Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cartoon: Roswell Conspiracies- Aliens, Myths and Legends.

He's a Badass Bounty Hunter. She's a Banshee. They fight evil.

  Back in about 1999 I stumbled across a cartoon called Roswell Conspiracies and was very impressed. After a few episodes it got bumped from the schedules and I never managed to catch up with it again.
  Until this week.
  Thank you Youtube.
  The first episode sees Bounty Hunter Nick Logan getting the shock of his life when a fugitive suddenly turns into this wolf...thing. Luckily the martial-arts lessons his father had given him included "What to do if your opponent suddenly morphs into a big ass werewolf." and a short fracas later Nick is handing over his catch to a team of agents. Who fly away in their jet-truck.
 At this point Nick can't help thinking something a little odd is going on.
 Never mind. He's got another job lined up. A cute Irish girl by the name of Sh'lainn.
 As it turns out. Sh'lainn is actually a Banshee and the rest of the clan want her back, not necessarily intact.
Caught between pissed-off Banshees and  heavily armed mystery men with industrial-sized laser guns, Nick and Sh'lainn hurriedly agree to a  truce and set about finding some answers.

The central premise is very simple. What if all the things that went bump in the night were real? Vampires, werewolves, Banshees and a dozen or so others, all real and all actually aliens who've been living alongside us for centuries.

 So wouldn't there be a Government department devoted to quietly hunting them down?

  I suspect that somebody had been watching a lot of X-Files and a wee bit of Anime and thought "Let's see if we can get a cartoon out of this." and the result is a cartoon that really needs more love.
   Quite early on it becomes clear that this is a bit more in-depth than "We good guys. Them bad guys. Kick ass." Yes, there's the usual heroics and quipping but every one of the major characters has their own agenda and can find themselves on different sides depending on the circumstances. The good guys are not always so good and the bad guys have their own good reasons for their actions. (Although the vampires seem to like being dicks for the hell of it.)  The mayhem level is high throughout and isn't always casualty-free.
 One of the big strengths is the relationship between Nick and Sh'lainn. Like most cartoon heroes he has his fair share of dick moments but has his heart in the right place and remains likeable. And Sh'lainn...
 The animators like Sh'lainn.
 All the blokes are given character designs best described as "Angular". Or possibly "Boxhead" but there's a bit of effort put into making Sh'lainn and the other girls look good.
 And it helps that the girl has a nice line in dry humour and gets in some genuine kick-ass moments. 
The chemistry between human and Banshee is always fun to watch and gets stronger as time goes by.  The supporting cast is fleshed out with a a collection of interesting, well-developed allies, enemies and bystanders and this has to be one of the few US cartoons before the DCAU that had anything resembling an arc plot.
 All 40 episodes can be found on Youtube.
See what I mean?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Gratuitous Picture of Attractive Woman: Isolde.

I've been enjoying BBC's Merlin since day one. it's a fun series that reboots the mythos and mostly gets away with it. I particularly enjoyed the finale of the current series. Partly because of new character Isolde:
 I'm a sucker for a pretty face. especially if she's swinging a broadsword.
 Isolde (Miranda Raison.)
 I approve of this sort of thing.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A book that changed my life: The Pictorial History of Wrestling

  I first got into Pro Wrestling when I was about 12 or so and from then on I would make a point of sitting down every Saturday afternoon to watch World Of Sport.
 But one day, circa 1984,  I happened to wander into a cheapo bookshop just off the high street and found a book that would maybe not change my life but certainly changed the way I looked at wrestling forever.
 Now at the time the biggest star in British wrestling was this man:
Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree
 Kids loved him.Grannies loved him. Serious wrestling fans --me, for instance -found him embarrassing. Aside from anything else, he never lost. Ever. Even at the age of 13 or so I was struggling to understand how a fat blob could be wrestling's own Superman. 
 So it was a bit of an eye-opener to see who the big star was over on the other side of the Atlantic.
 Hulk Hogan
 Now Hulk and Big Daddy were both pushed as all-conquering supermen. Both men had a repertoire of 4 moves. However, Big Daddy was a fat pensioner who's main offensive move was the belly-butt. Hogan was 300 pounds of tanned muscle who could actually get into the ring without a forklift.
Hmm. Wonder who's more believable?
 It wasn't just Hogan either. As I've mentioned earlier, wrestling in the UK was pushed as family-friendly entertainment for the kids and grannies. So you certainly weren't going to see anything comparable to , say, a bloody Dusty Rhodes strangling Billy Graham with a rope. Or Abdullah The Butcher sticking a fork into somebody's head. 
 British wrestlers mostly looked like what they were: Working class blokes in OK shape. Some were great technicians, quite a few were legimately very, very hard. But the guys in the book were off another planet entirely. They were bigger, more muscular, more colourful. They fought in front of thousands, hit each other with chairs and battered their opponents to a bloody pulp.   
 Once I'd bought the book, watching two ex-brickies trading armlocks in a Lancashire Town Hall didn't seem quite so ...dynamic as it once did.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Music: Voyager - The Meaning Of I

