OK, about that Dollhouse episode…

I made myself watch it. Which was actually pretty easy to do. Easier than making myself finish it, anyway.

The storyline had Echo programmed to be a backup singer to a Beyonce-style pop singer who was being stalked by a homicidal fan. Eliza got to sing. Fox got to have a hot chick in Red Sonja clothes singing bad songs. And we got an After School Special look into the tormented life of the poor pop diva, who finds herself molded into what other people want her to be…hey! Just like Echo!

Yawn.

Great Toasted Jesus With Gravy, I hope it gets better than this. The entire middle third or more was just pure tedium. The final act picked up somewhat, as Echo went “off task” (because she’s been so reliably on task on every other job we’ve seen her on, right, she just never malfunctions) and got creative in solving the problems with her own take on her mission parameters. There was something genuinely cool in that, in the implication that she’d recognized Sierra, and in the little headshake she did back at the Dollhouse, after her Tabula had allegedly been Rasa-ed again.

The problem so far is that the Dollhouse itself, and its workings, and the effects of the personality implanting process on the Actives, is the most interesting stuff in the show, and the structure of the show shoves all that cool stuff into the background and focuses on stand-alone TV stories that could be from any mediocre TV action-drama. A smart hostage negotiator tries to help a kidnapped girl and faces the demons from her own past. A person finds herself hunted by another human for sport (and we’ll call the predator “Richard Connell” just to let you know this is homage, not just another tired retread of Connell’s story “The Most Dangerous Game.”) A pop diva is stalked by a dangerous fan…

Who the fuck cares?

I want to know all the cool stuff without having to suffer through the stuff that’s basically just a humdrum anthology show. I am genuinely interested in Echo, in what’s going on in her head, in her relationship with the other Actives and her handler, and in what the repercussions of her apparent re-growth as an individual of some sort may be. But damn, I hope the stories she finds herself thrust into are going to be way better than this, or we’ll never see much of that cool stuff because this show will die. And unlike Firefly, which Fox royally screwed, it’s going to deserve what it gets.

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Oh. I have a new DOLLHOUSE to watch. How ’bout that.

Yesterday was all lack of sleep and divorce mediation and migraine, then a regenerative evening with my son. So I woke up this morning, saw him off to spend the rest of the weekend with his mom, and groggily looked at the ol’ Comcast DVR (still holding in there by the skin of its rotten teeth because I just haven’t gotten around to canceling service yet) to see what I might catch up on.

Hey. There was a new Battlestar Galactica last night. Cool. And there was a…Dollhouse. The third episode of the new series by Joss Whedon, who I consider a deity of storytelling and stuff. Cool…?

Huh. How about that. I watched last week and enjoyed that episode a lot more than I’d enjoyed the pilot, and even started to relate to some characters, got a kick out of the early signs of Echo’s coming individuation…felt more positively about the series ahead.

But now, here I was with Galactica and Dollhouse awaiting my attention, and I was psyched about only one of them, and it wasn’t the Whedon one. I wanted to watch it, sure, but the way I want to do the dishes that are cluttering up the kitchen counter at the moment. I ought to watch it, it’s Whedon, surely it has many pleasures ahead to offer…

But right now, it feels like a chore.

Sigh.

So I watched Galactica, and it was actually sort of ponderous and slow, though narratively interesting. The Dollhouse ep may prove more engaging when I get to it, and put the lie to my gut’s cynical response this morning. Here’s hoping.

On a brighter note, before he left this morning, my son and I watched the latest episode of Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I’d avoided this show for a while because it looked way too campy for my tastes, I like Batman all dark and tormented and realistic. I finally gave in though, and we’ve been watching it and enjoying it fully. It’s silver age Batman through the filter of contemporary comics writing, which is to say, it is cheesy and over the top, but it’s smart as hell.

So of last night’s recordings, Batman scores an A-, Galactica a B-, and Dollhouse an Incomplete.

I’ll let you know what its final grade is when I get around to it. Because surely I’ll get around to it. Right?

Doc Wilde Gets His First Actual Review In The Wild

Hiya.

For anyone who’s missed me the past week or more, it’s because I’m firmly embedded in the legalistic tar pit pooped out by the court system for those of us who get divorced. But I’m still breathing. Mostly.

