Thursday, December 17, 2015

My life with Star Wars

Later tonight, my wife and I are going to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in the theater. This will actually be the first new Star Wars movie I have seen in the theater since "Phantom Menace" back in 1999.

I have actually had a turbulent time with Star Wars throughout my life.

My first memory of Star Wars was actually the trailer for the movie back in 1977. My father and I were watching a movie and it came on during the previews. The lasers and the spaceships and the special effects made both our jaws drop. We turned to each other and said "Oh, we have to see this."

And we did. My father took me to see the movie at North Park when I was eight years old. It was the summer of 1977.

Like the rest of the world, I fell in love immediately. I wanted all the stuff. I remember collecting toy proofs of purchase to send away to get a Boba Fett action figure. I'm sure I watched the "Star Wars Holiday Special" on CBS which probably at the time seemed good (again I was under the age of 10), but I remember nothing of it except for the cartoon with Boba Fett in it.

When "Empire Strikes Back" came out in 1980, I had my first experience with a spoiler. I was going to see the movie that weekend, but before that I was at a Cub Scout event with another kid who had already seen it. He told me that Darth Vader was Luke's dad. It was still an amazing movie!

In 1983, everyone was ready to see what we thought was just going to be the next chapter in the Star Wars sage, not the last! I went with my dad and some of his friends to a theater in Norman to see "Return of the Jedi". I remember the line was wrapped around the block. Back then movies were shown in just one theater, so you had to wait for that one to get out before you could see the next one.

Nowadays, they just open every theater in the cinema, until they're full.

After Return of the Jedi, my love of Star Wars waned as nothing new was forthcoming. My toys disappeared, and I think they might have actually been buried in my backyard.

For 15 years, I had no interest in Star Wars with the exception of watching the movies every now and then on VHS and then DVD.

In 1999, the whole world got excited again as a new Star Wars movie was getting released. I was just as excited. My friends and I picked an obscure theater in Midwest City rather than the mega cinemas to go see it on opening night so we wouldn't have to deal with the crowds which isn't much different than what I'm doing this year. We showed up at noon for the movie which was going to premiere that night. We wanted to be first in line. We were. In fact we were the only ones in line for the entire day. Eventually, they let us in, and I watched the last newly released Star Wars movie in a theater.

"Phantom Menace" was so bad, that I lost all interest in Star Wars for ten years. I watched "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" when they came out on DVD, but not in the theater. As far as I was concerned it was over.

In 2009, I started discovering the expanded universe in comics and novels. Also, my son and I started watching "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" television show. Both were evidence to me of what Star Wars could be like if any one other than George Lucas was creating content.

It was excellent!!!

When news came that Disney was buying Star Wars from George Lucas and producing new films, I was overjoyed. I have nothing personally against Lucas. He created a wonderful galaxy, but he was truly at his best when he worked in collaboration with others like Lawrence Kasdan on "Empire Strikes Back" who is, BTW, also co-writing "The Force Awakens".

When Lucas tried to create something on his own, we got midichloreans and Jar Jar Binks.

The new age of Star Wars truly began in the summer of September of 2014 with the release of the novel "A New Dawn" and the premiere of "Star Wars: Rebels".

And, I have been along for the ride the entire time. I have read all the books and comics (with the exception of "Tarkin"). Everything released so far has been wonderful.

I can't remember the last time I have been excited about a movie, and I promise to avoid any spoilers on here or in social media.

For nearly 40 years, I've been on this roller coaster ride with Star Wars and I look forward to 40 more!

So, what's you're experience with Star Wars? Let me know in the comments...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Public radio and I are BFFs, FYI.

I love to work, and nothing prepares you for the first surprise of realizing you love your job. You no longer see it as a thing that you do between fun times, but as an enriching, engaging important thing in your life. I had the pleasure of that at Oklahoma Gazette -- a haven for free-thinking liberal minded people. We affectionately call it "the blue bubble", and it's packed to the gills with NPR listening, local-food eating rational, (I admit, some days I refer to them as "sane". I realize the implications.) loving people who love their state, their neighbors and wow, do they love their NPR. I suspect a lot of it is so we don't feel quite as alone. And then there's the local personalities, who have actual personalities and thankfully have nothing to do with their distant cousins in the wild, with their attempts at blue material during prime broadcast time and whose idea of "challenging and insightful" include finding new ways to shame the newest ingenue pop star who might have different ideas about her body than a OKC morning radio deejay.
KGOU/KOSU have been a dramatically important part of my life since I was about 17 when I was flipping through the dial in my 1987 Honda Civic and realized that this "talk radio" as I always called it when my parents had it on, was actually interesting. Here were these lucky people whose job it was to get on the mic and tell people about what was going on out there on this green and blue ball we share. And They did it in the most engaging, authoritative and welcoming way. Here was a chance for me to be alone and tune into a learning experience that felt tailored to me. None of that stuffy lecture-hall stuff. This was in turns funny, insightful and relevant.  
Then one day not long after, that summer, I was up in Stillwater, Oklahoma doing a "nerd camp" at Oklahoma State University -- this one was Biophysics. There were these exceptionally cool ladies and dudes and they were so cool and mature and possessed of this incredible nonchalance. Smoking their cigarettes and helping me (ME! Awkward, gawky, bespectacled me!) get a rebellious new haircut and dye it a shocking color (mom was cool, Dad was less than thrilled but not over the moon). We did it all while listening to, you guessed it: NPR. If this is what the cool, smart kids were loving, maybe my parents were right for once.
Fast-forward a few years and I was coasting along with my best friend, visiting her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. It was a perfect early summer day and we were cruising with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway. We were ridiculously young and had all the answers. Ira Glass and his new-ish show was on and I was introduced not only to Ira, (whom after 20 years of keeping each other company on weekend mornings, are on a first-name-basis), but to David Sedaris, who my stepmother was especially fond of. During this broadcast I found out why -- his charming and self-deprecating manner combined with a razor-sharp, innate cleverness made us instant friends. It was a perfect day, gone too soon and well-preserved in that romantic haze that makes all memories like that sweet. I have countless examples when Public Radio has played a part in one of those, and I treasure every one. 
I am a journalist, and as I have grown and matured in my life and in my work, NPR has always been my home. While I was living in China and feeling desperately homesick, I would jump online and listen to streaming broadcast from Oklahoma. Since falling into journalism, I have learned a lot about what makes it truly unique. Listening to it in whatever location I find myself, and learning the particulars of a new station is as natural as unpacking your things and finding that perfect spot for that special knick-knack that you have carried with you on every move, even though you know that it's a minor detail. It's what makes a house a home.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It's all books all the time this week on Okie Geek, and just in case you missed something, we got your back!