 It's always a delight to stumble across a band you've never heard of that make good music.
Thank you Youtube. In amongst all the  Linkin Park V Dragonball AMVs, cellphone footage of dumb teenagers battering each other and dumber skaters trying to break themselves you do occasionally find gems.
 This is the fourth and latest album from Aussies Voyager but the first I've ever heard and I am impressed.
Metal Archives describes them as Symphonic/Melodic Metal. Well the Melodic bit is right. I'm not so sure about Symphonic though. That to me implies a certain bombast which just isn't the case here.
 At the risk of mockery, I'd maybe class this as the more accessible end of Prog-Metal. Balance of Power/Threshold territory but a tad more mellow.. All the songs are catchy and kept to a reasonable length, the musicians  know what they are doing but don't feel the need to solo for minutes on end and there's some interesting synths up front adding a little seasoning to the brew.
 The one thing that might give the listener pause is vocalist Daniel Estrin. He's got a pleasant enough voice that does the job well and without frills but there's no getting around the fact that he's got a very noticeable accent.
 Standout songs for me are:"The Meaning Of I", the Peter Steele tribute "Iron Dream" and "Broken"
Have a listen and see for yourself.

And here's the guys doing one of their trademark end of set medleys.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Big D's 12 Rules of Life.

I've mentioned a couple of these already. What the hell, let's do the rest as well.

1. Never rent anything where the DVD cover shows a woman in a bikini. 
2. Never rent anything where the DVD cover shows a woman holding a pistol.
3. If the cover has a woman in a bikini holding a gun, back away slowly and don't breathe in lest the stupid infect you.
4. Anybody who describes themselves as "wacky" should be avoided at all costs.
5. Ditto anybody who starts talking about the Waffen SS.
6. The public perception of any group will be defined by the most retarded and obnoxious members.
7. Be nice to people. The universe may be keeping score.
8. Being talented does not automatically mean your music is any good.
9. If you don't want to be around somebody when they are drunk, there better be a damn good reason for hanging around them when they are sober. Force of habit is not a good reason.
10. No matter what the most bizarre thing you have ever seen might be, the Japanese will find a way to top it.
11. Any man who tells you that he has never put a teacosy on his head is either lying or anal beyond human endurance. Shun him. 
12. You don't be a dick about things I like and I won't be a dick about things you like. Deal?

Why some Men's Rights Activists should really STFU - but not for the reason you think.

  As soon as you mention that you're interested in Men's Issues you can see the little cogs clicking away in people's heads. "Ah" they think "You're one of those guys."
 Now the problem is, you're already facing an uphill struggle trying to convince people that no, having testicles does not automatically mean the world is your oyster and yes, the way the world is set up sometimes hurts men too. The words "male privilege" and "entitled" tend to get lobbed at any bloke daring to suggest this.
 Incidentally Male Privilege sounds brilliant. Where do I sign up for it?

Because up to this point I've seen no evidence of it whatsoever.

I digress.

 Thing is, a lot of MRAs seem less interested in Men's Issues than in putting the boot into women and Feminism. And they are really, really not helping.
 One thing I keep hearing is that women who would consider themselves feminists are wary of using the term because of the negative stigma it picked up thanks to the Dworkinite "All men are rapists" crowd.
 Same applies to the Mens Issues scene. While there are guys out there who are doing good work raising awareness of things like Female on Male Domestic Violence, the way schools are letting down boys, male sex-abuse victims and a raft of other things that suggest Male Privilege is less widespread than people think, they get lumped in with the pissed-off guys on Youtube moaning that all women are sluts and evil.
 Here's a useful piece of advice. If you sound like you're about to start foaming at the mouth then no matter how good your arguments are, I'm going to stop listening. And the only people you are going to reach are the other guys in the Pissed Off Divorcee bracket.
 It is one of society's unwritten rules that any group will be defined by its most obnoxious and retarded members. Right at the moment the Men's Issues movement is making it easy for their opponents to stow them in with the gun nuts and the Fundies and , yes, the "feminazis" in the box marked "Crazy"
 Knock it off.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

WTF? Japan.

