The Simpsons is one of those shows I still have sort of a soft spot for. Oh, it's pretty much just a shadow of what it was back in its heyday; characterizations are completely shot to Hell, the stories too often just try to be "wacky" instead of going for some actual wit, and it's very rare that it gets much of a laugh out of me... but the show never really offends me. I've yet to react with actual anger towards a Simpsons episode I've seen; at most it's been a headshake and a "How the mighty have fallen."
Which I can't say about Family Guy. Now, I'll admit it, I caught a fair deal of the episodes when the show was in its first season and I didn't hate it. I never loved it, but for the most part it was inoffensive enough -- the animation wasn't anything special, the characters (excluding Stewie) kinda bland and unmemorable and the scriprtwiters couldn't do comedic timing to save their lives, but it kept my interest enough that if I didn't have anything else going on I'd happily enough catch an episode... but then, especially after the cancellation and renewal of the show, the quality dropped.
And where The Simpsons dropped from an excellent show to a mediocre one, Family Guy started at mediocre and took a nose-dive into pure awfulness. Just about everything good about the show vanished, and everything bad increased tenfold. Shock value humor and painfully longwinded gags became the norm -- and convinced far too many "comedians" out there that the way to laughter is to milk your jokes for ten times of all it's worth.
But... well, a crossover between the two shows is a pretty big deal. They've mocked each other often enough, so I was genuinely curious as to what they might do in a crossover.
Well, sort of a crossover; it's really a Family Guy episode, written by the Family Guy staff and looking at the Simpsons and Springfield through Family Guy lenses. The Simpsons don't feel too off; they look, sound and mostly act as they should, but the world and the writing is still Family Guy, trying and failing to be The Simpsons.
That said, it's not actually a total failure. The double-length episode here has a lousy beginning and a lousy ending, but it has a surprisingly good and entertaining middle. Pretty much all the entertainment value here is to be found in that middle part, when the Griffins have entered Springfield and interact with the Springfieldians -- there's a pretty effective meta-commentary here where Homer and Peter begin arguing about their favorite beers, and the argument is point-for-point the same arguments made by fans arguing about the two shows, with accusations of whether Family Guy ripped off The Simpsons or were just inspired by it. The entire thing leads to a plagiarism lawsuit that's still ostensibly about the beers but is really about the two shows. That part was effective and well-done.
Of course, it sort of all comes to a big fat nothing when the ending is a seven-minute-long Peter VS Chicken fight, just with Homer in the place of the chicken. Sigh. I get that you felt you had to have Peter and Homer duke it out, but why did it have to be seven freakin' minutes of the two beating one another to bloody pulps while destroying much of Springfield? It's not funny, it's not entertaining, and like all the chicken fights it drags. I realize of course that I'm probably not the right person to speak about the chicken fights, as I'm not a fan of Family Guy and fight scenes tend to bore me (though I'm more tolerant of them now than I used to be), but still... when I keep looking at the episode timer and thinking "is it done yet? Is it done yet?" I'd say that's a sign the episode is failing.
However, and not surprisingly, the worst part of the episode is the beginning, before the Griffins get to Springfield and the crossover officially starts -- because this is one of the lousiest manipulative moves I've seen a TV show make.
Let me explain. Seth McFarlane and Family Guy have often enough been accused of sexism, right? Not only that, but it's been wholly deserved in my book; it's done as "tee hee, aren't we cheeky, oh get a sense of humor, it's just a joke" type of fratboyish humor, with a bit of joking about rape thrown in because that's so delightfully offensive. (Seriously, guys. Rape is a very sensitive subject and "it was a joke" does not automatically make you seem like any less of a douchebag, neither do long explanations of why people shouldn't be offended by it or why they need senses of humor.) Well, despite this, I was willing to give the showrunners the benefit of the doubt here; they're trying to be funny and just don't realize how painfully unfunny and immature they come across, they're not actually malicious and probably jolly decent blokes all around, let's all have ice cream.
How wrong I was.
In the "trailer" for the crossover that was put up a couple of months before the episode aired, there was a segment of Bart teaching Stewie to do one of his famous prank calls to Moe's Tavern. Stewie, not getting the gist of it, calls up Moe and says "your sister is being raped" before hanging up. Now, it's pretty obvious what they were going for here; the joke (such as it is) being that Stewie fails at prank calling -- it's pretty typical Family Guy humor; a sort of crass non-joke where the scriptwriters try to pretend that offensiveness equals comedy because that's easier to write. Lazy writing and lazy comedy all around, nothing new.
And of course, when the trailer hit the internet, a lot of bloggers, especially of feminist blogs, did take offense at this "joke," writing about it and citing it as yet another example of the misogyny and rape-jokeyness of Seth McFarlane and Family Guy. THe bloggers pointed out that there was absolutely no reason to use the word "rape" when literally any other non-funny comment would have made the exact same point ("Moe, your bar was demolished!" or "Moe, you have a stupid name!" or "Moe, I got your credit card numbers and have just emptied your bank account!" are just three I can think of off the top of my head) -- but no, of course Stewie had to use the word "rape" because teeheehee, aren't we offensive, get a sense of humor, it's just a word.
There wasn't really a huge outrage here, mind you -- mostly it was some grumbling and sighing, a couple of "why haven't these douchebags gone off the air yet?" and a few fairly patient "look, here's why being offensive is not the same as being funny." Very few bloggers seemed genuiely outraged about it, and this is likely because absolutely nobody expected anything better from Family Guy. The joke wasn't anything they hadn't already done dozens of times before.
But it seems like Family Guy were counting on there being a huge outrage -- because the opening of this crossover involves Peter becoming a cartoonist for no reason and angering feminist bloggers with sexist and offensive jokes. Leading to a number of gags where the show, in an impressively passive-aggressive way makes it plain just how oversensitive and unreasonable these feminists are, with comments like these:
"It's not just a joke, Peter--it's a joke that angered some bloggers!"
"Do you really think this is an appropriate comic to run on Gloria Steinem's half-birthday?"
"It wasn't even funny and I have a great sense of humor." (This last one is said by a particularly whiny-sounding woman.)
Peter is of course his usual crass self and makes more sexist and offensive jokes before lamenting that he just wanted to make people laugh - and then the feminists hurl bricks and make the Griffins feel unsafe in their own home, which is why they flee the city and end up in Springfield for the crossover.
