Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Epic Fail Of A Legendary Knight

Arthurian Legend is just about the best thing I can ever think of. I eat that stuff up. Grew up with it, tried to write my own spin on it, even aced a class on it in college without ever studying for an exam. Arthuriana saturates my pores. That’s not really a secret about me, but it does imply a dark side to it. If I love good King Arthur stuff, might it be possible that I also love BAD King Arthur stuff.

The answer is yes. Oh God yes. With a side of angels. Its like a train wreck. Morbid curiosity keeps me glued on to it, just to see HOW bad someone can get the legends.

Sword Of The Valiant is something that gets the legends horribly, awfully wrong. Released in 1984 and starring Miles O’Keeffe as Gawain, its plot is lifted straight out of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (written in Middle-English by an anonymous poet and translated into modern English by numerous academics including one Professor J.R.R. Tolkien). Okay, I thought, eying the DVD in a Borders. Don’t see that story get turned into a movie often--hey, wait a minute! Sean Connery!

Indeed. Sean Connery is in the movie as the Green Knight himself. Quality be damned, this movie was destined to be mine.

Quality be damned is right. Its awful. It starts off cheesily enough, but faithful to the poem, with Arthur having a New Year’s feast and bitching at his knights about the good old days when they fought monsters and didn’t sit around swilling beer all night. In a vaguely ominous set up, Connery barges into the festivities wearing the most ridiculous armor ever. Ever. I repeat, stressing the past-present-future meaning of EVER. Armor sloppily painted green, a big bushy wig covered in glitter, a shirt that lets you see his midsection for no reason whatsoever, bronze makeup caked onto his face and an unavoidable codpiece. He looks as though he stumbled out a medieval Rocky Horror Picture Show. Anyway, he challenges Arthur’s court to a friendly game. He’ll let a knight strike him on the neck with his own axe if he will be allowed to do the same in turn. Straight out of the poem. And as in the poem, the young Gawain is the one to nut up and accept the challenge.

Once slice later, the Green Knight picks up his animatronic mannequin head and pops it back on and tells Gawain to spend a year growing up discovering what it means to be a man and solving some “riddles” if he can. Then he rides off and so does the faithfulness to the original work.
Gawain gets saddled with a trail-wise squire named Humphrey and rides off into the woods. The meathead gets hungry and didn’t bring anything along to eat. Our heroes spot a unicorn and Gawain decides to shoot it with the logic “You said its magic, that means it’ll taste good.” Savor that for a little bit, I know I did. They inexpertly chase after it and it disappears, having served NO PURPOSE in furthering the plot.

Then they stumble upon Morgan LeFay, fight a Black Knight in the first of many awkwardly choreographed fight scenes, Humphrey gets lost, Gawain rides into the vaguely magical kingdom of Lyonesse, Meathead with the Prince Adam haircut falls in love with a woman called Linet, tries to escape with her, fails and spends most of the rest of the movie finding and losing her again and again until a year passes and Connery comes riding back into the plot for a conclusion that…doesn’t end like the original at all.

The movie’s bad. No question whatsoever. What makes it stunningly bad is the cast. Aside from Sean Connery, it features Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies and Peter Cushing. That’s Dr. Henry Jones, Toht (the guy who got all melty-faced at the end of Raiders), Sallah and Grand Moff Tarkin. It’s an Indiana Jones cast member hat trick. Add to them the aimless meandering plot, lame (as in crippled) dialogue, worse jokes and ludicrous stupidity of the square jawed hero. Its got everything for the bad movie connoisseur. Gawain even bravely sets a blacksmith’s shop on fire in a heroic robbery, nobly leaving the smiths to die in the flames.

And then there’s that little bit of the movie that tells you somebody involved in the writing of the script actually did try. I mentioned that the opening was fairly faithful to the original. The ending almost was as well, before it devolved into a fight scene. (I don’t say pointless because Gawain finally finds a use for Connery’s exposed belly, which is not how the poem ends at all). There are rare moments when a line of dialogue actually sounds pretty good (as when Lacey’s Oswald talks about the nature of the sword. Honestly, it’s a nuanced line of dialogue that adds a little pathos to the scene its in. Also, anything Rhys-Davies says in his brief screen time is hilariously over the top). Someone even took the time to put a gold pentacle on Gawain’s shield. That shield was lifted out of the actual poem. It was only visible on screen for about two seconds, but the fact that somebody went to the effort of including it meant they actually did flip through the book. That futile effort of artistry buried under the gleeful stupidity of the rest of the movie makes me oddly proud that I chanced upon it.

