Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 9 - Target

1. “Alice dropped me off in the morning, in keeping with the slumber party charade. It wouldn’t be long until Edward showed up, officially returning from his ‘hiking’ trip. All of the pretenses were starting to wear on me. I wouldn’t miss this part of being human.”

Me too. Especially when what they’re working to conceal is this boring. In fact, I love Charlie just that much more for wanting to know as little as possible about his idiot daughter’s real life when they finally drop the bomb on him.

2. Charlie passes on a message from Jacob, who wants to apologize, and asks her to go easy on the boy. “I grimaced. Charlie didn’t usually editorialize on my messages.” Well sooooooooooooorry you dumb bimbo. He’s a concerned parent and Jacob’s her oldest friend. Plus the only reason he’s got to like Edward is his insane offspring’s say-so.

“Jacob could just go ahead and be upset. I didn’t want to talk to him. Last I’d heard, they weren’t big on allowing phone calls from the other side. If Jacob, preferred me dead, then maybe he should get used to the silence.” Show me why the Cullens are better. Show me why Edward’s a better match for her. Show me why I should give a crap about this girl. Don’t tell me, provide examples and don’t contradict them.

Charlie: “That’s not very attractive behavior, Bella. Forgiveness is divine.”
Bella: “Mind your own business.”
starofjustice: “You know, I think I might've judged Bella a little too harshly. Or maybe I'm just being sarcastic"

3. Once she’s up in her room, the brat realizes some of her laundry’s missing. “Was Charlie doing laundry? That was out of character.” What about all those years before she moved in, and he presumably had to get his own food and wash his own clothes? She remembers Alice sneaking into the house for some changes of clothes over the course of their “slumber party” and brushes it off. I’m hardly even bothered anymore about how nonchalant our relatable protagonist is about them doing stuff like that.

Of course it does matter, because Edward shows up a little later, somewhat on edge. He asks her to stay where she is for two seconds but because he’s an awesome vampire and blah blah blah he’s back before Bella actually counts to two. He explains that a vampire, but one whose scent he doesn’t recognize (meaning not Victoria), snuck into her house and stole her laundry to get her scent.

They surmise it’s probably one of the Volturi, but well, didn’t Edward have chances to get the scents of nearly all of them and their guards at the end of the last book? Assuming he’d never met them before then? And why bother to sneak into her house to sniff her panties? Why not just look wherever Edward is? Shouldn’t they be looking for him too? Yeah their leader’s supposed to be like bosom buddies with his dad, but what about their all-important secrecy and how Edward got all pouty and was willing to compromise it to force them to kill him? I don’t care what flimsy rationale Steph provides to keep him alive, if the Volturi are supposed to be the terrifying enforcers of vampire law, I need to see some assurance of that. Like not rolling over and letting this vampire kid who’s obviously willing to flout their authority if it suits his wants go free because it would complicate things for the author if they didn’t.

As well, am I really supposed to think the Volturi are really that badass when there’s like nine of them altogether, counting their guards? Speaking of the Volturi guard, how many of the group are actually involved in doing any enforcing? Do they have the manpower to enforce their law on the world’s entire vampire population and the ability to spot and react to threats in a timely manner? Given the ending to this book I’m tempted to doubt it.

Things aren’t exactly helped when Edward promises his brothers will sweep the woods for intruders. Aren’t the Volturi supposed to be older and better at stalking than the Cullens? That being their job and such? Emmett and Jasper will be able to find any vampiric intruders in the woods, even those far more experienced than they are, but remain undetected themselves? Sorry, don’t buy it.

Bella asks if he thinks Alice saw anything, and staring “at the road through narrowed eyes, ‘Maybe.’ ” His plan to keep Bella alive and not a vampire centered around Alice assuredly seeing the Volturi coming to look for them, right? Damn it, is anything consistent in these books? Could there be anything to those claims of bad writing?

4. They do indeed go to check with Alice, who has no idea what happened, which has Edward hissing “How is that possible?” If we had a stable definition of how her power worked, then maybe there could be an answer to that question. For Bella’s part, she gives him “a quiet reproof. I didn’t like him talking to Alice this way.” Really? Because every time she and Alice spend time together Alice seems to be doing something that annoys her. In Breaking Dawn they even start saying out loud how annoying Alice can be. Quit telling, start showing. Damn.

Alice defends herself saying “It’s not an exact science” and “if I try to do too much, things are going to start slipping through the cracks.” In any case she doesn’t think it’s the Volturi. “I would have seen that.” Oh would you now? What exactly is the difference, again?

“Who else would leave Charlie alive?” Edward asks. Somebody with no beef with him, but a much more understandable beef with his daughter? Somebody looking to remain inconspicuous, which would seem difficult if you were to say kill the police chief in a small town? Especially the only small town in the world that’s a 15-minute drive from the home of a pack of their species’s natural enemies? Edward needs to read more fantasy. He might learn something useful, and lord knows he’s got nothing better to fill his free time.

5. Anyway the idiots then, *sigh* sit down and talk about what could be going on. Alice is sure the Volturi haven’t sent anybody to check on Bella yet. “Aro hasn’t asked anyone to look for her yet. I will see that. I’m waiting for it.” And “If whoever it was meant to wait for Bella, Alice would have seen that. He -- or she -- had no intention of hurting Bella. Or Charlie, for that matter.” Even after she’d been writing about these characters and for a while and had hopefully hit her stride by now, I still get the feeling Steph didn’t want to set anything too concrete down for Alice’s power.

Edward suggests this could be “Caius’s idea,” and I once again must irritably point out that if you’re going to throw these names around we should know who they mean. I sort of remember Caius as one of the Volturi leaders, but he was overshadowed by Aro and I was distracted by how those guys didn’t live up to their rep at all. Although when they bring up Jane I do remember her, because of how much fun I had reading about her torturing Edward and thereby Bella. Although that’s a bad sign too.

6. They get Carlisle to check the scent of the vampire in Bella’s house and he says it’s nobody he ever met either. Alice also says the timing of this was a little too perfect, like the intruder knew about her precognition and was deliberately taking steps to avoid it. I’m not looking forward to relaying how Meyer tries to explain how that works with such a poorly-described ability in the first place.

Bella, of course, tries to seize this opportunity to convince the Cullens to change her, but Edward says “quickly, ‘It’s not that bad. If you’re really in danger, we’ll know.’ ” Forgive me if I fail to be reassured with their rather unimpressive track record so far. Oh, I’m sorry for wanting to see how capable these characters are with my own eyes.

She pleads with them. “As long as I’m around Charlie, he’s a target too. If anything happened to him, it would be all my fault!” And not because he’s in charge of law enforcement in the area and has to make things like murderers and burglars his business because of reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with his daughter. And besides, if that’s the case, once again it seems to me the simpler solution is to just leave. Yeah it might seem suspicious, but just before this Bella was talking about how big the vampire world really is and how many murders and disappearances happen thanks to hungry vampires (not to harp on this but again that's something the Dresden Files did better, by incorporating the discussion in what a significant character was going through rather than just a random thought by the narrator). As a species it isn’t something that seems to give them many problems unless they’re attracting attention on purpose. And with how quickly and completely the Cullens vanished from Forks without warning in New Moon, that doesn’t sound like something that would stop them if they had a good reason to not be there anymore.

But it would be even harder on the author to pretend there’s any drama if she acknowledged that possibility, so forget it. Indeed, “And I could see, looking at all of their beautiful faces, that nothing I could say was going to change their minds.” We’ve still got a protagonist who isn’t good for anything, and an author who doesn’t think readers are getting a little sick of casually hearing how beautiful vampires are. Encouraging, yes?

7. “It was a quiet ride home. I was frustrated. Against my better judgment, I was still human.” Judgment as in “I’m still getting older than my boyfriend, I’m still useless because I don’t have superpowers, and I don’t trust the family I want to join to live up to their promises to keep me safe.” Adorable.

She further gripes that the Cullen watching her at all times will get bored and have to kill her themselves to break the monotony. “Edward gave me a sour look. ‘Hilarious, Bella.’ ” I know, wasn’t it? Maybe she’s not so hopeless after all.

These books are so frigging stupid. “Charlie was in a good mood when we got back. He could see the tension between me and Edward, and was misinterpreting it.” It’s not like he knows any better, and as I can’t stop saying the only reason Bella and Edward are a good match is everybody keeps saying so. I wouldn’t let my daughter date a guy like him, especially not when she semi-frequently comes back from time spent with him with serious injuries.

Anyway, Jacob’s called again, and again Charlie entreats his bitch daughter on the lycanthrope’s behalf. “Don’t be petty, Bella. He sounded really low.” She fires back, “Is Jacob paying you for all the P.R., or are you a volunteer?” Are you and Edward really meant for each other, or is it a hack author hoping that if she says so often enough, that’ll make up for the actual writing?