 I have a rule that runs like this: No matter what the weirdest thing you have ever seen might be, the Japanese will find a way to top it.
 A more concise version: 
In support of this theory I shall offer the following evidence:
 Well you have to admire the choreography if nothing else.
Bloke in leather teaches kids to cook while wiggling disturbingly

Japan is known for some of the most technical, hardhitting wrestling in the world.
And then there's stuff like this:

And this;
The prosecution rests.

Friday, 16 December 2011

What I've been reading lately: Treasure Hunts

There's a particular genre that's become enormously lucrative in the wake of  The Da Vinci Code that I like to think of as "Treasure Hunt Adventure". Or, "We must find the Ancient Thing. Why are people trying to kill us?"
 Invariably they feature the hero and his sidekick(s) trotting round a number of locations piecing together clues and bits of McGuffin. In the process they inevitably draw the ire of some shadowy bunch of loons or another. They might want to find it first, they might want to  stop it being found. Either way, the bad guys have resources, a long reach and at least one certified nutjob on the payroll.
 Let's have a look at two I've been reading lately. 
The Tiger Warrior by David Gibbins begins with a group of Roman legionaries escaping from their Parthian captors and heading East along The Silk Road. Centuries later, Marine Archaeologist Jack Howard attempts to discover why an ancestor walked into the mountains of Afghanistan and never came back.
  David Gibbins is not a bad writer. His characters are interesting, when he hits his stride he's good at setting the mood and the historical basis for his books is invariably fascinating.
 The problem is...
 I've read a few of his books and he seems to be aiming at the market sector that likes Clive Cussler but thinks there ought to be less adventure and more Marine Archaeology.
 This is a bit more lively than most but still sees Howard and co strolling from one location to another, the bad guys can't be bothered to show up until close to the end and it was only when I hit the end of the book that I realised I'd just passed the climax without realising. Disappointed is not the word.
 There's the potential for a good book here but Gibbbins doesn't manage to pull it off.

Compare and contrast with:
Matthew Reilly -Seven Ancient Wonders.
  A multinational team race around the world atttempting to retrieve pieces of the Great Pyramid's longlost capstone. Not only will they face puzzles and murderous traps but the armed might of the US Army, the Germans, the French and the Vatican.
 Australian Reilly is not a polished writer. Description is minimal and he's never going to win any literary prizes unless somebody comes out with a "Most amount of Holy Shit crammed into one book." Booker.
 But what you do get is action. Lots and lots of action. Then more action, jawdrop sequences and some particularly nasty men meeting particularly nasty deaths. Reilly relies heavily on keeping the pace so insanely fast that you don't have time to realise how loopy some of this gets and in the process he kicks Realism in the goolies, nicks it's wallet and sprints off giggling.
 I tend to enjoy his books so I had a lot of fun with this one.
  If you fancy reading something that's like Indiana Jones written by a cocaine crazed maniac after a Schwarzenegger marathon, this might appeal.
 If you don't like books where the good guys have a Stealth 747 with gun turrets we're probably not going to get along.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Film; Pacific Battleship Yamato

2005. Directed by Junya Sato. Also listed as "Yamato" and "Men of the Yamato"
 In 1945 the Yamato, largest battleship ever built, was sent on a one way mission to Okinawa. Intercepted by American aircraft, she went down fighting. Forty years later a grizzled, elderly fisherman agrees to take a young woman out to the site and in the process awakens some old memories.

