Geek Tragedy #50: You’re Listening To Us Wrong!

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://www.npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_ep50.mp3[/podcast]

Dave is joined by Guest Host Jaimel as they review movie news, reviews and comic book blues. The together, they dream a little dream of Inception!

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Categories: Episodes

Don’t Fall For Phelps

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

Well, Spider-fans, as many of you now know, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, headed by the equally infamous Fred Phelps, has decided to go to San Diego Comic Con to make trouble. Responses have ranged from outrage to appeals for donations to causes that would likely annoy Phelps, but I’d like to make my own suggestion for a response here:

Ignore them. Completely and utterly.

The thing is, these people are not serious people, and should not be treated as if they were. All they are is an IRL version of internet trolls. And like all trolls, what they thrive on is attention. Trolls aren’t afraid of being argued with. Just the opposite – starting a “flame war” is the whole reason they do what they do. If, on the other hand,  everyone just totally ignored them, eventually they’d go crawl back under whatever rock they came from. So stop complaining about them. Stop worrying about them. Stop thinking about them. But most of all, stop talking about them. Not even to say how much you don’t like them. Don’t talk about them on your blog. Don’t mention them on Twitter. Don’t join an anti-WBC Facebook group. Don’t comment on online stories about them. Don’t join a counter-protest against them in San Diego. Don’t give them what they want. Don’t play their game. Don’t get trolled. Starve them of the attention they crave and let their little group die on the vine.

And yes, I realize I’m violating my own advice right now. But I’m trying to use whatever voice I have here to stop this before it gets out of hand. So from this point on, I’m never going to mention Fred Phelps or the Westboro Baptist Church again. And neither, dear friends, should you.

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Categories: Announcements, Uncategorized

Kyle’s Inception Review

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

It seems that my role is very often to be the official Geek Tragedy contrarian, and so I shall be today. In contrast to my cohost Dave, NPC Comics Editor-In-Chiel Jaimel Hemphill, and virtually the rest of the geeky world, I wasn’t that impressed with Inception.

First of all, I want it understood that I’m not saying that Inception does have some good points. It’s a very well-crafted film, filled with superb performances. But what bothers me most about the reactions to Inception is the idea that it’s a very innovative or groundbreaking movie. This, it most certainly isn’t. Virtually every concept, whether plotwise or visually, is something I’ve seen done before, and often better. Allow me to go through a list of some of Inception‘s concepts, and show you what I mean.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Saw It Before: Paprika

Released four years before Inception, Satoshi Kon’s movie (based on a Japanese novel from 1993) involves a psychologist who uses a device called the DC Mini to enter other people’s dreams in a plot that involves a lot of corporate intrigue. Sound familiar? I know that a lot of western directors lift concepts from anime, but this was pretty blatant.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Also Saw It Before: The Cell

But hey, maybe that’s not where Nolan got the idea from. Maybe he got it from this ten-year-old J-Lo movie that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams and plant ideas there
Where I Additionally Saw It Before: Dreamscape

Or maybe Nolan got the idea here! Hat tip to Appman on the Rifftrax forums for reminding me of this semi-obscure 1984 Dennis Quaid movie that also covered this ground.

Inception Concept: Lucid dreaming; a long time in the dream = a short time in real life.
Where I Also Saw It Before: Waking Life

Richard Linklater’s been there, done that, more creatively, ten years ago.

Inception Concept: People trapped in a world that may or may not be a dream.
Where I Saw It Before: Urusei Yatsura Movie #2: Beautiful Dreamer

This was an early film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, The Sky Crawlers), based on a manga and anime series written by Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma 1/2). The film was released in 1984, and was actually the first full-length anime film I ever saw. It’s a fantastic film – beautiful, spooky, carefully paced… one of my favorite anime films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Without going into great detail, the characters are all trapped in what they eventually realize is an increasingly bizarre dream, and none of them can be sure which of them is actually the dreamer. So not only did it do one of the big concepts behind Inception, it did it better, and 25 years earlier.

Inception Concept: Hacking someone’s consciousness to artificially plant ideas there
Where I Saw It Before: Ghost In The Shell

While we’re on the subject of Mamoru Oshii, this is basically what we saw in the form of “ghost hacking” in GiTS. Yes, it was done by different methods, but the basic idea is the same.