On happier fronts, it seems the review copies of my first novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, have started to land out there in the Land of Critique. And Ron Fortier, himself an active pulp wordsmith and scholar, is first out of the gate with a review at his site Pulp Fiction Reviews:

The Wildes are old fashioned heroes in the best sense of the word and their adventure is sure to thrill pulp fans, both old and new…

Click here to read the full review. In the midst of this other business, it really made my day.

The Sand Castle

Waaaayyyy back in years of yore, when I was about fifteen or so, I used to catch a ride with a man named Larry Something to meetings of the Atlanta Science Fiction Club. Those being the years before widespread availability of videotapes and DVDs and such, Larry would sometimes set up an actual film projector and show rented wonders to us, the assembled nerds. I recall really enjoying these, though I only remember two of them specifically. One was the great Star Wars spoof Hardware Wars (with Ham Salad, Augie Ben Doggie, and Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster, and findable on YouTube).

The other was a marvelous short called The Sand Castle, an evocative piece of stop-motion animation depicting an engaging group of sand-formed creatures cooperating to build the titular castle. I thought it wonderful, and looked for it here and there over the years, particularly once I became a dad, but without luck.

Well, I found it. Turns out it was a product of the National Film Board of Canada, which has now made tons of their stuff available online. And The Sand Castle seems to have been quite a collector of awards, including a Short Film Oscar.

It’s just as cool as I remembered. Check it out:

Click to go watch

Click to go watch

My Thoughts on Dollhouse

I didn’t love it. I hope to. Maybe I will in time.

I have always loved Joss Whedon’s work. I’ll watch, or read, or listen to, anything he does. He’s a smart man, a funny man, and a master storyteller man.

I also really like Eliza Dushku. Not only is she a hotty, she’s brainy, and she’s a very talented actress who’s been underused over the years.

But Dollhouse. To be bluntly honest about it, if last night’s episode were exactly the same but not a Joss Whedon creation, I can’t say for sure I’d watch again next week.

The setup — Dusku and others are “Actives,” agents for a secret organization whose personalities have been wiped and are replaced in full by other people’s personalities when sent out on various missions-for-hire — is intriguing. On the meta level, it’s an interesting metaphor for the life of an actor, who (if they’re actually a good actor) goes from personality to personality for different jobs. I can see where Joss thinks he can use the structure to explore issues of identity, what it means, how we interact, how we use each other…thematically, it has a lot of potential.

To me, its great weakness (aside from the fact that it’s on Fox, and their meddling in the show is already as obtrusively obvious as a bumper sticker stuck in the middle of the screen) is that the setup might lend itself overmuch to Dollhouse being an anthology show of a sort, each episode a different kind of story that’s disconnected from the greater story arc, and Echo and the other Actives carrying the series on the weight of ever-shifting personalities. How much, week to week, can Joss make us care about the Actives, who are rarely consistently anyone, and when they are, they’re pliable dullards wandering around a pretty room?

So far, I’m moderately interested in the characters, but I don’t care about them at all.

The first half hour was burdened with exposition, which is to be expected in a pilot, but it also reeked of Fox’s network style. The motorcycle chase was ludicrous and boring, the sexy dancing was obvious (if not, truthfully, unwelcome), and the storytelling was patchy. I suspect the original pilot Joss wrote was superior, and the Fox execs wanted him to “cut to the chase” and “add the sexy,” and forced him to build a Jenga tower with some pieces made of pudding. Unfortunately, the Fox execs aren’t going anywhere, they’ll still be making demands as the show develops, and most of the demands will likely be stupid.

Al the same, it is a Joss Whedon show, so I’m here for the duration, unless it turns really bad. I do think it’ll improve, and I hope that Joss’s intentions play out effectively. There’s potential for all sorts of action and emotion and exploration of human existence and relationships, and I’m sure Joss has lots of twisty ideas to surprise us with. Here’s hoping it all gets really good.

CARNAGE!

What’s the term?

Oh yeah.

OMFG.

The reports are popping up from Sony’s exhibition for journalists of God of War 3, coming sometime for the Playstation 3, and it sounds incredible. Michael McWhertor at Kotaku says it’s “like a threesome for your eyes.”