...And Episode 10 of Okie Geek Podcast is a wrap, and boy it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys We could have talked for hours. Put a bunch of nerds in a room -- imagine that. Put a bunch of incredibly well-read people with diverse and convergent interests, well -- that's a party.

If you're curious about any of the books we talked about on the show, Here's a list of most of those mentioned, including those added by our kind listeners.

SO, in a sort of particular order, mentioned on the most recent episode (Aug.8 2015 episode  of Okie Geek Podcast, here goes:

(AHEM: *READ LOCAL - Okie writers!)

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Teenagers from the Future by Timothy Callahan, ed.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro (currently four out of a five-book series)

The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

The Dresden Files by James Butcher

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

The MANY short stories of R.A. Lafferty*

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkien, it comes up a lot.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher

The Flood (Oryx & Crake) Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney*

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Dark Tower Series - Stephen King

Hero for Hire by C.B. Pratt*

Legends of the Lightwalkers by Courtney Cantrell*

UPCOMING BOOKS you heard about here first, possibly:

Armada - Ernest Cline

the Cinderspire Series by Jim Butcher (First book releases 9-29, The Aeronaut's Windlass)

EVERYTHING by Tom Robbins. You're welcome. Start with Another Roadside Attraction and have tissues handy for Jitterbug Perfume.

And just a few that we didn't have time to mention, but put them on your list:

The Book Thief  by Marcus Zusak

Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

Horns and NOS482 by Joe Hill

the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz

His Dark Materials (trilogy) by Philip Pullman

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (and then go read EVERYTHING this woman has written.)

The Psychopath Test and Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd and An Underground Education by Richard Zacks

Agent Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre

... and check back often, there's bound to be more to come!

Meanwhile - Happy reading! We'd love to add your recommendations! You can comment here, or you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Okie Geek Podcast consists of our fearless leader, Micheal Cross, along with the so well-respected, erudite and witty they take him out in public Chase Harvick, bookslinging (and writing) badass, Joshua Unruh and the wordslinger-for-hire Devon Green.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Books are an apocalypse in a plain wrapper - A love letter.

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library” - Borges

And oh! The way they smell! When I was a youngster, still in braids, not yet in braces, I vividly remember our weekly trip to the library with my mother. She once told me when I was little that, "if you're a reader, you'll never be bored, but more importantly, you'll never be lonely." As an avid reader herself, I cannot imagine that she thought this to be anything but the TRUTH, and thank goodness, even though I was a child, she caught me at the that magical time when parents know everything, so I took it to heart.

Oh, how right she was. Reading is a magical place to escape and connect simultaneously, and if it weren't for books, well, I would probably be in a rubber room right now. If not somewhere worse. It sounds like hyperbole to non-readers, but you know what I'm talking about. It's that and music. They can save your life. There's this great Smiths lyric that always pops into mind:

But don't forget the songs that made you cry,
                                                    and the songs that saved your life.
                                         Yes, you're older now, and you're a clever swine,
                                          but they're the only ones who ever stood by you. -The Smiths
Swap out "books" for songs, and the simple message is still there. Books DO stand by you. They will never leave you, and they're a tangible thing you can carry with you long after you close the cover because it's an idea. And ideas have the power to change you. I cut my teeth on "Nancy Drew" -- she fed my innate curiosity and a great female role model, looking back. I liked them for that, but I couldn't have articulated it. I just knew that The Hardy Boys couldn't quite hold my attention the same way.
I remember being so riveted by Tiger Eye by Judy Blume that I didn't want to go on some "lame" family outing that day on summer vacation. Before I could even read I remember being captivated by the illustrations in Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey's books. To this day they are still my top two illustrators/artists on the list. Which came first in Devon? The art with the subversion or the subversion that was encouraged by the art? I do know I asked a LOT of questions. And that I still do. And that I learned from the best - Nancy and Blume's protagonists, to name just a small sample.

Another magical thing about books? They tend to appear in your life when you need THAT idea at that particular time. I can't count the number of times that a book has suddenly appeared in my life and did so much to elevate me out of my funk, or shake up my worldview. Time and time again, a book appears and before you know it, *poof*, you're someone just a little bit more clever or informed or just simply NOT ALONE in your thoughts. Which -- especially as an adolescent, spending a lot of time in your thoughts and feeling alone are natural, but too much of a brooding mind can be a very dangerous thing. I've lost count of the time that I felt the author reach across the table and grasp my hand simply to say, "I've been there, and I'm here now." Talk about a powerful, intimate connection. And that's not even taking into account that words are powerful things. The use of language is not to be taken lightly, and in the right hands, can soar higher than the most beautiful hymns by a choir. A choir only for you.

