Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Movie Review: Aliens Prometheus Part 1

I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I still feel like I should throw my own opinions out there. I'm actually one of the biggest Aliens nerds alive, owning almost every comic and novel ever written in the franchise, including crossovers. It's not exactly a secret that this movie sucks, but apparently some people actually believe that it is a movie that makes you think and preserves mystery.
To that I say bovine fecal matter. Gotta keep this page clean in case any kids come across!
This is one of those stories that is so poorly designed and put together that it drives Aliens geeks like myself absolutely nuts. It almost physically hurts in how bad it is on a continuity, biological and storytelling level. When I say biological, I mean that I've actually compiled xenomorph biological information. You'd be amazed what you can research when you have absurd amounts of free time and no attractive ladies around!

So, let's see, where to start with this mess. I'll start with the title. Lately I've really noticed how movies have to put some sort of classic or smart sounding word in their titles without any real knowledge of what the word means. Like AvP Requiem. Requiem is a word pertaining to music and has absolutely no meaning in the context of that movie. The name Prometheus is from Greek mythology, the name of a man who gave fire to Man. This gave us the ability to make money which led to greed, allowed us to make weapons of metal and other problems, thus causing all sorts of chaos. Zeus then punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where a mighty eagle disembowels him for the rest of time.

Here the name Prometheus means... um... Yeah, I think they just picked the word and rolled with it. It makes almost no sense in this context and feels like they picked it at random. That, or they are again going for the idea that alien travelers created humanity and taught us engineering and technology, which would have something to do with the Greek myth. Although that would create a problem what with the Predators also having done some visiting to Earth.
Suck it Engineers.
Man, humans have a really bad habit of worshipping extraterrestrial life forms! Thanks for all these stupid ideas Hollywood. I blame you for all those idiots ruining the History Channel.
There are no words in the English language that can adequately convey the hatred I hold for this trend.
Alright, let's get on with it. The very first scene in the movie is of Azog the Defiler before he got his scars, drinking the Black Oil from the X Files, dissolving into the ocean with weird stuff happening for some reason. Actually, this scene could have been cut and the movie would have made more sense. But we'll get to that.
Next scene we're with some archeologists doing some exploration in I think Scotland. Sadly it's not in the 1930's where one man with a fedora is punching Nazi's in the face over some sort of artifact and disarming traps. Nope, rather we've got two people looking at cave drawings of some sort of constellation on the wall.

Then we are in space where we have one of the few scenes that isn't retarded, that of the new android David just kinda playing around inside the ship that our "protagonists" are taking out into the void. I actually like David, as he's a polite, helpful and pragmatic artificial person. Too bad manners seem to have become extinct in the future here. Anyway, he enjoys his personal time as the ship, which is called the Prometheus, zooms through space towards their destination. Oh, so the ship is the Prometheus? Ah, well, that makes sense now! Except not at all. Ugh, fine, I'll stop picking on the name Prometheus. It bugs me, but wow I've got better things coming up, so I'll save my axe grinding for those.

Various primitive cryo tubes start opening up and the crew wakes up so they can be told what's going on. It'd have been better to tell them why they were blitzing across space for so sodding long before taking off, but this is just a prelude to all the dumb decisions that get made. Sadly, these old cryo tubes don't hold Khan Noonien Singh and his crew like in the new Star Trek movie, which would have been awesome, but instead holds only 17 people for first contact.

Seventeen? Really? You've launched into the void for one of the most single important missions in the history of mankind with a ship that they literally state is worth about one trillion dollars, no doubt funded by Obama earlier, to an entirely different solar system where no help can arrive if anything goes wrong, and you bring only seventeen people? A handful of crewmembers and a bunch of scientists are all they've got. What, were there frigging budget cuts and you couldn't fit more people in? There are no fighting people of any kind. No security, no soldiers, no ship-mounted weapons, no defenses, and only a skeleton crew to take care of the insanely expensive ship on the most important voyage into space ever.

Okay, I get that most of the people will be scientists, what with this being a scientific expedition and all, but come on! This is a pitiful number. This gigantic ship just barely has a larger party than the dwarves in The Hobbit. Good grief. Well, they do make up for the lack in numbers by being extremely intelligent, professional and ahahahaha! Oh yeah, that's a good one. Whew! Yeah, almost everyone on board this ship is an idiot. Seriously, I've seen more intelligent people at Scout Camp when we took turns letting craw-dads pinch us and jumping over fires. So yeah, this expedition is pretty much a wash from the start.

Really, considering the huge price tag attached to this project I have no idea why the WY Corporation didn't give the thing a half decent crew. Literally the only two people with any sort of intelligence are David and the captain of the ship, Janek, who I swear doesn't have his name mentioned once in the movie. Everyone else might as well just try landing on their destination by walking into the airlock and hitting the Open button. Heh. Heh heh heh heh... That would've been funny... Ahem, sorry. I'm not exactly fond of most of the characters here.

So, one of the first people to wake up from cryo sleep is Vickers, the corporate representative who can simply be boiled down to being a cruel, uncaring, unsympathetic drone who cares only about money and survival. Hmm, where have I seen that before? Besides every dumb corporate character ever? We then get introduced to the rest of our "protagonists", our two primary ones being Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway. Liz is passable as our primary character, but she ain't exactly Ellen Ripley. Nor is she Laurie Strode. She actually has some sort of history and character, most of which is revealed to us through David using a ... dream reader? Apparently the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has invented a device that lets you see into peoples' dreams while they sleep, even in cryo tubes. Y'know, that would have been helpful in the Freddy Krueger movies.

Dangit, how far into this movie am I? Lemme check... Oh dear Odin. Sigh.
Well, just to get this out of the way, Elizabeth has a curious history with religion, her dad having been a doctor that worked in Africa and quite religious. We see a brief memory of her working with her dad and how he tries to explain belief to her. To be fair, this is one of the things I think is actually well done. It's a brief but decent scene that actually gives some flavor to the character. It helps us understand her beliefs somewhat and see at least a chunk of her childhood that doesn't seem like complete garbage.
Too bad this is one of the only well done things, because this really doesn't help later on. So, the whole ship is awake and we get a briefing as to what they are doing within this chunk of space. Okay, even before I saw this, this bothered me. Ya'll just spent two years in cryo, and only a handful of people knew why? You couldn't have given them a hint before taking off? Okay, the first AvP movie wasn't exactly good, but at least Mr. Weyland there had the decency to tell everyone what the heck was going on before they hit the ice.

We get to meet two other characters here, but I honestly don't like either of them enough to actually remember their names, and I'm not about to waste sixteen seconds of time to look them up. So I'll just designate them Weird Hair Guy and Toady Glasses Idiot. Toady Glasses Idiot is around as a biologist and tries making friends with Weird Hair Guy, a geologist, who for no real reason is quite aggressive and abrasive, and tells the other guy to sod off. Charming. Now, I get having a jerk character around, but for some reason Toady Glasses Idiot decides to sorta tag along with him and try to be chums. What, did the writer watch Red vs Blue and try to capture the relationship between Church and Caboose? That would explain quite a bit actually. Well, don't bother with hopes of knowing who these guys are. They aren't interesting, and they might as well be wearing red Star Fleet uniforms and soaked with steak sauce. Spoilers.

So, we get all the idiots collected in some place on the ship where a hologram of Mr. Weyland tells them that they have a mission to find what they suspect are intelligent alien life that engineered the human race, being dubbed Engineers. Fair enough. Problem is that this whole mission hinges on a bunch of cave paintings that over multiple areas sorta seem to resemble a set of stars in the sky, which they are heading towards.

Um... Your coordinates are based off of different cave drawings? Now, not to be a jerk to primitive peoples, but they aren't exactly ones for getting constellations spot on. If this were something like, say, star clusters gathered and indicated by Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese and a few other somewhat organized cultures that had a rudimentary idea of science I'd cut them some slack, but we're talking about frigging cave drawings. Frigging finger paintings from people who probably hadn't even invented the wheel!
This is skipping ahead a bit, but I might as well bring it up now. We're meant to think Vickers is a Bad Person because she doesn't leap into this project with enthusiasm and appears skeptical about the whole thing. In actuality, her reasons for being reserved and a bit peeved make total sense. The ship they are on costs literally one trillion dollars. Even if you take inflation into account, that's still a frigging huge chunk and took two years for them to reach their destination. And it all hinges on Charlie not being an idiot. Honestly, I have difficulty faulting her. And get used to me knocking on the Charlie character, because I don't think there are enough synonyms for the word "hate" in the English language for me to use in relation to this guy.