Now, my first instinct here to all this was something along the line of "Sheeeeeeeeesh, your fragile egos really can't handle a bit of criticism, can they? This is Douchey McNitpick all over again -- portray your critics as whiny, oversensitive and unreasonable losers, that way their criticisms come across as worthless!" And yeah, I know it's tempting to make fun of your critics, but it's pretty immature nonetheless...
But then I realized something. An animated show takes time to produce. And it's not as though it usually airs the same day it was finished, either. This episode was written, animated, voice-acted and quite possibly mostly if not completely finished by the time they put out that trailer. And yet the episode included a parody of reactions from the feminist bloggers. I don't think it was a coincidence that they had Stewie make that "rape" joke, or that they made sure to put it in the trailer.
What I think they were trying to do here was to intentionally provoke a reaction. They wanted to offend, and most particularly they wanted to offend the feminist bloggers. "After all," they might have said to themselves, "remember Seth's Oscar speech? Hooo boy, those bloggers got angry at that. They said he wasn't even funny! Well, this time, we'll be prepared! Let's give 'em something they're sure to write angry rants about, and then have that part as a prominent bit of the promotion of the crossover! They'll get so angry, and they'll call us sexist and unfunny -- and then when the episode itself airs those comments will be mocked in such a way that they will seem like the villains here! Yeah, we'll really expose them as over-sensitive, humorless whiners who attack poor, innocent us, we who just want to make everybody laugh! It's brilliant! It can't fail!"
Okay, probably they didn't put it quite like that, but you can't tell me that this entire thing wasn't intentional. They knew they were going to offend, and they were hoping to offend, so that they could shout down the offended parties and look like the victims in all this.
You're cleverer than I thought you were, Family Guy writers. I'll admit that. But you're not as clever as you think you are. That ploy was not only a douchey move, it was pretty obvious. Not cool, dudes. Not cool.
In fact, I first started drawing digitally back in 2008, when I got my first Wacom Bamboo art tablet, and pretty much never looked back since (Here's my post from back then, where I compare drawing digitally with drawing on paper). Three years later, in 2011, I upgraded to a Wacom Intous, which was an even better art tablet (I posted about that too). I had lots of fun with both of them, going through three versions of Photoshop before landing on Manga Studio as my go-to drawing program. I still have a certain fondness for those tablets... I think the Bamboo's gone out of production since then, but I still hold that anyone wanting to give digital drawing a try could do a lot worse than to check out the Intous. It takes some getting used to, drawing on the tablet and having the line show up on the screen in front of you instead of where you're drawing, but it's not as hard to get used to as you might think.
But, of course, I always did hope that one day I would be able to get a Wacom Cintiq -- the Holy Grail for artists like me. A tablet with its own screen that you could draw directly on. But of course Cintiqs are freakin' expensive; on my budget I couldn't afford one... and it was even too expensive for me to be comfortable asking for a "combined Christmas/birthday present" like I had with both the Bamboo and the Intous.
Now, last Christmas, I got a Surface Pro, which incidentally is my first tablet computer. Before that I only had a laptop and an iPod Touch -- tablets were getting more and more common, but I didn't have one... until last Christmas. Yes, it was another combined Christmas and birthday present. Everyone else in the family had iPads or Samsungs (in fact, one of my great-uncles, thanks to winning a contest, had one of Norway's first iPads!), but I asked for the Surface Pro because it came with a stylus, had Wacom drivers and could be used as an art tablet. Unlike the iPad, it could be used as a good art tablet. (I didn't make a specific post about it, but I did mention it briefly in this post, where I posted one of the first drawings I made on the device.)
The Surface Pro was a neat little device; it worked well with Manga Studio and I loved that I could basically take it to bed with me and read online fiction before going to sleep. (This was an extension of a joke I made back in high school, all about how handy computers were and how many books you could fit in one -- "So handy to read in bed" I'd say, with a motion towards the huge monitor that certainly would not be handy to take to bed with you. Nowadays with laptops and tablets it actually is handy.) And as an art device it was pretty sweet too; for the first time I had an art tablet with a screen that I could draw on.
And that's where things were... until now. My financial situation had improved a bit, and I found that for once... I actually had money. Not only that, but I had enough money for my Holy Grail, a Cintiq. I went back and forth on the issue for some time, reading online reviews and checking prices, going: "Hmm, I can afford it, but it's still a lot of money to pay.... but it is like the top artist tablet around... though I do still have my Surface Pro 2, which I really like, so I don't really need a Cintiq... but I kinda really want one, and it might help with the drawing assignments..."
I'll spare you the rest of my wavering. The point is that after some talking to a couple of friends (who all basically said "get the Cintiq!") I decided to get the Cintiq.
I went for a Cintiq Companion because I need the mobility. Not that I was planning on taking it out on trips or anything, but any other Cintiq models would have meant I was chaining myself to a desk in one spot of my apartment, and I like to be able to sit on the couch and draw. From what I learned of other Cintiqs, they were meant to stand on a desk and not be moved around much at all, and needed like three cables to hook up to a computer. So a Companion was simply the one that met my needs the best.
And last week, Tuesday to be exact, I got my new, 516GB Cintiq Companion. Like the Surface Pro, it runs Windows 8 and can be used as a tablet computer... but it's notably bigger and heavier, so it probably won't be doing much traveling.
So, after about a week of playing with the new Cintiq Companion, comparison comes naturally. How does it compare to the Surface Pro? Since I now have both devices, I can actually give my impressions and look at the pros and cons between the two.
Now, the Surface Pro I'm using is the Surface Pro 2 -- I haven't tested out the Surface Pro 3, but according to people whose opinions I generally trust (among them Reed Hawker, former runner of the MAX art exchange which I've been in for years), the Surface Pro 3 is "somewhat worse than the Surface Pro 2 when it comes to art stuff, but virtually everything else makes the Pro 3 better than its predecessor." So since I'm comparing them as art devices, I'm not feeling bad about focusing on the Pro 2.
So, how do they compare?! ...Aw, I'm not even gonna try to be coy here, as an art device the Cintiq Companion is better. I think it can be summed up like this: The Surface Pro is a tablet computer that can also be used as an art tablet, while the Cintiq Companion is an art tablet that can also be used as a (larger, bulkier) tablet computer. There's a reason why the Cintiq is constantly referred to as "the professional's choice" -- this thing was designed with artists in mind, and it really shows.
