Brotherhood of the World

Another award/challenge from Moya, in the same breath as the last one. Thank you, I am happy you thought of me. 🙂

So, for the Brotherhood Award:

Rules:

  • Thank the Person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the questions sent to you.
  • Nominate around 10 bloggers.
  • Create your own set of questions for your nominees and display the rules.

First, the questions:

1. Briefly describe your blogging style (Where is your favorite blogging spot/what is your favorite blogging tool).

My style? My style is pretty much whatever takes me at the moment of writing. I learned long ago that I could never write those dry, dusty, emotionless academic papers. My personality is all over what I write. Sometimes I’m a bit long-winded, sometimes I am brutally blunt, and I like to think that I usually manage a balance between the two.

I don’t really have a favorite spot. I just sit where I can be most comfortable and go from there. As I’ve lacked a desk, I’ve been blogging from the floor of my room. Yes, I am a very sad and pitiable creature. 😦

2. How do you manage your blogging and blog reading time?

Honestly, at this point, with all the recent changes in my life, I barely manage my blogging, let alone my blog-reading. Every “like” from my fellow bloggers is like a tiny dagger in my gut with an inscription that reads, “I still read yours, why aren’t you reading mine anymore?”

However, I am getting better, and I hope to return some of that attention which you, my fellow bloggers, have been sharing with me. Very soon.

3. Who is your most read author?

I am going to say… Brandon Sanderson. I’ve read and reread a number of his books, I read pretty much everything he publishes now, and I love every minute of it. 🙂

4. How did you come up with your blogging name?

I got used to the online handle of Merlin. It goes back to picking out my first email account in middle school. I was into King Arthur at the time, and I was fascinated by Merlin especially. Other people could be kings, queens, and knights, I wanted to be the creative wizard. He did not rule, but there is no King Arthur and Camelot and Round Table without Merlin, especially considering how quickly things went to crap after he left. He was the king’s strong support, dangerous and powerful, but shying away from the glory. There was something about all that which just appealed to me. I wanted to be Merlin, not Arthur.

As for “Musings,” that, I must admit, I cannot take credit for. I was tossing around ideas like “Merlin’s Tower” and “Merlin’s Vault,” but those just felt a bit too foreboding for me, ya know? So I asked my friends for suggestions, and one tossed out “musings.” And the rest is history! 🙂

5. What keeps you blogging?

Preserving my sanity. 😉

Really, I was already sharing my thoughts and opinions in every email I sent to my friends and family, and in every conversation. Blogging is how I do that now, and if I didn’t… I would go nuts. 😉

Now, for my nominees:

Raistlin
Lethargic Ramblings
Irina
Krystallina
Scott
Karandi
V Donovan
Shaddowcat
SpookyRedhead
Kimchi
TPAB

And my questions for you are:

1) How did you come up with your blogging name? (yes, I’m stealing that one, mwahah)

2) What do you love most about blogging?

3) What do you hate most about blogging?

4) Do you have some favorite blogs to recommend?

5) Do you have one or three personal favorite posts you’ve written?

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Posted in Challenge Accepted | 15 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #186: Proverbs of Ice and Fire

I have finally done it. I have read the entire series, to date, of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I officially join the throng which waits in demanding anticipation for the next novel in the series, as well as the one after that, the conclusion. If Martin dies before he finishes it, he will leave many unhappy fans in his wake. I include myself in that now.

In honor of this, I have decided to depart a little from my usual formula this week. Instead of a single quote and my thoughts on it, I present a collection of quotes, much like proverbs, drawn from all sorts of characters from all across the books (not the Game of Thrones show). There are many more to be found, of course. These are just a small sampling, the ones which most stood out to me as I was reading. I may draw on some of these for later use, but, for now, here they all are together for your enjoyment.

Mr. Martin, you have given us many quotes, and I salute you!

Oh, just in case someone out there has a photographic memory or word searching software, I readily admit, I have altered a handful of these, slightly, to apply more generally than they do in the specific situation in which they are mentioned. Like when the speaker mentions the name of whoever they’re talking to, I edited the names out, that sort of thing. 😉

And now, without further ado, and in no particular order, I present the Proverbs of Ice and Fire!

“History is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again.”

“The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.”

“The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them.”

“Killing should never be easy.”

“When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king at all.”

“What is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom? Everything.”

“Only a starving man begs bread from a beggar.”

“Always keep your foes confused.”

“A harp can be as dangerous as a sword, in the right hands.”

“We are born to suffer, that our sufferings might make us strong.”

“Words are like arrows. Once loosed, you cannot call them back.”

“The more you give a king, the more he wants.”

“Knowledge is a weapon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.”

“When the cold winds blow the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”

“It was you who taught me that tears were a mark of weakness in a man, so you cannot expect that I should cry for you.”

“How much can a crown be worth, when a crow can dine upon a king?”