Of course, you could always check out the trailer and save yourself the trouble of buying it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ethical Escapades in an Electoral Epoch

So I’ve got writer’s block and the political climate is particularly rank and invasive into every aspect of life right now. I figure, why not, I’ll write about politics. But not about specifics.

Personally, I hate the circus that this (and the last few elections) have been. Contempt for all the candidates does nothing but grow as I read up on them and the two party system we currently have operating…well, I don’t want to start about the garbage the “Parties” have gotten us into over the last decade and a half.

Let’s detach ourselves emotionally from the rigmarole polluting our good citizens ears and take a somewhat Socratic look at political ethical theory.

One of the very interesting things I find in my conversations is the Party Line (you know, the bullet list of Officially Supported Policiestm that they demand you follow when you sign on) and how much it requires someone to fall in.

Let’s elaborate. Say, for argument’s sake, someone believes very strongly in the immigration, taxation, death penalty and environmental policies of the Democratic Party, but is also a devout Catholic who firmly disbelieves in abortion. That doesn’t jive with the Party Line. Here’s where the ethical quandary jumps up. Now of course, a knee jerk reaction might be that its just one issue, it can be overlooked for the sake of solidarity during an election year. I think that’s the easy, unthinking way out. Its simply turning a blind eye to an issue by our hypothetical voter.
So, the issue now comes down to what is more ethical? Can someone turn a blind eye to one issue for the sake of some electoral “greater good,” but if so, how much does that one value matter to the voter? Something like abortion isn’t a small matter; much like war, death is involved. Which is the greater value: the individually held belief or a grander scheme? And even then, which is the grander scheme? Supporting a candidate for election in the hope of (whatever) change or a defined “sanctity of life” issue that theoretically oversteps political boundaries. Tough question, isn’t it?

At this casual stage of examination, I see three options available to our ethically interested pro-life hypothetical voter (or EIPLHV). The first is a simple disavowal of any pro-abortion candidate. Bit of a hardline stance, one might argue. Still, a move like that takes (hopefully well-thought out) conviction , and for the voter who makes that decision, sticking to it with consistency is an admiral slap in the face of Party conformity. The reasoning is clear behind it. The issue really matters to our EIPLHV and they have the stones to stick to it, regardless of whatever “The Man” may want otherwise.

Option two: Swallow the bitter pill of moral guilt and go along with something our EIPLHV finds wrong. The reasoning here is also clear. The EIPLHV looks at the list of issues and chooses to vote in favor of the quantity of agreed issues. Arguments of greater good are raised. After all, if the candidate follows through on all of the promised campaign promises (I apologize for venturing into fantasy land, but it is a hypothetical situation after all), then our voter could say that it was worth it. But was it really? If the abortion issue is so important for our voter, isn’t this a lot like selling out? An excuse, or worse, a lie told to allay one’s guilt? It may smack of realpolitik, but it doesn’t sound particularly ethical, does it?

The third option: Building off of option two, the EIPLHV closes their eyes and pulls the lever for a candidate they agree with on all the issues except one very important one but doesn’t want to sell out their morals. If that is the case, then shouldn’t the voter become more involved in the civic process. Now, I’m not talking about running for office themselves necessarily, but a vote is in some ways like an investment in a candidate? You, along with however many million other people, put that candidate in office. Makes you something of a shareholder. If the shareholders in a company don’t like something, they make it known, yes? Why should the shareholders in the biggest company of (the government) all hold their tongues when they don’t like something? Isn’t that part of the democratic ideal? It’s a compromise option, our anti-abortion voter chooses to support a pro-abortion candidate, but ethically, are they not obligated to seek a discourse in the hopes of changing the candidate’s mind? If the voter feels that strongly about the subject to agonize over the election, then it certainly shouldn’t end on polling day. A responsible candidate should be willing to discuss such important matters of ethics, much as a responsible voter should be willing to raise those kinds of issues.