Inception Concept: Someone trapped in a dream they might only be able to escape by death.
Where I Saw It Before: Life On Mars

(SPOILER ALERT for the original BBC series) This was, essentially, Sam Tyler’s dilemma: He was mostly, but not completely, sure that he was trapped in some kind of world that was a dream or hallucination. By the end of the series, he came to believe that the real world was the dream, and decided to go back to the world of 1973 by jumping off a building. In other words, he did exactly what we see Cobb’s wife do in Inception.

Inception Concept: Dead folks from a character’s the past that manifest and torment them in a state of altered consciousness.
Where I Saw It Before: Flatliners

This 1990 thriller with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon put its characters through the same drama that we saw with Cobb and the wife that haunted his dreams.

Inception Concept: “Which story is real, and which is the dream/fantasy/hallucination?”
Where I Saw It Before: Total Recall

Cobb’s dilemma at the end of the movie is basically the same one faced by Quaid/Hauser on Mars. And, as with Inception, the movie ends with us not really totally sure what the truth is.

Inception Concept: Japanese megacorporation employs brilliant but disgraced hacker to steal industrial secrets with unusual, daring plan
Where I Saw It Before: About half the novels William Gibson ever wrote

Yeah, pretty much…

Inception Concept: “Just one more job, for a good cause, and then I’m out”
Where I Saw It Before: The Killer

This is actually a fairly common trope, but John Woo’s HK action masterwork is a particularly good example, albeit one with an ending less happy than Inception‘s.

Inception Concept: A story layout that structures time in unusual ways and plays tricks with memory
Where I Saw It Before: Memento

I know that the John Fogerty court case established the idea that you can’t really plagiarize yourself, but I’m just saying’…

Inception Concept: A battle taking place simultaneously on multiple levels of reality
Where I Saw It Before: The Matrix

Especially the Matrix sequels. Oh, and the girl is… “The Architect”? Really, Nolan? You thought we wouldn’t notice that?

Inception Concept: Cutting back and forth between multiple battles taking place simultaneously, all leading to one climax
Where I Saw It Before: Return Of The Jedi

And technically The Phantom Menace too, but accusing Nolan of copying Phantom Menace would just be too cold-blooded.

But that’s not all I felt was wrong with Inception. The other big thing that bothered me about Inception is the fact that it more or less simply wasted the opportunities given to it by its structure. The characters end up in a dream world, but instead of facing grotesque or bizarre monsters from the Id (as, for example, was done in both Paprika and The Cell), Nolan simply represented the dreamers’ defenses as guys with guns. By doing this, he threw away the chance to craft some really interesting concepts and images, opting for some well-shot, but standard-issue and more or less forgettable action sequences instead. This was a big disappointment for me – I was expecting something more interesting, both visually and conceptually.

In the end, Inception isn’t a horrible movie – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece it’s being made out to be. A little looking around will reveal films that have done the same things before, and often done them better. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I give Inception a big fat “Meh”.

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Categories: Movies

Quick Update and News

July 13th, 2010 by Dave

Dave here,

So, we’ve had a lot going on in the past week. Kyle is off on his summer safari and he’s currently on the East Coast, the natural habitat of the wild Orange Spray-Tanned Guido. Please, Kyle, don’t bring back any pictures. Also, EIC Jamiel and his lovely bride Miss Emily are returning from their honeymoon in Canada. Why Canada? Probably so that Jaimel could re-create the lodge scene from Superman 2 and reveals to her that he’s really Jaim-El, last son of Krypton. So, that means that you’re stuck with me for a while. I know, lucky you…

The plan is that I’m going to round up friends of the show and do some mini-podcasts while Kyle’s gone. Technically, our next podcast is episode 50, but that wouldn’t be right to do the big 5-0 without Kyle here, so we’re going to call these ‘Summer Episodes’, same great geek stupidity and rage, but now with 100% less logic and structure since Kyle is gone.

So for now, here’s a Tuesday blog post in lieu of a podcast. If there are any problems, remember it’s all Kyle and Jaimel’s fault for leaving me alone. Jerks.