“Men of honor will do things for their children that they would never consider doing for themselves.”

“When a dog goes bad, the fault lies with his master.”

“Sometimes there is no happy choice, only one less grievous than the others.”

“Every man should lose a battle in his youth, so he does not lose a war when he is old.”

“You’ll find truth in your looking glass, not on the tongues of men.”

“A maid has to be mistrustful in this world, or she will not be a maid for long.”

“In the game of thrones, even the humblest of pieces can have wills of their own.”

“Keep friends at your back and foes where you can see them.”

“We all deceive ourselves, when we want to believe.”

“False light can only lead us deeper into darkness.”

“Dying is not dead.”

“Only a fool makes threats he’s not prepared to carry out.”

“Valor is a poor substitute for numbers.”

“War makes monsters of us all.”

“It does not matter how a man begins, but only how he ends.”

“The world is one great web, and a man dare not touch a single strand lest all the others tremble.”

“Good men and bad, heroes and villains, men of honor, liars, cravens, brutes… we have plenty, as do you.”

“Trust no one. And keep your dragon close.”

“When treating with liars, even an honest man must lie.”

“Would that lambs had teeth. That would make the wolves more cautious, no doubt.”

“It was never wise for a ruler to eschew the trappings of power, for power itself flows in no small measure from such trappings.”

“Power tastes best when sweetened by courtesy.”

“I do not require men to kneel, but they do need to obey.”

“So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last.”

“If every woman had a direwolf, men would be much sweeter.”

“I would choose freedom over comfort every time.”

“The most insidious thing about bondage was how easy it was to grow accustomed to it.”

“Men’s lives have meaning, not their deaths.”

“There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.”

“You kill men for the wrongs they have done, not the wrongs that they may do someday.”

“Not all men are meant to dance with dragons.”

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

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Jessica Jones, Season 2: AKA, My Complaints

Outside some fair (I think) criticisms, I really liked the first season of Jessica Jones. I can’t really say the same for the second.

As the latest of Netflix’s Defender-themed additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking up Jessica’s story after both the first season and the events of Defenders, season two could have gone in any number of directions. The trailers were scarce on plot points, but promised something exciting, and I was especially looking forward to it with hope to see Jessica pick herself up and get to work. That would be my first disappointment: she doesn’t.

Jessica is a strong, clever, capable woman, with more good in her than she knows, but while she’s able to keep functioning after being knocked down, she seems almost incapable of truly recovering. A piece of her just stays on the ground, forever in pain, almost deliberately refusing to heal. Now, who likes seeing someone they care about languishing in a state like that?

That’s my second disappointment in this season, actually, and my biggest complaint. While the previous Defender shows have had some particular meaning to them, it felt like all this show was saying was, “Crap happens, and nobody knows how to deal with it.” Seriously, whatever was happening, everyone either collapsed or was already in pieces, and all of them tried to console themselves with some combination of drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, obsession, etc.

There’s not even a proper villain. Oh, they made it seem like there was going to be the usual nemesis to the hero, a shocking enemy, surprisingly personal, but they took things in a completely different direction. Actually, with how convoluted this season was, it’s more like a dozen completely different directions. And this stands out, to me, as an example of why we have main villains in our stories. The hero is only as great as the villain they overcome, as they say, so when there ultimately is no such villain at all, and the heroes are just beaten by life itself, what’s so great about that?

In short, at the beginning, Jessica is broken and still breaking, and by the end, almost everyone around her is broken too, or at least those that are still alive, and all to no apparent point. Oh, they develop, certainly, over the course of a long, convoluted series of largely-independent plots, but there’s no real point to the story. This leaves me wondering why we even bothered telling and listening to it. If they just had to produce something to explain what’s with the characters in the next season, fine, but could we please have a story next time, instead of just an endless series of crappy events?

I will admit that every technical aspect of the show is pretty well done. The plot really is very intricate and layered, the characters are all driven by their own inner psychology (even if they’re all being stupid and crazy about it), the cinematography, the music, the dialogue, everything, it’s all very well crafted. It’s just that all this work has apparently gone into something which, really, doesn’t seem to mean very much. It continues the running theme of the Defender shows regarding pain and healing, but in a very lackluster, tragic way.

Basically, I just didn’t much like this season. If you did, more power to you, but I just don’t see it.

Rating: 4 stars out of 10.

Grade: D.

Posted in Tuesday Review, TV Shows | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sunday’s Wisdom #185: Selfish Sanity

“In order to stay sane, you sometimes have to be a little selfish.”
– Arthur “Artie” Nielsen, Warehouse 13
Season 5, Episode 6, “Endless”

I really love Artie. Next to Claudia, he is my favorite part of Warehouse 13. However cranky and crabby his demeanor, he still has this huge, giving heart, with which he shares all his insights, gained from a long and storied life. This is one of the last we hear, in the series finale.