Anywhat, the one time hologram of Mr. Weyland tells them that by the time they see this message he'll be worm food and that they'd better not screw this up. They are all there to look for aliens which supposedly created human life and hopefully collect lotsa sciency stuff. Charlie and Liz are sort of a couple or married, not positive which, I care less, but Charlie acts really smug about how he found this stuff out and tries to get everyone psyched up. Weird Hair Guy actually makes a valid point, asking how the heck they know that these Engineers exist, that they created humanity, and that they are on this planetoid they are about to visit. Liz uses the inspiration from her dad, declaring that she doesn't have scientific proof, but has faith that these things are true.

... I now know why alcohol exists.
Okay, declaring your choice to believe in something in terms of religion is fine. Heck, it's more than fine! I have no problem with that sort of thing. However, science doesn't work like that. You need sodding scientific evidence to support your allegations. At best you have a theory, and a pretty weak one at that. Again, cave drawings. I'd have trouble convincing some drunk hillbillies following me along into the backwoods if I used that as evidence for something.
Yet these guys acquired a trillion dollar ship and crew to fly all the way out there? No wonder Vickers, a person working for the company and has to deal with money, is so uptight. A huge chunk of the company she represents is resting on this pretty flimsy hunch. But Mr. dead Weyland seems to be a gambler and wanted it to go through anyway.

Almost everyone else realizes how retarded this is except for Charlie, who really seems to go out of his way to be a complete jerk to David, who is nothing but civil. I'm sorry, but it bothers me just how insensitive Charlie is towards David. He has this really smug, condescending attitude that triggers some strange instinct in me to plant my kneecap in his groin. Charlie doesn't feel like a scientist. He feels more like a con artist who has fallen for his own crap and reacts like a petulant child whenever someone doesn't support him blindly. Huh. Actually, now that I type that out, are we sure he wasn't written as a politician at first?

Oh, we also get this scene where we view the life boat that Vickers supposedly owns, which is insanely lavish and is equipped with what they claim is an amazing state of the art medical suite that can treat almost any and every injury, infection or surgery you could want. Problem is, it's barely bigger than the cryo tubes they just popped out of. Yeah, I'm so not buying that this thing is all that great. I swear it doesn't have more than ten different tools. Oh, but wait until later when it actually gets some use. The thing is priceless! I'd have loved to see the person using it give an Amazon review for the darned thing.

Ah well, they start the process of entering the planetoid atmosphere and conveniently enter almost smack dab next to a strange structure that is most certainly an Engineer building. Charlie sees a right angle and insists that this is a sure sign of construction. Knowing him, I'd disagree with him by default, as he's almost like Colonel Klink in that he won't know what the right answer is but he'll almost certainly guess the wrong one. Alas, Charlie is correct and they just set down a mile from the thing. Heaven forbid they try hailing the structure with signals, or even try communications when they were in orbit. Might have been nifty. It's almost like they just plain assume that the place will be in ruins. Seriously, you guys aren't even going to do some scans before plopping right down on that thing's driveway? What if that's a standard attack maneuver for their species? What if that's the equivalent of declaring war or saying you don't care about their territory? You don't even want to drop them a friendly "Bah Weep Gra Nah Weep Nini Bon?" Fine. Just sit your fat ugly ship down and trust that it doesn't have any negative consequences.

Okay, so, apparently Charlie is correct in that Engineers were at least here at some point, which shocked the frak out of me despite knowing that this movie would involve alien life. So, instead of taking the calm, analytical, cautious, scientific route by running scans, taking photos, recordings and stuff like that they just roll on in using dune buggies. Granted, I'd like to do something like that, but I'm also a cowboy who prefers shooting things, not a sodding scientist with more money than I could spend in ten lifetimes and the scientific discovery of the millennia riding on my shoulders. Y'know, it'd have been smart if they just sent in some probes with cameras and sensors to steadily explore the structure so that the scientists wouldn't have to endanger themselves, but since almost all of them have been lobotomized they decide they have to jump balls into the thing.

Also, one of the doctors says something about the atmosphere being deadly to humans, since it has something like 2% CO2 in the air.
... Pardon? 2%? Okay, my chemistry isn't exactly great, but I'm going to throw a BS card on that one. I'm sure that's some Global Warming piece of crap right thar, but what makes me more bewildered is the fact that they don't mention the other 98% of the stuff that makes up the atmosphere! What freaking else is there? I'm willing to bet money that you could find a few other things floated around that are more harmful to human lungs than CO2. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So, they bonsai into the abandoned building with space suits that have frigging bubble helmets that looks like something out of the fifties scifi genre. Rest of the suits are alright I guess. Ah, but with Charlie at the helm and leading the expedition he makes sure to do things wrong from the first step. His computer says the atmosphere inside is breathable and fine, and decides that's all the evidence he needs to whip off his frigging helmet on an uncharted planet. I had the same reaction to this that Buzz Lightyear had in the first Toy Story movie when Woody opened his helmet.
Liz tells him to keep his helmet on and not be stupid, to which he replies "Don't be a skeptic."
Riiiiiiight... Because there is absolutely zero chance of the computer having missed any dangerous spores, fungi, molds, bacteria, airborne pathogens, viruses or toxic substances. Nah, let's trust Charlie and take our helmets off not three minutes into the mysterious Engineer building.
Looks good to me!
Do I even have to explain why that's completely dumb? Whatever. Moving on. The architecture is all loopy inside, so Weird Hair Guy produces a quartet of red glowing balls that hover and begin mapping the complex in a systematic and efficient manner so that they don't get lost and they have some clue what this place is like. Hey, maybe you could've sent those things in first, eh?
Taking exactly zero precautions, they of course touch absolutely everything they see. No taking samples with sterile instruments, no digital cameras recording what's going on, no sensors taking notes, nothing. Somehow David finds some weird buttons way high up on the wall, pushes them which activates a hologram for some reason. Okay, why did David just start pressing buttons without even mentioning their existence to anyone else? And why did they only activate a hologram? Can those buttons do anything else? Anyway, the hologram is a recorded incident of four Engineers running down the hallway which leads them to a sealed off chamber which has a pile of dead Engineer bodies, one of which is decapitated from the door. I'd like to know why that was recorded and if anything else happens to be on storage just waiting to be looked at, but of course they don't look at any of that.

Weird Hair Guy freaks out, presumably soils his spacesuit because there are a bunch of corpses and decides to book it back to the ship. I myself am not sure why a bunch of clearly old dead bodies are making him lose his head, but he's an idiot anyway, so I guess that's in character. Toady Glasses Idiot decides that he's suddenly scared too and wants to follow his chum back to safety. Huh, it's almost like some of these people are unreliable. If only there was some sort of drone you guys could have used to do the initial exploration so that you wouldn't have had this problem! Oh wait...

So now it's David, Charlie, Liz and Nameless European Doctor, they manage to open the door and find a very strange chamber that has all of these metallic jars stacked from floor to ceiling with a big carved head on the roof looking down on them and they begin exploring this crap too. As they walk we see the soil of the ground squirm and exposes some sort of worm organisms. This is again skipping ahead a bit, but I want to rant on this right now. This is obviously a storage room for bio-weapons. So why in the unholy heck are the floors made of dirt!?!?
Y'know, cuz contagious biological materials tend to do their worst when allowed to escape through something like an unsealed room. What, did the Engineers working there have to make budget cuts? This makes less than no sense. Sure, they had the money to make the huge statue face leering down at everything, but not enough to put frigging floorboards down.

Anyway, these metallic jars start leaking this Monster Goo, and Liz says this is due to the change in atmosphere. Okay, how do you know that? How do you know the atmosphere in that room was dramatically different from the hallway and the rest of the facility? And why would a simple change in atmosphere suddenly cause freaking metal to begin sweating this Death Serum?  Curse you budget cuts! Seriously, this crap is oozing from the metal container like a manatee in a steam room for no real adequate reason. And since this is obviously horrifying Black Oil from the X Files, why would the designers store that crap in containers that let it out if the air conditioning kicks in? For crap's sake, you'd get more secure stuff from the Tupperware isle! At this point I honestly wanted them all to get infected and die horribly. That'll teach you to take off your frigging helmets you dunces!

