Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Under the Dome 1.06: "The Endless Thirst"

News broke today that Under the Dome had been renewed for a second season, the thirteen episodes of which will debut in the summer of 2014.  In other news that surprised nobody, water remained wet and John Wayne remained dead.

The news had been more or less a foregone conclusion since at least the fourth week, when it was clear to anybody paying attention that the show's numbers were not dropping off considerably.

That might theoretically change next week, due to a bitter dispute between CBS (UtD's network) and Time Warner Cable, which at 11 pm tonight -- conveniently after tonight's episode of the series -- removed all CBS stations from its service.  Time Warner serves roughly three million customers in towns you may have heard of such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Dallas, among others.  It's unlikely that all three million of them watch Under the Dome, but it seems quite reasonable to assume that a decent number of them do; so unless the dispute gets resolved, don't be surprised if the ratings for episode seven take a bit of a hit.

What does that have to do with tonight's episode?

Not a dadburn thing!  I just felt like mentioning it.  Pray that I don't feel the need to discuss my cats!

In some ways, I didn't feel this was quite as strong an episode as a few of the recent ones have been.  But there were a number of really good scenes, and the episode passed what might be the greatest of all tests for a television series: when the hour ended, I wished it had fifteen more minutes or so.  I get pedantic at times about things, including episodes of television shows, but in the end, does anything matter more than that simple wish?  If an episode ends and you say some variant of the following -- "Awwwww, man...!  I've gotta wait until next week?!?  I want more now!" -- that means you're invested in the show, and investment means the series has done its job.  We can, and will, debate the semantics of the degree to which that investment has occurred, but as long as it has occurred, that's all that really matters.

And I remain invested, although there were a few moments in tonight's episode that made my roll my eyes.  The accident that set the episode's events in motion, for example: Alice, in some sort of demantia-like fit thanks to a diabetes attack, wanders into the street and nearly gets smooshed by a truck.  Happily, she does not get smooshed.  Less happily, the truck driver swerves, and runs into the town's water tower, which immediately begins losing every drop of water inside it.

Holy shit!  That's kinda terrible writing, guys.  And yes, I'm conscious that that accusation comes from a man who just typed the phrase "kinda terrible writing," which in and of itself is terrible writing.  I, uh...I did it just to prove I know what terrible writing is.  Yeah.  Yeah!  That's it!

Seriously, though, that sucked.  Wouldn't it have been easier to just say that the fire in episode two caused the water to run out?  Or, hell, if you wanted to avoid an episode-two callback you could have just said that the methane contamination in the lake made the town's potable water undrinkable.  There was no need to have a perfectly good lesbian go staggering into the street in a low-blood-sugared state of amnesiac daffiness.  That shit was uncalled for.

And now, to provide a bit of a transition, I present to you the five weirdest images culled from a Google search for the phrase "a perfectly good lesbian":

this one was called "destroy the sanctity of a perfectly good gourd"

if that's a bulldog, then I think I get why this showed up...

I shit you not: "is Roswell New Mexico lesbian friendly?"

"lesbians who look like Tintin" (still laughing over that one)

needs no explanation; delightful

Well, I'm amused after that Google Images search, but also a bit disappointed.  I don't know about you, but I sort of expected some hot girl-on-girl action, and instead all I got was chuckles and grins.  Story o' my fuckin' life, right there.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Review of "The Dark Man"

Yesterday, I received my copy of The Dark Man, a new Stephen King book.  I suspect that most people who read my blog will have heard of it, so you know what we're talking about already, but for those of you who did not know about this book, here's a summary.

The Dark Man is a Cemetery Dance hardback release of a poem Stephen King first published in 1969, in a college literary journal.  The poem is a mere 41 lines long, which means that even if you pay really close attention to it, you can read it in a few minutes.