There's also the position of the on/off button, the speakers and the camera. On the Cintiq Companion the on/off button could not have been more awkwardly placed unless it was in the middle of the screen or something. They've placed it on the lower right, at the exact spot where it's natural to hold it to pick up. Especially when you're left-handed like me, it's in a place where your palm will constantly accidentally push it, and I did end up putting the tablet into sleep mode a few times before I adjusted my position and grip. (The buttons are customizable, so apparently it's possible to disable the button's off function, which should take care of the problem... but still there's no excuse for that button placement.) The camera's to one side, which makes no sense, and the speakers are on the bottom, where they'll get muffled if you draw with the Companion in your lap. On the Surface Pro, all these things are much more sensibly placed; especially the top placement of the on/off button is vastly superior.
And, most imporantly, the Surface Pro is like half the price of the Cintiq Companion. Which is a huge dealbreaker when you're on a budget. Besides, the Surface Pro is more versatile -- so if you're looking for something a little more like an actual laptop and/or tablet to write stuff on and surf the net, that can also be used as a handy art tablet, I'd say the Surface Pro will be the better, not to mention cheaper, choice. Especially if you have Manga Studio installed on it, because Manga Studio and Surface Pro is a very good combination... and perhaps get a replacement stylus for the flimsy one that comes with the tablet (I hear good things about the Bamboo Feel stylus, for instance). But even with the extra money spent on the type cover, the replacement stylus and Manga Studio (if you don't already have Manga Studio, that is), it'll still be significantly cheaper than the Cintiq, so you can't argue the value here.
(That said, it's a good investment, no matter which of the devices you use, to get an artist glove. Both tablets are generally good about distinguishing touch from pen, but having a glove makes it a little easier, and has the added bonus of eliminating the "hand friction" problem on the Surface Pro. But no point in buying one of those expensive "artist gloves"; just buy a pair of cheap cotton gloves, cut off the thumb and next two fingers -- and there you have your own artist's gloves that work just as well.)
There's also the bigger screen of the Cintiq Companion to consider. I'm not really a "bigger is better" advocate and often prefer working smaller -- but I can't deny that the Surface Pro screen can feel very cramped. With Manga Studio and other art programs, the tools and settings often take up like one-fifth of the already-small screen, leaving you with a tiny workspace. Of course, with the ease of which you can zoom in and out, this is not as big a problem as it might have been otherwise, but it still does kinda limit you when it comes to viewing your work in its entirety, especially if you're drawing big and elaborate pictures. With the Cintiq this is not a problem; the tools take up a smaller percentage of the screen and what you have left is a much bigger and more comfortable workspace; in fact, I checked, and with Manga Studio on the Cintiq, the workspace is almost exactly the size of the Surface Pro in its entirety -- in other words, about the size of a normal comic book page.(American format comics, that is.)
Also, the pen. The pen that comes with the Surface Pro is... not very good. It works just fine, but isn't very nice to hold, there is only one action button for it, and the "eraser" on top is flat, which makes for awkward erasing. (Buying a replacement stylus can at least give you a pen that's more comfortable to work with, but from what I see none of them have an on-pen eraser at all, and there's still only one button.) The Cintiq stylus is superior in every way; it's more comfortable to hold, it's not flimsy, the "eraser" part is rounded, and there are two action buttons.
It's much easier to control the line on the Cintiq, and the dreaded "Wacom wobble" (lines becoming wobbly when you draw them) is a much smaller problem; the lines come out smoother, more natural-looking and just all-round better. (The Cintiq has a higher level of pen pressure sensitivity too, though this is actually a smaller deal than a lot of artists make it out to be.)
In short, just about everything art-related is better on the Cintiq. It could have taken some cues from the Surface Pro about the placement of camera and on/off button, not to mention a built-in kickstand like on the Surface Pro would have been much better than the weird aluminum/rubber stand we get, even if we get three different positions as opposed to the Surface Pro's two. But it more than makes up for these shortcomings by being a great art tool.
So, when Sam (the owner of ComicDish) asked me which tablet I would pick of the two... I had to say to go with the Cintiq. If I'd been more needing of a normal tablet I might have gone with the Surface Pro, but I am going to use it primarily for art, and it's just the superior art tool. That said, I am planning on holding onto the Surface Pro. Smaller, lighter and more battery-efficient, it makes for a great "travel laptop" which is much easier to take along on journeys than my regular laptop -- which is a big, hulking, 17-inch-screen powerhouse of a gaming laptop. Pus, hey, I can use it for some on-the-go artwork if I get the inspiration!
And of course... here's my first finished artwork done on the Cintiq Companion, inspired by the fact that I've been reading the IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics a lot lately:
Hello and welcome to another round of Roo's Reaction Reviews! If you remember, the first one of these I did was for To Boldly Flee, by the crew at "That Guy With The Glasses," and while that production did have its moments (I was pleasantly surprised by the climax), I was overall not very impressed. The people at TGWTG aren't exactly what I'd call talented when it comes to comedy, filmmaking or acting -- and when you're trying to make a comedy film, it sort of doesn't help that half your "jokes" are pointless references to better movies, the script is hokey and clichéd, the dialogue painfully unfunny, the satire about as subtle as a blow to the head with a hammer, and almost the entire cast is in dire need of acting lessons.
A lot of people said I was too harsh with To Boldly Flee, telling me that it was an amateur production that was "for the fans" and shouldn't be judged as a "real" movie -- but I don't buy that. Being an amateur production can excuse a lot of things; shoddy special effects, bad costumes, unconvincing settings, and I'll even be lenient with amateurish directing and acting. What it doesn't excuse is bad writing, lazy comedy, and thoroughly unlikeable protagonists. To Boldly Flee was filled with all these.
But today, I'm not looking at a TGWTG project. Today, I'm going to look at another amateur movie revolving around an Internet reviewer -- namely The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie, starring James Rolfe!
James Rolfe was, of course, also in To Boldly Flee, as a "surprise" cameo, but I won't hold that against him. See, unlike the majority of the TGWTG crew, James Rolfe actually knows how to act. Oh, he won't get any Oscars for Best Actor or anything, but he has a decent grasp on comedic timing, he actually knows how to emote, and he doesn't constantly fall back on screaming in a shrill voice while waving his arms about like he's swatting at invisible flies. Plus, with a few notable exceptions (the Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle review coning to mind) the AVGN videos generally haven't made me want to rant angrily at the computer.