Of course, since this stuff has Danger written all over it, of course they have to go poking it without any sort of caution at all. Man, and I thought Kane in the original Alien movie sticking his face in the alien egg was dumb! These guys make Kane look like a paranoid survivalist by comparison.
Suddenly back at the ship Captain Janek informs the landing party that a wicked storm is approaching and that they'll have to get their butts back quick so that they don't get blitzed by the shards of rock blowing in the wind. Man, that storm must've popped up quick, cuz this thing rolls in out of nowhere! That, or no one was bothering to run frigging scans around themselves and one of the pilots just looked up and saw a twister heading their way in time to give everyone a heads up. Brilliant.

Liz decides that before leaving they have to snag at least one souvenir and she stuffs an Engineer head in a duffle bag. David also swipes one of the Monster Plague jars with all the subtlety of a five year old grabbing a cookie. To be fair, I wouldn't exactly be worried about being caught by any of these dimwits either. So they make a dash to the ship where lots of crap happens but they end up getting in safely anyway. For some reason Liz is mega protective of keeping that Engineer head and almost dies trying to retrieve it. Granted, it's an organic sample of a super intelligent life form, but there are others in the building dude. She could've just strapped it to her back like a backpack and she'd have been fine. Ah well, it's not like they get much use out of it anyway.

Also, the big open bay for the Prometheus bothers me as well. It just opens up like a portable garage without any sort of decontamination facility of any sort. You've just got easy access doors and can walk right in. A pal of mine tried sticking up for this, noting that debris that flew in was promptly cooked with really crappy flamethrowers. Okay, what about all the airborne crap that dusted the vehicles and the people wearing suits? Freaking oops. I've seen fast food restaurants more thorough in cleaning. Also, why do they have flamethrowers as their primary weapons? Yes, it's true that they used flamethrowers on the Nostromo, but that thing was freaking huge. There had to be tens of millions of cubic feet of air on that thing. But in a ship that's much smaller like the Prometheus, that's going to mess with the oxygen. It just seems to me like if you wanted to sterilize stuff there are much more efficient ways.
Maybe I shouldn't be knocking on the lack of decontamination stuff, since in tons of the expanded universe like comics and such don't have facilities like that. Maybe I should go easier here, seeing as how ICC Quarantine procedures probably weren't even in existence at the time. I think it's just because they do so many stupid things here already that I have trouble letting other things go. I'm not sure. The lack of a decontamination bay just bothers me here. Perhaps I should just let that one go. I don't like holding double standards.

Cutting back to the facility, apparently Weird Hair Guy and Toady Glasses Idiot somehow managed to get lost even though they have a map, announced they wanted to get back to the ship, Janek having a direct com link to them and a 3D display of the facility and could have easily guided them out. Nothing but the highest standards for this trip!

Good grief, I just had a terrifying thought, one way more scary than anything on screen here. If these are the guys they recruited, who the heck got rejected? Holy crap!

Janek only notices that these two losers are missing after the storm is in full swing and there is no way for them to get back. In fact, with the kind of help he gives, I wouldn't be surprised if this was part of some evil plan to get the morons cacked. It's almost like he's partially aware that he's in a dumb horror movie, and sure enough these guys deliver on that end. Anyway, they are wondering how they are supposed to get out of the facility and Janek tells them that they are going to be sacrificed to the Old Ones need to hole up for the night and that they'll be rescued tomorrow. Uh huh. Sure.

Janek looks at the 3D display and notices that one of the probes is reporting that there is a life form nearby. They frigging failed to notice the insects on the ground earlier, but whatever. Janek, seeing a good opportunity to get these guys axed suggests that Weird Hair Guy and Toady Glasses Idiot go check it out. Not like they need any gear, protection, weapons or anything else with the possibility of a potentially hostile life form in the Death Factory. Ah, but combining their mental faculties they actually make a smart decision. They decide that they don't want to be anywhere near the possible  brain eater and book it in the opposite direction. The signal then appears to die, and Janek shrugs and basically says "Oh, my bad, there's no life signs anymore. It must have a cloaking device and is most likely heading towards you now for your souls have been a glitch. Nighty night boys!" It's actually kinda hilarious as he just sits back and listens to their peals of terror over the radio with the same smug expression that you see on a cat's face when it has a wounded mouse under its claws.

However, the two morons don't keep that smart streak going. Where do they go? They go to the frigging room that looks like Cthulhu's toilet with all of his urine collections, which is now oozing in small streams across the floor. Of course, they decide this is the best option they have for riding out the storm. Jeez.
And for some absurd reason Weird Hair Guy has some sort of smoking device inside of his suit. How... What... I don't even... Why... How in the heck does he have a smoking device in there? Is it a hookah? I can't even tell, it's some weird tube that's letting him smoke inside the suit. Cuz, y'know, that's not dangerous at all. Who the heck on the writing team thought this was a good idea? Are you kidding me?

It's not like they need to further illustrate that these guys are gore scenes waiting to happen. Anyway, Janek is on the bridge and manages to convince Vickers that they should shack up together for the night. He then joins her shortly thereafter, leaving no one around to supervise the two idiots or to enjoy their suitably gruesome deaths. He doesn't even leave one of the pilots up there just to keep tabs on them. Again, I'm just assuming that he wants these two guys dead just as badly as I do, and the only thing he could enjoy more than watching them suffer would be getting it on spacey style. And no, that doesn't make any sense to me either.

So, Weird Hair Guy and Toady Glasses Idiot are chilling inside the Doom Chamber when something actually slithers up out of the death slime. Remember how that footprint earlier revealed that there were little worms in the soil there? Well, they were apparently exposed to the goo and have now mutated to much larger, more aggressive freak animals. One of them slithers up and rears up like a snake to scare them. Remember how before they wet themselves at the sight of dead alien corpses? Well, a live one don't seem to phase them that much. For some reason Toady Glasses Idiot thinks this pale, translucent xeno-cobra is adorable and actually tries to pet the sodding thing.

Isn't it cuuuuuuuuuuute?
For crap's sake... The thing hisses at him and its face unfolds like a cobra and flashes a weird looking mouth in the universal sign of "Back off or I hurt you." Toady Glasses Idiot takes a momentary step back but decides to try again. According to him it's just plain beautiful. Okay, how in the world do you expect this to turn out well? In what universe does this make sense? No one is this abysmally stupid. Why in the heck is this guy reaching out and trying to pet the frigging alien cobra beast? What is he expecting it to do, purr and come with him? Come on! It's at this point that no one with a working brain can think this is a good story.

So, as you may have guessed, the White Mamba loses what little patience it had to begin with and bites the crap out of Toady's hand. Gasp! How could he have seen this coming? This was totally unexpected! No one could have predicted that would happen! Of course, this comes as a complete shock but nobody but Toady Glasses Idiot. He sure isn't Steve Irwin. The thing then wraps itself around his arm and begins breaking it while Weird Hair Guy wonders what the heck he should do. Eventually he settles on whipping out his knife and cutting the thing in half through the midsection which sprays his helmet with acid. The faceplate melts onto his face and he falls face first into the Monster Mix.

Toady Glasses Idiot has his broken arm dangling and the cobra alien slithers up through his suit, into his helmet and rams its head into his mouth. Hmmm, trying to appeal to the Japanese demographic, eh Ridley? I'm so going to get crap for that one. So yeah, the two morons have the decency to die horribly, bringing nothing but relief and laughter to the audience. It's difficult to convey in language just how idiotic this whole scene is. This is what you'd expect from a scifi comedy, not a horror movie. You can't possibly take this kind of crap seriously. It baffles me how anyone in the writing department thought that this would work. Did the studio find every decent writer and break them over the shins with metal rods until they conformed to crappy writing? Certainly seems like it!
I'm beginning to wonder if all the good writers didn't jump ship to work with JJ Abrams or if there is some kind of writer holocaust going on in the backlots of Hollywood.

Sigh. Well, that's all for Part 1 of this thing. I'll work on Part 2 soon enough, cuz there is so much idiocy in this movie it's hard to get it all down in just one article. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Curse you sickness!

Lately half the homestead has been down with what I presume is the flu, which sucks. For the past year I've done a pretty good job of avoiding being infected, primarily by isolating myself from the sick people. However, that proves a bit more difficult when three of five adults in the household are down for the count, and five of the children are not.

So apparently my body felt left out of the festivities and I'm now trying not to vomit up all of my internal organs. Feel like I've been run over by a bloody truck. Blah. Screw you illness. Screw you.