I'll never forget my sophomore English teacher pulling me aside after class and handing me a heavily Xeroxed copy of "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. That simple wisp of a story did more to warp my worldview than I can I even say -- having now read everything in the Vonnegut canon, most of them at least twice, most of them many, it was a crack in a wall between me and the people I went around with at school that just didn't get it. Forget Holden Caulfield, the whiny, privileged little snit. Give me Harrison and his bravery and his decision to be himself any day. It made it okay, in that unique way that adolescence makes you view things, it made it alright that I was different from them. And rather than try my hardest to match them and embrace that type of life -- of fitting in, of conforming, I should embrace my different-ness. It made me special. Let's be clear, I didn't ditch my pearls and throw away my pom poms -- I wasn't trying that hard. But it almost hit me with an audible THUD that not only was it okay to be different, it was something to be celebrated. In a cliche -- it put me on the path. And I never looked back. That way was madness. It was liberation, escape, and validation.
I devoured Vonnegut, Twain and Salinger in a gulp -- his others are so much more lively, loving and much more at ease with themselves. Vonnegut did the most to put things in perspective. Twain, I felt could reach through time and space and reassure me that I could be both a romantic and a cynic at the same time. And it was okay to be broken-hearted about parts of it, too. Not to diminish the fact that he was dead funny. And I once read a critic say that, "Salinger loves his characters more than God loves them." I remain steadfast in my love for the Glass children, and imagine them in my own head-canon as the family that he WISHED he had, and/or could be a part of.
I wrote a senior thesis on Anais Nin and nearly got in big trouble about it. Catholic School - senior with a 4.0, well, I did get a talking-to about "appropriate vs. Inappropriate". My final paper was a heavily edited compromise. It helps the teacher liked me, and it was a damn good paper. Looking back on my 18 year-old self, I wish I could tell myself that IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER. I didn't get Candide the first time around. But by the time that one rolled back into my life? Boy, howdy. I didn't know it at the time, but Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny is an allegory for the soul. BOOM. Another audible thud was Douglas Adams' holy series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's always perspective, and if you want to test a nerd? Just say "SEP" and see their reaction. Margaret Atwood's The Handmade's Tale launched me into her wonderful and erudite vision of the world, concluding with The Flood Trilogy which, to say the least, left me shaken and wanting a WHOLE lot more. The list goes on and on, and I'm a speed-reader at that. I don't skim. I've just had a little practice. Chuck Palahniuk up until Rant, which I admit, I just don't get, is our generation's Hemingway and I never get tired of his tone and brevity, especially in his first three. Beautiful in their simplicity and economy of language is TOUGH. He's masterful. I took his message to heart, perhaps a little too literally at times.
There's a huge dollop of non-fiction, too: Mary Roach, especially Stiff and Bonk, but she could write about toilet paper and I'd be compelled. Anything by Richard Zacks is both elucidating and entertaining as hell. And a special mention for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot -- not just a hell of a read, but a fascinating journey into medicine and ethics, among other toughies. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver will change how you think about your food, and therefore, probably your life.
Oliver Sacks, for whom there is no equal and I recently learned has terminal cancer has so affected my world-view and what it means to be a healer that I cried at my desk when I learned it. You don't know you know him, but you do. Look him up and read EVERYTHING. That should keep you busy for a while. Don't worry, I'm full of them.

And just so there's no confusion -- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is my Tolkien. And yes, I'm admitting it out loud here -- it's better, to me, than Lord of the Rings. Not to mention, almost every single Stephen King book is tied into the universe that is The Dark Tower series. That's a hell of a rabbit hole, and so worth the journey. There's no mad hatter at the end, it's much, much more of a twist.

We will shine, and we will be magnificent. -- Roland of Gilead, the Gunslinger

Benewski's House of Leaves left me so unsettled that I still can't quite articulate it. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave upset me so much I still don't like talking about it. By the time I discovered Hemingway, forget about it. I'm a junkie. I have a problem, and it isn't any problem at all, except if I have nothing to read. And that's not even delving into my addiction to crime fiction/detective stories - I always have two or three I'm reading at once. To name a few -- Chandler's so good they named a trope after him. I have read every single Robert Crais novel there is, and will continue to do so until he up and stops. Which will be a sad day. And probably my favorite mystery writer working today - Harlan Coben, oh, what a delight. Every book is a treasure, and he is a masterful writer. It's hard to balance funny and serious, and he changes tone so smoothly, it appears effortless. That's a feat.

Books keep me sane, brimming with ideas, connected and intimate with a person who put those words on the page and with a sense of kinship that perhaps those words were put down just for you, just that moment. Books are magical things. As I said, they're an idea and they have a power to change you. So, I suppose this is my love letter to them. All of them, and all of those that had the courage to lay themselves naked on the page for all to see. Look close enough, and if you're lucky you'll see yourself reflected in the whites of their eyes.

Our upcoming podcast, which you can find ALL OVER that magical internets and keep track of our amazing and rich lives of culture, coolness (because we all know that part of the definition of "cool" is liking what you like and not giving a whit about what people think about you), nerd/geek culture, and the magic that happens when we take over the airwaves. It's our therapy, and it's all for our and your entertainment. Enough said. We have a heck of a great time. I guarantee you will, too. Go have a listen, and then engage with us - we're pretty easy to find.

Meanwhile ...
Keep Calm and Geek on.


Monday, July 20, 2015

"Ready Player One" Succeeds in beautifully combining the future and the past.

Full disclosure: I am a child of the late 70s and early 80s. I graduated from high school in 1987, so I have a love of anything from those decades.

It's quite possible, Ready Player One by Earnest Cline was written with my generation in mind.

The story line without being to spoiler-y: It's 30 years in the future, and things aren't going well. Poverty is rampant and the corporations have for the most part assumed control. On the plus side, technology has advanced to include a virtual reality world known as OASIS. The fully immersive world was created by James Halliday who was born in 1972, so, like me, he had an absolute love of the 80s. At the beginning of the book Halliday, who is incredibly rich after inventing OASIS, dies and leaves his entire fortune to whomever can find the secret hidden within the program which consists of thousand of worlds and locations.

