Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is a madman truly mad, if he knows he's mad?

Lots of random stuff as I try to catch up on various parts of my life after a manic last few days. At the moment I'm juggling several projects and two story samples which are almost ready to send off to their respective editors. Then I play the waiting game, as always, where I indulge a lovely game of Schrödinger's Cat with my future. Still, after doing it for so long, the only thing I'm not used to is the stakes getting ever higher. Interesting times ahead; and should I be here this time next year, typing something similar, then… well. Plus ca change…

- First up. My hopes and prayers go out to Emily (who's blog you can read
here http://pinkandsmiley.blogspot.com/) and her friends and family, who are waiting for her to come off her respirator after a double lung transplant. Wishing her all the best on her road to recovery.

- On a less serious note, this week's feature over at WiiChat has gone up and can be read
here: (http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/13525-taking-stock-wii-virtual-console-wish-list.html). If you've played, threatened me for or otherwise been cajoled by myself to engage my new Nintendo Wii in the past month, you may find your words quoted briefly in this article. A kinda follow-up feature will be in the next (already written) entry, as I'm pretty much a week ahead of myself in terms of the publishing schedule now. Still, the deadlines tick tock onwards.

- The David Beckham saga has annoyed me slightly, this week. If anything just from the sheer predictable hypocrisy of the Press. When England manager Steve McClaren dropped Becks from the squad last year, the media all congratulated on his "brave move" and that 'Sir David' was no longer relevant anyway, so it shouldn’t matter. His role at Real Madrid has become increasingly sporadic anyway, so most of the UK Press has written him off as a fading star who no longer commands the importance he once had. In short, tabloids deemed him superfluous.

So as soon as Beckham says 'sod off, I'm going to the USA to play where I'll be a little more appreciated', the English sports world throws ups its arms and declares him a money grabbing hound off for a quick and easy life. What? Did they not read the articles in their own sheets about how they wrote him off mere months ago? About how extraneous he is? How he's not wanted or needed anymore? If the man wants to leave one of the best football leagues in the world to play out the remaining years of his career in the States, so what? As so gleefully pointed out by the writers of the sports pages in 2006, he doesn’t command the respect he once did, so what's wrong with him seeking a large payout that will secure his family for a long time while playing in an easier league that's less likely to crock him with a career killing injury? What's wrong in turning to a country that actually appreciates him? After all, he's "not relevant" over here anymore, so why would he want to come back? The constant bitching and back-biting has been stupid. You can't constantly tell him one thing and then expect him to not think anything of it, whether you're the media, his manager or so on. So what if he wants to go to a place where they call football "soccer"? And as for not being relevant, well, him being on all the backpages for half a week says otherwise. Funny, that.

- Out of curiosity (and a mild sense of personal vanity, no doubt) I put my face in one of those online facial recognition programs recently, to see who I most look like in the wide world of Well Known People. What I got was this: it seems I resemble more female actresses and singers than anyone else (erm, sans facial hair, obviously). Whether this is a good or bad thing, I have no idea. The very few males that DID come up included an obscure Dutch politician and Johnny Depp, bizarrely enough. Freaking weird thing.

- After several weeks of being ill, I've now pretty much expelled the remains of my runny nose/cold/whatever. Only for it to be replaced by constant dreams of snakes and spiders in my bed. Given I'm going to bed at 3am these days, broken sleep is leaving me horribly restless. My mind is clearly not a safe place. But most of you will already know this.

- I've just finished watching the first half season NBC's Heroes (thanks Andrew and Jacs!) and am now promptly hooked. It takes a while to truly hit its stride, admittedly, showing prolonged flashes of promise along with slightly inconsistent nuances and a large ensemble cast that mimics Lost, complete with its slightly frustrating uneven pace. Lost works (just about) by keeping strict focus on one or two characters per episode via flashback, which keeps a tight spotlight of engagement for the audience to follow while relating and using the main –and very slowly moving- plotline as a carrot for cliff-hanger endings. Heroes throws anything from 4 to 7 characters at you at a time, some pursuing separate plots seemingly totally aside from the main, but rarely granting enough time to get a full or satisfying grasp on one, until the final few episodes where most of the threads come together. It makes for mildly testing moments where you're following a character who's far less likeable, but remains underdeveloped because only half or less of the episode is dedicated to them, when the rest is left for the other cast members.