To be blunt, this is an extremely minor work of King's.  Now, y'all know me.  I own the Sci-Fi Channel remake of Children of the Corn on Blu-ray.  I own -- and reviewed -- Creepshow 3, which doesn't even have anything to do with Stephen King.  I'm not one to let a lack of quality deter me from being as completist as possible when it comes to my King collection.  So when The Dark Man was announced, I rolled my eyes, sighed in mild frustration, and reluctantly set the money aside.  Was I filing this under the "cash-grab" category?

Yes indeed.

In the end, I think that was probably a little unfair.  But only a little.  I still think it's a minor work at best, and I don't entirely know who the book's target audience is.  That said, there are things I like about it, so I don't feel as if my money was wasted or anything.

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Exercise in "Stand"ing

When I first began this blog back in 2011, my intent was to write a long series of critical essays about Stephen King's books, movies, and stories.  At that time, I was in the midst of working my way through rereading all of King's books, in chronological order, so I figured I'd just start with where I was: Misery.

Much to my chagrin, it's now over two years later, and I haven't made a whole hell of a lot of progress.  To be exact, I've worked my way through a mere three additional novels in my great re-read project (The Tommyknockers, The Dark Half, and -- this year --the revised version of The Stand).  I've only blogged about two of those.

Which means that if I'm using my own goals as a metric, my blog has so far proven to be a dismal failure.  Luckily for me, I wouldn't actually say that.  Yeah, sure, it's up to snuff compared to where I want it to be; but I've also had fun writing it, and while there hasn't been as much of what I wanted to be there, there has been plenty of other stuff.  And I think a lot of it turned out reasonably well.

Still, there's a part of my brain that gets louder every day hollering at me to get off the shoulder and back onto the road, and make some friggin' progress.

Fail, indeed.  

2013 was going to be the year that fail vanished, but something has been keeping me from following through: a little thing called The Stand.  That's a whopper of a book, y'all.  Could I write about it at length?  Yes indeed.  And I planned to.  I had some ambitious plans for critiquing that book, mostly involving writing a detailed critical analysis of it.

Chapter by chapter.  One post per chapter.

In other words, writing a book about The Stand.

That's a simplification of my plans, but it's a satisfactory one.  It was a good idea I had, and I plan to return to it one of these days, but for now, it just isn't realistic, and rather than continue to feel defeated by the idea of spending a year working on it, I think the time has come to get back to making progress on some of my other ideas.  And so, for now, I bid fond farewell to "Bryant's Giant Stand Project of 2013."  We hardly knew ye.

But I thought it'd be a shame to just write nothing about the book, so I spent a few days trying to figure out which of the novel's many themes -- or which is its characters, maybe -- to focus on for a good, solid post.  And then, an idea hit me.  It's a weird idea, and I wouldn't be surprised if it made a few people roll their eyes.

The idea came to me a few weeks ago, while writing a review of the second episode of Under the Dome.  I thought that episode was terrible, and I'd only been mildly appreciative of the pilot episode, so at that point in time I was chalking the series up as a bust.  Since then, it's gotten a lot better, at least for my money, but after that second episode, I was railing a bit about how lousy a show it was, and complaining about how the changes made to the novel were counter-productive.

I literally woke up with the thought in my head that an interesting idea for how to deal with blogging about The Stand might be to write a screenplay for the first episode of a hypothetical television series based on the novel.  And as soon as the thought was there, I knew that that was what I had to do.

Well, I've been working on it off and on since then, and I'm going to just go ahead and post what I've got.  It isn't a complete episode; it represents maybe half an hour's worth of content.  But for better or for worse, it's a (partial) screenplay, and it accomplished my goal.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Under the Dome 1.05: "Blue on Blue"

Earlier this evening, I got on YouTube in hopes of finding a video of this past weekend's Under the Dome panel from San Diego Comic Con.  No dice.  I found the Hannibal panel; I found the X-Files panel; I found the Marvel movies panel and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel.  All have been bookmarked for later perusal.

I also, somehow, found a video about Koko the "talking" gorilla meeting Robin Williams, and hey, look, how could I not watch that?