The quest for Halliday's "Easter Egg" creates a new found love of anything from the late 70s and early 80s especially in the realm of science fiction, role-playing games, music and video games.

There are wonderful mentions to things I held dear as a young person, like WarGames, Dungeons & Dragons and Joust, but even if you were born after the 80s, it's still an enjoyable book. Cline does a wonderful job of explaining the references so the reader doesn't feel lost. I admit there are things I didn't always get, especially some of the Japanese Television shows, but I was still able to understand it.

Nostalgia for the 80s appears to be fairly common currently. Big Trouble in Little China and Edward Scissorhands both have returned in comic book form, new movies are coming out based off National Lampoon's Vacation, Ghost Busters and Star Wars and there's even an appearance in Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2 by Sam J. Jones who played Flash Gordon in 1980.

But, just having awesome 80s references in a distopian future isn't enough to make a great novel. Earnest Cline makes Ready Player One a fantastic read through great character development and wonderful story telling. I felt like I was on the adventure with the main character as he sought clues to the puzzle. I even had dreams trying to figure out the riddles until the next time I could return to reading the book.

I highly recommend Ready Player One (in fact I handed the book over to my wife as soion as I turned the last page) and look forward to seeing your comments...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Transmissions from the Buffyverse, an introduction

Hey guys! Welcome to the Hellmouth! I'm embarking on an adventure, and dragging you along for the ride. 

I promised I would, and here I am, ankle-deep in the Buffy Universe. For those of you who missed it: I'm a Buffy virgin. Or, I was until about two weeks ago (Was it that long ago? My goodness!) when I took it upon myself to take a nosedive into watching ALL of Buffy, including the movie and give my thoughts on this piece of pop-culture geek love that had missed me by miles. The final straw was a gang-up by friend and fellow podcaster, Joshua Unruh, and my husband Kevin, who has been hinting around at this idea for awhile. They finally accomplished convincing me of something I have thus far avoided.

I do have some personal bias, I admit. I am also a bit of a contrarian. Those were two contributing factors, and the fact that myself and roomie had no TV nor the time, the primary was -- and I know this is possibly unfair, but Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia and Cleaving is a huge fan. She talks about it frequently and passionately in her books. While I find her to be a first-rate writer, I don't particularly care for her as a person. Julie, if you're reading this, maybe we could sit down and talk about it and find some common ground. But while I adored both books, I am a bit judgy about your personal life. Like I said, perhaps a bit unfair. But as people know, I have compulsive honesty. And while the people in my life get a pass on a lot of choices they make, most of them, in fact, it's much easier to judge.
So, here I am, having waded through season one and, well -- I'm in. 
I needed something light-hearted, but with some depth and the timing couldn't be better. I have so far enjoyed the show, am already invested in many of the characters, and season one shows glimmers of Joss Whedon's narrative talent and strength. World-building is not an easy task. Supernatural world-building is the booger of the bunch, and he does it with a style all his own. From the dialogue to the exposition, which is basically the entirety of this season, his strengths are already shining. And I have trust that I am not jumping on a plane to nowhere, a la Lost, which I am still angry about. 
So, here we go -- and I am pleased to say that there is nowhere to go but up. I'll get into the technical details about said season soon, but I know already that my time will not be wasted. 

That's all I've got time for right now, but hey - we're in no rush, right? Thank you for coming with me. Maybe I'll add something fresh to the discussion, which is now almost 20 years old - WOW. I welcome feedback -- critical or otherwise. Hell, I'm just happy to have a chance to engage in this and have you along for the ride. 

In the meantime, I leave you with a question: go back. All the way back, to the days of day-glow and Doctor Martens and riddle me this: who was your first love, character-wise? 

We'll talk more, and soon. Until then -- break's over and back out into the real world. Although I don't think I'll be making any special trips to Sunnydale anytime soon. And damn, I miss Firefly. 


Monday, July 6, 2015

What Superhero Means To Me

If you're reading this post, it's likely that you've heard at least an episode or two of the Okie Geek Podcast. If that's the case, then you've probably heard me wax poetic about one superhero or another. If I'm still describing you accurately, it is entirely possible that one of my statements on superheroes rubbed you the wrong way.

The bad news is, I'm not sorry about that at all! If you disagreed, then it means we can have a discussion. And there is almost nothing I love discussing more than superheroes. I love the actual stories, the theories of them, why they work and when they don't. I love it all.

But I also come at these conversations from a very specific view of superheroes. I firmly believe it's an informed opinion, but when I say that I mean informed by objective things like history (both in- and metafictional), but also extremely subjective things like my own tastes.

At this stage of my life as author and cultural partaker and commentator, I'm way past the point of apologizing for my tastes. However, it occurred to me that it might at least illuminate my future podcast commentary on superheroes if I spelled out a few things I feel are fundamental to the concept.

Conventional Wisdom on Genre Conventions

Genres are pretty fluid things. But while an individual genre is pretty malleable, they can be knocked all out of shape if you work hard enough at it. There's a moment after you strip the wings and jet engine from your genre that it starts to resemble a car way more than an airplane.

You all followed that analogy, right? Okay, good, carry on.

Superheroes are one of my favorite genres. I learned to read on superhero comics and have done more thinking about that subject than nearly any other in my life. I have spilled more ink and more pixels about superheroes than any two other subjects. In doing so, I've developed some absolute bare minimum requirements of the genre.

I've discussed on my own blog how superheroes are almost infinitely malleable. But while you can keep adding things to a superhero story and still (probably) have a superhero story, there must be a point where subtracting elements leaves you without one. Otherwise the words don't mean anything. So what are these bare minimum elements? I'm glad you asked!