Bella does express some envy at Jacob’s dad knowing about his supernatural activities, though. “How easy it must be when you had no secrets from the person you lived with.” As I just implied, Bella would probably only have more problems with her dad if he knew what was really going on. At least during the period where she’s still living under his roof. This narrator is not a very thoughtful narrator. But I knew that.

8. “In the morning, Charlie left to go fishing with Deputy Mark before I was up.” Who? “I decided to use this lack of supervision to be divine.” That sounds kind of pompous…

Upon calling Jacob (with Edward over her shoulder), the wolf-boy notes “Holding grudges is not one of your many talents.” Again, she’s not forgiving, she has no spine. He promises endless favors in exchange for forgiveness for his behavior, and when she of course gives it, “I can’t believe I was such a jerk.” You weren’t, Jake. You were speaking for hundreds of thousands of readers who dared to use their brains while following Bella’s travails.

Then Edward gets on the phone and briefly explains that somebody appears to be stalking Bella and “I won’t be letting Bella out of my sight till I get this taken care of.” You mean like all the rest of the time, too?

Jacob fires back with some suggestions of his own, and Edward promises to think them over “As objectively as I’m capable of.” Good not to promise more than you can deliver. How does Bella react? “I knew it was juvenile, but I felt excluded.” No sweetie, that’s not juvenile, and admitting it doesn’t mean you’re mature. Since she’s the cause of all the crap that goes on, it’d be nice if the two supernatural groups she’s involved with bothered to tell her their plans for her so she might be able to, I don’t know, participate in the plot or something retarded like that.

9. Bella gets to talk to Jacob and he tries to get her to convince “the bloodsucker” that the safest place for her is on the reservation. After all, the whole reason the Quileutes regained their power to wolf out is because of evil vampires being around, right? “We’re well able to handle anything.” He even mentions Charlie would be safer there because he doesn’t see the people there are weirdoes who do things with his daughter he isn’t allowed to know about. “I hated that I was putting Charlie within the range of the crosshairs that always seemed to be centered on me.” So don’t. Ask the Cullens to leave. If they’re intelligent at all they’ll probably agree the safest place for Charlie is far away from his daughter.

The talk between the two men involved “rearranging some boundaries, so we can catch anyone who gets too near Forks.” He then says he’s going to come over and get the scent of the intruder so he can track them. Bella’s not so keen on that idea.

Bella: “Jake, I really don’t like the idea of you tracking -- ”
Jacob: “Oh please, Bella,” he interrupted, Jacob laughed, and then hung up.

Maybe that’s meant to show Bella worrying about the people she likes getting hurt, or how Jacob doesn’t take the threat of vampires seriously enough. I will address those in turn.

What exactly does Bella expect to do about the evil vampires after her, especially if she’s not willing to leave to spare people unaware of the danger? She’s pretty clearly assured herself that only another supernatural creature could kill a meyerpire. Yet she’s scared to death of any of the ones she knows actually fighting one. Even when they outnumber the intruder about eight to one. Plus if they’re sneaking into Bella’s house to get things with her scent, they probably want to kill her enough to know about her supernatural bodyguards too. This is probably going to be solved through force of arms, whether she likes it or not. Why not show some of that intelligence and maturity that her mom keeps going on about and accept that some of these creatures she’s so fond of for some reason are probably going to have to put themselves in harm’s way to resolve this?

On the second point, Jacob not taking the threat of vampires as seriously as he should, well, who exactly does Steph think she's kidding? She’s dropped the ball at pretty much every opportunity to either make someone a believable threat, or to actually deliver on something being a problem. I’ll just tell you right now, we don’t lose a single Cullen or Quileute to the vampire army you already know they’re going to end up fighting. Like you were worried.

Happy new year, everybody!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Adventures of the Little Prince - The Greatest Gift

Penned by Antoine de Saint-Expurey, “Le Petit Prince” was about a nameless boy living on a small asteroid called B-612 (According to this show that's pronounced "Bee-Six-Twelve"). He travels to Earth and makes all kinds of profound observations about the status of life there, and I’d like to tell you about it in more detail but while I owned the book as a child I never read it.

However it was adapted into an anime that aired on Nickelodeon from the mid-to-late 80’s, which I did see occasionally on trips to Grandma’s house. By catching passing shooting stars with a butterfly net the prince could travel to other planets and make profound observations on the state of being of the people he found there. And maybe, just maybe, we learned a little something about ourselves in the process. And in this particular one, the true meaning of Christmas or something like that.

The opening sequence informs us the show’s “Based on the character THE LITTLE PRINCE……conceived by ANTOINE de SAINT-EXPUREY and not directly on the book itself.” Since the end of the book would seem to preclude any further stories about him, yeah you’d think so. Although for the curious, there was a live-action movie based on the book.

Then a guy with a terrible French accent presumably meant to be the author basically explains the premise I just did, and how the prince heard from his buddy Swifty the space bird about Christmas and all its material manifestations like presents and snow and tree decorations and blah de blah, and wanted to check it out. Let’s see how the episode tackles this, shall we?

We see Swifty and the prince after they land on a tropical island (which doesn’t look very tropical and which seems merely a handy insert to explain why there’s no snow), and Swifty tries to wake up his companion. Not that he matters, since he immediately flies off to check in on some people on Jupiter.

That looks like a landing a small boy would survive, yeah.

The prince makes his way into town, marvels at the decorations, and is just in time to nearly be run down by a horse and buggy (incidentally, all the episodes I can remember appear to be set in the 1800’s or something, but I distinctly remember the prince talking about going to Disneyland. Not actually going there, of course, but talking about it). The passenger, an old man called the major, has his huge manservant bodily drag a young boy out of his house in order to adopt him. The prince protests that the major shouldn’t separate people from their families, even if it is to save the boy from a life of miserable poverty. Why’s the major so interested in adopting a young boy, you ask? Well, because he takes one look at the prince and recognizes the kid as the spitting image of his dear departed son. Really? We’re doing one of those?

The nostalgic among us might be interested to know both Swifty and the major are voiced by Hal Smith, who people my age probably know best as Gyro and Flintheart Glomgold from DuckTales (or if you're really nerdy the evil wizard from Dragon's Lair II). He does well as an eccentric inventor, but not so much as a stern old man. At least one without a Scottish accent and any apparent underworld ties.

The very accommodating prince is brought back to the major’s mansion, where more marveling over how he’s the very model of a modern major general…I mean, the major’s son, is done. The servants, by the way, appear to be indigenous, and talk in this frankly rather patronizing pidgin English that would probably get this show sent back these days. (crap like “Don’t make filler, plenty roast goose in tomorrow dinner”)

Shown his new room, the prince is amazed that it’s painted to look like the night sky and spots where B-612 is. This gets him thinking of home and a rose girl he takes care of, and that gets him thinking of sneaking out and seeing what Christmas is like for non-rich people. Conveniently there’s a ladder outside his window and a hole in the mansion wall, which seem like something a guy who’d previously been about to basically kidnap a boy to have someone to fill the void his son left would’ve taken care of beforehand.

Once back in town he catches the kid the major was trying to carry off before (Robby, since this cartoon apparently has a problem with naming people) running from a policeman with a stolen cake. The prince promises the major will take care of everything, but it’s not just the baker who’d like recompense since apparently the kid has a history of this kind of thing. The major refuses to pay back Robby’s victims, which makes the prince sad.

He plays to the major’s sympathies since the old man has everything and wants a son, while lots of boys have nothing and want a father. I suppose I’d be a little more sympathetic if this show didn’t seem to be saying the boy should be forgiven for stealing a luxurious cake (and released from police custody, yet) because it’s Christmas. My personal favorite Christmas stories are the ones that showed the people are capable of celebrating the holiday and their loved ones without needing tons of gifts and fancy food (even if they end up getting those things as a reward anyway). The prince even explains how the major’s maid is making up gift baskets full of nice things to give out to the less fortunate. Sure generosity’s something we ought to promote, but what about humility and the deeper meaning of the holiday?

Hiding out in a playground the prince finds a foster kitten abandoned under a bench and takes it to find someplace with a ceiling as it starts to know. “I guess they found homes for all your brothers and sisters and nobody wanted you. It happens with people sometimes too.” Oh I’m sorry, this does have a completely valid moral after all. It has a poor homeless kitten, it must.