It is a very good thing to be unselfish. It’s good to be charitable, it’s good to do one’s duty for the sake of others. However, even that most noble virtue must be tempered. To give and give and give without limit, in any capacity, just isn’t healthy. We are humans, and humans need balance. Courage needs to be balanced with caution, patience with boldness, sobriety with laughter, etc. Selflessness is no exception.

Sometimes you have to fight for your happiness, and that involves being a bit selfish from time to time.

If one gives all and loses their own happiness as a result, then sooner or later they’ll just have nothing left to give, because there will be nothing left but a gaping hole in their heart screaming to be filled with anything. Nobody benefits from that.

If, instead, one balances one’s own happiness, one’s own needs, one’s selfishness against what they can give to the world, then they can maintain themselves, and have more to give later. Everybody benefits from that.

Give your entire fortune away, and you have nothing left to give. Give away pieces of your fortune while preserving the heart of it, and you can keep giving forever.

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Infinity War: MC-Whoo!

I went into Avengers: Infinity War knowing that the heroes lose in this movie. I knew that from the moment we learned it was only the first half of the story. What I did not know was just how badly they lose. Marvel covered much more ground than I expected, all of it in a tumultuous, emotional rush of near-constant action, detailing all of the death, destruction, desperation, and defeat which the heroes suffer. From the first scene to the last, the Avengers and their allies are completely pulverized, along with everyone else.

Then again, this is only the first half of the story, so… it’s a little difficult to take all the deaths at face value, ya know? We can pretty well guess that the next Avengers movie, coming in about a year, will be about the survivors fighting the villain again in order to undo all the destruction he just inflicted on the universe, save everyone he just killed. Nonetheless, all of the loss still strikes a legitimate emotional cord. It has to, because that is what will drive the heroes forward in the next movie.

That goes into a very important technical aspect of Infinity War which one must keep in mind: it’s the culmination of over ten years of work on this cinematic universe. There are nearly twenty movies behind it, and this is the intersection of all the stories that have been unfolding thus far. It does a fair job of showing who each of the characters are and what’s at stake, but for everything to make sense to the audience, they need to have seen all, or at least most, of the previous movies. This is not an “introductory” movie, it’s the deep end of the pool. Or maybe it’s the home stretch at the end of the maze: if you want to know how we got here, you have to look back at the path (or several paths) we followed to get here.

Oh, I know! It’s like Star Wars! If you are watching it for the first time and begin at the point where Luke is taking his run down the trench and end right after one of his fellow pilots has to bail, and the other gets shot down, and a disembodied voice says, “Use the Force, Luke,”… that is what is would be like to watch Infinity War without having seen everything that precedes it. It wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

So, if you have watched all the movies up to this point, and are thus familiar with the plot and all the characters thus far, in short, if you are ready… how is Infinity War?

I liked it.

I enjoyed it.

Yes, there is death and destruction all around, and the heroes lose severely, but what a ride!

You thought there were a lot of us in the first two movies? That was just the start!

Seeing so many beloved characters meeting, interacting, reacting to each other, and working together, it was fantastic! There was laughter, there were tears, there was horror, there were defiance and wit and everything else, all packed into a roller coaster lasting two and a half hours. At the end of it, all I could say was, “wow!”

A critical component of that was the villains. Thanos the Mad Titan, and his “children,” they were superbly done, I believe. Well, mostly. Each of them was distinct, each had their clear mannerisms and strengths. I am a little torn about Thanos himself, as they changed-up his motivation a bit from what it is in the comics. It made for something much more interesting, I think, as Thanos is able to believe himself to be a godly hero instead of the most vile of villains, but his insane thinking rang so terribly false that it was impossible to take seriously without the whole “slaughter of the universe” thing.

So, it was less the attempt at semi-humanity which made the villains threatening, and more their lethal power, cunning, and unrestrained zealotry. They were willing to do anything, sacrifice anything, in pursuit of their goal.

By contrast, the heroes fought bravely and well, on their respective fronts of this war, but they hesitated to make the sacrifices which were presented to them. The villain did not hesitate to sacrifice someone he “loved,” but the heroes, faced with that choice, could not do so, and certainly not easily. Oh, sure, sacrificing oneself, perhaps, they’d do that, but each other? Even more, whoever they love the most? That is something else entirely.

In tragic hilarity, even when they made those sacrifices, painful though they were, they still amounted to nothing in the face of Thanos and his exponentially-increasing power.

Small aside on that note: Thanos, most powerful being in the universe, with Infinity Stones at his command, followers who worshiped him like a god, and countless worlds destroyed in his wake… was actually kind of possible to beat. They handled that very cleverly, but, still, I was surprised whenever the heroes had any kind of physical advantage, even for a moment.

Related note: it’s an Infinity Stone, no power greater in the entire universe, and it can actually be destroyed?