First, a caveat. Although each of these elements is important, a story doesn't have to have every single one of them to be a superhero story. Neither do all the elements have to be of equal intensity. But you do require a quorum of these elements and at least a few of them turned up to 11. Otherwise your jet is just a car.

For instance, Batman has no super powers, but he's demonstrably a superhero. The Fantastic Four don't have secret identities, but they're also still squarely in the superhero genre. Sherlock Holmes and Doc Savage fight crime, but they are not superheroes.

Will there be fringe cases that could go either way? You betcha. But I think they're going to be the minority because I am aiming squarely for a baseline definition of superhero that makes sense with the history of the genre as well as pointing into the future of superhero characters.

Superheroes Must

  • Possess Super Powers - Superheroes must have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Concussive force fired from the eyes. The proportional strength and speed of a spider. Unbreakable knives popping out of knuckles. Titanic strength, flight, freeze breath, et al. Bottom line, the superhero is super.

  • Possess A Colorful Costumed Identity... - Superheroes wear costumes. You can call them uniforms or action suits if that makes you feel better. Whatever you name it, the superhero has a unique and visually striking outfit she wears when fighting crime (we'll get to that one) that could not possibly be confused for street clothes.
  • ...Which Hides Their Civilian Identity - Only a handful of trusted associates or dedicated allies can know the true identity of our hero or heroine. Naturally, this brings with it the attendant hiding-a-double-life shenanigans.

  • Fight Crime... - Superheroes punch muggers, bank robbers, mobsters, terrorists, Nazis and whoever else is foolish enough to commit nefarious deeds in front of our hero.

  • ...Which Also Cloaks Itself In Colorful Costumed Identities - Run-of-the-mill gunsels and fourth columnists are fine for a while, but eventually a superhero needs somebody who does evil as flamboyantly as the hero does good. Superheroes simply must have supervillains.

  • Battle Internal Conflicts Literalized Externally - This is admittedly a little esoteric. It also might be easier to explain with examples. Peter Parker's internal conflict is deciding what is the greatest good. On one side of town, his loving, ailing aunt needs the pills Peter just picked up for her. On the other side of town, the Scorpion is blowing things up and robbing banks. Peter is literally faced with the dilemma of having great power, yet not knowing where the greater responsibility lies.

    Or to take another example, consider a slowly dying Superman who has always been empowered by solar energy literally facing his own mortality by fighting an evil computer in the shape of a sun. The source of his power is killing him at both the micro and macro scale. That's pretty heady stuff.

  • Be Better People Than Us So As To Inspire Us - For some reason, I feel like this statement is going to be the most controversial. But it's also the one that most defines superheroes. Superheroes are selfless. They sacrifice to protect their fellow men and women. And while they are people (albeit fictional ones) and far from perfect, they are still heroes. I'm going to quote Chris Sims of Comics Alliance at length here for a minute.
...superheroes are a fundamentally optimistic proposition. They all descend from Superman, a character who’s built around the idea that this person with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men would use them exclusively for the benefit of others.

They have to be better people, because they serve to inspire us to be better people.

Optimism. Inspiration. Selflessness. An example of how to be better. I'm down with that stuff. Somewhere along the line it became cool to be cynical. Like, hoping for the future or having compassion for your fellow man became less important than how hip you are.

To hell with that noise! I want to be inspired! I want to be inspiring! And if optimism is the new counter-culture, then Superman is the most punk rock thing in the universe! It also means all those guys who think they're too cool for superheroes the way they ought to be are really just sad sacks who want to drag down an ideal. Good luck knocking down a guy like the one pictured below. And me too, super powers or not.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It Was a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Weekend

Yes. The only connection between Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Men is the word mad. But, flimsy as the connection may be, I’m using it to justify a post about both the film and the series finale of one of the best television dramas of all time.

I joined fellow Okie Geek Podcast panelist Devon and her husband Kevin at a screening of Mad Max: Fury Road; the long-awaited fourth entry in Director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise.

I’m not going to spoil the plot, because you should invest two hours of your life and see this film in a real-live theater — preferably in 3-D — but its sparse dialogue, punk rock world-building and action packed chase scenes were so beautifully bizarre I can't wait to see it again. George Miller must be a student of silent film because the first third of his movie features a soundscape reminiscent of the fast-paced music associated with movies of that era. Plus, the action scenes have the same stylized herky-jerky sped-up look of an early Laurel and Hardy film. Charlize Theron steals the show. Tom Hardy was absolutely fine in the role, but I was surprised to see how marginalized his Max became as the story progressed.

Fury Road is everything I’ve hoped a big-budget blockbuster summer action movie could be. Thank goodness this movie exists in the world.

As a viewer who had been with the series since the very beginning, Sunday’s Mad Men finale had me feeling all the feels. In marketing/advertising speak, the finale "successfully leveraged content to create maximum impactful engagement”. In non-buzzword speak, it hit all the right notes and had a good mix of happy and ambiguous endings.

Again, no spoilers, but I felt the finale was ultimately true to the series while being somewhat optimistic about the potential for people to change for the better. Unlike many series enders, it didn’t exist solely to service the viewership with happy endings and neat tidy conclusions. My one quibble (and honestly, it’s so minor I worry I’m diminishing the greatness of the episode by mentioning it) was the scene where Joan and beau Richard try cocaine on vacation in Florida. It seemed to exist only as a cultural signpost that screamed, “WE’RE IN THE 1970s NOW!” and served no real purpose to the greater plot.

Don Draper, the main protagonist, the “good guy”, is a serial cheater, an identity thief, a drunk, a negligent father, an unreliably employee/boss and a bad friend. The fact that so many viewers (myself included) still want to see this seemingly terrible person succeed and thrive after seven seasons of two steps forward, two steps back character development is a testament to the acting ability of Jon Hamm and the storytelling genius of creator Matt Weiner. I said on an earlier podcast that Mad Men has done for television what The Great Gatsby did for literature.