The major’s maid tells him she’s wrapping Christmas presents but he’s not in a festive spirit; with the prince gone the gift that mattered most is gone too. The major even goes on about how the prince brought snow, it hasn’t done that in any time in the major’s memory. Okay, maybe we shouldn’t be asking the major to help people out. Seriously? The prince made it snow? I don’t think I conveyed this but as far as I can tell he doesn’t have any magic powers or anything other than an uncomplicated view of the world.

The major realizes he was just looking out for what he wanted when he abducted children back to his mansion, and sets out into the snowy night to find the prince. He finds the boy under a bridge talking to the kitten about how it’s not right to lock up a living creature. “If you love something you can try to help it but you don’t have to own it.”  Amazing how childhood innocence cuts right through all those issues like "real world logistics," huh?

Mr. Major admits he was wrong in only thinking about his own wants in seeking a new son and ignoring all the good he could do for the local downtrodden. He agrees to take in the little sneak thief and try to make a respectable lad out of him, even though the episode barely shows the kid at all and doesn’t really get into why he had to steal such a fancy cake for Christmas. I’m sorry, when I was five I probably would’ve bought this without thinking about the root causes. Of course when I was five I would’ve forgotten all about this when the next show started and I got to see Autobots wail on Decepticon tucus.

And the major throws a big Christmas party for the whole town and hands out gifts to all the kids. And the prince catches a comet back to his own little asteroid. No idea what happened to the cat. All in all a quick and inoffensive little Christmas episode. Although I don’t mind saying the Darkwing Duck one was deeper and more memorable.

Joyeux noel, everyone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Villains and Vigilantes - Always Outnumbered

***This review of an RPG adventure is for GMs’ eyes only***

Continuing the not exactly proud tradition of Alone Into the Night and The Power of One, Always Outnumbered is another collection of mini-adventures for one player and a GM. Personally I’ve never been in a situation where these might have been used as intended; generally if only a single player or two can make it, the thinking usually seems to be “why don’t I save on gas and read Appointment with F.E.A.R. instead?” Still, for somebody looking to learn how the game works without getting in the way of the fun for a more experienced group, the adventures herein work well enough, and explore some pretty interesting story ideas too. Satter seems to be hitting his stride after his previous fun, but not terribly remarkable adventures.

The first mini-adventure’s mostly interesting because of the NPC’s involved and the emphasis being more on the interactions between them and the player rather than simply stopping the bad guys. Who, it should be noted, are a fairly comical pair, and it’s nice to see more villains like that. Saving the world from Satan and Dr. Apocalypse is nice and all, but shouldn’t putting on tights and shooting energy bolts be fun, after all? And the goofy villains, with the push to get the player to interact with some fairly vivid civilian NPC’s (even if they aren’t the type to show up more than this once), add up to an adventure that I at least would probably have fun playing. If I felt like burning the gas to make it to such a tiny game session, that is.

The second one’s a little more generic, revolving around a hunt for a murderous monster on a golf course. It does show an encouraging behavior with the author that I noted liking about Ken Cliffe’s work too; linking his different releases. The monster being a soldier from his module Escape From the Micro Universe, you see, who tried to go back in time to alter history to get rid of his people’s enemies and ended up on Earth somehow. It’s kind of a shame that the text states he’s from somewhere too far away for the success of his mission to make any difference on running that module, although that’s probably just because of space limitations in this module. I suppose the real hook of the module is having a super-powered merc trying to take advantage of the panic caused by an alien attacking a golf course to make a name for herself by defeating it (and the player, too, if she gets the chance). Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The last adventure proper (and the most interesting), takes an idea I’ve seen done a few times, but makes a fun-seeming adventure out of it. That idea being the superhero who’s actually a covert criminal, acting as a smokescreen for other villains and helping them escape custody for a modest fee. And because he’s got the cooperation of the villains he’s supposedly clashing with, probably starts earning more accolades than legit heroes. It’s a nice idea especially suited to lighting a fire under a player to find out the story behind a new foe, particularly because at the same time he can’t just fly up to this guy and start pounding the bejeebers out of him if the player cares anything about his reputation.

In addition to the three main adventures there’s a fourth loose encounter contained within that can be easily worked into any of the others. The antagonist is kind of a villain, kind of, although really he’s just a super-powered troll, content to use his powers to jerk with people he doesn’t like rather than try to beat them into the ground. Although he does have schizophrenic episodes where he becomes a proper villain, which seems included to justify the player beating the snot out of him at some point. Which would probably be satisfying to the player, but I felt it cheapened an interesting character.

To talk about one last thing, while the villains in Satter’s early stuff, Enter the Gene Pool and Escape From the Microverse were good if not particularly outstanding, the ones in Always Outnumbered just seem kind of…off. Maybe it’s because I just don’t get how the name connects to the concept. I don’t see where “Pioneer” comes from, or why a villain who can turn himself into an 8-foot juggernaut calls himself “Scrimmage.” You probably think he fights like a football player or something, right? Except doing so cuts into his agility so much he does it mainly to be able to carry more loot and soak more damage, and relies on non-physical attacks. And speaking as a pompous English major, “Magnanimous” is a huge stretch for a villain with magnetic powers.

While the villains may not be interesting enough to make into my players’ version of the Crushers, the scenario ideas are good. And at the end of the day, that’s probably more important.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 8 - Temper

1. “We ended up on the beach again, wandering aimlessly.” Boy that Jake sure knows how to party, dunnee? If Forks and the surrounding area are this boring, though, you really do have to wonder why the Cullens are so insistent on staying there (other than because if they left most of the story’s problems would be left behind). They could literally move anywhere, and even here, one of the best places around for a bunch of sparkly people to lay low, they play the part of a weirdo recluse family. I’d hardly say they’re taking advantage of the opportunities the weather affords them.

“Jacob was still full of himself for engineering my escape.” He took advantage of the fact that he’s invisible to her babysitter’s poorly-described precognition. You da man, Jake! How did this sneak past Alice, though? It’s been established already if Bella interacts with werewolves, even plans to, Alice will still see it in a way because Bella disappears from her visions. Remember when Edward sabotaged Bella’s truck? Did she stop watching for Bella during school when they’d have to split up? Did Alice think Bella would stop after trying to slip their authority to be with Jacob already (and more than once), and after voicing discontent with being kidnapped by her own future family besides?

“They’re going to be furious with me tonight, though,” Bella notes. You know, Bells (and Meyer), it can be done for the purest of reasons, but kidnapping is still kidnapping. And Bella’s still resentful, which would be nice if it went anywhere. That’s a good little prize pet, Bells.

We do get this amusing and probably truthful follow-up exchange.

Jacob: “Don’t go back, then.”
Bella: “Charlie would love that,” I said sarcastically.
Jacob: “I bet he wouldn’t mind.”

2. To that, “I didn’t answer. Jacob was probably right, and that made me grind my teeth together. Charlie’s blatant preference for my Quileute friends was so unfair.” Yeah, just imagine how much he’d prefer them if he had any idea how Bella really sliced her arm at her birthday party, and why she really hopped a plane to Italy. I’m sorry, but that’s such a monumentally stupid thing for somebody to think considering what Charlie sees and can’t know the real causes for it.

Frankly, knowing what happens beyond the veil makes the Cullens look even less preferable. Jacob might be kind of a crass dick since he got his fur, but he doesn’t spy on Bella or make major decisions for her, let alone get his supernatural compatriots in on doing so.

3. Jacob mentions that a third pack member’s imprinted, and then stares at Bella as if he’s trying to get it to happen between him and her (try the daycare center, buddy). As they start walking again, “I thought of how we must looking walking hand and hand down the beach -- like a couple, certainly -- wondered if I should object.” Pretty sure that’s hand IN hand, and really, maybe this kind of thinking indicates she and Jacob are a better match (not that I think Bella deserves to end up with anybody)? With him she actually thinks about how she depends on him, how they connect, how he’s such a great friend despite all the crap she puts him through in her pursuit of Edward. With Edward all she seems to think about is how beautiful he is and how unworthy she is of being with him. Doesn’t exactly sound like a solid foundation for everlasting love. Sure, love isn’t rational and blah blah blah but there still has to be something positive there. I’m sure Bella sees it, and Meyer may have even thought of it, but when we see Edward he’s either being a possessive dick or doing whatever Bella wants because he’s so in love with her. That’s not a personality.

Ya know, it occurs that if Meyer would get past this idea that people who kidnap and spy on their loved ones are people we should be supporting, we’d be left with a much more convincing couple. Bella and Jacob would get along better because she wouldn’t keep insisting that the Cullens are so great, and the baby he imprints on never would’ve been born. Instead the romance that drives these books is between two blank slates with no evident reason to be interested in each other besides hormones.

Hasn’t Meyer said she never intended Jacob to be such a major character?