Ok, so there are some plot holes. I’m not saying it’s a flawless masterpiece, I’m saying it’s a fantastic movie, and an excellent build-up and prelude to the true climax. 😉

Rating: 10 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

I am so ready and looking forward to the next one!

Keep ’em coming, Marvel.
Keep ’em coming.

Posted in Movies, Tuesday Review | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #184: They Took an Oath

Todder watched them retreat through the mist. The small crew of the Watch looked to him for counsel.

“Their just leaving us?” Brendan said. “They can’t–”

“They can,” the sergeant spoke.

“What’s so different about them?” Brendan tossed his crossbow to the ground and kicked the dirt. “Why should we stay here to die? I’d like a damn drink too.”

“The difference is,” Todder said, “We took an oath.”

– From Hero in a Halfling: A Humorous Fantasy Romp
By William Tyler Davis

I came out pretty hard against this book, but, in fairness, it does have its redeeming features (which make me somewhat thankful for my stubbornness in finishing it). This scene, in particular, touched a nerve.

The men of the Watch have protected their city and its people for a very long time. A number of them died in the line of duty ten years ago, and Todder considers himself only lucky to have survived that slaughter, but since then, things have been pretty quiet. Fresh blood has come in, but they’ve not been tried in real battle, to the point they grew complacent. Then the trolls came, mowing straight through the unsuspecting Watch before they knew what hit them, kidnapping and/or devouring men, women, and children, then bounding back out again over the city’s dead and wounded defenders, all in the black of one night.

The next night, the Watch was much more prepared. They swelled their ranks with every available guard as well as mercenaries. When the trolls returned one was forced to retreat and one was killed, but two more, the smaller ones, still got in. Once again, the Watch was wounded and weary, with dead friends at their feet, and expecting the trolls to pass them again on their way out, with only the guardsmen barring their path. The mercenaries had a good fight, killed the one troll, and left, going for a drink instead of waiting for Round Two. The above scene is what follows.

The Watch does not succeed in stopping the trolls from leaving, with humans in their bags and bellies, but they still stand their ground. Where others who know little of loyalty depart, they continue to put their very lives between their people and what threatens them. Whether they succeed or fail, that is what they are sworn to do, even if they die for it.

There is something about such stalwart integrity and caring which simply demands respect. The guardsman is as human as the mercenary, but they make a different choice. That choice is what makes it worth honoring them, both the living and especially the dead.

My country celebrates Memorial Day tomorrow, and this weekend is filled with the honoring of those soldiers who have laid down their lives in service to us, our nation, and our freedom. These are men and women who did not simply fight for a dollar, a thrill, and a drink. They fought and died for us. They swore and oath, and held to it.

To them and their surviving comrades, I would express my deepest gratitude.

Thank you, Soldier. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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My Reasons Why

I have had virtually no exposure whatsoever to 13 Reasons Why. It does not appeal to me and no matter how I might appreciate an attempt at discussing suicide, I could only abide it if the overall message was “Don’t do it.” However, I can most definitely appreciate when people respond with things like “13 Reasons Why Not.” That, I absolutely love. 🙂

So, I’m quite happy I got tagged for this. Thank you, Moya! And thank you, Kimchi, for coming up with this! 🙂

Rules are as follows:

Mention the person who nominated you

  • List 13 reasons why you keep going/living (This is borrowed from the book but I’m taking it the opposite direction).
  • Nominate 10 or more people to give their reasons why.
  • Use the picture that I created in your post. I’m sorry that I’m a bit bad a making these things… But I tried.

So, let’s get this show on the road!

These are My Reasons Why:

1) Life is good.

I want these words on my tombstone. 🙂

This is my personal motto. I say it all the time, most often in response to, “How are you?” It makes people smile. No matter how hard, or frustrating, or annoying, or sad, or bad life can get, I remind myself that it’s not so bad.

Full motto reads: Life is good, no matter what! 😉

2) I. Do. Not. Give. Up.

AKA: sheer stubborn willpower, LOL.

My stubborn nature can sometimes be a curse, of course, but it has also been a blessing. I can’t claim my life has been particularly hard, but the inside of my head has occasionally been pretty messed up and dreary. (thus my need for that motto of mine) As I observe the world around me, I find that it doesn’t much matter exactly what one’s life is like, it’s what’s going on in your head that determines what you choose, whether you keep going or not. I don’t care exactly what it is, but you need to have something in your head that keeps you going when all else fails. It could be hope, faith, anger, love, or, in my case… I’m just too stubborn! 😉

3) Family who cares about me.

However bad my life gets, I have one of the greatest blessings in the world: my family.

It has always boggled and horrified me when I have seen families who don’t even love their own. I mean, it just seems so natural to me, to care about them, and others, and to be cared about in return. Sure, we’ve had our fights, but we look after each other. We worry, we help, we talk, we advise, we protect. When I die, anyone who outlives me will miss me, and I don’t want to make them sad like that.

I love them, and they love me.

4) Family who needs me.