I’m sure there are other possible paths for our hypothetical voter to travel down, but I’m tired and this was just a thought exercise anyway. This is meant to be a rhetorical venture anyway, so I’m not coming to any kind of definitive answer. I’m not a Democrat, so its not even my problem.

Actually, if anyone gets anything out of this, I hope it’s a more active self-examination of the Issues that matter to them in this heated political climate. Voting just because some shadowy “Party” tells you to is not only lazy, its irresponsible, unethical and undemocratic. If you agree with a Party, good for you, great. Just remember that you’ve got the voting power, not them. Just because they want you to vote for something does not mean you should automatically obey.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"First we find her. Then, we sleep."

I was planning on seeing Tropic Thunder on its opening night. Didn’t happen. Ended up watching a 2006 film called “Renaissance.” Now, some context may be necessary. I’d heard about the movie back when it came out in limited release, and thought: “sounds cool, I should check it out” before it dropped under my radar. Fast forward to last year when I was looking for Christmas gifts for cinema-loving buddies at Target. On the shelf was Renaissance. Long, boring story short, I was at one of said buddies’ houses and we decided to crack that baby open and throw it in.

It’s a French film (dubbed into English quite well by noted actors like Daniel Craig and Ian Holm) and set in Paris in the year 2054 (sadly no flying cars and ray guns but there is a really cool Citroen). But that’s just the stage for the movie.

This movie is a hard-boiled detective Noir film about a cop trying to solve a kidnapping. In the future. That’s what it is, and my God does it work. The first thing you’ll notice about the film is that its in glorious Black & White. There are no grays. Its black and white. That’s the first thing. The second thing you notice is that its completely animated. Sure, all the movements are done in motion capture, but its 100% CG. This is not a bad thing. The stark and stylized nature of the film completely draws you in, covering up the computer generated nature of it. There’s only a few moments where the graphics seem off; hair doesn’t move quite right, the eyes look a little out of place occasionally. Those are entirely minor quibbles that don’t break the spell of the movie. It is a technical achievement.

Storywise, its Noir through and through. Captain Karas, the hero, is a badass cop with a dark past. There’s the usual seedy characters, the seemingly clean characters who are just as seedy, and the beautiful woman who gets involved with the hero. I don’t want to tell you much about it since the whole point of Noir is the twists that go along the way. Suffice it to say, if you know anything about characters like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, then you know that these stories always get messy.

I suppose the comparison to Sin City is in order. Yes, they’re both black & white. Yes they’re both soaked in a seedy underbelly. I’d venture to say that Sin City is more like a bullet and LSD soaked version of Dick Tracy. Everyone there’s a caricature, everything is over the top. It feels, despite using real actors in makeup, completely cartoony. Renaissance doesn’t let the bullets fly like snowflakes in a blizzard. Its got action and car chases, but at its root, it’s a thriller with small doses of philosophy thrown in. Its less cartoony despite being completely animated. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Sin City a lot, but it’s a big happy fun-time mindless action movie most of the time while Renaissance is just better movie with visuals and plot dancing merrily hand-in-hand down the gritty sewers of Paris. Ultimately I suppose it comes down to understanding the difference between a Bruce Willis movie (which Sin City is. I mean, he’s in it) and a Steve McQueen movie. Both action stars, but there’s a huge difference.

Penultimately, I think Renaissance shouldn’t be compared to Sin City. It seems to fit somewhere in between Blade Runner and the Ghost In The Shell series while resurrecting the spirit of old pulp cinema. That’s not a bad place to be. Ultimately, you should be there too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monsters are not there to scare us, but to remind us that they can be slain.

I may be paraphrasing largely neglected English Modernist author G.K. Chesterton, but the sentiment applies.

One of the few negatives of the house where I live is the fact that there is a large house centipede population that likes to make itself known on occasion. When they do, they require termination.