4. Jacob’s partially upset with how often the imprinting’s taking place, but also at the fact that it exists at all. “It’s another one of those legend things. I wonder when we’re going to be stop being surprised that they’re all true.” Am I the only one who thinks the characters in these books are stupid for not questioning anything else when it turns out supernatural creatures really exist? Is that really not something that would change the whole way you look at the world?

Before explaining the latest imprinting further, Jacob asks Bella to “Try not to be judgmental.” Why? Because I wasn’t just talking about the next book when I made my daycare crack. The girl who was imprinted on is two years old. “I…don’t know what to say,” Bella replies. How about “ick,” or “child grooming is not romantic, Steph”? Oh sure, Jacob tries to explain it (“There’s nothing romantic about it at all”), but what’s at the core of everything that goes on in these books? Bella’s feelings for the various men in her life. And what exactly is the neat and tidy resolution for Bella and Jacob’s relationship that can never be? Imprinting on her newborn daughter.

“And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her…You become whatever she needs to be, whether it’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother. Quil will be the best, kindest big brother any kid ever had. This isn’t a toddler on the planet that will be more carefully looked after than that little girl will be. And then, when she’s older and needs a friend, he’ll be more understanding, trustworthy, and reliable then anyone else she knows. And then, when she’s grown up, they’ll be as happy as Emily and Sam.” I don’t see how that’s better (or in fact “not romantic at all” with that last part). And since this was made up by a human being and not nature, I feel just fine judging it.

I don’t really have opinions on some big issues, but my big thing is on the right to make one’s own choices. On those grounds I find this imprinting business of Meyer’s rather disgusting. The wolf’s basically brainwashed into becoming obsessed with a girl and grooming her to be his wife, from infancy until adulthood. And this is portrayed as heart-warming. Yeah, it is. Or at least, as something positive. After all, that level of attention and devotion’s hard to resist. I mean, look at Sam and Emily. And Jacob and the demonspawn. Oops, spoilers. I don’t know if I find that more disgusting, or the idea that the woman’s supposed to grow up to want to breed with this fawning monomaniac. She can refuse, but “Why wouldn’t she choose him, in the end? He’ll be her perfect match. Like he was designed for her alone.” Good point, Jake. I forgot obsessive devotion’s charming in this universe. Then again, this is also a universe where not one relationship seems to be based on more than good looks and a gut feeling that this is the one.

5. They have lunch and Jacob reminisces some about the time when it was just them and no sparkly shitheads. “Another era. A happier one.” Bella, though, “couldn’t agree with him. This was my happy era now.” Oh, you mean where Edward decides who you can and can’t be friends with and gets his sister to help enforce his edicts? And what’s so great about her time with him that makes up for this kind of treatment?

In a one-off story that ends just as the two couple up, you can usually forgo asking what they do together. Twilight goes on for several gigantic books and thinks it has drama and heightening danger in each one. If the story’s going to last this long and Bella’s going to insist Edward’s the only one for her in the face of a ton of shitty treatment, I’d like to have some idea of what their relationship consists of. Watching Edward and Alice not play chess?

Bella notes it’s been a long time since it seemed like he ever had a chance, too. “Charlie used to like me,” she moans. I never did, and the only way these books would have a truly happy ending is if the Volturi really did come to town and pulled off Bella’s head and the heads of everyone lame enough to think she’s worth fighting for. And Charlie gets all the Cullens’ money as a reward for putting up with her and all her unreasonable bullshit. Can I go? Have I made my point yet?

I love how stupid these books are that they try to portray Charlie as being overly reactive. When Bella voices her worry that Jacob’s dad might report that she and Jake went for a ride on their motorcycles, Jacob assures her “He won’t. He doesn’t get worked up about things the way Charlie does.” See the above link.

6. Their conversation turns to Bella becoming a vampire and how that would invalidate their agreement with the Quileutes, and how the treaty doesn’t actually mention any limits on territory. Meaning they’d be free to pursue the Cullens all over the world to punish them for breaking the agreement. That sounds kind of like an attempt to justify the Cullens staying in Forks even with the various unfriendly/watchful parties knowing that’s where they live, but if they moved to someplace like say, Europe or Africa, am I supposed to think a couple guys from a backwoods reservation would really pursue them there? Especially with all the other vampires around who aren’t out in the open, the Quileutes don't think worthy of having peace with, and don’t have any scruples about using innocent people as feeding stock?

Besides, I think the closest thing we get to a real explanation for the Cullens not leaving is it would hurt Bella's feelings to just disappear on Charlie like that, and because she's so darn special, that's the end of the discussion.

7. The conversation turns nasty again when Bella says she plans to become a vampire anyway. Why is she telling him this even though he just said if the Cullens turned her, his pack would hunt them across the globe? Predictably Jacob starts to get mad when she mentions it’s probably just a matter of weeks.

Why is she willing to turn two groups she has friends among against each other in open warfare? “He’s seventeen, Jacob. And I get closer to nineteen every day. Besides, what’s the point in waiting? He’s all I want. What else can I do?” Oh, I see. Yeah, that sounds like the reasoning of somebody wise beyond their tender years, who’s put a lot of thought up against this. And who, sarcasm aside, has been in two whole relationships in her entire life.

“You’d be better off dead. I’d rather you were,” he says. “I recoiled like he’d slapped me.” Somebody should. Dumb bimbo.

8. Bella drives off in a huff, hoping she splatters mud on him, and ends up back at the Cullens where Alice is morosely looking over the car Edward got her, afraid he’ll take it back because Alice hasn’t been kidnapping Bella well enough. “I’ll stay if it makes things easier for you,” Bella conscientiously offers. Ah…fnck this entire series.

No, seriously, when Edward comes back “I didn’t care that I was supposed to be angry with him. I didn’t care that I was supposed to be angry with everyone.” That’s not being forgiving, that’s being a damn doormat.

Speaking of Edward coming back, Bella’s still in bed when he does and they start cuddling. They stop before they can get carried away, though, because he’d break her because he’s super-strong remember. Bella remarks the bed’s unnecessary. “If we’re not going to get carried away, what’s the point?” Yeah that sure sounds like a wise old soul and not somebody caught in the grip of hormones and the rush of their first crush, boy howdy.

“You’re not the only one who gets carried away,” he tells her. “Yes, I am,” she fires back. And, well, yeah. Kind of still waiting to see any substantial evidence at all of Edward’s lack of control when it comes to his desires. He can overreact like any boy his age, but as I once said I never believed being a vampmeyer was as hard as he says. Whereas Bella gets so carried away by her teenagerly hormones the only reason I know she’s supposed to be as mature as a 35-year-old at all is other characters say so.

9. Edward apologizes for the kidnapping thing then and promises not to do it again. He may feel sorry for it, but he still did it, and Alice still helped him. Accepted payment for it, even. Bella’s already forgiven him, of course. Because hey, Edward. He’s not mad at her for slipping through Alice’s fingers, either. He’s not even planning to take back the car. It was a gift, he claims. “His voice sounded as if I’d insulted him.” I’d be glad they’re not insisting they’re in love amidst all their bickering, but Bella really should be annoyed with him for dictating who she is and isn’t allowed to associate with, and especially for putting her under house arrest to make sure it happens that way.

About changing his mind about the kidnapping thing, “I decided that you were right. My problem before was more about my…prejudice against werewolves than anything else. I’m going to try to be more reasonable and trust your judgment. If you say it’s safe, then I’ll believe you.” It’s nice to see somebody trying to use their head for once, but we are after all talking about BELLA’s judgment. Which has yet to be shown to exist. And I know, is there no pleasing this guy, but this is another example of what would seem to be a fairly sizable problem (Edward loving Bella so much he feels justified in restricting her freedom if he thinks it's for her safety) going away with no real work or difficulty. You can’t do that. You can’t have a dramatic story when every problem ends up being a false alarm.

And he's still not overthinking problems. Please. This is just "I'm going to do whatever Bella wants because my only character trait is wanting to keep her safe and happy." 

Things don’t get any more sophisticated when she relays that mean old Jacob said he’d rather she was dead than a vampire, and that she thought Edward would be glad. “Glad over something that’s hurt you? I don’t think so, Bella.” Damn dude, have an emotion. You don’t have to like everything and everyone your girlfriend likes. This is why this relationship fails, because it’s between two mannequins who only recite prerecorded soppy lines.

10. More pointless conversation. Rosalie’s chat with Bella. “She gave you quite a lot to consider, didn’t she?” Like I noted then, it ends up mattering for naught. More time and effort well-spent, Steph.