  For the largest part of the film "Yamato" is less concerned with the war than with following the men and officers of the crew as they prepare for battle. The war is there in the background, edging closer to the moment the Yamato departs on her final mission. The last few scenes are especially poignant. We know what's going to happen. The young men we've been following all this time know it too, but are trying to make the best of their lot in a way that probably seems baffling to 21st Century Westerners. I honestly cannot picture the Royal Navy giving lectures on "Preparing For Death"
 The final battle itself is epic. (We can forgive the odd sneaky reuse of footage.) Even if you know what is going to happen, watching the Yamato and her crew desperately fighting for their lives against an relentless onslaught of bombs and bullets is a heartwrenching experience.
 This is a Japanese film, aimed at a Japanese audience so some of it may not come across too well to a Western viewer. Regardless, I'd call it well worth seeing.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Been reading: David Weber & John Ringo; March To The Sea

Screw Jane Austen. I want books where men ride dinosaurs.

  At some point over the last couple of years John Ringo became one of my regular authors and a consistent  source of entertaining mayhem.
 After working through the "Council Wars" and "Posleen War" books I've got onto his collaboration with David Weber - the "Prince Roger" series.
 The setup is simple. A spoiled younger princeling and his less-than-thrilled bodyguards are spacewrecked on a hostile planet. To get home they will have to march across an entire continent, cross a sea nobody has ever crossed before and retake a spaceport occupied by a heavily armed enemy.
 As seems to be common with John Ringo books, the characters have to spend a lot of time worrying about logistics. As an example, if the party don't get back to civilisation in a set amount of time, their vitamin supplements will run out and everybody dies a painful death.
 Don't worry. When the action arrives there's plenty of it. mostly involving massive firepower and bloody-mindedness, and the bodies get stacked high indeed.
 Although Prince Roger himself starts the series as a surly Emo prat, he grows out of it and watching him mature into a competent, likeable leader is one of the strong points of the series. Add a dynamic supporting cast of career soldiers, warrior natives and bloody huge reptiles and Weber and Ringo are onto a winner here.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Another list. A few things I've been thinking lately.

1. Every time I turn my back  Classic Rock magazine edges a little closer to being "Q"
2. I miss the days when women wrestlers wore one piece swimsuits.
3. If there's anybody out there who understands modern banking, can you explain it to me please?
4. As above, but the way the EU works.
5. If the army are funded by public money then I should be allowed to borrow a tank for a few hours.
6. Cheetara from the new Thundercats cartoon really does have impressive knockers.
  7. Modern rock music needs more twin neck guitars.
  8. And less videos filmed in a warehouse.
  9. Pinkie Pie is best pony.
10. How many of you stopped reading after #6? They are magnificent, aren't they?

The Olympics - And How To Make Them Less Tedious.

Next year the Olympics take place in London. While some people might relish the thought of every single TV channel being clogged up with skinny people in Lycra, I'm not so thrilled. So I sat down one day and came up with some ways to make it more relevant, more exciting and generally less bloody boring.
1. Shooting events will take place with Uzis. All competitors will gain extra points for diving over obstacles and delivering one-liners.
2. The marathon and the long distance cycling will take place simultaneously.
3. On the same track
4. In opposite directions.
5. Amateur wrestling is quite boring. To remedy this, the women’s event will be held in a paddling pool full of whipped cream while the men’s event will be inside a steel cage.  Wrestlers will gain extra points for getting the crowd to chant their catch-phrases.
6. The wrestling final will be held under No-rope, Barbed Wire, Landmine, Cactus, Firebrick Death Match Rules.
7. Beach volleyball can stay the way it is.
8. Since Olympic walking is already quite silly, the only change will be to play the Benny Hill theme as it’s happening.
9. Sailing: Extra points will be given for boarding competitors.
10. On the same principle, each rowing team will be given a fat bloke with a couple of drums and a boat with a bloody big spike at the front. Draw your own conclusions.
11. 30% of the American and Australian teams will be disqualified at random before the games start. Just to teach the smug gits a lesson.
12. Fencing events will take place in a randomly chosen area of the city, preferably with a staircase.
13. Extra points will be given for disarming your opponent then flicking his sword back to him with a wry smile.
14. Competitors from countries like Kiribati and Andorra will be given a nice medal just for turning up.
15. Under no circumstances will the British be allowed to play that bloody dirge of a national anthem. Substitute the Sex Pistols version instead.
16. Archery will take place from the back of ponies.  
 Without saddles. Expect the Sioux to win big.
17. Karate, Tae-Kwondo and Judo will be rolled into one no-hold barred event and will be held in the car park before an audience of bikers and drug-dealers.
18. The following events will be scrapped: Tennis (because it’s boring) Basketball (mainly to piss off the Septics) Football (We already have a World Cup, guys) and the Three Day Event. (Because I don’t understand it)
19. Actually we might keep the Equestrian events because posh birds falling off horses are always funny.
20. The steeplechase will have some proper obstacles dammit. Come to think of it, we can roll it in with the showjumping stuff and have the riders chase the runners. Add polo mallets and we could be in business.
21. New events: Air Guitar, Gut-barging, Poledancing, pie-eating and run-what-you-brung motorcycle racing.
22. Plucky and entertaining losers would be given an automatic entry for the next year.
23. Instead of the host country displaying its history and culture wouldn’t it be a better televisual spectacle to wheel out a few of their top bands. Gives us a better chance of hosting the Olympics and stuffs the French big time. Name a decent French band, go on.
24. The closing ceremony will be replaced by a big piss-up. It would be in the true spirit of the Olympics to have the worlds top athletes hugging each other and mumbling “You’re alright you are…”
25. And the Yanks will not be allowed to hold it again until 2084.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Manga: Change 123