The AVGN movie premiered this Summer, and had a limited theatrical run before it was just recently put up for rent on Vimeo. Well, I thought I could waste the five dollars to find out how it was... because I have a lot higher hopes for this than I ever had for the Nostalgia Critic's finale-but-oops-wait-it-wasn't-really-th
Will the Nerd deliver or will I be disappointed? Let's see. Vimeo's ready to go, and I start the movie... now!
What do you say, Sarah? Sound good?
Here, of course, we have He-Man on top of Battlecat, while Orko floats beside him, the Sorceress flies above, and Man-At-Arms and Teela stand together. I've given all the characters a slight redesign, drawn them more as how I think they might look if I'd been given the task of redesigning them. The Sorceress is the closest to her original Filmation character; the main difference is that she's bare-armed and that her outfit is white instead of multi-colored... because I think she looks better in white.
(I'm thinking of doing a picture with the core villains too; that'd be Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, Trapjaw, Beastman and possibly Merman. Basically the ones I presented back in my review of the Filmation cartoon!)
I believe I've mentioned, once or twice in the past, that I have a soft spot for the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise.
Now, this doesn't mean that I think it's particularly good. In fact, as a concept it's pretty nonsensical and not all that thought.out; the classic toys are a mixed bag and the revamped toys (twice revamped!) even more so, and the classic eighties cartoon was hilariously bad. The reboot cartoon from 2002 was a lot more polished, with higher production values and less absurdities, but still had flaws and plot holes you could drive a truck through. But there's a certain charm to the franchise in all its cheesiness, and especially the '80s cartoon has a sort of quirky appeal with its unique blending of sci-fi and fantasy, which many other franchises have tried to imitate but few if any have managed to duplicate.
The characters may not make any "Top 10 Most Brilliant And Complex Heroes/Villains" lists, but they're darned likeable all the same. I always appreciated that He-Man, while hailed as a Paragon of Good and looking like a tanned, blonde Conan the Barbarian, was basically this laid-back guy who never took himself too seriously and had a witty comment about everything -- or how Skeletor, far from being your average gloomy Dark Lord, was this sniggering comic opera villain who always got the funniest lines but could still be a massive threat. (In fact, Skeletor was the highlight of the 2002 show because he was still joking around and cracking one-liners but was still a legitimate menace.)
There's been attempts at revamping Masters of the Universe -- or MOTU, to be cool -- again after the 2002 series failed to bring in the audience -- but seriously, apart from some good-looking toys (I still kinda want Orko from the "MOTU Classics" line) the attempts have been rather tragic. And why? Well, a big reason why is that without fail, they've all taken themselves much too seriously. The Image comics had some good artwork, but otherwise they were incredibly dull and (with a few exceptions) with no real character at all. I read the proposed script for the 2000-something MOTU movie, and it was terrible; just this generic and hyper-serious attempt at an "epic barbarian fantasy" with no similarity to the original franchise apart from some of the character names. I'm glad that movie was never made; it would have made the 80s live-action movie look positively brilliant by comparison. And that movie only had a handful of the familiar characters and much of it took place on Earth and starred two generic 80s teenagers. (They're still trying to make a movie, but hopefully it'll be at least a little less terrible.)
One revamp that was made, though, and is still ongoing, is the comic book series published by DC. And boy, is it bad. And it's not bad in a charming and entertaining way, like the 80s cartoon or to a lesser extent the 2002 cartoon -- they were at least fun. But the new DC incarnation of He-Man is just as joyless, humorless and plain out painfully bad as 95% of everything DC does these days.
Yeah, I've mentioned once or twice before that I think DC has pretty much lost all enjoyability, too. Personally I blame Batman -- one dark, brooding and "serious" hero gets popular, and so DC thinks that all their properties have to be dark, brooding and "serious." This it He-Man, for crying out loud! It should at least retain some camp factor! But no, the DC He-Man is just a disgusting and depressing tale of boring villains, unlikeable heroes (using the word "heroes" in the loosest sense here) and bleak, depressing storylines that makes you wish that a comet would just hit Eternia and end everybody's misery.
In fact, it feels a lot like they're trying to be Game of Thrones and failing miserably at it.
Yeah, not a fan.
But, today we're going to look at a spin-off/crossover between this MOTU incarnation and the rest of the DC Universe, from Keith Giffen (plot), Tony Bedard (script) and Pop Mhan (art):
Yeah, my initial reaction too was that this is a pretty much a rehash of this comic from the 'eighties:
The exact same concept, just made all serious and dramatic and "epic" and stretched out over six issues, and trying to pretend that it's for adults. I'll admit it, I don't have high hopes for this, but I'll try to give it a fair chance.
So let's see how it reads!
( Reaction reviews to all six issues behind the cut!Collapse )
No? Might just be me then.
With me it's sewing needles, or sewing kits. I didn't even recognize the pattern until this week, but it's been like this for years. I'll be out shopping for things and in one of the stores where they sell all sorts of minor things I'll find a sewing kit, or a sheet of sewing needles, and I'll go "sewing needles, and thread, I need that!" and then I'll buy them. Only to realize when I get home that I have tons of them already. Or, sometimes, I'll actually need a sewing kit, and not be able to find any needles or thread at home, and so I'll go out and buy some -- only to come back home and realize I wasn't looking in the right place, and I have tons already.
And, and this is the annoying part, still when I need a sewing needle I can't find one.
I mention this now because I'm going to another Summer LARP next week, and am sewing a new costume for myself. (I like sewing my own costumes, and I always sew them by hand... partly because I don't have a sewing machine and partly because hand-stitched costumes are just that much more authentic, especially when the LARP is medieval-fantasy.)
Oh well, at least I have needles enough for now!
Say hello to the first wave of heroines from IAmElemental! From left to right, we have Industry, Energy, Fear, Honesty (she's the one with the wings), Persistence, Enthusiasm and Bravery!
If you haven't heard of IAmElemental before, let me bring you up to speed: I Am Elemental Action Figures for Girls (link to the official website) is a toyline and potential franchise started by two American mothers named Julie Kerwin and Dawn Nadeau. Dissatisfied with the action figures available to their kids (especially the fact that female action figures are extremely rare, and the ones who do exist tend to be all about boobs).