One of my more depressing observations about myself is how little practical use I’ve been to my family. They’ve done so much for me, and I’ve done so very little for them. Oh, sure, I’m a good listener and give good advice, or so I’ve been told, and I’ve helped with some projects here and there, and I love being an uncle, but these are the people who have fed me, clothed me, sheltered me, helped me through college, taken care of me when I’ve been sick, and so much more. I’ve failed at so much in my life, professional career included, so what have I really been able to do in return? Pretty much nothing.

But now, I am of use.

Forgive me for sparing the details of the situation, but suffice to say my sister and brother-in-law recently needed someone to take in my nephew, and I have. It’s a partnership of sorts between them and I, and we’re still working things out. It’s not a happy situation for them, and it’s not easy for me, but a part of me simply overjoyed to finally be helping my family. To finally be of use, to be helping them for a change, is an absolute joy for me.

No way I’m leaving them high and dry now! 🙂

5) I am not alone.

I don’t just mean in terms of solitude or stuff like that. I mean being alone in life, alone in my interests, alone in the things I like and don’t like, alone in the way I think. I am none of those.

I have my family, my friends, my friends-who-are-family (as I call them), and I have you, my audience. 😉

I am not alone. That is a simple, powerful blessing I do not intend to cast aside.

6) I hate unfinished stories.

…that’s ’nuff said. 😉

7) My dogs.

I have two small, white fluffballs of love named Belle and Sam. They bring joy into my life with every lick, every nuzzle, every pet, every walk, every “I’m so glad you’re home!” 🙂 If I died, what would happen to them? I’d rather not find out! 😉

8) My writing.

Writing is my passion, and my greatest talent. If I did not have my writing, what would I be? A wolf without teeth, a bird without wings, a fish without gills, that’s what.

For most of my life, I’ve been working on a few dozen stories that I want to publish, but that’s very slow work and I’ve yet to finish a one of them. My blog here, which you, my wonderful audience, are kind enough to read, has become my means of self-expression, and my means of writing so I don’t go mad. I love it!

I especially love that little bit of light that I can shed into someone else’s life like this. 🙂

9) Entertainment.

Specifically, “Stories.” Books, movies, anime, cartoons, TV shows, music, games… I have an incredible hunger for good stories, and I intend to enjoy them for as long as possible! 🙂

10) Honest work.

It might not be glamorous work, and I might not be rich, and it might not be what I truly would like to do, not at all, but it’s work. It’s good work, paid work, and honest work. As long as I’m working, I’m earning my way, and there’s something deeply satisfying about that.

11) Little moments with good people.

When they hold the door for me as I’m working, and I can say, “Thank you.” When they like how I say, “Life is good,” all the time. When they thank me for my work. When we hold the elevator for each other. When we say, “Hi.” When they share their cake.

Little sparks of light. Put enough of them together, and you have the sun.

12) Little blessings everywhere.

A cloud giving me some shade. A short wait for the bus. Overhearing a good song. A tray of cookies left out for everyone to share. A moment of peace and quiet.

13) I want to be better than I am when I go.

Every moment of every day I’m alive is one where I can improve myself. When I die, that’s done. There’s nothing more I can do, nothing more I can give, nothing more I can become. I could die at any moment anyway, and I will die someday. But I want to be better than I am when I go.

There are so many more reasons I could pick, but I am limited to thirteen. 😉

As for who I’m tagging:

Nairne
Kat
ShadowCat
SpookyRedhead
Arria
Scott
My Tiny Obsessions
Trish
Matt
Patrick

I look forward to your reasons 🙂

Posted in Blogging Awards, Challenge Accepted | Tagged | 9 Comments

Hero in a Halfling: Not so “Epic”

I vaguely remember back when Shrek first came out, with the trailers declaring something like, “The prince isn’t charming, the princess isn’t helpless, and the ogre is the hero.” It was a funny, clever subversion of the classic fairy tale tropes, and it told a good story. The same can be said of the movie’s first sequel, and a number of other stories. It cannot be said for Hero in a Halfling.

Written by William Tyler Davis, Hero in a Halfling: A Comedic Fantasy Romp (yes, that is the actual title, and the next two books in the series are Knowing is Halfling the Battle: An Arthurian Fantasy Romp and Sight Beyond Epik Sight: A Steampunk Fantasy Romp) seems like it was intended (and believed, by the author) to be a witty, comedic parody, sort of like the love child of Lord of the Rings and Discworld. But where DreamWorks made an ogre a hero, Davis just made the ranger mean, the elves unrefined, and the wizard sinister instead of saintly (because we all know Tolkien and Pratchett never did anything like “evil wizards” at all).