For the uninitiated, the God of War series follows the adventures of a belligerent Spartan antihero named Kratos as he cleaves his way through ancient Greek mythology. Kratos is one of the best fantasy characters in any medium to appear in many years, the reworking of and visual design for the places and creatures of myth in the games is amazing, and the stories are truly epic both in scope and scale. Though the games are all about savage action, there is even true pathos in Kratos’s tale…particularly when you finally discover what happened to his family, and where his skin attained the ash-white color that led to his being called the “Ghost of Sparta.” Kratos doesn’t have a bad attitude, he is bad attitude incarnate, but he has reason.

kratos1

I love God of War. The first two games were on the Playstation 2, and they were gorgeous, pushing that console’s tech to its limits. The actual third game, God of War: Chains of Olympus, was made for the PSP handheld, and captured the GOW experience perfectly even on a totable screen. God of War 3, on the Playstation 3, promises to be exponentially more impressive; the character model for Kratos alone this time around (with actual muscle flexing and skin that has pores) takes up four times the amount of memory that the PS2 had in full.  Apparently much of the game actually has Kratos traveling across levels that are literally the bodies of the mythical Titans, moving around while he’s battling on them like animate mountains; Sony says that the Medusa level from GOW 2 (the largest level in the existing games) would fit in the palm of the Titan Gaia’s hand in GOW 3.

I’m really excited about this game, and I’m ready, because we have a PS3. We already had an Xbox 360, but I finally bit the wallet and got the Playstation a few months back, once the Blu-Ray/HD DVD war ended in Blu-Ray’s favor. But I’d decided months prior that I’d be getting a PS3, the day I saw the announcement that God of War 3 was in development.

Here’s the new trailer. Note that it’s not just a CGI cinematic, it’s fully rendered in the game engine, so you’re seeing the game itself (and not even in its final, fully developed form)…

The Google Name Game

Facebook is full of list memes, swarms of friendly spam that ricochet through communities of acquaintance, asking for folks to share their favorite whatevers, tell facts about themselves, or just goof off in some weird or creative way. Earlier, I posted my response to the “25 Random Facts About Me” meme (Two Baker’s Dozens of Things About Me, Minus One), which, once I actually applied myself, I found to be an enjoyable endeavor, and I’ve had nice feedback from my friends.

I also partook of a few others, like the one listing my favorite musical performers and the one listing authors who’ve influenced me. Trivial stuff, maybe…but like status messages and many other minor features of Facebook, it’s a sort of virtual small talk that informs friends about each other’s tastes and notions and general headspace. It encourages dialogue, and that’s not a bad thing.

Most of it’s not really blog-worthy, but I found the 25 Things meme cool enough to share here, and here’s another one that I found really entertaining. It’s one of several called a “Name Game,” but maybe ought to be called “The Google Name Game.” It asks that you insert your first name into various phrases and search for them on Google, then choose the best result off the first page of hits and put that in as your answer. I added comments to each because I’m always looking for new places to be a smartass (and I think doing so personalizes what would otherwise just be a bit of random fun).

Here’s the exercise, with my altered version of the directions. Maybe I’ll see yours on Facebook.

The Google Name Game

Google the following, then select the best result from the first page of hits and add a {personal comment} for each answer.

1: Type in “[your name] needs” in the Google search:

Tim needs haircut.

{which is true}

2: Type in “[your name] looks like” in Google search:

Tim looks like Eminem–Hawt!

{thanks…?}

3: Type in “[your name] hates” in Google search:

Tim hates sick orphans.

{damn their hides}

4: Type in “[your name] goes” or “..has gone” in Google:

Tim goes nutsball wacko.

{it is the full moon}

5: Type in “[your name] loves” in Google search:

Tim loves dolls.

{please, they’re action figures}

6: Type in “[your name] eats” in Google search:

Tim eats the first electric pickle.

{at least I’m a pioneer}

7: Type in “[your name] has” in Google search:

Tim has the experience and insights to make your home’s electrical installations, maintenance, and repair projects easy, safe, and fun!

{because I ate the electric pickle}

8: Type in “[your name] works” in Google:

Tim works at a bakery and can prepare a birthday cake in 4 hours.

{made from sick orphans}

9: Type in”[your name] lives” in Google search:

Tim lives in F-land.

{or I used to, anyway, before I got married}

10: Type in “[your name] died” in Google search:

Tim died while doing what he enjoyed with the woman he loved.

{if this is an advance peek at my obit, maybe I’m headed back to F-land!}

11: Type in “[your name] will” in Google:

Tim will work with Joss Whedon again, this time on DOLLHOUSE.

{dammit, now the universe is just mocking me}