Sigh. Well, hoping I can conjure up a few good things that have been happening lately. Hmm. Lets see, there's... um... Oh! Got the feisty sprogs to watch The Princess Bride, one of the most cooliest movies out there. Gotta love that movie! Although, darned if I'm not always confused between calling it The Prince's Bride and The Princess Bride. Oi. Ah well.
Hopefully I'll be ready to function again soon. I've got crap to do!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The music haunts me!

Being an unapologetic nerd I am required by law to worship Batman in some shape or form. And why not? He's frigging awesome. I'm most partial to the older animated series, and even bought the first season to share with my younger siblings to enjoy. And enjoy it they do! They need all the good influences they can get.

Yet there is one thing that is bugging the almighty crap out of me. One of my favorite episodes, The Forgotten, has a frigging wonderful soundtrack that just gets your attention. Check some of this out!
Wow, 3:45, that fat guy can haul when he needs to...

Yet for some bloody reason I haven't been able to find just the music anywhere! It's like this is literally the only track in the entire franchise that hasn't been named and put up somewhere on the internet despite being some of the best. How is this possible? Listen to it!

I can't fathom how such a wonderful and catchy soundtrack isn't out there. I hope I'm just terrible at searching for music. If anyone happens to know anything detailed about this soundtrack I'd be awful happy to learn about it!

Anyway, I recommend checking out Batman The Animated Series if you haven't yet. I'm an adult and I still enjoy this stuff. The writing is actually darned good! You owe it to yourself to see some quality.

Eccentric Cowboy out!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Did you know...

Did you know that a handgun that is about the size, and weight, as a deck of playing cards does not do a good job of absorbing recoil? Even in very small calibers? Heh heh heh. I fondly recall the first time my dad discharged a round from his Taurus .380 pocket pistol and barely kept the thing in his hands and said, with a slight tremor in his voice "Son of a b****." For the record, my dad usually has an extremely clean mouth, but he wasn't quite expecting that. It wasn't terribly unlike the Noisy Cricket in Men In Black.

Ahhhh, the simple joys of gunpowder, do you never cease to amaze?

Monday, April 21, 2014

I'm aim to write myself some books

Well, might as well come out with it now as things are proceeding along nicely. I aim to do some self publishing. For a good while I've had concepts rattling around in my noggin, ideas of world building and adventure that it seems no one else is doing.
Ever since I was a kid I've had all kinds of little fantasies after watching things like Jurassic Park and Valley of Gwangi about brave men in older times battling and hunting dinosaurs. But lets be honest, most movies and games involving these elements are pretty bad. Syfy channel has beaten almost every piece of enjoyment out of those concepts, so it seems up to authors to re-inject the awesome back into such ideas. The Dinosaur Wars trilogy was bloody awesome, featuring some decent science fiction elements, a decent line up of character, spectacular action and overall produced a good story.

I however am aiming for something a little different. Or very different. I don't want to say too much at the moment, but I'm gearing up for something that I haven't seen anyone else do. So keep your eyes peeled for an update, cuz that's when the fun details will start leaking out. Lets hope I have the writing skill to pull it off.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Inspirational quote for the day

I'm not exactly fond of those motivational posters that you see in high schools hallways. I usually find them to be overly simplistic, unrealistic things that require no effort and only result in snarky villains like myself making fun of them.

There are some quotes from exceptional people however that truly do lift my shriveled Grinchy heart. One of my favorites comes from one of the greatest shows ever, of all time, Firefly.

"A problem is only an opportunity in disguise." I'm going to try and apply this to my life more often. I think more good will come of that than biting my lip in frustration.

The poor man's combat rifle Part 2

Here in the second part of lever action rifles we'll talk about the type of modifications one might wish to make, what parts one will want to add and various techniques.

The first thing I would do on any lever action rifle is to get decent sights and a good sling. First, lets talk about sights. The majority of off the shelf leverguns are equipped with buckhorn or semi-buckhorn rear sights and a brass bead front sight. While buckhorn sights aren't terrible, they are by no means your first choice and I'd replace those post haste. They get in the way of your target and obscure what you're trying to aim for and your eyes are constantly trying to shift between looking at the rear sight, front sight and your target. It's a mess. But what are you to replace them with? I've found an answer that satisfies me. At the moment my experience with optics such as scopes and red dot sights is extremely limited, and it would be irresponsible of me to recommend which types to buy without having used them myself.

What I do recommend however is the old aperture sight or peep sight. This is simply a circular hole that you look through instead of lining up a notch with the front sight. These are amazingly easy to use, and I don't plan on using any other sort of iron sight on any of my long guns if I can help it. You see, your eye naturally wants that front sight to be centered in that circle, which you look through and not at. You don't have the problem of wondering if the front sight is in fact covering what you want to.

Last time I went shooting with my Marlin, having dry fire practicing the crap out of it, I opened up with some light handloads at approximately twenty yards at various bits of junk from an off hand position. When I deliberately focused on one particular portion of license plate we had handy I was able to put a handful of shots through a single, ragged three in wide hole. Heck, some of my bullets actually went through that same hole! And this was with test loads from an unsteady position, albeit at fairly close range. This is not in an attempt to brag about my prowess with the rifle, but rather to demonstrate what I've been able to do from personal experience.

While some may turn their noses up at a three in circle at that range, I was darned pleased with myself. Whenever you're out shooting and your bullet holes are touching each other, you're doing something right.

Now, lets discuss the various types of aperture sights out there and some of the front sights you should roll with. I personally use a Williams adjustable rear sight, shown here:

This particular one is meant for side ejection lever guns, and it can be a bit clunky, but it has an amazing capacity for adjustment with elevation and windage which I really appreciate. There are many other types though that will serve quite well such as Lyman and this group that specializes in peep sights.

All of these sights are well made and will serve their users quite well.
Another that has come into popularity is the "Ghost Ring" sight, which is an apt name. This sight, standard on the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in the 45-70, a splendid rifle, has a very wide aperture that becomes a hazy, vague ring when aligned, thus having almost no problem with obscuring the target. It is extremely fast in lineup and is superb for ranges under 200 yards, although I'm certain better shots can take it farther.

Side ejection rifles that are already drilled and tapped for accepting sights have a superb range of options and require few modifications to come into working order. Top ejection rifles, most being Winchesters, are a little more tricky. Luckily, most websites and boxes what sights are compatible with what rifles. If you have a rifle that needs to be drilled and tapped you will require the services of a gunsmith. Luckily this is a very simple procedure and any gunsmith who can tie his shoelaces can get that done with little trouble.

My own Williams sight can be turned into a make-shift ghost ring simply by removing the aperture fitting. Very effective! Speaking personally though I prefer a very small aperture, the one that came with my rifle being standard for target shooting rather than hunting. Yet I can line it up in a heartbeat with no trouble, and I even plan to get a smaller aperture for even greater precision.
There are many sizes one can get for these changeable sights, including some that help in low light conditions:

I would also like to take a moment to speak of the front sights one can use in conjunction with aperture sights. There are two basic types: Post sights and dot sights. The post sight is simply a vertical bar and a dot sight is a post with a small bead or circle at the top.
I myself prefer bead types, which can come in many variations. There are simple blackened parts, brass beads and fiber optics. There are many sizes for these, and I recommend something with a very small profile for greater precision. At longer ranges a brass bead can end up covering most of a target.

Fiber optic foresights can be extremely useful in conjunction with aperture sights, as they capture light very effectively in low light conditions, almost seeming to glow. I've heard more than one person describe using such a set up as being like using a red dot sight without any electricity. A very nifty combination indeed! I'm attempting to switch my brass bead sight for a red fiber optic sight and will give my opinions on it when the chance arises.

Another style of aperture sight is the older and most interesting vernier sights, often mounted on the tang of older Sharps rifles. While undoubtedly effective, they are a bit too complex and pricey for the terms of this article, as one might be better served with simpler aperture sights or a scope if one requires greater range.

Most Marlin side ejector rifles, if not all, are capable of accepting a very nifty and robust Picatinny rail which allow you to mount all sorts of different optics with ease. If your budget allows then you may be interested in acquiring one, especially if you have some decent experience with scopes.