Change 123. Complete. 12 Volumes. Written by Iku Sakaguchi. Illustrated by Shiuri Iwasawa.
I'll nail my colours to the mast right away and say that I love this manga. As in "Why do more people not know about it?  As in "How come it never got adapted to an anime?"
 It all starts with young Teruharu Kosukegawa - shortarse teenage otaku - walking past an alley and seeing girl being harassed by a Yakuza. Plucking up his courage, he gets ready to intervene only for this to happen:

  As it turns out,  Motoko Gettou, the girl in the alley has a secret. Thanks to some dubious parenting she has Multiple Personality Disorder and whenever she's in trouble one of the other three personalities pops up. Since all three are martial arts prodigies, this usually leads to mayhem.
 So Kosukegawa finds himself involved with a girl who can change personalities in the blink of an eye. And of course all the people who show up looking for a fight.   

That's the set up for twelve volumes of martial-arts, romantic comedy, drama and  fanservice that's genuinely one of the most fun things I've ever read online.
 Each of the four girls sharing a body has her own likeable, well-defined personality and unlike a lot of female manga characters, you can actually understand why Kosukegawa would want to hang around her/them. Kosukegawa himself may have the fighting skill of a hamster but he's got a heroic heart and plenty of charm.
 The supporting cast is well fleshed out, the storylines walk a careful line between mayhem and humour and the artwork is clean, easy on the eye and  generally pretty impressive.
MangaFox has it Here

                                               Four female leads for the price of one. 

Anime I've been watching lately: Strike Witches.

An alternate 1940s Earth is invaded by aliens. When conventional weapons don't work the military is forced to draft in young women with magical abilities to battle the invaders.
So is this a gritty war story? Or an Evanglion-style deconstruction?

  So that would be "No" then.
One of the things I love about anime is the sheer levels of WTF? obtained. Let's take this series as an example.
The main characters are a gaggle of teenage girls, each based on a real life WW2 fighter ace. . Who are witches. And turn into catgirls when they use their powers. And who fly into combat with propellors attached to their legs, wielding a selection of lovingly drawn WW2 machine guns.
At no point is it ever explained why they are unable to wear trousers.

Strike Witches is - mostly - a goofy, fanservice heavy affair where all the cast could have been slotted into a harem comedy or suchlike without much effort. When the aliens show up you do get some surprisingly good dogfights. And there is some attempt to give each girl her own character and something approaching a backstory.  But when an entire episode revolves around the girls stealing each other's underwear  you know that Akira this isn't. It is entertaining, though, in a frothy, vaguely guilty sort of way.
Then, as seems to happen a lot,  Strike Witches suddenly pushes the drama button for the last few episodes and you find yourself watching a final battle that has to be seen to be believed.
 Here's a link to an AMV. Since it does include lots of butt-shots of teenage girls watching it at work is probably a bad idea. 

Getting Started

Hello all.
 It's half past two in the morning and creating my own blog is one of those ideas that seem a good idea at the time but which I may regret afterwards.
 The idea is to have somewhere where I can wibble on about stuff I've been reading, watching and thinking about and not have people do that "Back away and keep smiling" thing. 
 So pretty much the same as every other bugger on the internet then.

A short list of stuff I may or may not be talking about:  Anime, AOR, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Films, Heavy Metal, Manga, Mens Issues, Stuff That Annoys Me, Weird Shit.

Let's see how this goes.
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