Fourcast! 50: Anecdotal Evidence

June 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Hey, remember when I jokingly suggested that we’d one day do an entire podcast composed of nothing but anecdotes?
-Ha ha, joke’s on you!
-For our 50th show, we decided to do a big fat show where we talk about things we like.
-It’s so that you get to know us better, or something. I swear I had a reason when I thought of doing this.
-This is a fun one, though, so listen to it.
-David: The Book of Eli, Inglourious Basterds
-Esther: Creature features & comedies
-David: Crime shows–no wait, TV on DVD.
The Shield, Homicide: Life on the Street, Dragon Ball Z
Puss-n-Boots, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves
-Yes, I only know three fairy tales apparently. But Esther doesn’t know Dragon Ball Z!
Journey to the West
-Esther: TV shows–comedies, getting suckered into watching Oz/good dramas, making up memories
-David: Libraries and Fred Saberhagen
-Esther: Libraries and orphans
-The series I couldn’t think of was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. Thanks to snackmar for pointing it out from my vague, one-word description!
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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When Comics Should Be TV

June 8th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Alert reader elad, during the last podcast, was good enough to point me to the Execution of Mister Mind in the old Captain Marvel Adventures.  It was just as good as I imagined it would be.

Better, even.

What’s even better – someone I know from my local comic book shop brought in the full color, massive trade of the Captain Marvel Adventures and let me see how this went down in glorious color.  (Take that, proponents of e-comics, of which I technically am one.  Oh well.)  Highlights include the foreman of the jury declaring that they didn’t even have to leave the room to decide whether Mister Mind was guilty or not.  They knew right away.

All I could think, from Captain Marvel acting as the prosecuting attorney to the verdict to the teeny, tiny electric chair that they strap Mister Mind into, was this needs to be a Law & Order episode.  The pacing is perfect for the ‘dun duns’ and the work out that Jack McCoy’s eyebrows would get through the whole thing would be epic. 

But I’d settle for an animated short added on to a straight-to-DVD movie.  I love that dead worm.

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X-Men in Real Life

May 8th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I hate reality TV, and I don’t think I’ll be particularly interested in Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which will feature real people whose genetic differences result in seemingly-impossible abilities.

I have found, however, a deep repository of mean-spirited trashiness within me that I think they could tap.

If the people on the show have the last episode be a fight between the measurably-different people and all of those ‘indigo children’ and ‘crystal moms’ (or ‘indigo moms’ and ‘crystal children’), I’m in.  I would buy a TV to see that.

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Dollhouse Reveals New Miracle Cure: Punch-in-the-Face

October 21st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Say what you want about Dollhouse, it makes a compelling case for giving Bruce Lee the Nobel Prize for Medicine posthumously.  There is very little in the human body, mind, or soul that this series hasn’t cured with a good hit to the brain-pan. 

First of all, any soon-to-be parents can throw out those namby-pamby parenting manuals that tell them to spare the rod.  In the pilot, the ‘hero’ of the series is introduced via boxing montage.  As he is pummelled mercilessly, his fight is intersperced with scenes of his superiors telling him to back off investigating the Dollhouse.  After he is beaten to the ground, he gets up to fight once more!  That’s right.  You can smack determination into your kids.  Do it early.  Do it often.

Of course, this might get them feeling a little down.  No problem.  You know what cures suicidal tendencies?  A hit with a chair.  Yes, in episode three, a suicidal pop star is ‘cured’ of her tendencies by being cracked with a folding chair, wrestlemania-style.  No, I’m not kidding.  It wasn’t subtext.  It wasn’t a post hoc, ergo propter hoc situation.  They actually said, on the show, that a ‘brush with death’ helped reignite her desire to live.

But those are just mental conditions, right?  Mental problems are cured in all kinds of strange ways.  Physical problems, however, well – they take something a little more specialized.

Or not.  Four episodes into the series, an evangelical preacher actually beats the blindness out of the main character.  All right, so he only dislodged a chip in her head, allowing her to see.  That, however, was just an open-handed slap.  Imagine what a fist could do.

We only get to see that miracle cure in season two, but let me tell you, readers, it was worth the wait.  In the first episode of season two, we see the boxing-ring hero call on all of his experience and actually beat martial arts ability into the heroine.  On the way, he probably went through the ability to horseback ride, speak other languages, and work as a trained nurse, because she was glitching between multiple personalities until she was smacked into one who could kill all the arms dealers who were surrounding the both of them.

Regardless of the situation, I think that Dollhouse has showed us the way to true health.  Forget vegetables and meditation.  Find yourself a wall and whack it with your head.  You’ll thank me when you’re a ninja.

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Ideals and Identification

October 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I was thinking today about Diana and Stephanie, the two female characters whose comics I buy.  Diana, Wonder Woman, is perfect.  The embodiment of compassion, strength, honor, bravery, and beauty, she’s a princess and a warrior and an ambassador.  Despite her iconic status, and the fact that she’s had an ongoing comic for the better part of a century, female fan interest in her has only recently heated up – due to Gail Simone’s decision to write her comic.

Stephanie, Spoiler/Robin/Batgirl/Who’sNext?, is decidedly not perfect.  A perpetual screw-up, she’s earned both my and general female fandom’s accolades by picking herself up, dusting herself off, and starting all over again.  It’s possible that her moment of greatest popularity was after her death.

While it’s normal for fans of any gender to decry a comics character’s death while pretty much ignoring their life, I wonder if something extra is at work, here, especially when I think of other media.  Most TV shows and movies about female characters are about the adorable main character trying to get her life together.  She’s clumsy, and awkward, but tries so hard.