Hang on, let me just quote Julie Kerwin here, she'll explain the basic idea:
It's not superheroes, it's superpowers. All the superpowers we could ever want or need are already inside each one of us. Instead of the periodic table of elements, humans have a whole other set of building blocks, the Elements of Power. Armed with this knowledge, we researched, planned and outlined a series of action figures, and then we searched out people with powers to share. Some helped us design our visual identity, and others helped us to personify the powers. Using Joan of Arc as a muse (because real heroes walk among us) we designed our first set of figures -- figures that embodied the components of courage, stood for character without being reduced to characters, were more heroine than hooters, and most important, were fun to play with.
So there ya have it. In a world where gender segregation is worse than ever in the toy market (toys weren't this gendered a couple of decades ago), it's great to see someone trying to buck that trend. I never subscribed to the idea that there should be exclusive toys for boys or girls, and IAmElemental seems a good start here. And also, one of their taglines is the coolest tagline ever: "We have superpowers -- want some?" You can't tell me that's not awesome.
Seems like a lot of people agree with me too, because the Kickstarter project to fund these toys went to 400% of their stated goal within two days. It really seems like people want to see this franchise and these toys!
Mind you, I'm not quite sure what Kerwin means means when she says the figures are meant to "standing for character without being reduced to characters." I mean... "reduced" to characters? I like characters! Characters are awesome!
And this leads to the big problem I have with this toyline.
I mean, don't get me wrong! I applaud the idea, it sounds really neat, and I like how this seems to be about the empowerment of everyone rather than the normal "these people are more powerful, and hence better, than you" thing I get from a lot of superhero-themed stuff. Not to mention, the boob-to-waist-to-hip ratio is much more realistic and makes the girls look more normally athletic than just sex fantasies.
But... well... These figures all look exactly alike! Apart from the color and the hairstyles and the accessories (which are interchangeable anyway) and small variations in what kinds of boots/gloves they wear, they're the exact same! Same body, same face, same blank expression. The only one that actually stands out a bit from the rest is Fear, and that's only because she's several shades darker than the rest and wears a mysterious hood. As for the rest of them -- remove the accessories (including Honesty's wings) and take a black-and-white photo, and then try to tell Enthusiasm from Energy, or Honesty from Persistence. Not easy, is it?!
I mean, it's probably an economical thing; it's much cheaper to have them share a mold than it would be to create a separate and distinct mold for every figure, but I dunno, since they managed to give them different boots and gloves, I kinda wish they'd bothered to give them different faces. Even the Ninja Turtles at least got different expressions!
For all the talk about "character," I'm not sure there's a whole lot of that there, since these figures are completely interchangeable. And each figure is basically just described by a vague "empowering" statement about it, which is less about character and more about, well, power.
Now, according to the creators, it's actually meant to be about the power -- these figures aren't individuals, but representations of the powers they symbolize, that is inside everyone: "In the IAmElemental universe, the girl herself is the superhero – and she has all the superpowers she will ever need already inside of her." Which is cool; I'm sort of envisioning a Herman's Head thing, or like in that new Pixar film that's coming out in 2015, Inside Out, where the action takes place inside the head of an eleven-year-old girl and the main characters are all physical representations of her emotions, such as Joy, Anger, Sadness and Disgust. (That movie sounds cool, by the way, I can't wait to see it.)
But I'm wondering if they might not be taking it a little too far when they start sneering at how "we live in a world where product tie-ins are a de facto part of the average media marketing plan, and children are spoon-fed a perfectly-packaged storyline with the purchase of every action figure," and ask "Why live vicariously through someone else? Why not be a real, live Superhero?"
Well... if you're going to put it like that, why have the action figures at all? Why not just... be the superhero yourself? This way it just sounds like "don't bother to buy these action figures, they're not even characters, and you should be a superhero yourself anyway so they're completely unnecessary." And I'm sure that's not what you want to say: after all, I thought the point of this was to have more action figures for girls, not to totally denounce the idea.
I know that if I was a little kid playing with these, I would want them to be characters. Not just abstract representations of aspects of myself, but separate characters with their own strengths and flaws, because that's what's fun. This might not be such a big problem, mind; when I was playing with dolls, action figures and toys when I was little I usually had no problems thinking up names, personalities and roles for them to play no matter if I actually knew their "official" names/personalities or not.
What's more, I think that girls need more characters, and more stories. Stories with characters that they can get to know, to identify with or learn from the mistakes of, characters that they can know on their own premises and not the boys' premises. Boys, by contrast, already have a ton of characters, of all types; characters they can admire or laugh at or see themselves in or identify with; see every single story or franchise ever. The girls? They get the "token girl" who is either the damsel in distress or the love interest/lust object, and often this is a "strong female character" which basically means that she has no flaws and is perfect, and a "role model." A role model who isn't actually a person, just a vague collection of "strengths" that ultimately isn't even there on her own premise, because her main role is to be admired by the boys.
What I would like to see, what I think girls deserve, is female characters that are allowed to be characters, that they can perhaps see themselves in. Characters that may be role models, but are allowed to be flawed, or silly, or fundamentally mistaken about something, or have trouble behaving themselves perfectly -- that are allowed to not be perfect, but can still be heroic. Because that might clue the girls in that they don't have to be perfect in order to be awesome. Goodness knows that the rest of society is going to put enough pressure on those poor girls to be "perfect" anyway.
So, since I think even adults need to play and pretend every once in a while, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to make up some characters here, and present my interpretations of the seven Elements of Courage, as I think their personalities might be, based on their appearances, names and powers. To give them their own strengths and flaws and quirks.
( Meet the CHARACTERS under the cut...Collapse )
Every morning when we wake,
When somebody goes "ah-choo!",
Did you hear the one about
The person who went walking out,
Stop me if you've heard this one,
When we see the setting sun,
What a funny world it is,
Every morning when we wake,
I don't like Star Wars very much. There, I said it.
Now, before you begin writing those death threats, I'm not here to say "Hey, Star Wars suck and you suck for liking it!" Really, I don't care. If you love Star Wars, good on ya. We all have different tastes.
And it not as though I hated the original trilogy. I didn't love it, but it was okay, I could certainly see why it was so popular. Granted, I only saw it once, and I think I was sixteen or seventeen -- no golden nostalgic memories of being a child and watching the movies, in other words -- and even then I missed the first third or so of A New Hope. But the last two thirds were entertaining enough that I watched the two other movies in their entirety, and despite Emperor Palpatine being supremely annoying I liked them well enough.