I’m reminded of when I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here. If I recall right, that was intended as something witty and clever too, but it just came across to me as little more than very, very snide. In a similar fashion, Hero in a Halfling felt more mean than funny. The “parody” aspect, supposedly “turning tropes on their head,” mostly lay in taking the usual virtuous characters of fantasy stories and making them non-virtuous. No noble elves to the rescue, no ranger friendly to the little guy, and the wizard is duplicitous and abusive out the wazoo, wearing at least three different faces under three different identities in his quest for power.

It’s like Davis wrote the story just to say, “Sorry, kids, it doesn’t work that way.”

There is an air-headed princess, but she’s a lesbian, which, that came out of nowhere, with both her and her girlfriend. Said girlfriend is the daughter of Snow White and a dwarf, as Prince Charming was gay. Both were supposedly showing interest in the main character, the halfling named Epik, and then suddenly, right at the end, the girls are kissing each other instead. Speaking of halflings, Epik has long been bullied by his fellow halflings, so clearly they’re not all virtuous either (and somehow he gets the nerve to stand up to the bullies bigger than himself, but not those of the same size?). Oh, and Epik’s role is actually pretty limited, for the most part.

Honestly, I empathized with Todder, a veteran city guardsman of surprising depth and intelligence, more than anyone else… and they kept having the duplicitous wizard scramble his brains to keep his secrets.

And as for the “humor,” that just kind of fell flat for me. Obvious wordplay, obvious quotes from famous franchises, naming every chapter for something from famous franchises… yeah, it just didn’t do it for me, ya know? It came out as pretty boring.

Not to say there wasn’t anything good in it. I rather liked the half-dwarf girl, Gerdy, though not so much the princess, Myra. Epik was an understandable character, and I liked the dwarf warriors, even if I couldn’t recall who was who most of the time. The plot turned out to be much more intricate than it seemed at first glance, especially the machinations of the villains. The trolls were properly horrifying, too, the ravenous monsters in the dark coming to take people from their beds and eat them.

Really, if Davis had stopped trying to be “funny” and just focused entirely on the story and the characters, this could have been a pretty enjoyable fantasy romp all on its own. Instead, it’s more mean than witty and more clumsy than clever. It wasn’t a very enjoyable read, and I only finished it out of sheer, stubborn will. My interest in the rest of the series is exceptionally low.

Rating: I’ll give Hero in a Halfling 4 stars out of 10.

Grade: D-Minus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #183: Strong Women

“That was what men wanted, wasn’t it? Soft, helpless women that they needed to protect?”
– From A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin

Before I say anything else, let me just say, with absolute clarity: no, that is not what we want.

Now, moving on.

Perhaps it’s because I was thinking about my mother last week, or because I’m seeing so much more of my sister lately, or because my nephew and I are working our way through the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, or just because I’m also working my way through Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but whatever the reason, my mind has recently been lingering on this idea of strong women.

Firstly, I do not believe women are, or should be, weak, soft, and helpless. I come from Viking stock, raised on stories of women defending their homes while the men were away. I have a mother and two sisters, who I admire greatly (arguments notwithstanding), who are strong women, each in their own way. From them, and many others I have seen, I have come to the conclusion that if women were weak, civilization would have collapsed long ago.

Second, from what I have seen, the only men who truly want their women to be weak are those who want to dominate them. These are the sort of so-called “men” who abuse, threaten, and otherwise bully others to make themselves feel big and strong. It’s pathetic, and the depths of my loathing for such cannot be described.

I, for one, appreciate strong women because I appreciate strong people. I love seeing people succeed and thrive and be happy and free. I enjoy when people overcome their obstacles and difficulties. I am inspired, not threatened, by such people, men and women alike.

Thirdly, in the story this quote comes from, it’s the inner thinking of a woman who became a knight. Unfortunately, she’s never really been comfortable as a knight, not really any more comfortable than she is as a woman. In her mind, the two ideas of “woman” and “strong” are still at odds with each other, which I’ve already elaborated on before. By contrast, there are other women we meet who are also warriors. They had to be, to protect themselves, their people, their home, etc., and to them, there is no such conflict in their minds. As such, one character observes that they are more comfortable both as women and as warriors than this lady knight ever has been. They are strong women, and it makes them all the more attractive, not less.

Finally, I do have to admit that something behind this quote is not entirely untrue. As men, we do want to protect our women, we do want to be their knight in shining armor, and we do want to be their Prince Charming. Yes, we do sometimes fantasize about winning their hearts as easily as slaying a dragon, or some other grand gesture. But, that is simply a desire to be useful to them, to show our worth clearly and earn their affection. We want to be there for them and make their problems go away.

However, there is a huge difference between wanting to be useful to our women, and wanting our women to be weak. If we love them, and we do, then of course we want to protect them, but that doesn’t mean they have to be restricted from defending themselves. Heh, I actually remember one time when my mother, in course of becoming a nurse, worked temporarily at a mental hospital, and my dad, wanting her to be safe, took her shopping for a small gun, just to be on the safe side. This is the same man who had a rifle with which my mother was intent on defending herself with when a pair of intruders were at our front door (she figured our snarling, protective dog could take one with his teeth while she took the other with the gun, but, fortunately for them, they looked for a house that did not include a snarling, sixty-pound dog on the other side of the door).