Anyways, long story short, I ended up watching animal videos on YouTube for the better part of an hour.  One of 'em was about a lioness that adopted a baby antelope.  A BABY ANTELOPE!  Another was about an orangutan whose best friend is a hound dog.  I'd've watched that one for several hours just on its own, probably.

My point is, maybe it's the animal-cuteness overload getting to me, but...damn, y'all, I really dug that episode of Under the Dome tonight.  If it had had a cat who was best friends with a crow in it, I'd've liked it even more, but even without that sort of thing, I thought it was pretty damn good.

We'll talk about that more in a sec, but first, here are a mess of photos of Suriya the orangutan and Roscoe -- Roscoe!!! -- the hound dog:

This might be the single best thing that I've ever seen.

"But I don't WANT no 'nanner..."

I mean, come on...!  This is preposterous.  Nothing should be that cute!  And yet, there it is.

One final photo.  In trying to find some images of Suriya and Roscoe, I Googled the phrase "orangutan hound dog."  In addition to the photos above, the following image popped up, and you'll likely understand why it gave me a WTF moment:

Say what...?!?

The image is apparently from this video; I have no notion what Barbie -- the doll, presumably, and not the character played by Mike Vogel -- has to do with it, and I didn't watch to find out, because frankly, it seems like it'd be a bummer.

But...yeah...the fact that that image popped up while I was looking for orangutan photos to use during a blog review of an Under the Dome episode weirded me out a little bit.

Right turn, Clyde...

Alright, so let's talk about "Blue on Blue," the fifth episode of Under the Dome, which CBS claims is being watched by 40 million people.  That's worldwide, I assume.  Given that statistic, I have to ask: what in THE HELL is the holdup on a second season being announced?

Because guess what?  I actually hope the series lasts for a while.  Yep; I've grown attached to it.  I've still got my nitpicks (some of which are most definitely going to be mentioned), but they are seeming increasingly like nitpicks and less like outright complaints.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #35

Tonight, on Bryant Has Issues: the author tries to set a new land-speed record for flying through his comic-book column!

I'm excited by this issue, not because the content thrills me particularly, but because my copy has two covers.  Obviously a mistake at the DC factory, but hey, I can hope that makes it super-valuable and rare, can't I?  These cats of mine ain't gonna put themselves through college.

Anyways, whether or not my copy of this issue has some misprint value (unlikely) or not (likely), it's an entertaining comic.  The first part takes place aboard a zeppelin, where the Red Hood gang is apparently stealing Wayne Enterprises weaponry from Oswald Cobblepot and some gangster named Falcone.  Except it isn't really Cobblepot; it's Bruce Wayne in disguise, and since part of that disguise involves making himself something like two feet shorter than normal, you're going to have to color me a little confused as to how the mechanics of this all works.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Under the Dome 1.04: "Outbreak"

Tonight, on a very special episode of The Truth Inside the Lie: Bryant has an interview...with himself!

Q:  Bryant, did you steal that cat photo from the Interent?

A:  I sure did, Bryant.

Q:  Where from, pray tell?

A:  http://www.fabulouslybroke.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/cat-animal-surprised-surprise-caught.png

Q:  How come?

A:  Cause cats is stupid.

Q:  They sure are.  Was tonight's episode of Under the Dome?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Under the Dome 1.03: "Manhunt"

Jesus God Almighty, was that second episode of Under the Dome a piece of crap last week.  I greatly anticipate seeing what effect its crappiness has on the ratings for this week's episode; I suspect that the result will be that the numbers sag quite a bit.  I'm a-gonna guess it drops from...well, the premiere episode was roughly 13 million, and the second episode drew roughly 11 million...I'm a-gonna guess the third one dips down to 8 million.

If that's the case, then "Manhunt" may well end up being the make-or-break episode for the series, and the good news -- for me, at least -- is that I thought it was a significantly better episode than "The Fire."  I still don't know that I'd call it a good episode, per se; but there was no question in my mind that this was the most satisfying episode of the three we've seen thus far.  And a lot of that comes down to...

