Nerdish Musings

Aldy’s Nerd Blog 2: Age of Adulthood

Mae Govannen, mellyn nin!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting a lot lately. I’ve encountered a number of life changes over the past two months. Without going into details, I’m having to become an adult rather fast. New apartment, new job, the whole shebang. And acting like an adult is shockingly time-consuming. I hope to start posting regularly again now, but my posts will look a little different.

The Fandom of the Month format has been a lot of fun for a long time, but I think it’s time to retire it. My reasons are twofold: First, some months are busier for me than others. As a result, some “fandoms of the month” get more attention than others, which doesn’t seem quite fair. For example, I posted a lot about Star Wars in May, but the poor superheroes only got about three posts in June. It’s not that I like Star Wars any better than superhero movies, it’s just that I was away from my home laptop, state, and/or country for most of that month and didn’t have time to write.

Second, and I really hate to admit this….I’m running out of fandoms. I like a lot of nerdy things, but after two and a half years of trying to highlight a different fandom every month, I am nearing the bottom of the barrel. If I keep going at this rate, I’ll end up posting about – *shudder* – anime!

I also enjoy lots of things that don’t fit neatly into a fandom, as you may have noticed. I like writing movie and book reviews,, and it’s hard to find a place for those on this blog. Or at least it has been, until now. From now on, I’m going to take a somewhat looser approach to blogging. Instead of sticking with one fandom for a whole month, I’ll blog about whatever nerdy thing I’m most currently interested in – whether it’s a 100-year-old book of poetry, a 50-year-old TV show, or the latest Marvel blockbuster. I’ll also do a few posts about nerd culture itself, since that’s something that’s always interested me. And in August and September, I will be taking a fangirl’s tour of the UK, so expect to see some reports about all the awesomeness I encounter.

Anyway, I hope nobody is too disappointed by the change! Don’t worry, there will still be lots of silly lists and long rants about why X movie/book/show/album cover is the BEST THING EVER and why X thing about it bugs me regardless. I’m just mixing things up a bit.

As always, stay tuned!

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June 2015 fandom

Why Tony Stark Wears Daredevil Pajamas

Allow me to introduce you to my latest TV obsession: a little Netflix original series called Daredevil.

I knew next to nothing about this hero before watching the show, so I had no expectations. Turns out, he’s basically Batman–if Bruce Wayne was a poor Catholic lawyer instead of a billionaire playboy, and if Batman actually admitted to having superpowers. The premise is this: Matt Murdock got in an accident with some chemicals as a boy, which blinded him but heightened his other senses to the extent that he can dodge bullets and hear people’s heartbeats from across a room. He fights crime in his New York neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, using his law school training by day and his martial arts training by night.

Not only does Daredevil feature some of the best acting and cinematography I’ve seen in any TV show, let alone a comic-based one, it didn’t take me long to realize that it’s the answer to all my problems with the Marvel movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there are certain problems that tend to crop up tiresomely in all their films. This show thrives in every area where the movies fall short. Other Marvel superheroes wish they were as cool as Daredevil. Captain America has his autograph framed on his wall. Black Widow is rumoured to own Daredevil panties. Thor is afraid to let him touch Mjolnir–in case he’s able to lift it.

Let me explain. What are the most common problems with Marvel movies?

Weak Villains

With all due respect to Tom Hiddleston, the bad guys in Marvel movies tend to be pretty cartoonish. Without exception, their goals and motivations can be summed up as: “He’s crazy and he wants to destroy the world.” Besides, they hardly ever have any cool powers compared to the heroes. Even Loki, an actual god, couldn’t do much besides duplicate himself, freeze stuff, and woo fangirls with his fabulous hair. Useful, sure, but not when you’re up against an indestructible guy who can call down lightning at will.

Daredevil does not have this problem. Wilson Fisk, the main villain, gets almost as much character development as Matt does–there’s an entire episode devoted to his backstory, and his is the only major romantic subplot in the show. Even the lesser villains come across as well-rounded, believable characters, with all sorts of conflicting goals. Still evil, though. Like, these people run human trafficking operations and kill old ladies for no good reason. And they pose a legitimate threat to the hero, despite being (for the most part) normal humans.