Bella turns the conversation toward what she heard about Edward hanging around that group of all-female vampires, and even though he didn’t show preference for any of them, asks if any of them showed preference for him. She wonders who her “immortal rival I’d never realized I had” could be, but for someone to be a rival for another affections, wouldn’t the person they’re both interested in have to be interested in both of them, too? Because Edward certainly has the means to go to Alaska whenever he wants, but he doesn’t, he goes to her bedroom. Although I can believe she doesn’t notice that. Bella hasn’t got a rival, as interesting as that might have been, and once again I fail to see how this relationship is really so solid when she gets insecure despite all the evidence he’s as interested as she is.

And that’s pretty much where we go out, with Edward assuring his nervous nancy girlfriend that yes, for the 1,000,975th time, she’ll be the only one to ever have a hold on his heart. For some reason.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 7 - Unhappy Ending

1. Don’t get my hopes up.

2. As you’ll remember the last chapter ended with Rosalie coming in to have a private chat with Bella. “My stomach twisted nervously as the one Cullen who did not like me moved silently to sit down in the open space.” The only vampire in the whole bunch not to like Bella, boy she’s got it so rough. And we’re about to find out why. Fasten your seatbelts and secure your helmets.

Sayeth Rosalie, “I’m sure I’ve hurt your feelings enough in the past, and I don’t want to do that again.” Gee, despite being the only Cullen not to like Bella, Rosalie’s being awfully nice to Bella. Who of course brushes it right off because she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone.

3. Rosalie then explains how she became a vampire, and this really goes to show how messed up Meyer’s priorities as a writer are. In that this is more interesting than anything and everything centering around Bella.

Not that you can’t still tell it was written by a first-time author too sure of themselves to bother with research. See, one of the first things Rosalie says is she was around during the Great Depression, which she hardly even noticed because “my father had a stable job in a bank.” Yeah, Meyer’s saying Rosalie’s family could pretend the Great Depression wasn’t happening because their breadwinner had a job in a BANK.

Rosalie explains to Bella that it was like that time when Edward saved her from the thugs in the first book, except Rosalie didn’t have a super-powered dude on hand in case of trouble because he was stalking her anyway. Guess we’re still saying that’s a positive.

4. “Would you like to hear my story, Bella? It doesn’t have a happy ending -- but which of ours does?” Bella’s, I notice.

In regards to Rosalie’s…*snort, snicker* middle-class parents, “My beauty was like a gift to them. They saw so much more potential in it than I did.” Oh she’s so modest! That’s likable, right?? But of course she was breathtakingly beautiful too, because being born with a pretty face matters so much in this stupid world I’m so glad I don’t have to live in. Sorry, Bella never really seems to learn that has nothing to do with what the Cullens are like on the inside. As usual, until somebody spells it out for her Bella has no ideas at all for how someone as beautiful as Rosalie could be jealous of someone as plain as her.

“I was silly and shallow, but I was content.” Boy, good thing for Roz she lucked into this family. “As I said, shallow. Young and very shallow.” Doesn’t that mean she’s still shallow? One of the things about becoming a vampire in the Meyerverse is you’re stuck exactly the way you were when you became a vampire. Forever. Although I’m not sure Meyer thought through what that would mean in regards to issues like falling in love and learning new things.

5. Anyway Roz’s parents were hoping to marry her off to somebody influential, but she tells Bella about how her best friend married a blue collar stiff (at 17), and Roz wanted more than anything to have a perfect little baby like her friend.

As for the family Roz’s family was hoping to impress, “In Rochester, there was one royal family -- the Kings, ironically enough.” More like insipid writingly-enough. A royal family, the Kings. That sounds like something you’d read in a 60’s Batman comic. She did end up marrying the oldest son, Royce. In fact, “We were engaged before I’d known him for two months.” That’s probably meant to be Roz looking back on a huge mistake, that of marrying someone because he seemed like Prince Charming on a white charger carrying her away to a life of eternal opulence and not because she really loved him, but yeah, I’m going to bring up Bella and Edward’s artificial love. Where they were obsessed with each other before they had any good reason to be. And the books treating that like a good thing.

Bella “wondered if this was why she had so much more bitterness in her than the rest of them -- because she’d been within reach of everything she’d wanted when her human life was cut short.” How does that explain her jealousy of Bella, though? The list of things Roz wanted out of life wasn’t much longer than Bella’s, but Bella’s only has one thing on it, and it was pretty much hers to take at her whim as soon as she had any interest in it at all. Anything else is ancillary to “Edward”. At least Roz wanted “nice house and happy children” too. If Bella thinks Roz is jealous of her for wanting even less out of life…well, that’s pretty pathetic. Nothing new for Bella, though.

You know, if vampires are frozen in time from the moment they get all sparkly, how do they even get over things bothering them? Lot of little things to ask about that state of affairs that the author apparently didn’t (or didn’t want to) think about.

6. Then Roz talks about how Royce (Royce and Rosalie. Sheesh, she’s probably glad now that didn’t happen) and some of his drunk friends raped her. After she gets to the part where she was attacked, she goes “I won’t make you listen to the rest. They left me in the street, still laughing as they stumbled away.” This is sort of like how Meyer thinks teenagers shouldn’t be reading about sex and she was keeping her books clean by not actually writing in the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn. Just because she didn’t write that scene in doesn’t mean Bella and Edward didn’t do the nasty (especially not when the “threat” of the book is various people wanting their child dead), any less than Rosalie sparing us the details doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped. These books are in no way “clean”.

7. That’s when the Cullens found her and brought her over. Because Carlisle’s such a great guy it apparently never occurs to him that maybe just letting someone die and letting their suffering end might be the merciful thing to do sometimes. I know he's a doctor, but which is crueler? Rosalie’s family hearing that their beautiful daughter died a horribly untimely death, or them thinking that and her being unable to tell them she didn’t? Maybe I’d feel better about Carlisle’s decisions to surround himself with other vampires if it seemed like anybody but him was actually taking advantage of their immortality to do something besides eat mountain lions and drive conspicuous cars.

I really start to question Carlisle’s procedures when Roz goes on to say how she killed Royce and his friends and their bodyguards (in a wedding dress [a stolen one, at that], because being undead makes you melodramatic). He saved her, because it would’ve been such a waste to let her die, and the first thing she does is goes out and kill a bunch of other people. Yeah, they were rapists, but as I keep saying no matter how much the book tries to insist otherwise the Cullens are hardly lily-white themselves. Especially when the stuff they do is for the sake of Bella.

“I’m surprised Edward didn’t tell you more about it,” Roz finishes up. “He doesn’t like to tell other people’s stories -- he feels like he’s betraying confidences, because he hears so much more than just the parts they mean for him to hear,” Bella explains. Let’s ignore the mind-reading because it sounds like he can’t turn that off, but Edward’s okay with casually invading other people’s privacy, like sneaking into someone’s bedroom without their knowledge, but sharing whatever he might learn, that’s what gives him pangs of conscience.

“He’s really quite decent, isn’t he?” indeed.

8. Initially, the reason Roz disliked Bella was jealousy of Edward being interested in Bella but not Roz. Even though that was way after she’d found happiness with Emmett. Wait, what?

Even when Edward was hanging out with the all-female coven in Alaska, he never expressed any interest. Seriously, “Tanya’s clan in Denali -- and all those females!” And none got a rise out of him at all. Ah yes, the legendary Tanya. I’d say it’d help the contrast if we actually got to see her and some of her buddies and see what’s so awesome about them before this, but we are after all talking about Bella Swan. Any woman is automatically more impressive than her.

But again, I have to ask what it is about Bella that makes her worth all the shit they go through to keep her safe. Most people would find all the whining and self-deprecating to be a turnoff after a while. And it’s hard to see her as brave when you consider either the reasons for her taking a risk (it makes her see Edward and lets her remain codependent even when he’s gone from her life), or the fact that when she does try to help it usually just makes things worse, like a certain instance later in this book or when she tried to spare the others facing James. Not only was she dumb to fall for his trick, she should’ve known better than to think he’d do what he said after he had what he wanted. I’ve talked about how it kind of seems like she’s twisting the story to badmouth the people she doesn’t like, I almost wonder if she’s making herself sound bad to make the Cullens sound better, but in the process making them sound like idiots for bending over backwards for her sake.

Kind of puts it in perspective when Bella notes, “But you still don’t like me.”

9. The punch line to Rosalie’s whole story, of course, is that if Bella becomes a vampire her uterus will stop working and she’ll never be able to have those beautiful babies Roz dreamed of. “You have the choice that I didn’t have, and you’re choosing wrong!” While I do think Bella wants to become a vampire for a stupid reason she hasn’t thought through, not everybody wants the same things out of life. And frankly, Roz doesn’t strike me as somebody who would’ve made a suitable mother even if she’d gotten the chance. In fact she’s starting to seem as demented as Bella, because the reason she fell for Emmett is he looked just like her friend’s baby. I mean holy shit, how far can you take one bit?