I consider a sling a very important part of a rifle, as it does more than just allow it to hang from your shoulder. It is also a valuable tool to help improve aim when firing from the offhand position, which you may be forced to do. I highly recommend having a sling on hand. However, this requires swivel studs, which not many lever actions are given off of the shelf, which means you'll have to do a bit of modifying. As we're dealing with tube magazines here, you'll need a special stud pictured below that wraps around the magazine. Make sure it's of proper size and that it doesn't touch the barrel.

There are some fore end caps that have a swivel stud already attached, but bugger if I could find one for sale. You'll have better luck finding the above pictured parts, as they can be acquired in just about every firearm shop under the sun. Very cheap and effective. However, for the rear mounted stud, if you rifle is not already tapped with one, you'll have to drill a hole yourself, although I recommend employing the services of a gunsmith to help you with that, as it is VERY easy to mess up. Of course, this is where having a gun nut friend comes in handy if you're trying to save money. My dad and I were able to install the rear stud ourselves without trouble, although I don't exactly recommend trying it if you can help it. As a side note, do NOT drill into that little bulls eye in the stock if it's a Marlin. That is meant as a little motif for the brand and not a "Drill here" marker if you want to put in a stud.

As for slings, there are innumerable types and variants, too many to list. I'd suggest when shopping in a hunting place to feel some of the models on display to see what feels best in your hand and suits your particular needs. Most aren't terribly expensive and will serve quite well. I might suggest some of the stretchy, rubbery types though, as when on the trail this will make your rifle seem much lighter when over your shoulder. The rubbery sling will absorb the downward pull, saving your feet and shoulder a lot of energy and annoyance.

I have seen bandolier style slings that are fitted with dozens of shell loops, but I would remain cautious with these, purely because when you try to aim off hand the heavy sling will sway side to side, throwing off your aim. My personal sling only has four shells tucked inside it and that alone makes it sway from side to side like a belly-dancers hips. Not that I would know what belly-dancer hips move like. Ahem. It can also get in the way of a steadying technique, which I'll get to in a moment.

There are a number of after-market levers one can purchase as well, often varying in size and shape. Some are larger loops than standard, which can be helpful if you are hunting in cold weather conditions and are wearing gloves, as this will allow you to work the action without having to take your glove off. I've also noticed that somewhat larger loops help in working the action faster than smaller loops. I believe that the extra space allows the hand to gain some more momentum and thus push the action forward more effectively. You don't need to get a huge loop however, despite how pleased Chuck Connors might be. After all, we are operating on a budget!

Stock sleeves can be a cheap and useful addition as well. Some have bullet loops for extra shells, pouches for spare cleaning tools or built in cheek rests to help with sighting. All are nifty and won't put a huge hole in your pocket, so they are worth taking a look at.

Another lesser known but quite fun addition you can make is a wrap around the lever, as shown here:
I like to think of this as a "Survival rifle" trick, although it doesn't have as much purpose as the other items mentioned above. It is useful though and I like having one made from paracord on my lever. My dad expressed his approval at my spectacular handiwork by saying "Son, I wish you wouldn't decorate your gun up like a French whore." Nothing like fatherly encouragement to lift your spirits!
It does have use though, as it can help keep you from battering your knuckles on the hard metal when working the action if you're a sissy like me.
If you're lost in the woods it can be used to start a fire by using the following steps:
1. Remove the leather cord or paracord from the lever.
2. Make a bow drill with the paracord.
3. Spend the next hour or so with the bow drill trying to make a fire through friction
4. Ignore steps one through three, leave the paracord wrap on, pull the lighter you brought along out your pocket because you're a smart little survivalist who thought ahead and doesn't make life any harder than it needs to be.
5. Use the lighter to make a fire, enjoy the warmth and enjoy the pretty paracord wrap on the lever of your rifle.

Simple, right?

Now, for some of the tactics in its usage. For the basics in holding a long gun along with stances you should find a gun nut, you'll know them when you see them. If you're a beginner with firearms there is no harm at all in asking for advice. Gun nuts like few things more than teaching a newbie how to shoot well. They positively salivate at wanting to educate and most will want to teach you without any sort of compensation. Again, you'll know them when you meet them.
It's difficult to explain some of the tricks and such through mere text, so I'll leave a lot of the basics to better minds than my own, and stick to some of the little tips I've caught up on.

A trick I do with the lever to speed up the action slightly as well as achieving a decent trigger pull is grabbing the rear of the lever between my pinky finger and ring finger. This attaches my hand to the action quite nicely and allows me to cycle the action very well. Depending on the size of your hands this may or may not work well for you, as first and foremost you want to have your trigger finger in the right spot for proper squeezing. This just happens to work well for me.

I've found that using the crook of the finger works best, but again, depending on the size and shape of your hands you'll have to find your own sweet spot that works best for you. This is why I recommend buying some snap caps and practicing the almighty crap out of your rifle. Snap caps will help prevent the firing pin from suffering damage as well as giving you loading practice. Sticking a thumbtack in your wall and taking some time every day to get a feel for the trigger and getting used to handling the firearm will work wonders for you. You do however need to be paranoid about safety here, as no amount of apologizing will fix any problems if you're stupid enough to have a live shell in the action while dry firing. I'm obsessive compulsive about checking my action after every few dry shots, and I'm glad to say I've never once had a bullet go off by accident. You can't be too safe about this. You only need to mess up once. Don't let it happen to you.

Dry fire practice is a monumental help, as it teaches one to pull the trigger and aim without flinching, as many people do after experiencing recoil. It is also the best way to get some sort of practice if you're on a budget and have a problem getting out to the range like myself. Practicing is the only way you'll become good, and I've yet to hear of any great shot who didn't recommend constant practicing.

A common trick to help with accuracy is with the sling mentioned above. There are two primary methods with this. First you use your non-shooting hand to grasp the forend wherever it feels most comfortable, stick your elbow through the sling and then angle your arm outwards until you get proper tension. This really helps when firing offhand and keeps the gun from swinging around like a whirligig during the moment of truth. It's very fast, so you have no excuse to not use it.

The second, and one I advocate, is sticking your entire non-trigger arm through the sling and wrapping about your arm once before grabbing the forestock as shown here by someone far better as photography than myself.

In fact, I urge all shooters to look at all of these positions, as you may end up using all of them depending on your circumstances. All are valid and it always feels good to do something right when action calls for it.

Another trick that I like is shown here by these amazing firearm designers:
Also, check their information and research out if you're a ballistics nut. These guys are supernatural and I bow before them.

Loading is straightforward, but annoying. Depending on the tension of the springs you're likely to bruise your thumb shoving shells through the loading gate and against the spring in the tube. With enough use the gate will hopefully become less stiff and allow you to top off the magazine more easily. That will take some time however. The only trick I've heard of that seems to help is to put the first shell in only halfway which keeps the loading gate partly open and at its least stiff. The following cartridge is used to push the first in and stay at the halfway point itself. Rinse and repeat.

So far this seems to work just alright. I hope to learn of other possible tricks to speed up loading and make it easier. As mentioned before, say it with me now, practice. The tube magazine setup allows you to top it off without disabling the action, an extreme advantage in combat. You are always at your most vulnerable when your firearm is reloaded. Thus the capacity to keep your magazine full during lulls in combat gives you a decent edge. You also don't need to lug around a ton of magazines. Sweet!

A far lesser known set of tricks that I've come to know about are advocated by the superb writer Peter Capstick in his book Last Horizons, which you can purchase on the Kindle Ebook system for a decent price:
Using a handy rest out in the field can work wonders and are fun to boot! If you have trees handy, you simply place your left hand against the trunk if you're a righty, and extend your thumb. You then rest the forestock of your rifle across your thumb, careful not to let the barrel touch the tree, and let 'er rip. Very steady!

You can do similar stuff on uneven ground, such as resting your rifle on a fallen tree or rocks, using something soft for insulation to prevent the vibrations from throwing things off. Using a hat for a rest is most nifty in those situations.
If you have a walking stick you can use it as a monopod, again with an extended thumb and preferably crouching. Quite steady out in field conditions and far superior to firing offhand.

I myself came up with an extremely convoluted yet fun rig for field shooting. Upon purchasing the Cold Steel two handed kukri machete and sheathe, featured here I did some modifying. Specifically, I made a paracord loop through the lanyard hole and hooked a Voodoo Tactical rifle sling to the end. Boom! Portable cutting implement that can be used as a monopod in a heartbeat or a slashing/stabbing weapon if for some reason the rifle thing isn't working out. Or you can just use it for splitting wood or clearing brush when out in the boonies. A simple snap of the end clip and the thing is free for all kinds of different work without being glued to you. It's a bit annoying how it slaps against my legs when walking, so it probably isn't the most practical thing in the world, but it is kind of fun!
Here's a link to the nifty Voodoo sling.