I don’t believe the world will ever again see a show as complex and challenging as Mad Men or a series that so acutely captures the inherent contradictions of the American dream.

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Contributors to the Okie Geek Blog

The Okie Geek Blog is getting new contributors.

If you haven't heard the new Okie Geek Podcast, click here.

The podcast features new additions to the Okie Geek Blog: Devon Green, Chase Harvick and Joshua Unruh.

They are very knowledgeable in the ways of the geek, and I value them coming along for the ride.

They are also great writers, so I look forward to seeing what they will bring to the blog..

From here on out they will be joining in the conversation here which I haven't always been able to do on a regular basis.

Also, now that you've listened to the podcast you can rate and review it on iTunes.

The better the feedback, the more we can produce the kinds of content you enjoy.

And please, leave us a comment anytime.

Meanwhile, Keep Calm and Geek On!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Historical Persective

So I just got a chance to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron with my wife this weekend.

Let me preference this blog, by saying there are absolutely no spoilers.

Suffice it to say, the movie is amazing! Full of heart and comedy and excitement. There are certainly some tense moments, but it wouldn't be a great one without them. The other thing I will add about what is essentially Avenger 2 is that it is a successful sequeal, going above and beyond its predecessor.

So let's start there.

For generations the adage, "The Sequel is never better than the original" has stood the test of time.

While there are certainly exceptions to break the rule: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and, of course the granddaddy of them all, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Usually what follows the original work, can never exceed what came before: Raiders of the Lost Arc, Ghostbusters and of course, Police Academy. I kid about the last one. Actually when it comes to comic movies the best example is to look to Superman with Christopher Reeve, released in 1978. The film had its share of success and was followed by an equally well done, Superman2  in 1980. But, I remember hearing at the time that it was so successful the industry already green-lighted a third and fourth picture which devastated the franchise.

I have lived many years watching sequels which never lived up to the original, until now. Not just Avenger2 but the entire Iron Man trilogy and Captain America: Winter Soldier. Marvel has managed to do something any movie corporation would be thrilled to see: sequels that shine brighter than their progenitors.

But with Marvel, it's something even more amazing.

In 2008, Marvel released Iron Man.  The feature piece was so successful the company decided to make a sequel, but, then, in an absolute stroke of genius decided to do something unheard of: create another movie which on it's face had absolutely no connection with its predecessor.

So right after Iron Man2, Disney/Marvel released Thor and Captain America. The movies which were so much more than spin-offs held their own, and it wasn't long before the world began to realize what Marvel was up to: an eventual massive cross-over team up known as The Avengers.

And the franchise has never looked back. But, now, after seven years, maybe it is time for us to look back. Not just on the lifespan of the current Avengers series, but on the entire history of fiction writing.

What Marvel has done is create a cohesive universe which has now spanned eleven successful movies, one broadcast television show in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.and even a streaming serial in Daredevil on Netflix.

I have spent the past 24 hours trying to recall a time in film history when several different story lines have been created in the same narrative to create standalone stories as well as these epic team up features. I can't recall anything. Even in the realm of fiction itself over thousands of years, nothing even comes close.

If you can thing of anything, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

In the meantime, the future continues to look bright for Marvel with more stories on television, Netflix and of course the big screen,

But, I feel the biggest winner is going to be us, the viewers.

So, what do you think about the historic aspect of the MCU? Let me know in the comments...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting Ready for the GEEKend!

I am so excited about the upcoming four day weekend to kick off the month of May.

I'm not saying its a vacation weekend, just talking about all the plans for May 1st through the 4th.

Starting Friday, the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe Feature Film officially hits theaters. Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron looks to be an exciting ride with old friends and new faces. Add to that the genius move of having James Spader voice Ultron, and you've got a movie I have to see opening day. Ny the way, if you watch Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC you might want to make sure you watch Age of Ultron this weekend. Like last year's Captain America: Winter Soldier  it looks like events in the movie will directly impact the characters on the TV show.

So that's Friday.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day.

If you've got a kid who just watched Avengers and wants to know more, take him or her to a comic book store near you. there are a lot of great things going on in the realm of comics today. With Convergence in the DC universe and Secret Wars in Marvel, there are some fantastic new story lines to get started reading. Also, if you're having trouble getting your son or daughter to read, Free Comic Book Day allows him or her to pick out something enjoyable and possibly move on to a lifetime path of reading.

Finally Monday is May the 4th, as in "May the 4th Be With You."

It's a great opportunity to celebrate Star Wars. And it couldn't come at a better time. The new animated series Star Wars: Rebels is coming off a highly successful first season, and the trailer for the second season looks phenomenal. The fourth in the newest series of canon novels, Lords of the Sith, just came out on Tuesday.

If you're looking for a way to celebrate the galaxy far, far away you and maybe even pick up that book, you can join me at Best of Books on Monday. With Star Wars origami, a scavenger hunt and Jedi traning, we expect it to be a fun day!

So that's my weekend. What's yours look like? Let me know in the comets...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let the GEEKening begin!

This Friday kicks off what could arguably be the most GEEKtastic summer movie season of all time.

Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron coming to the theaters is likely the first of the most anticipated movies of 2015.

Now, I know what you're going to say: "But there have been other geeky things which have come out before May First, such as the Daredevil series on Netflix.

To which I say those were just a taste of what is to come.

A preGEEKqual if you will.

This summer looks jam-packed with some of truly awesome movies with Mad Max Fury Road and Tomorrowland rounding out May.

Jurassic World and Pixar's Inside Out is hitting theaters this June.

July comes around and the fireworks will be found in the theaters with Minions, Ant-Man and Pan.