Over-powered Heroes

Most Marvel superheroes fall very close to the “Greek god” end of the scale I mentioned earlier. Super strength and invulnerability are the most basic powers issued to your average Avenger. That’s not even counting the flight, lightning powers, missile-firing murdersuits, etc. Even the supposedly non-powered heroes have access to a ridiculous amount of technology, inhuman fighting skills, and the aforesaid super strong and invulnerable guys as allies. All this is extremely cool, but it doesn’t do wonders for creating suspense. I mean…is Thor ever really in danger? From anything?

Then again, he never had to face the Russian mob.

Daredevil missed out on the Marvel superhero starter kit. His powers help him to detect when people are lying and trail criminals without being noticed, but they do not help him lift cars effortlessly or survive nuclear explosions. And he’s not rich, so he doesn’t even have cool toys. It’s established early on, in as brutal a manner as possible, that he can get hurt, and he won’t heal right away. Hello super intense fight scenes! This also makes him more of a hero, since he’s not effortlessly beating up bad guys, but genuinely putting his life on the line for his city.

Fake Deaths

This scene has happened in almost every MCU movie ever: the hero gets mortally wounded. He keels over, to some dramatic music. His friends look concerned. And then some magic happens, and he’s fine. It happened to Thor in Thor, Captain America in the first Captain America, Iron Man in The Avengers, etc., etc. Come on, Marvel–everybody knows you’re not going to kill your heroes, so why do you keep pretending to?

I might regret saying this later, but so far, as of the first season, all deaths in Daredevil have been permanent. Which makes them horrifying and sad, kinda like how death is in real life. Even some of the villains have sad death scenes! It’s telling that Daredevil, despite being more of an anti-hero than his MCU fellows, is the only one so far who has a no-kill rule. Because death actually means something in his world. Taking a life is a line he just can’t cross. Plus he’s Catholic, so…

And I just love the characters. Matt/Daredevil is an all-around wonderful person, his fighting skills make Jason Bourne look weak–and he’s just flawed enough to be interesting. His comic-relief sidekick in the law business, Foggy Nelson, turns out to be a pretty awesome hero in his own right (though the “comic relief” part is very much needed as well). His love interest, Claire Temple, is the only superhero girlfriend I’ve actually liked…EVER. She acts like a sensible human being at all times, and is more of an asset than a liability to Daredevil–which is a first. In fact, my biggest complaint about the show is that she’s not in it enough. Hopefully that’ll be remedied next season. Oh, and the actor who plays Wilson Fisk deserves an Emmy.

Add in some truly gorgeous camera work (I’m tempted to post a video of the last fight scene in “Cut Man” as an example, but SPOILERS! Just know that it’s breathtaking), lovely music, and a complicated plot with all kinds of surprises, and you have Marvel’s most glorious creation.

So why are you still reading this? Go watch the show!

Namarie,
Aldy

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June 2015 fandom

Fandom of the Month: Superheroes!

As you know if you’ve been anywhere near a movie theatre this year, everybody loves a superhero. Superheroes are cool. They’re wish fulfillment fantasies for us and role models for our kids. They fight evil, wear colorful outfits, deliver snappy one-liners, and always, always win. What’s not to like, right?

I’ve loved superhero movies ever since I was a pre-teen (which was when the genre first started making obscene amounts of money). I loved stories about great heroes long before that…probably ever since my parents read me my first fairytale. But as I’ve learned since then, there are many different kinds of heroes in fiction. Superheroes are the kind the Greeks used to write poems about–strong, powerful, immortal, and also quite flawed. They’re not quite gods, and not quite human. So the evil they fight is always cosmic in scope (making for some really cool battles), but they still have to deal with ordinary human problems like dating and jobs (making them sympathetic). When done well, superheroes are both what everybody wants to be–indestructible crimefighters with all the cool toys–and what everybody already is–regular schmucks who struggle to balance their work and personal lives and sometimes lock their keys in the car. Of course, some heroes lean more toward the god-like side of the scale, and others sit closer to the regular schmuck side, but the tension is there somewhere in every superhero story.