I hope that this article has been of some help. Remember, follow firearm safety rules at ALL times, and practice constantly.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cellphone madness

The power of cellphones today is unreal. I remember about a decade ago the things could be used with mortar to build a fortress. They were bloody huge! And now the darned things are the size of 3x5 cards and have ridiculous horsepower. Eat your heart out Star Trek.

However, they are too advanced for some people, myself included. By my very nature I prefer simple, robust and reliable electronic systems. I've never felt the need for a phone that can compete with computers. Touch screens make me bloody nervous, because I tend to keep a small blacksmith shop in my pockets at any given time. This means that a cell phone that isn't designed with resistances towards sharp objects is going to have a very short life expectancy.

For the last two years I was very lucky to have an extremely well built cell phone to use. Heavy, reliable and designed like a cinder block this chunky thing could have been used to pound nails or crack the temple of anyone invading my personal space. It sent texts, made calls and had a calculator. Which was really all I needed.

However, due to my families current economic strife we've moved to a different plan that is cheaper, but somehow came along with brand new cellphones. Sadly, my half-pound hammer phone wasn't brought along and I've been given a very high tech touch screen phone. I don't wish to sound ungrateful, because it is capable of some very cool things, but it is very different from what I require.

I'm mostly worried that the thing will be battered into a crumpled piece of metal and glass in my pocket and outdoor activities. Also, I fear I'll have trouble turning the darned thing on and off. I like solid buttons. Touch screens aren't that reliable, certainly not for my needs. I'm not a complete Neo-Luddite, as I use many different systems, but wow is this thing complex.

Well lads, wish me luck figuring out my new Quantum-DNA sequencing-atomic-cellular device. I'll need every bit of luck I can get. Now I'm going to hyperventilate into a paper bag.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gosh I want to move to Arizona...

Over the weekend some chaps from Church tolerated my presence and we took a trek down to Arizona for a bit of a play, which was fun.
My mind was kind of on other things though. Mostly the amazing landscape. I don't get out of my own state all that often sadly, but when I do I try to make it could. My current territory looks very much like what you'd expect from Road Warrior, except with less trees. I kid you not, every person I speak to who has moved here from somewhere else agrees when I say it's like a post apocalyptic wasteland. Here in the valleys lizards are considered big game. Our primary color out here is tan. Color isn't vibrant. Everything is coated with dust and the color is muted from the intense sun, which will literally melt some toys left out during the summer.

So I was understandably elated when I came to a deserty place that actually had vibrant color and wildlife! I love how the confident green of the trees contrasts with the rusty red of the soil and sandstone. Although I had only about two hours to spend out in the boonies, most of our trip was spent driving, I was able to track down a few cotton tail rabbits, seven lizards, caught one, some mosquito larva, spotted some fascinating birds, and snuck up to a few squirrels. Those last little buggers gave me an interesting time. I could hear something plunging around in the brush but out of sight when out by myself. My ears told me that it wasn't a mere lizard but something heavier. I actually felt pretty good when I was able to sneak up pretty darned close in that brush!

Heck, even the cactuses had some appeal to look upon. Believe it or not, in my patch of desert most cactuses can't tough it out. That's not a typo by the way. So yeah, my desert kinda sucks.

But by gosh I love the look of Arizona territory! We passed through Sedona and I began salivating at all the shops we passed. I'm a sucker for some places. When I grow up I'm going to have to make a change of accommodations. Hope to get myself a new hunting soon! For now, I'm gonna try to not pass out after the drive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Show Review: The Adventures of Brisco County Jr


Few shows have presented me with such a pleasant surprise as The Adventures of Brisco County Junior. Coming fresh off the heels of my introduction to The Wild Wild West and hungry for more Weird West, I came across this little gem on Amazon which had fairly positive reviews and decided to give it a whirl. Bought on a gamble in 2013 as a Christmas gift "for the family", it ended up being watched only by me. Huh, what an odd coincidence.

Wow, was this some of the best thirty dollars I ever spent. Made in 1993-94 it aired for 27 episodes on Fox before cancellation. Dangit Fox, what is it with you and cancelling good shows? First this, then Firefly, then Terra Nova, who's next? What did good shows ever do to you?

Anyway, here's the synopsis: The year is 1893 and Marshal Brisco County Senior, reputed to be the most awesome lawman that has set foot on American soil and played by Lee Ermey before he became super famous is laying down the law. The Marshal has successfully captured the most notorious outlaw in the West, the dastardly John Bly and his twelve top men. Loaded onto an armored train headed for civilization an absolutely hilarious trick is used by other bad guys to stop the train and free the prisoners. As Brisco Senior busts open the door to the armored train car he is met by thirteen armed bad guys and blasted. The rogue criminals are free once more and begin plotting all manner of crimes and destruction, but Bly is by far the worst and the most ambitious. But more on him in a bit!

A group of filthy rich robber barons out of San Francisco realize that things are getting serious out in the West and that they need someone else to try and cut down John Bly and his massive crime group. Thus they recruit Brisco County... Junior. Played by the always awesome Bruce Campbell, Brisco Junior is a bounty hunter and the spiritual successor to his father. It's up to Brisco to capture Bly and avenge his father's death!

But that's not all. At the same time there is a very other-worldly element taking place at the same time. In a mine being worked by Chinese laborers several workers unearth a most unusual object from the rubble. A strange sphere with little nodes sticking out that is gold in color, they take out one of the strange rods and are suddenly granted superhuman strength and break their shackles like wet toilet paper! The government seizes the strange object for study, but Bly wants his hands on it as well. He seems to know more about it than he lets on, and the audience is left wondering what this strange thing is. Dubbed The Orb, they do a great job at making us wonder what it is, where it comes from and what it can do. Is it scientific? Is it alien in nature? Is it magical? Supernatural? Who knows!
Yes, it does look like one of those rubber toys you get out of quarter machines in small shops.
 It's still mystical though!

Okay, time for the characters! Yay!
Manliest. Chin. Ever.
Formerly a lawyer who graduated from Harvard, Brisco is a very intelligent and suave man turned bounty hunter. Played by the invariably amazing Bruce Campbell this character is amazingly fun.  Hired by the robber barons to crack down on the crime in the area on their payroll he also has his own personal reasons, that of avenging the death of his father. Brisco actually has a complex relationship with his father. The two weren't terribly close as the Senior was always away from home tracking down bad guys, creating a strained relationship. While not angry per se, he has trouble mustering tears for his passed father but still mourns his passing.

Being a cowboy Brisco of course has all the standard marks of his trade, being a good shot with his father's inherited Single Action Army revolver with a gorgeously carved ivory grip, a nice hat, a good pair of punching fists and an awesome horse, Comet. Brisco's knowledge delves into everything from science, chemistry, history, law and even a bit of philosophy, making him quite the scholar. He is of course a woman magnet but doesn't come across as a creep and really appears to have a respect for women. One of his recurring traits is his looking for "The Coming Thing." With the turn of the century approaching and his sharp intellect he knows that times are changing quickly, and that one or more game changing elements are coming along that will distort the world as he knows it. This plays in heavily with the many scifi and steampunk elements he deals with in the series.

And of course he's funny as heck. You can tell he's having a ball with this roll. The writers do an amazing job of making him smart, funny, tough and likable all at the same time. His quick wit, chiseled jaw and excellent delivery makes him a pure pleasure to watch. One of the men involved in the creation of the show said Campbell "was just one of those collisions between an actor and a script that was just perfect ... I can't imagine Brisco having ever existed without him."

The tricks he can do with his revolver are only barely short of absurd, and even then they are almost impossible. Yet somehow you never really have a problem with it, as it plays along with the goofy elements. His horse Comet is a very entertaining compliment to his character, as Comet actually believes he is a human! He often comes inside buildings to pester Brisco for his favorite food, green apples. It's actually very fun when bad guys use them to get Comet's temporary help! It is clear though that the horse has far above average horse intelligence, as at one point he was shown to be capable of reading and even opening a safe! How the devil he did that without hands is beyond me, but it sure made me laugh!