If anything, it's a necessary evil given the harsh climate of TV these days where shows can be cancelled if they don’t get off to a quick enough start; so 'team based' series' have to throw as much into the pot as possible as not to be cancelled half way through. And it's worked; Heroes is a commercially and critically successful marriage of the Lost style format (stringing you along, large cast, killer cliff hangers) with the drama-led superheroics of something like Smallville, with some brilliant and memorable moments. I'm certainly on board and will happily tell anyone who will listen to watch it when it debuts here in the UK next month (Sci Fi channel and BBC2).





It's always funny when the superhero genre hits mainstream TV, as most people think superheroes = all comic books, which is a bit like saying Shakespeare = all theatre and War and Peace = all novels. Heroes uses all sorts of comic book devices -story titles as part of one of the opening scenes, location and caption (as audio) narration, framing some scenes as panels and so on- but separate from that, uses a lot of superhero genre conventions and archetypes as well. At the same time, something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel are more representative of what a typical superhero comic book is like when translated to TV without its roots showing. Had much of Buffy and Angel's mainstream audience been told they're following something with very strong comic book dynamics, it's a question whether or not it would have put them off.

Heroes is openly comic book to the point of awkwardness (some of its initial attempts at using some comic book devices don’t work as well as others) but wholly embraced by the mainstream all the same, which is refreshing. It doesn’t hide its mawkishness or 'geek' sensibilities and despite NBC's willingness to use dumb taglines ("save the cheerleader, save the world" really sounds bad enough when said by the narrator, let alone the characters) it maintains enough of a straight-faced sensibility and satirical winks to keep the tone even and engaging. And it's pretty damn visceral, too, which is likely to catch anyone off guard if they thought superhero stories are a largely bloodless affair. Most of the time they're anything but, especially since the 80s. It's no more a kid's show than Grand Theft Auto is a kid's game (that's to say: it's not), but there's still likely parents who will make that assumption simply based off erroneous perceptions of the genre and related medium.

There's lots on Heroes over at the official American site (http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/) - Hiro's blog and the comic book that fills in the gaps between episodes are especially well done. Given the show's popularity, expect British culture to be flooded with ads for it in the coming few weeks.


More ramblings next week.

4 comments:

Jac said...

Hello
Glad you liked Heroes. I have to wonder if you had time to sleep between watching all those episodes! Must admit, I hadn't give it half the consideration you have. My critique goes as far as thinking Hiro is hilarious, and the Jessica character..well I'm not really sure I get her, lol. Other than that, I hadn't really thought about it too much - interesting to read your thoughts though.

Very amused to read you look like more females than males. I suspect its the lace cardi ;-)

On the subject of Wii's, someone at Andrews work managed to order one, so they were all playing it at work today (under the pretence it was their lunch hour) Maybe companies should have them in the staff rooms - create a sense of team building or something!

Jac xx

Writing Gaijin said...

Lol, yeah, Heroes was great, thanks introducing it to me ;) I was watching it pretty much every day, with as many as two and a half episodes squeezed in between work if possible, often at night. I really should get to watching the DVDs people have loaned me now (Sarah gave me one I've had for almost a year now :S)

I guess I only started analysing it because I'm geeky like that ;) Heroes is pretty brazen about being comic book driven, which makes a nice change, as most large broadcasters will try and cover it up. The fact Hiro is so geeky too (his blog is serious overload) and given such a large role is also great - usually his type of character is just comedy relief, but it's very fitting that a comic book story would have an otaku so prominent and (eventually) so serious. You're right though, he's very funny...

Me looking more like females than males made me think that I'd be the sort of theatre stooge that would end up playing all the female roles back in the 16th/17th century. The boy who's voice had not yet broken… :(

Funny that Andrew's workplace has got a Wii in - I'm wondering where they ordered it from… No work for them in a while, now! I agree; every company should have one, even if productivity slides a little, heh.

C-x-x-

Jac said...

They ordered it from amazon.co.uk. Apparently there was a message about it on hot uk deals...they had 1000 I think and they were all sold within hours. The german amazon site had some too, but the handbook is in german - depends if you are one of those types that actually read the instructions ;-)

Jac xx

Writing Gaijin said...

Ah - Amazon are quite shrewd like that; they've been advertising stock in for a limited time, sell out and do it all again when they can. Curious. I think Game are doing the same, although only in bundles as to take advantage,so you're forced to buy 2-3 titles with the machine...