(Much later, I discovered the radio dramas based on those three movies -- same story, but a lot more detail, backstory and character, and Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels reprising their roles and Luke and C-3PO -- and I still hold that those radio dramas are the best Star Wars material ever. Especially the A New Hope one.)
So yeah, I can sorta get behind those first three films. Decent effects, some good visuals, really nice music, a few fun bits of dialogue, okay pseudo-religion, and Harrison Ford. I can dig that.
The problem came with the rest of the stories. The expanded universe, the comics, the novels, the cartoons, the prequels, the video games. I tried to get into it, I really did. Some of those stories were critically acclaimed and fans loved them. The Clone Wars series, the Dark Empire comic. (I'm not counting Knights of the Old Republic, because I never played that.) No matter what it was, I tried to watch it... and with two notable exceptions, the result was always the same: I was so bored.
(The two notable exeptions were the Star Wars gang's guest appearances in Muppet productions, because Muppets are awesome -- and the dreaded Holiday Special, which was awful but in a hilarious way!)
The prequel trilogy; I made honest attempts at watching it, but even the RiffTrax commentary could hold my interest for more than about half of Phantom Menace. (Paradoxally, and completely unlike the Star Wars fans I found Jar-Jar Binks to be the sole saving grace of that movie; he was the only character present who wasn't duller than dishwater.)
I tried listening to more radio dramas, made by the same people that made those cool original-trilogy radio dramas. Exploring the distant past and the near-future of the Star Wars universe. Boring, boring, boring. I tried to get into it, tried to pretend I was at all interested when Generic Jedi #23 had turned out to join the Dark Side and was suddenly incapable of completing a sentence that didn't have the words "power" or "Dark Side" in them, but the only thing I got out of it was a new insight into why the Dark Side is doomed to lose in that universe: it makes you incapable of having a normal conversation. At least the good guys are allowed to occasionally talk about things that don't involve the power of the Force.
I really, really, really tried to like it. I tried to see what fans were so geared by. I couldn't.
What led to my final and total acceptance of my status as a non-Star Wars fan was, in fact, a fan.made production; a podcast audio drama called Codename: Starkeeper. I read several fan reactions, which were almost unanomiously positive, and it was agreed that this production really captured the feel of the original trilogy -- the action, intrigue, and campy humor worthy of the name Star Wars, to use a direct quote. Besides, several podcasters whose work I quite enjoy were involved, such as Chris Lester and Philippa Balentine. Besides, hey, it was free.
So i downloaded the audio drama to my iPod, eight episodes... and I managed to listen through four of them before I realized that I really couldn't say what had happened up to now, who was involved, what was at stake or why I should care. It wasn't that the show was poorly-done, it was just that... I had zero interest in it.
And that's when I fully got it. That was when I had to face facts, and admit it to myself: I really have no interest in the universe of Star Wars.
To me, any charm or interest found in Star Wars was there in that initial story, and only in that initial story, of Luke Skywalker becoming a Jedi, and the colorful cast of characters that help or hinder him along the way -- possibly the most unashamedly archetypical version of the "Hero's Journey" myth ever to be put on screen. But when that myth had been told, there wasn't much left to hold my interest. I didn't care what happened afterwards, or what had happened before, or what was happening in other places at the same time, because the universe and the setting was one I had zero interest in.
I don't know why, but if it's set in the Star Wars universe, and it's not that original story, it just doesn't hold my interest. The Force? Jedi? Sith Lords? Yawn, call me when we get to something interesting.
Maybe it's just that everyone else seems to have watched the original trilogy as kids. Maybe the franchise catches your interest and imagination as a child in a way it can't when you're introduced to it as a teen. But then again, I never really held much stock in nostalgia -- all that stuff I loved as a kid, I now know exactly how horrible a lot of it was, and it doesn't have much nostalgic value for me. (Though I do try to be fair-minded, because even the most horrible childhood entertainment might have something of value.)
Or maybe it's just that my tastes run so contrary to so many "geeks." I don't like Star Trek. I didn't like The Matrix. I found The Dark Knight mildly boring (I actually thought Batman Begins was better, and as you might have caught by now, I'm not even a fan of Batman to begin with.) I haven't seen much Doctor Who, but I haven't liked what I've seen of that either. I haven't been able to watch more than a couple of episodes of A Game of Thrones, and the books the series is based on hold no interest for me either.I managed to stick with Supernatural for six episodes before I realized I hated it.
(Is there any fanbase left I haven't ticked off now, I wonder?)
Whatever the case, I decided that there was no point in trying to pretend anymore. So: Hello, I'm Roo and I'm not a Star Wars fan. And I'm not ashamed of it.
Who knows, maybe Disney's purchase of the franchise will turn out to be a good move, and maybe future Star Wars movies and projects will turn out to actually be able to hold my interest. But I'm not holding my breath.
The LEGO Movie was actually good.
I've never really been the hugest fan of Lego. I had a few sets and bricks when I was little, but I was never what you'd call hugely enthusiastic about it... actually, my Lego spent most of their time in the shapes of transforming robots to supplement my Transformers toys. Oh, and I did visit Legoland in Denmark a few times, but that was less about the legos and more about the fact that it was a pretty cool amusement park.
The movie was surprisingly fun, and funny, with a lot of great meta-humor and a surprisingly self-aware storyline. They took the trite and clichéd "there's a Prophecy about the Chosen One" plotline and parodied the hell out of it, turning the entire thing into a non-stop rollercoaster of self-mockery, while actually having a theme that not only makes perfect sense for a movie about Lego, but works pretty well as a theme in and of itself: Rigidly following the instructions VS just letting the creativity flow and doing/building whatever you want. And while the "creativity" one is definitely held forward as the more desirable one, the movie also touches on the necessities of being capable of following instructions and doing what you want:
The villain, President Business, wants only rules and instructions, and demands complete rigidity and "perfection." Now, while it's explicitly shown that President Business's tactic is going to lead to total stagnation (i.e. death), it's also pointed out that he gets things done because he has a set goal and works towards it. The heroes, the Master Builders, are the force of creativity and individualism in this movie, and while it's made clear that only they can stop the world from stagnating/dying, they are too individualistic to be effective. While they can each do amazing things on their own, their combined efforts come to naught because they totally fail at working as a team or deciding on a common goal.
In other words: Neither complete dictatorship nor complete anarchy works; you gotta find that golden middle road.