“In some ways, you are much more mature than I was at eighteen,” Roz goes on. Oh yeah? Care to name a few? I’d probably just laugh at them, but at least I’d have some idea of what I’m supposed to think. The sad thing is that even though Roz tries to get Bella to think about what exactly she’s sacrificing to get to keep her youthful looks, nothing ever comes of it. Right when Bella’s starting to think there really are some things she might want to experience as a human, she gets pregnant with a demon and ends up needing to be converted to stay alive. It presents the carrot and then snatches it away, right when it seems like she might actually grow a little.

10. After Roz assures Bella that Edward loves her more than she (presumably Bella) can possibly imagine, Bella gets to sleep. “When I did sleep, I had a nightmare.” Shocker! It’s not even worth saying what it was about, suffice it to say Meyer’s not as artsy as I think she was trying for.

Later Alice tells her they’ll go out somewhere, “That would be fun, right?” But Bella asks why they don’t just lock her in the basement. Alice starts to angst, “He’s going to take the Porsche back. I’m not doing a very good job. You’re supposed to be having fun.” Because Barbie dolls have fun when you bend them to your whim, right? That’s all either she or Edward seems to think Bella is. All the same, “Without Edward, the day was guaranteed to be unbearable.” That’s a good little victim.

11. But wouldn’t you know it, Jacob roars up, totally unforeseen by Alice’s precognition, and whisks an exuberant Bella away to do something non-victimy.

You know, I just realized that Bella cost the Cullens possibly their biggest advantage over the Quileutes by telling them the early warning system the Cullens put the most faith in doesn’t work on them. Look, I know she wants them to be friends and everything, but the peace between the groups isn’t an easy one. If they wanted to the Quileutes could launch a sneak attack and the Cullens would never see it coming. All thanks to Bella. And despite all that "Switzerland" crap, as I said she clearly does favor one side. The one she's left vulnerable.

It sure is a good thing there’s something I can’t see about Bella that makes the Cullens forgive her every stupid call. It sure is a good thing the author didn’t think of that, too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Loonatics Unleashed - Weathering Heights

Here I am again, venturing once more into the most laughably controversial review series I’ve ever done. And no, you’re not going crazy, I didn’t put mistakenly “Loonatics Unleashed” instead of “Eclipse.” Although with the way Stephenie Meyer loves to misappropriate other literature you could well be forgiven for thinking so.

Just for the record, yes I’m skipping the third episode, “The Cloak of Black Velvet.” It’s for the same reason you haven’t been seeing more Generation Z reviews. The futuristic rendering of Zorro was pretty bad, no doubt about it, but honestly the worst thing you can say about most of the episodes is they’re just plain boring (one could argue leaving no impression at all is even worse than being able to pick it to pieces, but that’s a whole other thing). Same thing with the third episode of this cartoon. It was dull, but after watching it three times I couldn’t find anything else to focus on. And even though Loonatics Unleashed does have something of an ongoing story, that particular episode was pretty much disposable.

So. Here we are again at a premise I’m still amazed was ever approved. Open on weather reporting celebrity Misty Breeze. It’s kind of cute the way this cartoon’s trying to act as if that job wasn’t only pretty much outmoded when this episode was made, but that it’ll still be going strong nearly eight centuries later. And when I said “celebrity,” I meant it. Misty actually has her own merchandise. A weather lady with merchandise. Somehow I can buy the talking cartoon animals but I get stuck on that.

Misty’s gofer suggests doing a piece on barometric pressure, which sounds painfully like something a writer with no knowledge of what meteorology involves ripped from the dictionary to make the character sound down with it. Never mind how you’d do a “piece” when you work on the weather report. They kind of only have one segment. Misty turns her down anyway, because she’s a pompous bitch who dumps coffee over the gofer when it turns out to be cold.

Oh, and Misty’s voiced by Candi Milo, who also voices the team’s dickish mentor. It’s almost like she was being punished for working on this show by being given characters who were bigger assholes than the villains. At least here she’s kind of justified, since the gofer’s not too good at her job if she’s not back with the coffee before it gets cold.

This indignity makes gofer so mad a tiny rain cloud appears over Misty that makes her, well, storm off in a huff (and which nobody reacts to as if it's at all unusual). The camera crew decides to let gofer host the weather shoot, because apparently this job is so not-outmoded in the future they actually go out and shoot it in the field. During the shoot a storm picks up as she talks about it, and a lightning bolt strikes her. She then starts talking like a villain and whips up a tornado that blows Misty away. I’m not sure what the lightning really did, because she was already altering the weather by talking about it and making it rain on people she didn’t like. With a boss she hated and an interest in meteorology already, I don’t see how this could only be coming up now.

And think about what it says about this show that someone becomes a supervillain over their intense desire to host the weather forecast.

After the theme song we return to the Loonatics not saving people from the chaos created by the storm, but by fixing their satellite dish which was apparently knocked over by the high winds. I don’t know, the broadcasting equipment on a superhero base seems like something it would take more than a heavy wind to knock over, so you’d think there are people they could be helping.

They’re fixing the dish so Daffy can watch Misty deliver the weather (News flash! It’s stormy!). I’m sorry, weather forecasters with fans. Yeesh. And Daffy flips Taz off the roof when he comes up to check on their progress, but is that his fault or the guy who stood on the hatch’s fault? Because when the others catch Taz and bring him back up, Taz is all mad like it was the guy who opened the hatch somebody was standing on’s fault.

Look, I know how being a superhero is about doing things regardless of the danger, but superheroes who don’t bother to be smart about it tend to stop being superheroes rather quickly because they’ve been turned into a smoking blemish on the floor. And before you say Taz isn’t that smart, Wile E., the team’s resident genius is up there with him. Then again, he’s the same resident genius who was working on a laser cannon in the same room another character was having mock combat with flying saucers

In fact, now that I think about it are we sure it's still 2772? That's what the DVD case says, and there's this counter that rises up during the opening sequence implying that's the year, but according to the opening narration that's when the asteroid hit. When they show the planet from space, there's this big chunk missing from it, presumably from the asteroid. It's a cool touch, sure, but the thing is it's obviously been built over. Building takes a while.

Anyway, right then Misty lands on their satellite dish, and after a cutaway the Loonatics are jetting out to look into her claims of an angry intern blowing her away. Daffy wonders aloud who could ever want to hurt Misty Breeze, to which Lexi replies “Anyone who’s ever met her?” Hey, maybe she’s a bitch, but that puts her three steps beyond any other character we’ve seen (or haven’t) up to this point in terms of development. I think Lexi herself might get two lines in the entire series that reveal even the tiniest details about her as a character. The ones in the ice age episode about winter coats making her look fat, and finding out she was trying out to be a cheerleader before she got her powers.

Their mentor, the mysterious Zadavia appears to them in giant TV screens they happen to be flying past, and helpfully informs them that strange weather’s appearing “all over the planet.” Because a woman flying through the air and coming to rest on their roof didn’t indicate that, I guess. That’s pretty much all she says before signing off. Wow, good thing she’s around.

The Loonatics arrive at the scene of the weather forecast and are confronted by the angered gofer, now going by Weather Vane. That’s really the name you’re going with? I'm even more disappointed in gofer because as someone who knows more about the weather than her stuck-up boss, you'd think she'd know weather vanes have nothing to do with weather. It sounds plenty stupid anyway. It’s not even Weather Vain, which would make some sense with her flipping out over wanting the spotlight.

She whips up some cloud monsters to attack the Loonatics (just so you know, “kick their butts” isn’t a strategy), which fails because it turns out getting the monsters wet disperses them. Wow that’s a lame weakness. The show isn’t helped when Daffy, in the clutches of one of the creatures, pleads for a “water egg” when he whips up one of his power balls and jams it into the monster’s mouth. Are the effects of his only offensive power random? That’s a crappy deal. Oh, and he doesn’t get a water egg, he gets an orange juice egg. How exactly did he get picked for this team with a power like that? The show never explains that, even in the episode where flashbacks show what everybody was doing before getting their powers.

Oh, and writers? When you have a character who can shoot lightning bolts, please don’t ever have them make “shocking” puns ever again, okay? It sure isn’t doing an already limp show like this any favors.

WV whips up a tornado then, and Taz attacks it as a tornado and destroys it. Which kind of makes you wonder why he doesn’t destroy the entire nearby landscape by using that power if he’s stronger than a full-fledged tornado. Yeah he’s a superhero now, but he still shows practically zip in terms of restraint. Hell, Coyote had to invent capture devices to keep him from eating all their food.