This month, I’ll be posting about the superheroes whom I love the most. These are the guys (and yes, sadly, they are all guys, because I don’t read comic books and Hollywood is sexist) who have figured out how to balance being a Greek god at night and a normal person by day–or at least are trying to. They’re true heroes, who hide a courageous, selfless heart underneath that suit of armour. And they also have wicked cool suits of armour. They’re the guys you wish were protecting your city from aliens and bank robbers and psychos.

What are their names? Ah, just pick your favourite scary animal. It’ll probably be on the list.

Namarie,
Aldy

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Nerdish Musings

2015: The Year of the Nerd

Happy New Year, everyone! (A day late.)

It’s 2015 already! And we all know what that means: we are officially living in the future! No flying cars yet, but at least we have a new Star Wars movie to look forward to, not to mention another round of Marvel superheroes and a new set of conventions on the calendar. Friends, it’s a good time to be a nerd.

I usually don’t write down my New Year’s resolutions, because they tend to be overly ambitious and lead to deep depression come February. But this year I’ll make one exception: I resolve, in 2015, to take better care of this blog. I resolve to post something here once a day, barring emergencies and Internet malfunctions. And I resolve to start up my Twitter account again, so that more people may possibly find this blog. (My handle is @aldythenerd, by the way.) Now that’s not too crazy, is it?

So, to keep myself accountable, here’s a preliminary schedule of fandoms I’ll be covering for the next six months. They are subject to change (and suggestions!), but for now, here’s what to expect:

January – The Month of Sherlock
February – The Month of Miscellaneous Science Fiction
March – The Month of Supernatural
April – The Month of Shakespeare (& Friends)
May – The Month of Star Wars
June – The Month of Superheroes

Tune in tomorrow for my first fandom post of 2015! Especially if you’re a Sherlockian.

Namarie,
Aldy

March

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Goodbye Superheroes, Hello…

The month of June is over (can you believe it?) and that means it’s time to take a vacation from superhero posts. I’ll just leave you with a short list of my favourite superhero movies for further viewing:

1) The Dark Knight trilogy

2) The Avengers

3) The Spider-Man trilogy (the one with Tobey McGuire, not Captain Perfect Hair)

4) The Incredibles (yes, it’s a kid’s cartoon, but it totally counts)

5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

6) Iron Man

7) Thor

8) X-Men

 

Now, here’s one thing I used to wonder about: why doesn’t Great Britain have superheroes? They’re usually pretty similar to us Americans as far as their tastes in entertainment, but they have never successfully invented a caped crusader. I used to think that was weird. Now I know the answer: the British don’t need superheroes. I mean, this is the country that beat Hitler just by drinking tea and letting him bomb them until he got bored. Plus, they have some of the most awesome non-super heroes in literature. King Arthur, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, the Doctor–just a few reasons why they don’t need heroes in tights.

The month of July will be dedicated to one more reason England doesn’t have superheroes. Stay tuned. Namarie!

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My Least Favourite Superhero

I’ve already given you the list of my favourite superheroes, and we’ve talked about a couple of the best superhero movies. So now it’s time to talk about a hero I really don’t like. This guy.

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I understand that, without Superman, superheroes as we know them wouldn’t even exist, and I do appreciate him for laying the genre’s foundation. But the fact that he was the first doesn’t make him the best. Here are some things that bug me about Superman:

1) His ridiculous powers. He can fly, he has x-ray vision and super strength, he shoots laser beams from his eyes, he’s indestructible…I mean, this guy can do anything. He’s unstoppable. So how can any of his stories possibly have a conflict? Oh yeah, that’s right…

2) Kryptonite. Because the average criminal, mad scientist, evil alien, etc. doesn’t stand a chance against Superman, the only sense of danger in his story comes from a supposedly rare type of space rock that drains his powers. So, of course, that rare piece of rock has to show up in every comic (and therefore every single movie). Which kind of stretches the bounds of belief, even in the superhero genre, but not quite as much as…

3) His “secret” identity. So this neon-wearing hero, whose face is all over the news all the time, puts on a pair of glasses and a tie, and NO ONE recognizes him. Seriously? Even toddlers don’t fall for tricks like that. Sure, people can be pretty stupid sometimes, but you would think that after a while, Lois Lane would notice that one of her co-workers looks an awful lot like her super boyfriend. Didn’t any of your journalism teachers tell you to observe the details, Lois?

