Thursday, June 30, 2011

Horror Night on TV

When I was young the big thing on Friday night was Double Chiller Theater. One of the local TV stations would show two horror movies starting at 11:30 Friday night. Later a Cleveland station started their own horror movies on Saturday. This was so successful that they expanded to Friday. They also had a colorful host called the Ghoul. He wore a bad wig, sun glasses with one lens punched out, a fake mustache and goatee and a lab jacket. I always suspected that he did the show drunk. His movies were usually bad and he livened them up by adding sound clips.

Those days ended a long time ago but cable channel TCM has been showing horror movies on Thursday night. Last week they included the Village of Giants (which had a surprisingly good cast). This week they are starting with The Blob.

I wish they did this on the weekend but it makes Thursday more fun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tablet Wars

ZDNews has a couple of columns on tablets. Their conclusion is that Apple owns the market and that no one can catch up. The only thing left is to fight to be a distant number two, fighting for a tiny market of people who do not like Apple. Is this a valid assessment? I don't think so. We've been here before with the iPhone.

Remember how young this market is. The iPad started shipping less than fifteen months ago. That gives Apple a big head start but not an insurmountable one.

Fifteen months after the iPhone was released Apple had no competition at all. The first touch-screen competitors like the Blackberry Storm were unimpressive. Even the Android phones released before 2.1 had serious problems. At that point the release cycle was so fast that some phones were outdated by the time they hit the shelves. Despite that, more Android phones are sold than iPhones.

Yes, Apple has advantages. They have a head start, a big app store, and low production costs. They are also tied to one form factor. The head start will become less important over time. Android's app store is smaller but growing. It is also more open. People who want adult content on their device will have to go to Android or settle for a browser-based experience. Besides, just how many fart applications do you need?

The basis of Apple's low production costs is coming under fire. A plant in China makes all of their hardware and working conditions there do not meet American standards.

The forms factor is Apple's biggest weakness. Many companies think that a 7" screen is desirable. It is lighter and easier to carry and it can be sold for less. Also, most tablets are more open. You can plug in a memory chip or possibly a camera.

The iPad has one advantage over the iPhone. Originally you were locked into AT&T if you wanted an iPhone. That gave Verizon and Sprint an incentive to push their own hardware. Base models of the iPad do not need a wireless contract so there are no big wireless retailers pushing alternatives (although some tablets have data plans).

Come back in a year and see how the market has shaped up. I expect that Apple will still be the leader but will have some worthy competition.

Monday, June 13, 2011

X-Men First Class - Quibbles and Complaints

First off, X-Men First Class is a much better movie than X-Men 3 was and possibly better than the original X-Men movie. That said, it does have some problems.

The first problem is its length. It is a long movie and I kept wanting them to get on with things. It was probably too ambitious. It included full back stories on Magneto, Professor X, Mystique, and the founding of the team plus a major sub-plot on the Beast and mutant acceptance in general. And that doesn't even include Sebastian Shaw and his plans. That's a lot to cram into a single movie.

The second problem is that they already used all of the A-list mutants and a lot of the B-list ones. The few A-list mutants who do appear have already been in the other movies, played by older actors.

On to quibbles.

I didn't like the casting on Beast at all. The original character was drawn to look almost like a Neanderthal. He had huge hands and feet that let him find a grip on almost anything. He was also fairly strong and able to bounce around. The movie's version is tall and thin with prehensile feet. There is only one quick training scene that hints that he has other abilities besides ugly feet.

The movie is set in 1962 but most of the 60s references are from later in the decade. Professor X uses the word "groovy". The women are wearing miniskirts. Not only did miniskirts come later but no CIA agent would wear one to a debriefing. The women's underwear is wrong. The did remember to use garter belts instead of pantyhose but Moira MacTaggert should have been wearing "granny panties" and a girdle instead of sexy bikini briefs.

There was a major spy craze during the 60s and elements of the movie are drawn from that. Shaw's submarine and nightclub booth that hides a secret entrance to the villain's lair are examples. But, the spy craze was inspired by the James Bond movie, Goldfinger which came out in 1964.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Green Lantern

I never really got the character in the 1960s. He created big balloon hands and other objects out of his ring. And the whole yellow thing. His ring was powerless against anything colored yellow. How does that work? Yellow is a primary color. Green includes yellow. Just how yellow does something have to be? What about in the dark? Could he carry some spray paint around to neutralize yellow?

I did get excited about the comic when Denny O'Neil and Niel Adams took over and teamed GL with Green Arrow. Green Arrow was a second-rate hero at best. He was a rich guy who dressed up in green and fought crime with trick arrows. Hawkeye did the same thing but with more flair. Green Arrow was mainly chosen because both characters had "green" in their name.

For the team-up, they reworked Green Arrow. He lost his money, grew a beard and mustache and adopted a darker colored costume. He moved into the ghetto and developed a social conscience.

Green Arrow mainly acted as Jiminy Cricket to Green Lantern.

The team-up began when people in a ghetto started throwing trash at Green Lantern. An old black man explained that GL had been doing a lot for blue-skinned folks, some red skins and some green skins but not enough for the black skins.

Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and one of the Guardians of Oa who created the Green Lantern Corps went on a tour of America. Many of the stories were over the top in their social commentary but they were head and shoulders better than most comics of the times. Plus there was Neil Adams' artwork.

Spider-Man was the first comic to really tackle drugs with a trio of issues revolving around his roommate's drug addiction. The Comics Code was rewritten because of this and drug use was allowed for anti-drug stories. The Green Lantern/Green Arrow version was to show that Green Arrow's teen age sidekick was addicted to heroin. It was a powerful story.

Relevance did not equal sales. The comic was canceled. The last issue featured an early eco-saboteur who was crucified along with GL and GA on the tail sections of some airplanes.

The pair resurfaced a few years later as a backup strip then in their own comic. They split up and the book went back to being Green Lantern.

Then it got complicated.

There was a craze in the 1980s to replace the title character. Green Lantern was one of the first in this trend. Hal Jordan, the original Green Lantern was replaced by two Earthlings and eventually a small cadre of Green Lanterns. During this period the comic was renamed Green Lantern Corps.

Hal Jordan eventually took over the staring role only to run into the end of the replacement hero trend. Superman died and his syborg replacement was actually evil. The evil Superman blew up Green Lantern's home city. This drove Hal Jordan crazy and he decided to turn time back to the original event then roll it forward again so that Central City survived.

Along the way the Green Lanterns were eliminated except for a single new Lantern named Kyle Rayner who eventually killed Hal Jordan. As penance, Hal became the Specter for a while before returning to life as Green Lantern.

The only times I really followed the strip were during the O'Neil/Adams run and during the Green Lantern Corps. I think I bought one or two of the Kyle Rayner issues.

The only Green Lantern appearances that I really liked were the ones in the animated Justice League. That had John Stewart, one of the replacement GLs. Presumably they chose Stewart because his character is black. Regardless, he was one of the more interesting character. The animators did a great job of showing glowing green energy when he used his ring.