RIP Harvey Pekar
Early Monday morning, the comics world lost one of it’s greats. Harvey Pekar, writer/creator/subject of ‘American Splendor’ was found dead at his home at 1 am. Harvey was influential in establishing the new indie comics movement of the 70’s, with his comic taking on the drudgery and trials of everyday life rather than the glamour of capes and crimefighting that comics had become. Harvey spoke from the average schlub’s point of view that most of us deal with: a dreary, boring job and a struggle to make it through the trials of each mundane day. He questioned the motives of just about everything and everyone, most famously on his last appearence on the NBC ‘David Letterman Show’. Our sympathies go out to Harvey’s wife and daughter; the void he leaves behind in comics will never be filled.
Link

Ed Norton Out As Bruce Banner
A war of words errupted on the internet this past week as Marvel Film’s Kevin Feige said that Edward Norton would not be reprising his role of Bruce Banner in the upcoming Avengers film becasue they wanted someone more ‘creatively flexible’. Norton’s manager called Feagie to task, saying that the anouncement was ‘misleading’ and ‘inappropriate’. For his own part, Norton took the high road and thanked his fans for all the support they’ve shown him and said it was an honor to be part of the Hulk legacy.

Personally, the very fact that Feige says they’re recasting because of ‘the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members’ screams to me that the real reason is, in fact, about the fact that Norton didn’t do any publicity for Hulk and (reportedly) demanded re-writes in the script. Saying that an actor of Norton’s caliber, who’s worked with and held his own with some of the greatest actors of any generation, isn’t creative or collaborative, is just ludicrous. Norton turned in an impressive performance as Banner, and if he did do re-writes, then Marvel has him to thank for an exceptional finished product. I liked Ang Lee’s Hulk, but Louis Leterrier’s Hulk felt much more like what a Hulk film should be like, in large part becasue of Edward Morton’s performance. So, bad move on Fiege’s part here, becasue the general consensus floating around fandom is that he’s looking like a schmuck for the casting move and the press release.
Link

Peter Weller Joining ‘Dexter’
Reports are in that veteran actor Peter Weller is joining the cast of ‘Dexter’ in the upcoming season to play a cop under investigation by Internal Affairs, although we don’t know if he’s going to be Dexter’s big target for the season. Peter Weller playing a cop that gets dismembered? That’ll never work…
Link

Reverse Racism For Transformers 3?
So, early production photos are coming out of the shoots for Transformers 3, and hopes that were raised by Megan Fox getting axed seem to be crushed by the pics of 3 Transformers (no word on wheather they’re Autobots or Decepticons) disguised as NASCAR racers. So, we’re loosing Amos-Bot and Andy-Tron only to get Cyber-Cletus, Darryl-Tron, and JimmyJoeBobBilly-Bot as redneck sterotypes?
Link

Romeo X Julliet on DVD 7/13
You got your anime in my Shakespeare! You got your Shakespeare in my anime! Yes, it’s the two young lovers like you’ve never seen them before. He’s a sensitive bishie member of the oppresive nobility; she’s an underground anarchist rebel that’s secretly the daughter of the previous monarchy that was overthrown. Sparks and swords fly (literally since they all have pegasi mounts) in a rather mind-blowing (in a good way) adaptaion of the classic play.

Voltron Comes To Monsterpocalypse
In a move that can only be described as ‘supermegaawesomewinful’, Monsterpocalypse, the collectable minatures game where you field ginat monsters destroying cities and armies, is getting a Voltron expansion this month. Included in the expansion kit will be all five lions, an assembled Voltron mini, Robeasts, fighters….everything you need to pad out the fight until it’s time to form the Blazing Sword and bring the combat to an end. Release dates still haven’t been finalized, not surprising considering the Department of Homeland Security once delayed the release of a Monsterpocalypse players guide becasue they thought it might be a terroist training manual, but check your FLGS to get in on the action.
Link

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. We’ll resume broadcasting with our Summer Episodes this weekend. Special guest TBA. If anyone actually wants to work with me. Or if we still have freinds that Kyle hasn’t run off by forcing ‘Birdemic’ or ‘Lancelot Link’ on them…

Categories: Announcements, Episodes

RIP Harvey Pekar

July 12th, 2010 by Kyle

Harvey Pekar of American Splendor, a true American original, passed away today at the age of 70. Be assured, the next world is a little more irascible for it. Harvey Pekar, in all your neurotic, curmudgeonly greatness, we salute you.

A longer obit, from his hometown paper in Cleveland, can be found here.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Tommy Does Horror!