July also includes Terminator Genisys but I fear there's more wrong with this film then just bad spelling.

 We finish out the summer with Fantastic Four in August which after the last trailer is actually looking better than expected.

Of course we round out the year with the most anticipated film ever: Star Wars: A Force Awakens.

But first we have to get through this summer. To my fellow geeks I say this "pace your self".

It could be very easy to get overwhelmed, so make sure you plan accordingly.

I would suggest picking a certain time to see a film and stick with that time for every opening. This is a fun time to be alive and be a geek. Have fun and enjoy it, because these types of films won't always be the norm.

In the meantime, if you need me, I will likely be at the movies...

So what are you planning to see this summer? Let me know in the comments...

Friday, March 13, 2015

I've Got a Theory About the Inquisitor in Star Wars: Rebels!

So what follows contains spoilers! If you haven't seen the final episode of Star Wars: Rebels "Fire Across the Galaxy" I suggest you do that first before you read this if you don't want to get spoiled.

That's Ok, I'll wait....

Good. Now, first off, wasn't that amazing! What a great way to end the first season! 

What got me was the way the Inquisitor "died" after allegedly plummeting to his death. This is a character introduced very early on by Disney/LucasFilms. And Hasbro only recently came out with the action figure. It seems a lot of work just to kill off a character after about 15 episodes.

I was talking to my son, and we came up with a theory. And here it is.

The Inquisitor died, but not permanently.The last thing he says to Kanan before falling from the ledge was "There are worse things then death." Some have suggested this is just a hint that Darth Vader was coming after him, but what if it wasn't.

Right before Ben Kenobi died he tells Vader, "If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can imagine." While this might have been a little bit of an exaggeration, it basically meant Kenobi would become what we call a force ghost. Thanks to the training of Qui-Gon Jinn, Kenobi shed his mortal body and became a corporeal part of the force, still able to influence people and events.

Yoda also did this during Return of the Jedi. Somehow at the end of Return of the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker was also able to become a Force Ghost, but he never got the training to do that.

Or did he.

We know that Darth Sidious was obsessed with learning how to cheat death as he discussed with young Anakin during Revenge of the Sith. Sidious even mentions wanting to work with Anakin to discover this secret.

So, what if they did it. What if Sidious and Vader managed to find a Sith way to cheat death in much the same way as Kenobi and Yoda. But what would a Sith Ghost be like: just pure evil I imagine.

And, that's how I believe they will bring the Inquisitor back in the show: As a dark side force ghosr or Sith ghost

So let's take this just a step further. 

Maybe the reason Anakin shows up at the end is because he had been through the training with the Emperor However, since he had crossed back over to the light side he appeared as a force ghost rather than whatever it is a Sith turns into after death.

Also, the death scene of the Inquisitor falling to his death could be compared to the Emperor's death at the end of Return of the Jedi. So, what if whatever is going to happen to the Inquisitor also happens to Darth Sidious?

The original working title for Star Wars VII was called an Ancient Fear, which could point to a return of an old Sith. Sidious maybe? Just some thoughts on what if there are Sith Ghosts along with Jedi Ghosts.

So what do you think? Am I on to something or am I cuckoo for cocoa puffs? Let me know in the comments...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Paying Final Respects to Our Honored Dead

Last week, we lost someone very dear to us: Leonard Nimoy.

I have been dreading this post, because I'm not sure I can produce the words to express what his passing means.

One of my earliest memories is watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series with my father. Even at so young an age, Mr. Spock was fascinating to me.

I loved how Nimoy chose to play the character, and how the character truly evolved before our eyes.

The logical, emotionless character certainly wasn't unique, but Nimoy added something no one else had before: a heart. He helped us care for the character and feel the love he couldn't.

This was best expressed in the episode "This Side of Paradise" by D.C. Fontana. Spock chooses a life without emotion and love in return for duty and responsibility. If you haven't seen it lately, it is wonderful.

Eventually, Nimoy would try to distance himself from the character of Spock.

It's certainly understandable. No actor wants to be typecast into one role.

But eventually he came around to see what the character meant to the throngs of fans.

And they did embrace him!

The Vulcan salute and phrase "Live Long and Prosper" are synonymous with geeks everywhere.

At times we have even embraced his emotionlessness to protect ourselves from the bullies of the world and the ones who couldn't love us because we were so weird.

When his death was announced on Friday, I cried. To me it was different than when we lost Robin Williams last summer. You see, Robin Williams belonged to everyone. All people had a special connection with him.

But Leonard Nimoy was ours alone. He was a mentor when we needed wisdom, an ally when we needed strength and a companion in the darkest times,.Most people don't understand what he meant to us, but he helped us be a better part of this world.

I couldn't help but watch the funeral scene in Wrath of Khan again when I heard the news, and the words of Captain Kirk ring true:

"Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most Human!"

Cue the bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace"!

Farewell, my friend. We are better for having known you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Hope for a Marvel Reboot!

As some of you might know Marvel is planing some big changes by the end of the Summer.

It all begins with the epic Secret Wars mini-series which looks like an epic battle of the Marvel multiverse.

The way its being advertised it looks like it will end in a very Highlander fashion "There can be only one!"

But, which one?

There have been many speculations, so before the beginning of the end I thought I would provide my tuppence.

As many of you know if you read my blog, I am a big fan of continuity.

I have been thrilled with the inter-connectivity of the  Marvel Cinematic Universe where the same characters and actors in the movies are referenced on TV and in movies.

This is a genius move on Marvel/Disney's part.

This encourages someone who watched Avengers and mourned the loss of Agent Coulson to watch him on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The continuity can even cross different eras as proven in Peggy Carter, starting Hayley Atwell who we first enjoyed in Captain America: the First Avenger.

Again, its marketing at its best.