With the Loonatics having withstood all of her powers, WV decides to use all of them at once, demanding that Misty Breeze be brought to her or she’ll destroy the entire city. Maybe she shouldn’t have blown Misty away in the first place if that’s what she wants. And pardon me for bringing up a stupid point, but Acmetropolis is a "city planet." Is she powerful enough to destroy the whole planet?

God, this show’s stupid.

The Loonatics save a train whose tracks were destroyed by a lightning strike, and after doing so Bugs pops the doors open and asks “Who ordered the Acme heroes,” prompting a round of cheering from the people they just saved. Wow, modest. Especially since the Loonatics don’t even do anything to evacuate the people they just saved. Having said that they fly away on their jetpacks. An old lady claims to have known his great-great-great-grandfather, but unless they’re saying people live 200 years in this universe, I think somebody’s math is off because there’s no way she could be talking about Bugs. Is she supposed to be Granny or somebody? Because, well…there's another Granny analogue in the second season.

Once again, voiced by Candi Milo.

With the train safe the Loonatics return their attention to Weather Vane. Bugs orders them to box her in, “one of us from each side.” Instead it looks like everybody approaches from the same side.

Bugs tries to deliver a withering bon mot, but it ends with an extremely artificial silence that hangs in the air for a second before the cameraman’s line is heard and interrupts him. Weather Vane split already. Zadavia appears then and tells them that she’s detected weird energy 35 miles off the coast and “all efforts to contain Weather Vane have failed.” What efforts? Their efforts? Because they stopped trying to contain her to save the train, and probably could’ve taken her if given a chance to do so based on what we saw. Are other people trying to contain her? Who are they?

That whole “nobody’s been able to contain Weather Vane” stuff doesn’t get any easier to swallow when Daffy personally chases her down over the ocean to defend Misty’s honor. He sends her spinning out of control with a kick. Gee, getting close enough to hit her seems pretty easy and looks like it works pretty well.

WV responds to this by whipping up a cloud-dragon. Um, don’t her cloud monsters explode when they get wet? I notice the animators aren’t showing it’s raining anymore after coming back from the commercials. Besides, it’s flying in from the ocean, where there’s tons of water they could use to attack it. Hell, by now the city streets are flooded so there’s water they could use against it pretty much everywhere it could possibly go.

Before commercial...

...after commercial.

The Loonatics even mention “a busted fire hydrant isn’t going to take that thing out.” No, but what about the standing water everywhere you look? I find it pretty hard to believe Taz couldn’t whip up a waterspout to take that thing out. But no, for some reason they think it makes sense to instead go the exact opposite route and instead dry the dragon out. So they lure it to a volcanic island, with Daffy being towed behind the Roadrunner as bait.

Anyway, while they’re distracting the dragon, the others set up machines to make the volcano erupt. This destroys the dragon, and makes everything all better because when the Loonatics get back their view screen lady tells them all traces of weird weather are gone. Even the flooded streets have been cleared. She's not sure what happened to WV (“We can only assume she escaped”), and neither am I. Was she supposed to be inside the dragon or something? Kind of hard to imagine her surviving a volcano going off in her face If she wasn’t, well, why exactly didn’t she just whip up another dragon, considering the trouble they had to go through to get rid of that one? And why would she just leave? Oh, because they’ve run out of runtime. As a matter of fact Weather Vane does show up again later. When she does it's because another villain's breaking her out of jail. Yet here they're saying they don't know what happened to her.

Daffy finally gets his chance to hang with Misty (who turns off the monitor Zadavia’s on, claiming “I’m the only pretty face on this channel!”) and get the short-tempered weather starlet to autograph some of that merchandise of hers I mentioned. He even rented a dump truck to bring it all over. Kind of trite, but when everyone else on the team is so much more boring than this guy, well he tends to kind of become your favorite by default.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eclipse Chapter 6 - Switzerland

1. Oh man, she actually named the chapter after that part.

2. “As I drove home, I wasn’t paying much attention to the road that shimmered wetly in the sun.” Oh, please tell us what Bella was thinking! I’ll just die if I don’t know!

Oh, thank you Steph! Despite all the arguing, Bella’s feeling lighter because of her chat with Jacob. Because of the way the universe bends over backwards to cater to her whim. Yes, a lot of favorite characters in fiction change the world. That’s because they actually work hard to do so, not because everything goes their way because a bad author says so. With the way Bella obsesses over the guys in her life, and the level of attention most characters who aren’t potential boyfriends get, it seems like Bella wants the Cullens and Quileutes to stop fighting not because she’s worried about the numerous deaths that would result if things got ugly, but because she doesn’t want to have to give up either Jacob or Edward. That’s a laudable motivation to seek an end to conflict, isn’t it?

3. As she’s thinking that a familiar silver Volvo drives up behind her. Again, Edward’s stalking Bella to make sure she doesn’t do anything that he, a guy who hasn’t matured a bit in nearly a century, doesn’t think is in her best interests.

With all the trouble Bella creates, I have to ask something I’ve asked before: why are the Cullens so attached to this particular piece of ground? They own a private tropical island, fer chrissakes. They give each other cars as presents. I understand a place like Forks helps them hide their sparkles, but things have gotten even more uncomfortable than ever with the other supernatural creatures in the area.

The Cullens don’t have to work, they don’t socialize outside the family, and when they do try to blend in they do a pretty piss-poor job of it. It’s only through the author’s will that anybody in the story buys it. What keeps them in Forks? I know, Bella, but would she really elect to stay, to spare Charlie the separation anxiety, if Edward told her things were getting too dangerous for them and the family had to move? Since he’s the entire reason for her existence, I’m leaning toward no.

Let me give you budding authors out there a tip that I shouldn’t have to give: really think about your characters’ problems, and think about their options for dealing with them. If the most sensible option is the one that would result in an abrupt and lame ending, like the Cullens and Bella moving away from Forks so the werewolves will stop being bothered by their antics, then you might want to address it.

4. Edward actually doesn’t try to stop her, probably saving it for when he can do it without anyone around to hear what he thinks a healthy relationship is, and Bella stops at the house of one her “friends.” A girl named Angela whose only distinguishing trait is not treating our heroine as if she’s a total psycho.

Angela thanks Bella for saving her from watching “two long hours of a plot-less, badly dubbed martial arts film.” Glass houses, Steph.

Bella and Angela do senior prom stuff as they…*sigh* sit around and talk. How about some lines of particular note? “Angela’s easy human dramas were oddly reassuring.” Don’t try to make Bella’s problems seem bigger by comparing them to a normal person’s, make them seem bigger by making them bigger.

“But, like Charlie, she was also too observant sometimes.” Steph, you’re not making your characters look more observant, you’re making your universe look stupider if the kinds of things that are considered big revelations in there are really supposed to be things most people wouldn’t think of or notice.

“I wanted to moan a little bit, like any other teenage girl. I wanted my problems to be that simple.” If you want Bella’s problems to look big, how about you not only actually make them big, you make her save her angsting and whining for the things that merit it. After a while they all start sounding the same, and that while was a long, long, long time ago.

“ ‘What’s wrong?’ It was so easy to talk to Angela. When she had a question like that, I could tell that she wasn’t just morbidly curious or looking for gossip, like Jessica would have been. She cared that I was upset.” Stop telling us what to think. These books aren’t so tightly-plotted there’s nothing that couldn’t have gone to make room for us to actually see this stuff she’s talking about. Plus, this has me thinking of the contrast of the “Bella and Jessica going to the movies” scenes in the book and movie versions of New Moon again. Which is to say I got the feeling she was twisting the story to make people she didn’t like for whatever reason sound bad.

“I hadn’t realized I was so starved for human conversation.” That’s the thing, isn’t it? These books were written for human readers. Who are going to want characters they can relate to. If you’re going to have lots of characters who AREN’T human, and don’t think or act like them, then maybe you ought to show us what it is about those characters that makes it so we should like them. And yes, that goes for our heroine too.

There, I just summed up what’s wrong with this whole series. Goodnight.

5. …fine. Damn it. Bella thinks about the vampire menace going on in Seattle, because Angela’s attending college there I guess. “Would it be safe then? Would the wild young vampire menace have moved elsewhere?” Would those (not) terrifying vampires who all the others vampires fear, the ones who don’t tolerate any threat to the secrecy of their existence, have not done anything about it by then? Or, more to the point, with Bella thinking of herself as the source of all the problems in the universe, why does she not think that’s got anything to do with her? Because you know what, if you don’t think it does, congratulations, you’ve never experienced fiction before.