 How could you not trust a guy with a face like that?
Then we have our main villain, John Bly, played by Billy Drago, and wow he fits this role like a hand in a glove. Seriously, I've never seen a more naturally looking villain than Billy Drago. I mean, look at that guy! I don't think he's even wearing makeup. It's like he just put on the outfit and boom! Instant villain. I think I might have made a squeak of pleasure when he's first revealed, because this actor is just perfect for this role. He is a very mysterious but very deadly adversary with all manner of very well thought out plans, but he is very fixated on acquiring The Orb. He's a slimy, creepy and intimidating bad guy that you wouldn't want to sit next to on a bus, let alone fight him.

He goes out of his way to be cruel and has a sadistic streak that puts even his own employees on edge. In the pilot he states his desire to take over the entire United States, which I concede I scoffed at initially. But as we see what he's capable of in both intelligence and planning and learn more about The Orb we begin to find the possibility of him taking over to be frighteningly real!

We find out some very spooky things about this character, and I shan't spoil it for those of you who are interested.

I suspect that he punches mountain lions in the face for relaxation.
Here we have Lord Bowler, a grizzled six and a half foot tall bounty hunter with a very colorful past, everything from Army service to having been raised in an unspecified Indian tribe, Bowler is my favorite character in the series. Initially he's Brisco's primary rival in the bounty hunting business and often the next in line when people want a job done. In his first appearance he attempts to intimidate Brisco into leaving his job entirely in a rather over the top manner, but his irritation is understandable. He's in it for the money, and with Brisco Senior around he was barely able to put food on the table. So for a good while the two butt heads with each other and are in direct competition.

To be honest though, the way he was handled in the first few episodes really bothered me. I could tell right away that he was being used as a fall-man to try and make Brisco look more heroic. Initially Bowler was shown as an incompetent, easily outwitted and luckless bounty hunter who really poses no threat to Brisco and is only an irritation. And that really sat poorly with me. A bounty hunter is supposed to be hard core, and a rival should be someone who can stand on even ground and present a threat.

I'm very happy to say though that this didn't last long. Many shows stagger on the first few episodes while trying to find their footing. I think the writers, who are darned good, quickly realized this flaw and corrected it, because very shortly after he's shown to be a very confident and dangerous opponent. As he darned well should be. We see that while he isn't a scholar like Briso he is a very practical and talented man who's skill sets allow him to compete and match our primary hero.

Bowler has a very tough exterior and a passionate rage, making him quite a sight when he gets thoroughly stirred up. I recall in particular one time he was tracking Brisco's trail on hands and knees and crawled up face to face with a rattlesnake. Instead of backing off and avoiding it, he then proceeded to bombard the reptile with such an intense stream of insults that the thing turned around and slithered off in fear! An astounding feat considering they don't have ears!

Although he's a legitimate tough guy he does have a softer side that doesn't feel like pointless pandering. Quite the contrary, he does have moments that are genuinely sweet. Over time he and Brisco become reluctant partners, and grow to be great friends. They compliment each other wonderfully and neither feels like a sidekick. Both bring their different skills to the table which makes them a very effective team. Alone they're imposing. Together they're amazing. In fact, Bowler has one skill that positively mystifies the already impressive Brisco: His tracking! In one episode he simply looks at a set of tracks and tells Brisco that a black bear passed that morning and was going to have a pair of twins! I love his following line: "Dirt talks to me Brisco."

He also has an awesome sawed off shotgun, although he doesn't get as much use out of it as I'd like. He's a good fist fighter and a darned good friend to have on your team. Another fun thing is that later in the season Bowler has racked up so many bounties in the partnership that he actually purchases a huge mansion, a crystal glassware collection and even a butler named Reginald! I gotta admit, that was satisfying to see. :)

You'd be amazed how hard it is to find a decent face shot of this guy.

Socrates Poole is the representative of the robber barons who have hired Brisco on, being a professional lawyer. On it's face he makes a rather unlikable character. He's a stuffy, uptight, nervous, cowardly city slicker lawyer working for men who are less than honest. And lets face it, it's hard to make a lawyer likable. But it is a wonderful testament to the actor and the writers that they not only keep us from hating him but actually make him very sympathetic!

Initially he's the kind of guy who you couldn't count on to keep his pants dry once lead starts to fly, and he's certainly not a fighter by any stretch of the imagination, but when it comes down to it he'll do what he has to in order to help his friends. He and Brisco at first have a great deal of friction, as Socrates is a very by-the-rules kind of guy, whereas Brisco is a very much a laid back and spontaneous man of action. But as the two continue to work alongside each other Socrates loosens his behavior up a bit, growing to bend the rules more and willing to put himself in the field to help those he cares about. He even begins to enjoy some of the outdoors, although it's clear he's not cut out for the wild life.

Even so, he actually becomes quite heroic when Brisco and his own sister are in peril, and despite having no experience as a fighter goes out to try and save them himself. Okay, he totally fails, but he certainly tried. Even when Brisco and Bowler are out in the field punching things and shooting others, Socrates proves himself to be a valuable asset, finding information and smoothing out legal matters for them as best he can. In fact, far from being a greedy creep of a lawyer, he goes out of his way to help reunite a family in one episode, showing that while he can be a bit humorless he does have a stout heart.

Aside from the bounty hunter work he associates with he often works as a sort of diplomat between various countries, governments and official bodies. Here is where he tends to be the most afraid, as he is easily flustered when put under the pressure of having possible war break out. Still, hard to blame him when you have that kind of weight on your shoulders. Even then he has shown his mettle more than once and proves to be a very likable and fun supporting character.

Although, he does kinda look like an 1800's version of Dwight Shrute from The Office.
You'd be more amazed at how hard it is to find a decent shot of her!

The female supporting character is the very lovely Dixie Cousins, a professional singer and entertainer that frequents many locales. Needless to say, she often attracts quite a crowd and is beloved by just about everyone who attends her shows. Don't let her looks and profession fool you, as she is no dumb blond. She is a confident, shrewd and intelligent woman who while often flirtatious with Briso, is often a major help to the group in tracking down criminals. As a supporting character she is isn't in every episode, but she's quite memorable.

Her past is amazingly colorful and complex, which I shan't spoil, but lets just say there is far more to her than meets the eye.
Dangit, not in that way! I meant she has lots of layers to her personality. Creeps.

Anyway, she's a common love interest for Brisco, but his job often keeps them from forming a lasting bond. In fact, far from being a sleep around she's a very self respecting woman who is simply trying to find stability in her life. She is very caring and not someone you want to treat poorly, as she is a most dangerous player in the game of information.

Another character who really helps bring the scifi and steampunk elements to life is the recurring character Professor Albert Wickwire. An eccentric old man who often sits around dabbling in personal scientific endeavors, he is sometimes called upon by Brisco for help in matters concerning things out of his mechanical or scientific knowledge. Although a bit of a goof in not recognizing danger when it confronts him and being blessed with a seemingly bottomless supply of enthusiasm he will throw everything at a project without hesitation.

He works on everything from chemicals, motorized vehicles, a diving suit, a rocket and is even kidnapped by John Bly to help discover the mysteries of The Orb. Outside of that he doesn't do much, although he does get mechanical help from two women who he is now a close associate with. They are a pair of muscular German blacksmith sisters who have a stage performance hammering out door hinges while counting in German, and instantly attract huge male crowds. No, I'm not making that up. I wish I could make something like that up! Boy is that episode entertaining...

Overall, he's a fun if underused character. Hmmm, a steampunky eccentric scientist in the Wild West with wild white hair and time travel elements? Why does that sound familiar?

Oh yeah!

Really? THIS guy has a decent facial shot?

Last and most certainly least of the recurring characters is Pete Hutter. I'm sorry, but I hate this character to put it mildly. I've honestly come to believe that the writers deliberately made him absurdly annoying and pathetic. Everyone else in the entire series is so memorable, fun and interesting and yet we have this guy. Flying off the handle if anyone touches "Pete's piece" he comes across as being an incompetent wannabe cowboy villain. I can't stand his high pitched voice, his singing, pointless rambling and pitiful behavior.

And yes, I do believe the writers made him as irritating as possible, because we are constantly teased with the possibility of him dying. In the first episode I cheered when he died from a bullet wound in the stomach. But no, he showed up shortly thereafter. In one episode I'd be willing to bet money that they set it up just to dangle the idea of relief in the form of his brutal death in front of us only to continually deny it to us. Several times I sat forward in my chair in the hopes that he had finally met his demise, only to have it snatched away. Curse you foul writers! You've killed off better characters than he! Finish him!