Well, we'll discuss that in a moment or two, but first, this:

stolen from: http://th00.deviantart.net/fs40/PRE/i/2009/015/3/1/Angry_Old_Lady_by_Tinalm.jpg

First of all, if that's your Nana, my apologies for co-opting her confused and annoyed mug for this blog.  But hey, free use and all that.

The photo is intended not to give any specific Nana some free -- if dubious -- exposure, but instead is intended to serve as a representative Nana for the one who was in a doctor's office near me this morning.  Yes, it was time again for my annual physical.  In case you're wondering: 321 pounds.  Bam!  And yet, despite that, I have no cholesterol issues, no diabetes issues, an extremely manageable blood-pressure issue, and no liver or kidney issues.  Apart from being a lardass, I'm really quite healthy.  Also, my dentist says my teeth are fuckin' impeccable.  (That appointment happened today, too, although sadly, my dentist did not actually say "Bryant, your teeth are fuckin' impeccable."  No, though he would have made my day if he'd said that, he instead merely said "Bryant, your teeth are impeccable," which I think we can all agree is a lot less satisfying.)

I mention all this because while I was waiting on the lab tech to call me back to have some blood drawn, I overheard a woman maybe my age talking to an older woman who I assume is her Nana.  They were talking about television, by which I mean that the granddaughter was talking and Nana was gazing into space vacantly, perhaps questioning her life's efficacy, perhaps jonesing for some oatmeal.  Who can say?  Not important.  What's important is that granddaughter began trying to explain Under the Dome to Nana.
The explanation included gems like this: "It comes on CBS on Monday nights.  CBSCBS.  Every week.  CBS.  It's really good.  I don't know what any of it means."  I couldn't hear Nana's side of the conversation, so I've chosen to assume that the granddaughter wasn't responding to actual questions so much as to perceived questions.  In any case, it was an entertaining few seconds.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #34

Well, I had plans to sleep in until an unholy hour today, but a phone call from work seems to have scuttled those plans.

So, let's talk comics, howsabout?  It'll be a brief one this week, because there are only four titles on the docket, beginning with this one:

You know that thing where you'll be talking to somebody and you catch yourself saying something that is true, but is also so optimistic that you feel as if you may have risked annoying the universe?  Example: you're driving cross-country and you say to your traveling companions, "This is a really reliable car.  I've never had a single problem from it, EVER."  And then everyone, including you, braces yourself for a moment, like you expect a tire to flatten right that very moment in retaliation against your good luck up to that moment.  Usually, this leads you you knocking on a piece of wood, so as to appease whatever gods or spirits you may have just offended.

Well, bearing that in mind, I would say this: I don't want to jinx it, but two issues in, it seems to me like The Wake might be the best comic Scott Snyder has written to date.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rubes and Conies: A Review of "Joyland," Part 4

Earlier this week, I received my copy of Titan's limited-edition Joyland hardback in the mail, and I figured it was worth a few words.  But I'll be honest: this "review" will mainly be a delivery system for a rant about the subculture of limited editions.

Let's establish right up front that I am moderately hypocritical on the subject.  A consumer's primary right -- and perhaps his primary responsibility -- is to not purchase things that he feels to be immoral, illicit, or otherwise offensive to his personal sensibilities.  Example: if you're offended by profanity in movies, you probably ought to make sure you don't buy tickets to see movies with profanity in them.  When you begin trying to tell me that I shouldn't do so, however, we have a problem.