Tonight, after finishing watching “Spaced” on DVD (available now and recommended for those that liked “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” as well as for those people with at least half a brain), I retired to my room and found the largest centipede I’ve seen yet in the corner of my room, above my computer desk (a modest card table in lamentable disarray). I switched on the air conditioner and regarded the intruder with the same disgust that Dutch did when he finally saw the Predator.

Two Inch Centipede Small

Conferring with my roommate, we concluded the beastie was easily over two inches long, not counting the spindly alien-legs that gave it its unnatural mobility. In the unseen Darwinian wilderness of the house, this creature had risen to Alpha Predator-like status, and did not move away when the light came on. It had no reason to be afraid of anything.

It had to be dealt with. Its position could not go unchallenged.

But first I had to go to the loo. Grabbing a copy of W.B. Yeats’ poetry, I flew to the bathroom to, ahem, “publish my manuscript.” One flush later, I had a plan.

Downstairs to the kitchen to grab the large flyswatter. While there, I took a slug of Plymouth Gin (because any other gin is revolting). Armed with alcohol and an instrument of violence, I spied one of the Alpha’s smaller bretheren sitting on the moulding of the stairway. I took a practice swing with my left hand, but only succeeded in winging it before it found refuge in the shadows.

Back upstairs, the plan evolved. The Alpha was still in the corner, as if taunting me haughtily. It had the advantage of terrain. Being in the corner meant I had to climb onto my wheeled, swivel chair to get a decent shot at it, a largely unbalanced position. I would be fighting an uphill battle and I knew it.

A long sleeved shirt was added for fear that if I missed, it might end up on me. A full-face Halloween mask was added to that, like an executioner’s hood in case it got on my face. Thus armed, I took up my position and readied my strike. A deep breath. An unspoken prayer for swift victory. A swing.

Of course I missed and the monster dropped to the ground. I retreated off of the chair to get both feet on the ground. Thick shoes with 159 lbs of human above them could be brought into play now too.

The monster was in the lower corner behind the desk. Shoes wouldn’t reach. Another strike with the flyswatter, winging it. It began scuttling toward my bed. Two more missed strikes and it was under the bed. Iesu, it was fast, but I had injured the Alpha.

It won the first round.

Regrouping with the resolve that if this monster did not die immediately, it could wreak its bloody revenge while I slept, I pulled out the bed.

I found it, lying against the moulding. I lined up my strike, now sans mask to ensure accuracy, and struck.

I blinked in disbelief. The damn thing vanished. A closer look revealed some fluid against the wall and what appeared to be some legs mixed in with the dust bunnies. My aim had been true. The monster seemed to have exploded with a central hit. Expected more of a mess.

There should have been more of a mess. I moved the head of the bed to see if it ran behind it. Nothing. I looked under the head of the bed. Again nothing. I reexamined the floor. The fluid was still there.

Still, “no body, no death,” as they say. There’s a remote chance that the beast escaped death by my hands. A chance that it was still in the room somewhere, under the bed. A chance that it was watching me type this very sentence with its soulless, multifaceted eyes.


Monday, April 21, 2008

The DaVinci Ehhhhh

Regular readers, if there are any, may remember my dabbling with the DaVinci Code a few years back. All four of you may also remember my obvious…contempt for the book.
Well…I got the movie. Not *bought* the movie, or *paid* for the movie. Withdrawn from the library is more like it.

I gave up on the book 28 chapters in, fed up with the farfetched writing and simply awful pretentiousness of the historical inaccuracies and the cavalier way they were thrown about. Insofar as the movie goes… let’s see…

It has a very big name cast. Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, and Sir Ian McKellan. It also looks very good. The cinematography is well done, with dramatic shading conveying the tension that a thriller should. The acting is pretty good across the board, not best actor/actress of course (props going to McKellan for making a so-so movie watchable, just like in X-3) but serviceable.
The story is…watered down from the tinfoil hat concepts of the book, but not too much, and as such, I still sit and ultimately can’t enjoy the movie.