And she’s at war, usually, with the ultra-perfect glamazon who is after her job/man/scholarship/position in society/what’s next?  I hate that dynamic because it has always been, in my experience, false.   What’s more, it embraces the values it supposedly abhors.  Whether it favors the popular girl or the outsider (And who are we kidding?  Like any show, book or movie in the last fifty years hasn’t sung the praises of the noble outsider), it still villifies one segment of the population for, basically, having different values, tastes or interests.  Still, I wonder if, no matter how I resist it, it’s at work in me, or at work in many women.

While media that sings the praises of the powerful man (The Sopranos, The Tudors, Kings, etc.), the brilliant man (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, CSI Miami, House, Monk), or simply the eccenric or egotistical man (Dexter, House again, Nip/Tuck) do well, women are always given a heroine they can relate to not one that they feel they have to compete with, and certainly not one they feel they’d lose out to.

Even in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the heroine is usual beset with troubles and struggling, instead of blowing everyone away with her strength and brilliance.  Buffy, the mystical chosen one, is always one step away from getting kicked out of school.  House, the doctor who can’t be assed to restrain his own bad behavior, finds out that his supervisor has budgeted in lawsuit money for the various patients who sue him because he is just that good.

Is this about what’s offered to women?  Is it about what’s taught?  (Tina Fey’s movie, Mean Girls, was hailed as an insightful satire about teenage girls.  It had a group called ‘The Plastics’.  We never had groups like that in my school, but how many movies can you watch before you develop an attitude of ‘it’s us versus them’.)  Is it just my lopsided view of pop-culture?

In the end, girls and women are given many examples of heroines about winning out when odds are against them (just as men are) but relatively few examples of just plain winners.

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The Dollhouse Flip

October 14th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I like my comics to be more variety show than epic tale.  Although there are a few long stories I adore, most of which I’ve gone on about already, there is nothing I like better than an eclectic bunch of simple stories.  Gotham Knights, Superman/Batman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman Confidential, Tiny Titans, all of these are the kinds of things I like.

This love of the well-told episode extends to other forms of media.  I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings.  I hate when they artificially extend a storyline by making the season finale end on a cliffhanger.  And I generally like one-off stories better than overall arcs.  The episode of the Justice League Unlimited in which Wonder Woman got turned into a pig, or the time that Buffy had to take on a mind-control creature that came out of the eggs that students had to carry around for sex-ed.

So it’s strange to me that Dollhouse entirely flips my preferences.  I don’t care what assignment that Echo has this week or how well she completes it.  I want to see more of the sub-plots, the foreshadowing, and the ongoing undercurrents that color every episode.  I want to see the grander story.

I’m not sure what it is that is different about the series.  I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Echo/Caroline, but while I don’t find her a particularly interesting character, she carries the stories along and makes me believe she can be both creatively clever while being clueless to larger implications.

Maybe it’s because the Dollhouse itself is evil.  When the show is about heroes, I don’t like to see them hit trouble.  When it’s about villains, I welcome a chance to make them miserable.

But I think there’s a larger reason.  So many shows give us meaningless plot-twists and clever set-ups that reveal themselves to be just that – clever set-ups, with payoffs to be filled in by the writers if its necessary.  Dollhouse is planned, from first to last.   There aren’t any dropped story lines or hollow explanations or rushed justifications.  I know that if I see something strange, it was because I was meant to, and I’ll get a satisfying pay-off if I wonder about it.

Take note, Lost.  Oh wait.  That show actually did well.

Please watch Dollhouse, you guys.  If the show gets cancelled because the world ends I will go freaking crazy on someone and I can’t be sure it won’t be myself.  So.

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Five Things About Dollhouse That Are Hard To Miss

September 27th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Read the rest of this entry �

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To Read Makes Joss Whedon’s Speaking English Good?

September 22nd, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

It seems that FOX did something to Joss Whedon’s vision of the first season of Dollhouse.  Joss Wheden talked about it after a charity screening of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  And after reading the quote, I have no idea what it is.

[FOX] said “so they’re kinda like prostitutes and that’s not ok” Word came down that it wasn’t ok. I wanted to make a show that’s about feeling bad about feeling good or good about feeling bad. Fantasy is just that, fantasy. FOX wanted to back away from these implications.

The thing is, they are prostitutes and that is ‘not ok’.  It seems like acknowledging that is doing the exact opposite of ‘backing away’ from the implications of that concept.

Or is it ‘not okay’ for them to be shown as prostitutes and Joss Whedon wanted to lay what the dolls were used for out plainly enough for us all to have moral objections?

Or were the FOX executives simply saying to lay off the hooker plots?

Only Joss knows for sure. 

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Theme Music

July 17th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I find that when I have a difficult challenge to face, it can be overcome more easily if I think of the theme music from Terminator 2.  That lets me pretend I am a steely-eyed, nineties Linda Hamilton who is working to prepare for a post-apocalyptic society and who can do pull-ups and stab someone in the knee with a pen if they cross me.

Sometimes the theme music from the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series works better if I’m feeling a little more jiffy.  Something about the exclamation of ‘Turtle Power!’ at the end just works for me.

Anyone draw inspiration from a similar source?

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A Little Voice Inside My Head Said Don’t Look Back, You Can Never Look Back

June 24th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I believe I was the very last person in the world to discover hulu, but when I did, I was very pleased to see that the first few seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were on it.

“Fantastic,” I thought.  “I can put them up on my computer when I have to clean up, or fold clothes, or  just whenever I feel like seeing some of my favorite episodes again.” Read the rest of this entry �

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