4) His perfection. All of this is really to say, Superman is just too perfect. Most of his successors have at least a few problems in their lives–well, usually a lot of problems–but Superman has everything going for him. He always does the right thing, he always saves the day, and he always comes out of it completely unscathed. Which is fine when you’re ten and watching cartoons, but now that I’m older, I like a little complexity in my heroes.

The question is, why are they still trying to make serious movies about this guy? The most recent example, Man of Steel, was the dullest superhero movie I’ve ever seen. Zack Snyder really tried to bring Superman into the Nolan-influenced 21st century, but all he did was make him even more boring than ever. Maybe it’s time for this 76-year-old alien to retire.

Namarie!

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Superhero Comic #1

As I’ve said, I’m not into comic books. But I do like knowing where my favourite characters came from. Superheroes are so popular and high-tech these days that I sometimes forget just how long they’ve been around. The first comic book to feature a hero with supernatural powers and a colorful suit came out in 1938.

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They made things to last back in the ’30s. Of course, you could argue that superheroes have been around even longer than that–The Scarlet Pimpernel, in Baroness Orczy’s novel of the same name, was basically the French Revolution-era Batman, and the Victorians had their share of powerful crime-fighters with secret identities. But I think we can at least credit Action Comics with the whole cape-spandex-and-muscles aesthetic we now associate with superheroes. Kudos to them. Too bad they can’t benefit from all the money their heroes are making now…

Namarie!

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Ranking the Superheroes

You may be wondering who my favourite superheroes are. The short answer is “all of them,” but there are certainly some that I like more than others. Here are my top five, more or less in order–and once again, remember that these are based on the characters’ movies, not their comic books.

1. Batman

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Why? Because he’s BATMAN! But seriously, this guy is just a great character. He has a complicated personality and set of motivations, which is rare among superheroes. His alter ego is as much of a mask (and a weapon) as his bat outfit, which is pretty smart, considering “secret identities” never seem to stay secret for long. He has no powers, but he still manages to kick the butts of some of the most powerful villains in the comic universe. And who doesn’t secretly want a bat cave? I mean, everything about Batman is just so cool. What’s not to like?

2. Spider-Man

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Spider-Man holds a special place in my heart because he was my first superhero. Believe it or not, I was a bit of an elitist before I turned 16. I thought I was too sophisticated for superhero movies, until I saw Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. That’s when I discovered that my tastes are not sophisticated at all–I just like stories about unlikely heroes who get a supernatural power and choose to do the right thing with it. Of course I can relate to Peter Parker because he’s a total nerd, but I also like him for having such a strong sense of right and wrong, even if he loses sight of it occasionally.

3. Captain America

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Speaking of a sense of right and wrong, Captain America is probably the most powerful voice for common decency in recent pop culture. He’s not a terribly complicated character, but he is more than just a flag-waving patriotic symbol. He’s a courageous soldier who fights for truth and freedom, and always puts others before himself. And yes, he’s pretty patriotic, but he’s willing to stand up even to American leaders if they start abusing their power. In short, he embodies all the best things about America. Including our top-notch fighting abilities.

4. Iron Man

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I don’t like Iron Man for any of the same reasons I like my top three superheroes. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Tony Stark is kind of a terrible person in many ways–he’s a womanizer, he’s a show-off, he lets his girlfriend do all the hard work–but there’s no denying that he is hilarious. And in a genre where the standards have been set by darker heroes like Batman, we need some comic relief once in a while. Besides, Iron Man can be as heroic as the best of them. Sometimes he just needs an extra “push.”

5. Wolverine

wolverine

This guy is just fun to watch. Wolverine has been through a lot, and he can’t remember most of it, but he always overcomes his many personal issues in time to save the day. He can be ferocious at times, but he has a soft heart underneath the adamantium. And he has one of the coolest superpowers around. Also–I love Hugh Jackman. I really, really love Hugh Jackman.

So that’s my list. Who are your favourite superheroes (or heroines–more on that later)?

Namarie!

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