July 12th, 2010 by Kyle

The latest news out of Tinseltown is that our old friend and past interviewee Tommy Wiseau, who is never one to let the grass grow under his feet, is involved in a new horror film project due to debut at San Diego Comic Con. It’s a short film titled “The House That Drips Blood on Alex”, and if you don’t get to see it at SDCC, don’t worry about it – it’ll be coming to Cartoon Network in the fall. We couldn’t be happier to give the teaser trailer a plug right here on the Geek Tragedy blog.

How’s that for something to look forward to?

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Categories: Announcements

‘Cataclysm’ Living Up To It’s Name

July 7th, 2010 by Dave

First of all, let me start off by saying that despite all the smack talk, I really do emphasize with Blizzard/Activision. Really, I do. Becasue they have a monster on their hands right now; a monster in the form of their player base. Go onto the Blizzard forums and you’ll see a wasteland of troling, flame wars, and juvenille hostility, along with a precious few actual bits of usable information. Go to Goldshire (or other starting zone) in WoW during peak hours and you’ll see more flesh, offers for bizzare sex, and guys pretending to be girls than an average Friday night in Bangkok’s red light district. And no, I’m sadly not exaggerating (much) with that last sentence.

Yes, there is a cancer eating away at Blizzard’s games. But it’s a cancer of their own making by refusing to do nothing when the problem was still small. And now, Blizzard/Activision has decided the time has come for drastic measures; measures that might just kill the patient.

On Tuesday, the following thread went up on the StarCraft II forums, confirming the fears of many gamers. With the launch of SC2, RealID will be *required* in order to post on the oficial Blizzard forums. RealID will be required for WoW forum posts with the launch of Cataclysm. Forums for legacy games like Diablo and Warcraft 3 will get a consolidated forum where RealID is requirted to post in the near future. The official party line from Blizard is this measure is being taken in order to cut down on spammers, troll, flames, and other anti-social behavior while bonding the gaming community tighter togather socially.

And the community is bonding tighter, alright.

A brief scan of the forum threads shows that the players are pretty much dead set against this, even to the point of canceling pre-orders of SC2 and cancelling their accounts altogether. Blizzard is getting some defense from a few hard-core fans, but really, that’s like sombody drinking a double latte outside an Apple Store defending Apple on all the iPhone4 issues. The bottom line that is so frightening is that for the first time, a game company wants to strip away the annominity of it’s players. Blizzard is requiring all users to post on the forum using their real names, including the technical forums. You know, the forums where you post to report things like your account getting hacked. So, not only are you posting that your account has been compromised for a few billion of your closest friends and neighbors that have an internet connection to see, but your real name will be attributed to the post.

Quite frankly, there’s nothing that I can say that isn’t already eloquently covered by the detailed post at the bottom of the first page of the thread by Patientzero. Every single security question that has been raised is summerized there, including some that I hadn’t thought of or heard of before. How about the fact that this move is stripping away annominity to reveal gender and minor status. Because there’s no-one on the internet that would stalk or harrass a woman or a child; that’s just inconcievable. How about the fact that this move is also stripping away the annominity of Blizard’s own employees? I raised questions of safety last month in regards to the Counter Strike attack in France, and that’s just stemming from the off chance of encountering some psycho in a PvP match. How many of these kinds of individuals that could be emotionally unstable and a very real threat do Blizzard GM’s deal with and ban on a daily basis? Now, you’re going to force your GM’s and forum mods to reveal their real names to the people they have to discipline? I suspect that applications to work at Blizzard are going to be in sharp decline and there’s going to be a lot of job openings once Cataclysm hits.

One further thought to consider in all this: what about all the celebrities that play or claim to play WoW? I don’t really buy into the hype about JCVD or Ozzy playing WoW, but there are many celebrities that are public about playing WoW, such as Seth Greene, Mila Kulnis, and Adriane Curry. Even discounting the Hollywood crowd, how about someone with less overall fame but still possessing a devoted fan base, such as bloggers and web cartoonists. Do you think Scott Kurtz of PvP is really going to appreciate having his real name out there on WoW for fans to incessantly bother him with in-game tells? An ignore list only goes so far and only holds so many names.

Some people might counter that the RealID implimentation is only for posting on the forums, which is an ‘optional’ part of the game. Aside from my problem with having to put my real name on a technical forum post in order to recieve assistance in the event of a security breach, I agree. I’m not a forum presence in any game that I play, so this isn’t going to affect me unless I need to post because my account got hacked. What worries me is that this is the first step toward completely stripping away any veil of annominity in Blizzard’s games. We all know the anology of tossing a frog into a pot of boiling water versus gradually turning up the heat. This is a case where Blizzard is slowly eroding away an important feature of safety and security in the internet age: annominty. What may be only required to post on a forum today may be required to play the game tomorrow.

So, what can be done about this today?

Maybe not much. There’s a petition for players to write to the ESRB to protest this move by Blizzard, but really, that”s like writing to the MPAA to complain about Paramount because of Transformers 2. The best thing is to post logical arguments on the Blizzard forums, couched in terms that Blizzard will understand like potential lawsuits and loss of revenue. We can always hope that some measure of sanity returns to Blizzard and they nix this idea. Barring that, maybe some stockholders can band together to file an injunction from implementing the RealID requirement on the basis that it could have a severe, negative impact on the company’s earnings and devalue the stock. Again, a long shot, but you never know.

Again, becasue this is at the forum post stage, I’m nervous, but it doesn’t affect me much. Whether or not I decide to ultimately stay with WoW is going to depend on how things progress with SC2. It does look like Blizzard is indeed going towards full disclosure of player identity with full integration of RealID, but part of me is hoping that they’ll pull back. Regardless, if there ever does come a day where I have to have my real name publicly available in order to play an online game, I’m leaving the game that same day and erasing the account. And I’m pretty sure I’m in the majority opinion here for once.

UPDATE: Well, it certainly didn’t take long for things to take a turn to the comically tragic. Earlier today, Blizzard mod Bashiok posted his real name on the WoW forums to show folks that it was perfectly safe. Five minutes later, WoW plyers were posting personal information on Bashiok (aka Micha Whipple), including home address, phone number, family memebers, ect… Current rumors are that he’s been so bombarded that he’s turned off his phone and perhap even canceled his Twitter account. However the Twitter thing might be just a rumore since coffeedrunk is reporting he responded via Twitter that everyone was message and phone ‘bombing’ the wrong Micah Whipple.

Becasue yeah, Micah Whipple is such a common name; especially one that lives withing commute distance of Irvine.

So, now this long-time employee of Blizzard is the 59th most populare search on Google as of this update and well on his way to becoming an internet meme. Good jorb, Blizzard. Way to think outside the box here.

Regardless, I think the case has been made on just how bad of an idea this is. So, Micah, Geek Tragedy salutes you for taking one for the team here and falling on the grenade to protect Blizzard. Unfortunately, the grenade turned out to be of the nuclear variaety and not the annoying Night Elf Mohawk kind.

And Micah, if you’re reading this, don’t feel bad. Get in contact with us and we’ll send you a free NPC Comics t-shirt for being an overall nice guy stuck in a rough situation.

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Categories: Gaming

Geek Tragedy #49: The Futurama Crowd!

July 6th, 2010 by Kyle

[podcast]http://www.npccomics.com/podcast/gt/GT_ep49.mp3[/podcast]

Futurama is back, and Dave and Kyle are psyched! Also a review of the new series of The IT Crowd,  and J-List makes it three in a row on the Pick off the Week!

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Categories: Episodes

A Joyous Occasion At NPC Comics

July 4th, 2010 by Kyle

Yes, the day finally came – NPC Comics Editor-In-Chief Jaimel Hemphill and the lovely Miss Emily finally tied the knot this weekend. Here are a few pics from the joyous occasion:

The church – overlooking the golden hills of California.

Unfortunately, this part of the ceremony did not go as one might have thought…

Miss Emily, Jaimel, and the Reverend.

And the whole Hemphill clan.

The big table of wedding presents! A nice pile of schwag!

The reception. Open air, open bar – who could ask for anything better?

The West Coast Bias crew. From left to right: Kevin, Abdul (standing), and Steve.

Geek Tragedy’s very own Dave talking with the West Coast Bias crew.

Congratulations go to the bride and groom from the whole NPC Comics family. And, dear listeners, as you might expect, the podcasts will be taking a couple of weeks off while the honeymoon ensues.

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Categories: Announcements