And, something we've rarely ever seen in a comic book setting where any director or writer can change anything and everything about a character, usually to disastrous results.

The worst part is even when the movies are successful, a new fan has no where to go.

If a young person enjoyed the 2012 Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield, and then rushed out to pick up the comic book of the same name, he or she would be sorely disappointed.

That character hasn't existed since the 60s, and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, died in 1973.

This is why most comic book movie and TV fans don't translate into readers.

But, this is changing, and Marvel/Disney is the one leading the way with Star Wars.

In the new continuity of Star Wars everything from books to comic books to movies to television are connected.

And it's wonderful!

I know that at any point one story might be connected to another one even if they are in different media.

I would love to see Marvel do the same.

There are already character additions coming to Netflix.

We also know that Sony and Marvel have inked a deal to keep Spidey in this universe.

Now its time to bring all of them together and give fans what they really want.

A truly connected universe on screen and in print.

So, what do you think? Let me know in the comments...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Grant Morrison Does it Again

A while back I wrote about how I felt DC needs to pull away from its multiverses and follow Marvel's idea of more consistency.

This feeling remains unchanged, but the recent Multiversity guidebook almost made me change my mind.

Multiversity is the brain child of the incredible Grant Morrison.

Morrison stands as a truly great writer of graphic novels along with Sandman creator Neil Gaiman.

It was Grant Morrison who, in the early 90s, ended his reboot of Animal Man, by making the titular character meet up with himself as the author of the comic book.

The surrealistic ending still stands as one of the best ending to a series arc in history.

Now, DC has given Morrison the task of teaching everyone about the Multiverse.

And, not unusual for Morrison himself, he's also teaching the characters within the Multiverse itself.

Every issue of the current series includes comic books left for characters to find which are the very same comic books the reader is currently reading.

The issues have been somewhat confusing... until now!

On Wednesday, DC released The Multiversity Guidebook by Morrison.

This amazingly extra-long issue contains not only the best story and the best artwork, but also the best explanations of the 52 universes which have sprung up since the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The best part of the massive graphic work is the description of each of the individual universes.

(While the following aren't necessarily spoilers, I highly recommend picking up this issue at your local retailer)

First off there's Earth-0 which is what we are currently reading in the New 52.

There are a few universes which are being told now like Earth-2.

Still others have played out in previous graphic novels like Earth 30: the story line Superman: Red Son where Superman lands in Soviet Russia rather than Smallville, Kansas.

Still others come directly from the genius mind of Grant Morrison like gender-bender Earth-11, Steampunk Earth-19 and groovy Earth-47.

Morrison even left seven Earths unknown which could certainly play into the current and upcoming television and film superheroes.

The most interesting aspect of Morrison's Multiversity Guidebook comes from the realization it is truly a handbook I can't put away.

My habit as a comic book collector is to bag and board each issue upon reading it.

Not so with this one.

Grant Morrison's The Multiversity Guidebook will remain on my shelf as a much needed reference for what I expect to be a mind-blowing dive into the future of DC Comics.

While I still question DC's choice to double-down on the inconsistency in its works along print, TV and film, I'm excited to see there this leads.

Any thoughts? Please leave me a comment below...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Year of the Geek Part Two: Star Wars

The end of 2015 brings Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but, also this year, there are other options to get your fix of stories from the galaxy far, far away.

First off there's the current ongoing series "Star Wars: Rebels" on Disney XD.

If you haven't checked this one out, I highly recommend it.

The creators are the same who won awards for "Star Wars: The Clone Wars", so you don't want to miss it.

There are great options for readers both young and old.

Starting this month, Star Wars returns to Marvel Comics!

Marvel is releasing three titles over the next three months beginning with Star Wars #1 on January 14th.

The first issue could be the biggest comic book seller ever!

Two more titles, Star Wars: Darth Vader and Star Wars: Princess Leia will follow.

Also exciting is Marvel's Omnibus release of the first 44 issues of Star Wars which came out in the late 70s.

Another great addition to the new Expanded Universe includes the novel Heir to the Jedi.

The story fills the gap of what happened to young Luke Skywalker between blowing up the first Death Star and the battle on Hoth.

All of these will be canon and possibly laying the groundwork for The Force Awakens.

Finally and possibly most exciting is the summer release of books retelling the story of the original trilogy.

These books will be perfect for the young people who only have memories of the prequels.

All in all, its a wonderful opportunity to whet our appetites until December.

So, what are you looking forward to in the Star Wars Universe this year? Let me know in the comments...

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015: The Year of the Geek

That's right folks, I'm going out on a limb here: 2015 is going to be the year of the Geek.

OK, I know that's not really a stretch and several other people are saying it as well.

But I can't help but be excited.

Most people know the year will end with the most anticipated movie of all time: Star Wars: the Force Awakens.

But before then there are many juicy bits of geekdom on the silver screen.

Some are going to be obvious hits like Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And some we will just have to wait and see.

I am exited about the return of Mad Max in Fury Road and Pixar's Inside Out.

Meanwhile, there are a few pieces which I am concerned about like Marvel's Ant Man.

Although I was just as concerned six months before Guardians of the Galaxy, and it turned out pretty well (hehe).

And, I have my certain doubts for some shows like Terminator: Genisys (I had to check that title six times to make sure I spelled it right!), Jurassic World and, possibly the worst, Fantastic Four.

There are also some wonderful opportunities outside of the theater.

Marvel is not just doubling down on it's Cinematic Universe, it's going all in.

This year sees the spin-off of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Agent Carter.

Marvel is also getting ready to start its partnership with Netflix with the release of Daredevil in May as well as Marvel's Jessica Jones later in the year.

This all sets up for later releases on Netflix of "Luke Cage", "Iron Fist" and eventually, "Defenders".

There are likely other major geek events to come in the next 12 months, and I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments...