return, but class starts up again at my home dojo next week...

Ninjas, Vampires, Demons, Wire Fu, Mega Explosions, and Katana-wielding School Girls

What's not to like about the live action Blood: The Last Vampire?

Hot Damn!

This is either:
a.) The art from the one-sheet for the film "Jennifer's Body"
b.) Proof the God is a man

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Please direct your attention...

to a couple of blogs found at the left in the Blog Roll.

Low Tech Combat has an excellent primer on the difference between "alpha male" fighting and "Predator" fighting; or what you might call the difference between a bar fight and stalking Al Qaeda. (BTW, just who is this Al Qaeda guy I keep hearing about?)

Aliveness 101 hasn't been updated in over a year, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. This is Matt Thornton's blog. Mr. Thornton (he deserves to be called mister) is the principal exponent of the Alive Theorem of training. Just what is Alive training? Well, if you don't know, you should be reading what he has to say and trying to figure out if and how it applies to your own martial arts training. Please feel free to let me know what you muse out over the Alive Theorem.

If you're wondering what happened to part two of The Paper Chase experiment... I haven't given up on it. I had been thinking and carefully drafting my thoughts on the matter. However, then I read an article by a highly respected martial artists and author that changed my opinion completely. So it's back to the drawing board... I will return to The Paper Chase. But if you've got ideas, please feel free to comment in that post. The answers definitely depend upon your views and experiences in martial arts. I think there are lots of completely wrong answers, and several different shades of right answers. Although I'm going to now agree that koryu practitioners will only have one correct answer for the problem...

BTW, has anybody been following the Koga Ryu controversy? Check out the kogaryuninjutsu blog at left for a quick update, then get yourself over to Martial Talk, Martial Arts Planet, and Bullshido's Japanese forum to watch the fireworks. It's VERY surprising and worth keeping an eye on if you -- like me -- get a kick out of anything "ninja" related.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Oakley S.I. Assault Boot

Oakley is widely known form making sunglasses. Great sunglasses really. Sunglasses so badass that High Speed military types, cops, and elite shooters wear them as a badge,
Oakley also makes some really cool boots.
These boots come in black and desert tan. I think they look the most intimidating in black. Combat boots have come along way in the past 25 years. They use to be brutal on your feet. Now they incorporate the latest in running shoe technology with nearly indestructible toughness. (Of course, in real combat conditions, "indestructible" is a relative term...)
Check out these aggressive treads. Not only do they look meaner than an alligator, they look futuristic; like something off the feet of a Colonial Marine ready to do battle with insectoid xenomorphs.

That might be the reason they were chosen for Christian Bale in the latest Terminator flop-o-rama. These boots, in all their low-drag, high-fashion, pop culture glory can be yours for a mere $185 plus shipping and handling.

Postbox: The Pit

The website for GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra has been widely expanded and updated. You can take a tour of the Pit war room, and there are some great downloads of the main characters.

GI Japan

There's a new preview for the GI Joe movie that comes to us from Japan. If you look fast, you'll see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "The Doctor," who becomes the evil Cobra Commander...