And yet he keeps popping up. In the same episode mentioned above I think that one character chooses not to shoot him in the face purely out of pity. There are no words in the English language that can adequately convey the irritation I feel towards this character and what I'd give to see him blasted into a red mist. Although it was gratifying in one episode to see him given the Chinese water torture.

I don't think I've ever wished so fervently and earnestly for the a fictional character to die in a painful, excruciating manner.

I rescind my previous statement.
Well played fiction, well played.
Now, onto the themes!
The blend of genre and elements they bring to the table are most impressive. First thing you'll notice is just how goofy much of it is. The very first thing that caught my attention was how the prison train was stopped in the pilot episode. The gang members place a huge piece of rock on the train tracks with a sheer flat side facing the way the train will come. On it a painter did all of the surrounding landscape behind to give the illusion that nothing was there. Right then was when I realized that I was in for something genuinely special.

The comedy is a huge part of the series, ranging anywhere from the slapstick comedy to irony, witty dialogue and twists that blindside you which leave you picking your jaw off the floor from surprise or laughing until you think your lungs will collapse. The sheer surprise many of the jokes take you by is great. It's actually quite difficult to describe with just words how brilliant this show is in the humor department. It rides the line and just barely keeps from going into complete absurdity. In fact, one of the men in charge of the series who helped with the script said it was to be "just under over-the-top," which they succeed in wonderfully.

You get things like Brisco riding a saddled rocket on a set of train tracks in the pilot episode with everything except Acme printed on the side and him chasing a roadrunner. I wish I could make this sort of thing up. This is just scratching the surface of the goofy elements they implement, yet somehow you don't find yourself rolling your eyes or loosing your suspension of disbelief.

The action is also very awesome. All sorts of action takes place from train fights, bar fistfights, horse chases, but all are given a unique spin that sets them apart from the typical staple of Westerns or scifi. Much of it is very slapstick but no less engaging. Surprisingly there isn't a huge amount of gunplay, or at least not as much as you'd expect in a typical Western. Very few people actually get shot on screen, and even fewer die. I find it to be very tame in comparison to every other Western I've ever seen, so you can imagine my surprise when some people thought it was too much! Feh. Pansies.

I'd have little hesitation in showing this to the sprogs in my clan. I classify this as one of the few action shows that everyone in the family can enjoy without fear of the kiddies getting any weird ideas. I myself feel it could have benefitted from greater violence with more shooting and some signs of blood, but it still works pretty well I suppose.

Without giving too much away, the scifi elements of this series are very well done and set this series apart. There are time travel elements, supernatural powers, inventions ahead of their time like the aforementioned rocket and even sodding motorcycles! This often deals with Brisco's theme of "The coming thing." There are some inventions or actions that are common in our time like drive-throughs and the good cop bad cop interrogation trick. Usually I find this to be annoying, but for the most part it works quite well here. Although the Elvis type sheriff in one episode honestly got on my nerves.

I don't wish to spoil too much in case you're interested in watching this series, so I'll just say that it keeps a darned good balance of all the elements.
Campbell himself said "Basically this show is about the turn of the century, when the Old West met the Industrial Era. Cowboys still chew tobacco and ride the range and states are still territories but, over the horizon, is the onset of electricity, the first autos and telephones. Brisco is in the middle of a transition from the past to the future."

The speed in which the episodes were written and filmed honestly astound me. According to Wikipedia "Cuse described long hours writing the show, including several overnight sessions. Each episode of Brisco was filmed in seven days, so the turn-around time for scripts was one week." That's amazing! Considering the level of quality of actors, cinematography, special effects, stunts and props that were implemented I half expect someone made use of black magic to get this stuff done.

The series pays a great deal of homage and spirit of old serials from the 1930's and I noticed it had a bit of an Indiana Jones feel to it. Funny I should think that, because two of the people involved in the creation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were specifically recruited to help with this series! You can sense a lot of the charm and spirit here which makes it that much more of a blast to watch.

While very close to campy, I was quite surprised to see that on occasion it can have very real drama. The comedic tone makes it difficult to see the serious moments coming, which completely blindside you. This isn't so much of a vicious tone shift as it is good story writing with a dramatic tone shift. I've never seen a show more goofy that I was able to take more seriously.
Bit of spoiler here, but I first saw just what kind of drama they were capable of early on when Brisco was lying on the floor, bleeding from a nasty gunshot wound from Bly and Bowler comes in, sees his state and begins singing Amazing Grace. I didn't get teary eyed, but wow did I realize just how much weight was being thrown about in this series.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this series to anyone who's interested in Weird West, Steampunk, action adventure, comedy, or just plain want a good show to enjoy by themselves or with family. I have trouble saying enough good things about this series. It's all just so much... fun! With all the crap TV floating around today, you owe it to yourself to see something good.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weird West: An Untapped Goldmine

It's no secret that the Wild West genre in fiction and real life history is one of the most interesting and beloved things to have taken place within this world. The idea of cowboys defeating evil bandits, searching for lost gold, dealing with rampaging natives or cleaning up a corrupt justice system on the fringes of society holds an almost magical element. There is something inherently enticing about free men on the frontier with cobalt revolvers, big singe shot Sharps rifles and rapid fire lever action rifles fighting in the pine forests to the open prairie.

The cultural love for this concept hasn't been limited to just Americans alone, as other cultures have found it of interest as well. Many people of Japan have found a great love of Western style music, dress and wide open freedom in their hearts. I found my own spirit warmed when reading this article in particular:

Suffice it to say that the Wild West concept has always been popular and probably always will be. It's one of the most fun and immersive settings in history. And this brings me to one of the most fun genres in fiction: Weird West.

If something as inherently awesome as cowboys in the untamed West is cool, then why not match it up with other things that are also entertaining? Just like samurai or pirates, cowboys are just one of those things that are insanely awesome no matter what you pair them up with. In fact, pairing them up with other vastly disparate concepts only seems to enhance their cool factor!

In fact, let's look at some of the cool things that have come out of Weird West!

1. Firefly, which I consider to be a Space Western and a variety of Weird West and one of the best shows ever. Also, if you haven't seen Firefly, how freaking dare you! Watch it. Now. No, I'm not kidding. Watch it.

2. The Wild Wild West, which I've reviewed and loved.

3. Valley of Gwangi, a movie about cowboys dealing with sodding dinosaurs! How much more epic do you get than that?

4. The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, which is sooooooo much fun.

5. Cowboys and Aliens, which was okay. They didn't screw it up, which is more than I can say for Transformers by Michael Bay.
File:Cowboys & Aliens.jpg

There is some pretty cool stuff in literature too, and I was so glad to find as much as I did here:
I'm considering potentially getting into the Dark Tower series. Maybe. Not sure. Not typically a Stephen King fan. We'll see.
I'll get around to reading another awesome concept, The Cowboys of Cthulhu. No, really! That's a real thing! Look!
I'll letcha know how that one goes. Another series that looks darned promising that I've heard about before is the Merkabah Rider, a Jewish mystic travelling about the West fighting evil. If nothing else, that Volcanic repeater he has looks wicked cool!

And yet I can't help but feel like there is a lot of untapped potential. Wild West mixes with just about anything! It can mix with fantasy, horror, scifi, alternate history, pirates, aliens, zombies, steampunk, dinosaurs, robots, mysticism, monsters, anything! It really seems to me anyway that only lately have people been trying to tap into Weird West, one of the coolest things since fire.

Don't worry, I'll be diving into some of the books floating around there, as I am so there for some of these cross-genre concepts. Still, I feel like there is room for exploration here. I'm amazed that there is so little cowboy/dinosaur stuff out there. I mean, come on, cowboys and dinosaurs! What could be more amazing than those put together? Okay, maybe sharks that can fire lasers from their faces fighting robot eagles that have talons coated with diamond battling honey badgers that can fart superheated plasma while samurai with lightsabers and flamethrowers are cutting down hordes of hippie zombies.

But that's a little farfetched. Samurai aren't terribly fond of flamethrowers. I think ya'll get what I mean though. Another thing I noticed to my delight is an upcoming convention called the Weird West Fest, check it!
Hoping I can hop over there this year and have some fun. :D

Anyway, I'll review some of this stuff in the near future, and I hope that I have sparked imaginations and caught interest. :)
In fact, seeing some of this open territory here, I might take a stab at writing some Weird West myself... Hmmm...