6. “A swell of quiet sadness crashed over me; maybe it was a mistake to get closer to Angela now.” It’s certainly too late to try to get us to care. Bella starts thinking about maybe she really is missing out on “human experiences” by having Edward vamp her as soon as possible, which is actually a step toward that “character growth” thing. Too bad it’s totally snatched away right when she starts thinking seriously about it next book by her vampire pregnancy.

7. Bella goes home and guess who’s waiting in her bedroom for her. Edward talks about how close he almost came to violating the treaty and going into Quileute territory after her. Pardon my poor memory, but wasn’t this exact guy thanking Jacob at the end of New Moon for keeping an eye on Bella while he was gone? Does that enter his thought process at all? Or is it yet another thing changed to suit the current situation?

Edward also tells Bella he was having Alice watch for her, and she retorts that she trusts Jacob and next time Edward’s not going to overreact because of how trustworthy Jacob is. And because, despite the sexuality on display in the last bit of the book, this was written with the moral complexity of something for 8-year-olds.

Edward at least has no delusions about the mind of the author. “This is only about you. All I care is that you’re safe.”

Oh, boy. “Jacob is family. You are…well, not exactly the love of my life, because I expect to love you for much longer than that. The love of my existence. I don’t care who’s a werewolf and who’s a vampire. If Angela turns out to be a witch, she can join the party, too.” This party already has a witch. But really, show us why these two are the greatest match ever. I’m sure it’s perfectly clear why in Stephenie Meyer’s head, but, thank God, I’M NOT STEPHENIE MEYER! You cannot assume we see what you see, that we instinctively know what you know. You have to make it clear to someone who’s never heard of your stuff before. SDT!

That resolves that (“For now”), but Bella intends to continue seeing Jacob. After all. “Forks was neutral, just like Switzerland -- just like me.” What makes me really sad is that the way that thought was worked into the movie was even more idiotic than it is in the book.

And how in the flying fnork is she neutral, anyway? She wants both groups of supernatural shitheads to get along, yes, but there's still a bias that couldn't be more obvious if it was sticking a fork in your eye. She's going out with the vampire, not the werewolf. And she's planning to become a vampire so she can be with the vampire forever.  Meyer tries to pretend Bella's in love with Jacob too later on in this very book, but that would only work if she were willing to admit her obsession with Edward's looks and the power being like him would give her were parts of a shallow phase she was going through. And Bella was never a child. Her mommy says so.

Even when Bella was spending all that time with Jacob, she was just bending him around her finger to help hang onto Edward's memory. She forgave Edward for trying to forbid her to see her friend after some perfunctory rebellion. Don't try to fool us, Meyer.

8. Edward hasn’t given up, though. In fact, he’s upped the ante. Since Bella’s visit to La Push interrupted his hunting trip, he’s going again. But he’s sent Alice to not just use the precognition, he’s having her full-on kidnap Bella under the guise of a slumber party so there’s no way she can do anything Edward wouldn’t allow. He’s even bribed Alice with a car “exactly like the one I stole in Italy.” Wow that’s amazingly endearing. Not just the having his girlfriend kidnapped thing, but with their casual crimes. Not clearly legal or illegal, huh?

9. Bella: “Alice, don’t you think this is just a little bit controlling? Just a tiny bit psychotic, maybe?”
Alice: “Not really. You don’t seem to grasp how dangerous a young werewolf can be.”
Starofjustice: “Wouldn’t be the first thing she’s failed to grasp…”
Alice: “Especially when I can’t see them. Edward has no way to know if you’re safe. You shouldn’t be so reckless.”
Starofjustice: “Could the author please actually show them to be a fncking danger to our heroine at some point? Maybe? To maybe justify some of this tension? She spent a big part of the last book around these guys, NEVER ONCE did I feel like she might end up like Emily. I know we’ve got a living example of this ‘werewolves are unstable’ thing, but Meyer hasn’t made good on one single chance to show how Bella’s threatened by any threat in these books. Tension? What’s that??”
Bella: “Yes, because a vampire slumber party is the pinnacle of safety conscious behavior.”
Starofjustice: “And if I can have my cake and eat it too, since when has their desire to eat her gone away? These books don’t work no matter which way you think about ‘em!”

10. Bella does go along with it, of course, because for a heroine capable of bringing about such sweeping change to the entire supernatural world, she doesn’t need to be able to do anything stupid like stand up for herself.

“Alice did insist on the pedicure, and I wondered if she was working from a list -- maybe something she’d compiled from watching bad sitcoms.” So how exactly vampires fill eternity if they’re awake 24/7? I mean, hunting for wild animals seems to take awhile, but they also only seem to have to do that once every couple weeks. What do the Cullens do with all their time? What does Bella plan to do with hers?

11. Bella calls Jacob once she gets to the Cullens’, and he spouts off “Can’t you have a life when he’s gone?” That sort of implies she has one while he’s around.

In spite of this, she tells him to relax because “their hearts are in the right place.” Would I seem petty if I said these books would be fifty pages long if somebody’s BRAIN was ever in the right place?

To further smash any hope I might have of ever liking Alice, “ She grinned. ‘This hostage stuff is fun.’ ”

12. Bella finds out Edward got her a bed for while she’s under house arrest in another family’s house, and about a third of a page goes into describing it. Because you know, the Cullens are rich and their stuff is really elaborate.

Alice asks, “You didn’t really think he would make you sleep on the couch, did you?” I really couldn’t be sure with all the other things he’s done to her. And if they’re just plonking down bucks for all these beds and cars on spur of the moment, I have to ask again why the Cullens insist on digging in their feet and staying where there’s another supernatural clique that’s starting to eye them inhospitably. Hell, from the legend we hear about how the Quileute werewolves came to be in a couple chapters, it sounds like there probably aren’t any other werewolves anywhere.

“I’ll give you some privacy,” Alice says as she leaves to let Bella get changed into her pj’s. They have to consciously do that, don’t you want in on this family?

The chapter ends as Rosalie comes in and asks to talk with Bella. Oh, boy…

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zork 3 - The Cavern of Doom

Despite their promise not to stay away quite so long at the end of their last quest to save Zork, it’s been two months since Bill and June smashed the wicked ambitions of Malifestro. They end up in Zork again by accident when trying to save their magic ring from rolling off a cliff, where they learn from their “uncle” that numerous brave adventurers have gone missing in a recently discovered network of caverns.

And no, the first decision of the book isn’t whether to accept the quest or not. That’s the first decision that has any bearing on the plot. The first decision is what the kids want to do on their first day back in Zork, but they end up listening to Syovar’s stories no matter what you pick. Because they feel bad for not doing what poor old uncle Syovar wanted to do. I’m sorry, I just don’t get how Bill and June become people with lives and relatives in Zork whenever they put on the ring, and why I should act as if Syovar’s related to my avatar(s). Even the book describes him as “uncle” in quotations when mentioning him before they travel to Zork.

Oh yeah, the plot. After not deciding to put the book away before the adventure even starts, Bivotar and Juranda are allowed to enter the caverns to go looking for all the missing explorers. And Max and Fred from the last book, because they were such funny and endearing companions, right? (No, they weren’t)

What this means is even more than in the first book, the adventure is devoted to the kids bumping around in caves, interacting with random things they come across and occasionally finding something that will help them on their quest. Not to mention often meeting one of numerous grisly deaths.

Slide 1 of 67

I know this is based on an ancient computer game, but I really must protest that I don’t enjoy games where I’m just wandering around in a nondescript cave where things happen with no rhyme or reason. That The Cavern of Doom puts even more emphasis on this than The Forces of Krill is the book’s first major problem.

For all the book's faults, this is a pretty darn impressive picture.

Then there’s the grisly deaths. Looking back, I have no idea how I didn’t have nightmares reading this book as a kid. Besides the various endings where the kids are eaten alive by Grues for wandering around menacing caves without light, there’s the one where they accidentally enter a crematorium and are burned alive by insane robots. Let’s have an ending where a pair of adolescents are jammed in an incinerator. That’s okay for young readers, right?

Instead of being required to find just one item like other books in the series, getting through The Cavern of Doom requires several. I personally liked this, as I thought it helped this feel more like an actual quest game, and made the puzzles feel less like a constant stream of “which tunnel’s less likely to have something that’ll kill me?” This doesn’t change the fact that most of the stuff down there doesn’t make much sense (if the dragon’s been guarding that tunnel for hundreds of years, how did all the explorers get past him?). Also the puzzles feel inconsistent at times. One requires finding several gems to bribe someone, and so an ending where you’re killed for trying to claim a treasure chest feels like a cop-out. Oh, you wanted me to do that before but not now, huh? Okay.

I will say this about the book, unlike the two preceding it the kids don’t go through hell and back just to have Syovar fight the main bad guy for them. Still, it’s too little, too late.