It may sound arrogant, but a story so steeped in outright historical ignorance (and as last time, my major complaints about the garbage are historical and not theological-there are others more schooled in theology than I) is not at all enjoyable to a lover and reader of history. I could write at length about the confusion and conspiracies about the meteoric rise and fall of the Knights Templar, but there really isn’t any time/room for that right now. Suffice it to say the actual truth is much, much more intricate, tragic and dramatic than what has been laid forth by this story.

This story….sadly it is just silly garbage that isn’t worth my time, nor anyone else’s.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Remember when I said “Monday at the earliest?” Yeah, that didn’t happen. Responsibilities accumulated and then I just sort of fell off the wagon. Hard. Like, “You have tried to ford the river and lost three oxen and cousin Buck has diphtheria” hard.

Well, I might as well babble about something while I’m here. This month marks issue 50 of Cable And Deadpool, which translates into about 4 years of a monthly ongoing comic. Not bad. Add the fact that writer Fabian Nicieza has been on the book pretty much the whole time and that’s one impressive run on a comic these days.

So what was it about? Basically an odd-couple pairing of Deadpool, cult-favorite Merc with a Mouth with a healing factor better than Wolverine’s and a mouth faster than Spider-Man’s with Cable, square-jawed time traveling soldier from the future who’s actually the son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor (who was a clone of Jean Gray created by Mr. Sinister back in the day. Don’t worry about it, Madeline’s been dead since the 90s). Let’s just say that most of the people who picked it up weren’t there for Cable. I know I wasn’t. So what did the book have going for it? Killer moments of extreme funny, gratuitous action, solid artwork, character growth, guest stars, tie-ins to most of the big crossovers, and even poignancy. It also had Deadpool in a Marvel Girl costume from which is burned into my mind like acid.

If you have been reading Cable & Deadpool, raise a cry of “Bea Arthur!” to the heavens. If you haven’t been reading it, then you were trying to let the terrorists win and deserve a spankin’ with a slotted wooden spoon. Then you should go out and try to pick up the trades because they are good for you and spending your rebate on them is good for the American Economy.

Its what Captain America would want.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Well, this is sad news The Grand Master of the Knights of Malta died over the weekend. Andrew Bertie was 78 years old and the first English Grand Master in the Order’s 900 year history.

More information about the S.M.O.M. can be found on their website,

Yes, a 900 year old Medieval Order has an official website. I’d like to see the Templars beat that.


I can explain. First, there was internet troubles yesterday, and I got caught up in the playing of No More Heroes on the Wii.

Which is an interesting game. The plot is rather simple, in a Kill Bill sort of way. Travis Touchdown wants to be the No. ranked assassin in the world, so he’s got to fight his way to the top with his battery operated beam sword that he got in a ‘net auction. And he’s got a bike that looks like it came out of Akira. Its absurdist, bloody and really really violent for a Nintendo game. Its also the first good sword fighting game I’ve played on the Wii. There’s nothing bad I can say about the combat, except for when the AI tries to shoot through an invulnerable box that I’m hiding behind (suck it Destroyman!)

The stuff in between the fighting though, is a bit…lacking. The driving feels like a tacked on imitation of Vice City, the side missions to get the money to enter the next rankings fight are, well, let me put it this way; picking up trash and carrying coconuts is about as fun as it is in real life.

But the fighting? Awesome.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Hmm. Four days in and I’ve got nothing.

Wait. Wait. I might have-

No. False alarm.

Well, rather than have a complete waste of time for an update, here’s a flash fact: Sitting on top of my monitor for the last year or so is a stuffed lobster. He’s a product of Korea (probably South, but I’m not sure) and his name’s Pepe. Pepe the Lobster of Love.

It helps if you say it in an Antonio Banderas voice. No, really.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Since February is the Month of Love, I might as well weigh in on an important issue: Turn-offs. Personally, I’m not a big fan of piercings in general, but no big deal. Except for lip studs. A nose ring is one thing. Sure I want to ask if it feels like a metal booger, but whatever.