Women are often talking about how they want men to be kind and sensitive, but I’ve yet to hear them say that they want a weak man. I can assure you, we don’t want weak women either. A strong man and a strong woman are stronger together. That is the ideal.

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This Week on TV, May 19, 2018

Spoiler Alert!

Well, this is it. The end of the season.

Gotham and Agents of Shield both delivered strong, emotional finales this week, though the former set up its next season and the latter, for once, just wrapped up the story. I enjoyed both of them immensely, and they picked very good points to leave off for awhile. It’s going to feel like forever, it always does.

See you all again in a few months! 😉

Gotham

4.22 “No Man’s Land”

And we go from deep waters to much deeper waters, from the fire to the bonfire, and from the darkness to even greater darkness.

Bruce gets Selina to the hospital posthaste after Jeremiah shot her, and they get her into surgery immediately, but her spinal cord was damaged… (hey, wait a minute, are they borrowing Batgirl’s fate?) …and the last thing we really see of her is when they’re wheeling her in. She pleads with Bruce, more afraid than I recall ever seeing her, just for him to be there, to not leave her. She told him last episode that she would always be there for him, and he is determined to be there for her.

But fate, and Batman’s two greatest enemies, are not so kind as that.

Alfred probably would have killed Jeremiah if they hadn’t needed to save Selina, but as is he punches him good and takes him to Gordon at the GCPD. The cops are definitely wanting some of his blood, can’t blame them there, but Gordon intends for him to rot in Arkham, no matter his cryptic talk of vision, eyes opening, another set of generator bombs, and wanting to talk with Bruce. Unfortunately, when Ra’s uses one such bomb to level the mayor’s office with the mayor and his staff still inside, they have to play ball a bit, and when the military arrives to put the city under martial law until order is restored, the locals are all robbed what fleeting control over the situation they might have had. The officer in charge has Gordon promptly arrested for not complying quickly enough and hauls Bruce and Alfred in against their will.

I can respect that the military took every precaution they knew how to take, and they did what seemed best to them to save the situation and save lives, but they didn’t know what they were really dealing with. Ra’s and the League enter the precinct, kill soldiers, take Jeremiah, Bruce, the bombs, and a small fleet of GCPD transport vans, all without ever being seen by most of the armed forces in the building. The military might have the firepower needed to lay waste to the League, but caught unawares and facing assassins led by a man who is practically a phantom, they stood no chance.

Gordon took an involuntary side-trip while all this was happening. Riddler wanted Lee to choose him over Gordon, so he kidnapped Gordon and started killing him slowly, under a weight press, supposedly so Lee would be free of his influence and become the woman he wanted her to be. Lee found out, of course, and made a show of her independence, severing ties with Gordon, announcing that she was leaving Gotham (for the umpteenth time), and inviting Riddler to join her. That was partially a ruse too, to get Gordon out. She will always care for him, as he cares for her, but their time is done, and she’s not the person she once was. As for leaving, that’s because she feels her work in the Narrows is done. And Riddler? Well, that’s a problem she’s dealing with.

When Gordon returns, it takes him and Bullock almost no time at all to figure out that the bombs are heading to the bridges, to isolate the city and turn it into a dark island. When the military man refuses to clear the bridges and tries to arrest Gordon again, Bullock and all the other officers turn their guns on him. This is their town, they know what’s going on now, they trust Gordon and got his back, and they will clear those bridges. Which, they do, just in time.

They don’t know it, but they got some much-needed help at that pivotal moment. After Ra’s kidnaps Bruce, Alfred goes to Barbara to find Ra’s. She’s been given an offer by the immortal, to come with him, rule the league as a whole by his side, and share eternity with him. She’s not tempted by that offer, apparently, and means to kill him. With her come her lady assassins and one pissed-off Tabitha. She was with Butch, undergoing Strange’s macabre, mad science treatment to restore him, when she got the call about Selina, and she really wants to kill Jeremiah. Butch would come with her, but the process should not be interrupted, so Penguin goes in his place. With Jeremiah and Ra’s working together, that points them all in the same direction, to kill their enemies and save Bruce.

All things considered, it goes fairly well. They don’t lose any of their own, Penguin saves Tabitha from Jeremiah, Barbara puts the reforged dagger’s handle in Bruce’s hand and rams it into Ra’s chest, making him crumble entirely to ash this time, and even with their failure to stop the detonation of the bombs, they buy just enough time for the bridges to be cleared of innocent civilians, Gordon himself carrying the last child to safety in the nick of time.

With the destruction of the bridges, however, and the loss of power, the city is falling quickly into literal and figurative darkness. The military is pulling out, and taking everyone they can with them, including most of the cops and other public services. The entire island is about to erupt in an unholy turf war with gangs and freaks tearing it apart in every corner.