The real fun of the movie, however, is in how witty it is. Some of the one-liners are legitimately hilarious, the meta-comedy is sometimes extremely clever and the pop culture references are well-used. Various Lego franchises are represented here, including licensed ones, which are all used extremely well -- the most prominent one being Batman; Lego Batman being one of the major characters of the movie. And... I didn't hate him, let's leave it at that.
There are a few snags, mind. The movie suffers quite a bit from "token girl"ism -- Wyldstyle (the main female character) is as clichéd a "tough-as-nails-woman who falls for the average dorky guy who saves the day" character as you can imagine, while Princess Uni-Kitty (the other female character) is everything that's pink and girly and cheerful. And Wonder Woman, whom I heard people being excited about actually being in a theatrical release for once, is barely in the movie at all. Not to mention, the ending has a few unfortunate implications of "if we let the girls in to play with our Legos, they'll ruin everything."
Yeah, that message wasn't intended, I'm sure, but for all that this movie promotes free thinking it still sticks a little too rigidly to certain types of thinking. It may simply be that I'm seeing this pattern a little too much lately, but I am getting a little tired of it.
As a movie, though, it's still very good -- it's funny, it's clever, it doesn't take itself too seriously but still has a surprisingly good plot going on, it's technically and visually amazing, the voice actors are great (they even got Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams reprising their roles as C-3PO and Lando Calrissian when some of the Star Wars cast make a cameo), the dialogue's amazing and -- that one sour note aside -- overall the movie comes highly recommended.
Something I can't really say about Planes.
While Planes is not, on the whole, as bad as I feared it would be (you'll notice I didn't bother to check it out when it was in theaters), it doesn't really have that much going for it either -- it's very clear that this movie was meant for the direct-to-DVD market (being made by ToonDisney and not Pixar, for instance) and while I don't have the raging hatred for direct-to-DVD Disney sequels/spinoffs that a lot of other people do... well, even as direct-to-DVD sequels go, Planes is not one of the better ones. ToonDisney may not be Pixar, but they've delivered better than this in the past.
How to describe it? Hmmm... I know.
Take the two Cars movies.
Then make them notably less impressive, visually speaking -- the animation not being bad as such but with far less technical brilliance and attention to detail.
Then take all the clever, funny or intelligent lines, cut half of them and make the rest of them about half as funny/clever.
Then make everything about 100% more clichéd and predictable, and take special care to ensure that every single character from the main one to the minor walk-ones have no depth or personality outside of being a stereotype -- a cultural stereotype, an ethnic stereotype, a gendered stereotype, a "the-type-of-character-you-get-in-mo
... and voila, you have Planes.
The Cars movies weren't Pixar's greatest works, but at least they tried, and at least they were made with a notable enthusiasm and love, and were well-structured and thought-out. Planes just seems phoned-in and paint-by-the-numbers. Nowhere is this more plainy obvious than in the character Bulldog -- they got John Cleese to do the voice and totally failed to make him even the least bit funny!
It has no big surprises, no brilliant twists (you'll be able to predict about 99% of all the so-called twists long before they happen), most of the jokes are either telegraphed or half-assed or both, and there's not a single character or character type in this movie that hasn't been done better in at least a dozen other movies.
But, it's still better than I'd thought it would be... I'd expected it to be terrible, but really it's just mediocre and clichéd. Quickly watched and quickly forgotten. But it gives Disney the opportunity to sell more car/plane toys, so it's no surprise that it's getting a sequel.
I hope it does; I'd rather be able to say "this book had some serious flaws, but was ultimately not that bad" than having to say "this book had some occasional bright spots, but was ultimately not that good."
Come on, Peter Von Brown. I'm rooting for you.
( Chapter SixteenCollapse )
( Chapter SeventeenCollapse )
( Sum-up and reviewCollapse )
But Chapter Ten did end on this really funny moment between Thorn and Prince Jarrod, so it's got that going for it, and we still have more than one third of the book left. Can it turn around and prove that it's worthy of being called faithful to Barrie after all?
We're about to find out, because here's the penultimate post, where I read and comment upon chapters 11-15, with chapters 16 and 17 for next post. Away we go!
( Chapter ElevenCollapse )
( Chapter TwelveCollapse )
( Chapter ThirteenCollapse )
( Chapter FourteenCollapse )
( Chapter FifteenCollapse )
Here are chapters 6-10!
( Chapter SixCollapse )
( Chapter SevenCollapse )
( Chapter EightCollapse )
( Chapter NineCollapse )
( Chapter TenCollapse )
At the time of writing, though, I haven't done much more than check the number of chapters and look at the cover. Actually, here, you can have a look at the cover along with me:
I know the cliché that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but often the cover is part of the reading experience. And it's not a bad cover. It's actually a pretty nice-looking cover, in a "digital image" kind of way, though the composition seems a little off. It certainly can't compete with the beautiful cover to Peter Pan in Scarlet... but, no, I shouldn't keep bringing up that book. I mean I liked it, but Peter Von Brown has made his opinion of it clear, so I shouldn't expect anything similar here.
Opening the book, going past title page, dedication (I have no idea who Robin and Liz are, but that's okay) and the special thank-you to Barrie, we come to an author's foreword, where Von Brown once again points out that his is the only Peter Pan written-by-other-hands that does not contradict Barrie -- I wish he'd stop harping on about that, and mentions the Native Americans in such a way that I'm fairly sure the ones in this book are going to be racial caricatures, but that this is okay because it's true to Barrie. Yeah, whatever, I'll be sure to make note of it, let's just start this thing already.
Okay, okay, not fair to the novel to start out annoyed. Let me take a deep breath... and there. Ready for the story to begin proper.
( Chapter OneCollapse )
( Chapter TwoCollapse )
( Chapter ThreeCollapse )
( Chapter FourCollapse )
( Chapter FiveCollapse )
Well, today, and probably over the course of this week, I'm going to do a new one. And it's going to be of a book. More precisely, it's going to be of a book I've been wanting to check out but haven't been able to get my hands on before now, namely Peter Von Brown's Peter Pan novel Peter Pan's Neverworld.
For the longest of times (well... a few years, at least), I've wanted to read that book. Not necessarily because I thought it was going to be so spectacularly awesome -- the preview I read on the Amazon site certainly wasn't hugely impressive -- but because of Peter Von Brown's attitude about his book in particular and Peter Pan in general.