Inventorying my Stephen King collection, I find that I have seven limited editions:

  1. the 25th anniversary edition of It from Cemetery Dance (purchased because it had a new essay by King)
  2. the Grant edition of The Wind Through the Keyhole (purchased because I wanted the Jae Lee art, and because I wanted to read the book in February instead of a few months later)
  3. the poetry anthology The Devil's Wine (purchased because I wanted the King poems included)
  4. the story anthology Bordlerlands 5 (purchased because I wanted to read the then-new story "Stationary Bike"; this is also my only signed edition from King)
  5. the Rocky Wood book Stephen King: Unpublished, Uncollected (purchased because I wanted to read the book, and this was the only edition at the time)
  6. the Rocky Wood book Stephen King: The Nonfiction (same)
  7. and, now, Joyland (purchased because I wanted a hardcover copy of the book)

The only time I have ever purchased one of these things and resold it was when the "illustrated" edition of 'Salem's Lot came out.  The reason I sold it was that I thought the book was a poorly-produced piece of crap.  The "illustrations" were mediocre photos, and the design of the book itself was unappealing.  I had only purchased the thing because I wanted to read the deleted scenes that were included, so when I saw how lousy the book was, I made Xeroxes of the deleted scenes and sold the book on eBay.  I can't remember what I got for it; I believe it was substantially less than what I paid for it, but someone out there might theoretically be able to prove me wrong.  I don't think so, though, because one of my problems with the book was that the front cover sustained some sort of damage almost immediately after I opened the book the first time, and Xeroxing the pages also put some wear on it.  So what I was selling was a book that was advertised as having some damage.

I mention all of this to illustrate a fact about myself: I am not innocent of having never purchased limited editions.  I have purchased several of them, and would have purchased numerous others if I had more money for such purchases (and if, in some cases, I had been able to get a copy before the edition sold out).

I genuinely loathe doing so, though.  These tend to be excellent products, so it isn't (typically) a case of me feeling as if I have been overcharged.  Instead, it is that I do not like the idea of limiting content to a select group of people who are either (A) of sufficient financial means or who (B) simply happen to be luckier in terms of their timeliness than others (or who are, in some cases, both).  It isn't the expense that I mind; it's the exclusivity.

Of course, it isn't a perfect world.  We're all bound to not get things we want sometimes; a hell of a lot of people hardly ever get anything they want, and sometimes that includes food, water, and shelter.  I'm not ignorant of that; I'm under no illusion that my complaints about what King himself once termed "the politics of limited editions" are important, especially in the grand scheme of things.  In fact, they are quite trivial.  Nevertheless, I think it speaks -- in an admittedly small way -- to our culture of greed, and by and large I think it is a thoroughly unappealing subindustry.

More on that in a bit, but first, let's do the actual review section of this review.

I was moderately disappointed in the book, to be honest.  Let's be clear: when I say that, I am referring not to King's writing (I loved the novel, as evidenced here and here and here), but to the physical product itself.  The book cost me roughly $45 (more if you include shipping), and while it's a nice enough book quality-wise, there is nothing in its presentation or production quality to distinguish it from the average mass-market hardback.  Recent King releases like 11/22/63 and The Wind Through the Keyhole have been on the same level, but for less cost to the consumer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Under the Dome 1.02: "The Fire"

One of my all-time favorite movies is A Christmas Story, which in some ways I consider to be a near-perfect piece of filmmaking.  Practically every moment of it rings with truth of one sort or another.

Among those moments is the one in which Ralphie, having finally received his long-coveted Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, is feverishly writing down the top-priority message coming through that night's transmission.  His mind races with the possibilities of what his induction into that secret society might portend.

What it turns out to be is a crummy Ovaltine commercial: "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!"

Ralphie stares at the page for a moment, the realization dawning in his brain.  He stares into space for a moment, his face a study in confused dismay that wants to turn into betrayed rage, but never manages it; Ralphie simply accepts the moment for what it is, and with that acceptance comes an inability to achieve genuine anger.

"Son of a bitch," Ralphie breathes, in a tone that contains equal parts heartbreak and wonderment.  Here is a child who knows he has stepped forever into a wider world, and that it is, paradoxically, smaller than he could ever have imagined.
This is a boy who has had an epiphany.

I wouldn't say that I experienced any epiphanies while watching the second episode of CBS's Under the Dome, but I would certainly say that the series offered me a couple of "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine" moments, both of which caused me to realize that all my worst fears about last week's mediocre premiere episode were well-founded.

Son of a bitch...