The lip stud I just don’t get. It doesn’t look comfortable. At all. And it looks like a shiny metal wart. There, I said it. I don’t find shiny metal warts sexy in any way shape or form. Nasty.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


My laptop hates my printer. Which is strange considering both are HP products. Every time I reconnect the printer to the lappy, it asks to install the drivers, which causes me to grit my teeth in rage because the drivers have already been installed four times on the damn thing and installing a fifth one isn’t going to solve the problem. Oh, it would work, but only until I shut off the machine or disconnect the printer, which defeats the purpose of a portable system such as a laptop. The printer’s been installed on my tower (also an HP) and it works fine and dandy. I can unplug it, leave it in a corner for weeks, take it on a thrill-packed road trip ala Smokey & The Bandit and when I reconnect it, it gives me no guff, just tells me that its ready to go.

Really, the only difference between the two computers (besides age) is that the tower runs XP and the lappy has Vista. Hmm…

Why yes, I am running filler this morning. Its because I've got some important crap to take care of today.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Well here we are, another February, another daily blogging project. Last years’ kind of petered out since I spent most of my time looking for a new job. The year before was actually pretty successful in that I managed to pull off the daily grind. This year? Who knows. It could fizzle, it could crackle and explode. All I do know is that its like an eclipse; don’t look at it directly or you’ll hurt your eyes. Today’s light on content since I’m still trying to figure out how and when I’m going to update what with working 2nd shift and all. Should be interesting for anyone who wants to stick around for the ride.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Which I Pretend To Be Both Theatre Critic And Foodie

Hop, skip, jump and scamper your merry little way over to a theatre if possible and see Avenue Q. “What’s Avenue Q?” you may ask your monitor at your home or office, perhaps to the puzzlement of nearby bystanders. Well, the best way I’ve been able to explain it is: Its Sesame Street meets Rent, only less pretentious.

Seriously, its got puppets who swear, get drunk and make hot puppet love on stage. I’m just saying, is all. But it is good toilet humor. The writing is sharp, the songs are at the same time hilarious, original and poignant, and the damn thing’s got heart. So yeah, I definitely recommend the show. Honestly, with songs like “The Internet is For Porn” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” how can you go wrong?

So with a Broadway show like that, me and the usual gang of idiots who saw it were hungry afterwards. Denny’s is pretty damn low on the classy totem pole, and IHOP is just plain disgusting for cardboard, so why bother with offal when for a few dollars more you can hit up a local, independent joint.

Said independent joint was Lolita, located in Cleveland’s quasi-artsy, quasi-trendy Tremont neighborhood. Lolita is a restaurant owned by Michael Symon, who you might actually have heard of thanks to the Food Network’s recent Next Iron Chef competition. Lolita’s got a bigger sister downtown called Lola, which is swankier and (by nature) more premium prices. Haven’t been there yet.

Back to Lolita. After parking on the street, the four of us entered from the bitter Cleveland cold and waited a few minutes looking over the menu before a table cleared. The wait wasn’t long at all actually, The place is actually quite big, but cozy. The lighting is dim enough to be intimate, but not enough to hide what it is you’re eating.

I’m kind of tired, so I’m not going into full blown narrative mode here. The food: The list of appetizers is very long and packs a lot of variety. Three were ordered and basically tasted in roundtable format. Chicken Wings. Yes I know, why go to a nice place and order wings? Well, the wings were very good and involved cilantro and chiles and packed a sizable kick to them. Next. Crispy Chicken Livers. That’s what I ordered. Breaded and served with mushrooms and (I think grilled onions) the livers tasted awesome and just about dissolved in your mouth. Well, not “Your” mouth since “you” weren’t there. Third: Pork Cheeks. Soft and about as tender as you can get, with a thin layer of sweetness on the outside. The appetizers were awesome and worth the trip themselves.

The main course: Pizza. What I call “European” style (since that’s what it was like when I was in Europe). About 12” in diameter, thin crust and with decidedly different toppings than the standard fare. The pizza we didn’t share with each other. Mine was the lamb sausage with arugula and feta cheese, it was nice. Other pizza toppings included specialty cured meats and duck.

Lolita, definitely plan on going back there again sometime and ordering one of the main entrees. If you’re in Cleveland and looking for a quality meal in a great atmosphere at a very reasonable price, Lolita is definitely one of the places I would recommend.