( My pre-reading thoughts and expectations!Collapse )
In this, she talks about Coriakin the Magician and asks whether he really is such a benevolent guy after all -- he did subject the Duffers to some fairly traumatizing bodily horror just because they didn't want to do things his way, and he doesn't seem to think very much of them.
The question was whether there really was any difference between the White Witch and Coriakin, especially when we find that Coriakin too isn't human yet looks human (something which Mr. Beaver says is a sure sign of evil in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
I did point out that one difference was that Coriakin, unlike the Witch, didn't want to rule, and had in fact been put to govern the Duffers as a punishment (what his crime was is never disclosed). This led me to speculate on whether Coriakin was being a bad ruler to the Dufflepuds on purpose, in the hope that Aslan or someone should come to him and say "Coriakin, you're obviously not fit for this job, 'm relieving you of your post." Which in turn led me to speculate that maybe things were other than they seemed on Dufflepud island -- which in turn led me to write this, as a slightly silly scene with Coriakin and the Duffers immediately after Coriakin's banishment, which has its own explanations of why things were they way they were on that island:
( Read more...Collapse )
Yes, it's Lumpy Space Princess (humanoid version) meeting Lumpy Space Princess (canon version). I've seen so many cosplays and humanized fan-drawings of the characters that I thought it would be funny if one of the human LSPs met the original one, from the cartoon.
And what cartoon? Why, Adventure Time with Finn and Jake, of course!
You see, sarahcoldheart likes Adventure Time. I mean, she really likes Adventure Time. And she was the one who introduced the show to me, some time ago -- the first episode she showed me was the What Was Missing episode (the episode where the characters sing song to a door). The second episode she linked me to was the kindasorta-Christmas episode, which admittedly has to be the most original Christmas episode I've seen of any TV show ever.
I did enjoy those two eps; their slow-paced surrealism was quite entertaining, but I didn't feel inclined to check the show out any further based on them. It was only recently that I decided to begin checking out Adventure Time from the very beginning, and discovered that, well, this show is a lot better than it seems on the surface.
To make a long story short, Adventure Time takes place in a colorful and weird world called "the Land of Ooo," featuring monsters, magic, robots, talking animals and people made out of living candy -- a world of fun and adventure that is actually a post-apocalyptic Earth (many references are made to "the Mushroom Wars" that happened in the show's distant past, and you often see remains of the human civilization).
The main characters are Finn and Jake -- Finn being a human boy with a weird hat and a sword, Jake being a shapeshifting talking bulldog with the voice of John DiMaggio. They live in a tree-house (literally, their house is a hollow tree) and they work as professional adventurers, always out on missions to slay monsters, help people in need or rescue kidnapped princesses.
There are a lot of princesses in this world, you see -- most prominent in the show is Princess Bubblegum, who rules the land of Ooo and is a sweet and pretty girl made out of living bubblegum. Oh, and she's a mad scientist who makes strange experiments involving raising the dead. There are also such diverse princesses as Breakfast Princess (who wears a bacon crown and a pancake skirt), Turtle Princess (a turtle), and my personal favorite, Lumpy Space Princess, who is like a floating cloud thingy that talks like a valley girl and is voiced by a man.
These princesses are often kidnapped by the Ice King, who of course rules the Ice Kingdom and is so lacking in social skills that he thinks that if he kidnaps a princess often enough she'll fall in love with him and marry him. He's the most prominently recurring antagonist on the show and would probably have been its main villain if he hadn't been so utterly pathetic.
Other important characters are Marceline, the guitar-playing Vampire Queen who drinks the color red instead of blood (that is, she sometimes drinks blood, but only because it's red), who hangs out with both Finn and Jake and the Ice King, and who goes way back with Princess Bubblegum to such a degree that fans speculate that they are or have been in a romantic relationship -- and of course BMO, the walking talking video game consule-slash-robot who doubles as Finn and Jake's roommate, media player, electrical outlet, camera and soccer player.
Let me just get it out of the way: Adventure Time is a weird show. A common reaction for first-time watchers is "what the hell did I just watch?!" A lot of it is, in fact, suspiciously reminiscent of the "I'm on sugar high!" total random nonsense fanfics you sometimes see written by fourteen-year-old girls, the ones that make you shake your head and go "oh boy." The difference is that, well, the difference is that Adventure Time is actually creative and clever. You genuinely never know what to expect from an episode -- even after watching the beginning, nine times out of ten it's completely impossible to predict where the story will end up.
And perhaps what most of all makes this show work is the carefully-constructed setting and mythology. Yes, it all seems random and wacky at first, but there is a deeper, subtle backstory here, and parts of it are sometimes revealed through flashbacks or just casual mentions, and the characters have a surprising depth to them. The Ice King, in particular, becomes a more and more tragic character the more of his backstory is revealed -- but Finn and Jake, who at first glance seem like a fairly simple comedy duo (Finn being the over-enthusiastic go-getter and Jake being the laid-back wiseguy) have many more sides to them than inherently apparent as well. I think the only character almost completely without hidden depths is Lumpy Space Princess, but she's so funny and likeable that I don't even care.
The show isn't perfect. I don't like the art style much, and the pacing sometimes drags... I've never been a fan of the slow-paced dragging-out-the-punchline-and-repeat-ad-n
If you haven't seen Adventure Time, I say it's well worth checking out -- but I do think you should begin at the beginning, with the first episode (possibly with the pilot, even though that's got an even worse-looking art style and seems extremely amateurish). Even if starting at the beginning with this show seems like smacking you in the face with a lot of surrealism all at once, it's worth it... because when you get to the later, really good episodes, you'll actually be able to appreciate how good they are because you know the characters and settings, and know exactly what impact these episodes have.
Marvel: Look, look! Heroes in skintight spandex! Sexy spy people with impossibly high-tech gadgets! Isn't this cool?! Isn't this just the most mind-bogglingly awesome thing you've ever seen?! Okay, sure, maybe we can't do variety worth beans, but at least we're good at what we do! Wink wink, nudge nudge!
DC: We're sorry this is a superhero story. We're sorry this story features people in spandex with ridiculous codenames. We're sorry you can't possibly take this seriously. Maybe it'll help if we make certain that nobody in the story has any fun, ever? And tone down on the heroics? We're really sorry there has to be any heroics at all, but we'll try to keep them brief.
There's more to it than this, of course, but it seems to be the main difference.