Bruce reaches Selina’s side again just as the last ambulance is about to leave with her. He promised to be by her side, and, in my opinion, he should have done just that. He sees the destruction swallowing the city, and I can understand why he chooses to stay, but, come on, Bruce, why not leave and then come back? Selina was there for Bruce, and Bruce promised to stay with her. Instead, he chooses Gotham over her, sending Alfred to take care of her. There’s something about that which, really, I can only imagine that it will create a gap between them which may well prove impossible to bridge this time. He’s fighting for the city and the people in it, but he’s also letting her down, severely. That can’t end well.

He’s not alone in the darkness, though. Gordon stays too, and with him comes Bullock, Fox (who gets the lights turned on with one of Jeremiah’s generators), and more officers. They’re staying to fight for their city. And the first thing Gordon does is set up a spotlight, pointing up to the clouds, to show people that there is still some light, shining brilliantly in this darkness.

They’re up against a great deal. In the abyss Gotham has fallen into, it’s demons are already on the rise. Firefly, Freeze, Scarecrow, the Sirens, pretty much everyone I can think of is accounted for except the Hatter and Poison Ivy, all of them leaping to carve out bloody chunks of the city for themselves. And new monsters are rising in the shadows as well, teasing Man-Bat and Mother-Mae-I, if I guess (and spell) correctly. Even Bruce is stalking in the darkness, looking for Jeremiah. And Penguin has influence again, and Doctor Strange is at work as well with his latest acquisitions.

In regards to that last, Penguin and Strange, the former used the latter’s services to restore Butch… just so he could kill him in front of Tabitha. It’s well over two years since Tabitha, at Galavan’s order, murdered Penguin’s mother. They’ve been enemies and allies countless times since, and Penguin could have killed her countless times, but he waited. He even saved her life that very night, and exhausted his resources curing Butch, just so he could take someone Tabitha loved from her and make her live with that pain. He shoots her in the leg to keep her from killing him right then, but now the line between them is drawn. They are out to kill each other now, and nothing less.

That last is part of what inspires Barbara and the Sirens to institute a No Men policy, starting with killing Penguin’s goons who deliver Tabitha and the male members of the League who came to offer their allegiance to Barbara after she killed Ra’s.

Last but not least, Strange’s latest project is mending Riddler and Lee, after the two lovers stab each other. Lee wasn’t going to leave the Narrows now, and she knew Riddler was going to turn on her someday and kill her, so she struck first, and he struck back. Now they’re in Strange’s care, and in Penguin’s custody, which, considering that he just healed Butch in order to kill him, does not bode well.

So the finale ends with the setup for next season, Bruce and Gordon standing side-by-side beneath the light, looking over the No Man’s Land that Gotham has become, planning how to take it back.

The No Man’s Land storyline is one of the most famous and powerful, I think, in all of Batman lore. The original story involved the federal government giving up on Gotham and blowing the bridges, and it was set about ten years into Bruce’s time as Batman, including his gallery of sidekicks, an array of his enemies, and even Lex Luthor of Superman fame played a pivotal role. It’s easily a favorite among fans, myself included, which is why they included elements of it in Dark Knight Rises.

It promises to be a most riveting and compelling storyline for Gotham to tackle next season, but I wonder. I remember watching Smallville‘s later seasons, with Doomsday, Zod, and Darkseid, and thinking that it was a bit ridiculous for them to keep giving Clark (and the Justice League) such greater and greater foes to face without Clark actually being Superman, or even being able to properly fly. It worked pretty heavily against the show, I thought.

Now Gotham plunging the Bruce and Gordon into No Man’s Land, perhaps the single most famous crucible the Dark Knight has ever faced in comic book lore, complete with supervillains carving up territory and monsters lurking in the darkness, but Bruce isn’t Batman yet. Quite the contrary, this is supposed to make him become Batman, which, really, every other version of Batman is Bruce Wayne’s idea, the result of his drive, his will, his dedication. Bruce Wayne becomes Batman on his own, not because of some villain’s desire for it. So, I wonder if the show will suffer for this.

But whether this is the moment the show begins to head downhill or just a precursor to something even greater, this was definitely a season finale for the books, most excellently done!

Agents of Shield

5.22 “The End”

If this ends up as the last episode of the series, which I hope it isn’t, then they certainly did a pretty good job of it.

(looks it up on Wikipedia)

Ok, not the end of the series. But, the next one airs next year. Drat. Patience may be a virtue I’ve had to practice, but who doesn’t hate waiting for good things, eh?

As for the episode itself: wow.

I will admit, after seeing Infinity War last week, I was afraid that even if the agents won, it would end on a note of half of them disappearing into dust. I’m glad they didn’t do that. There was plenty enough tension without it.

To start with, we have the heated discussion of whether to save Coulson or the world. Yo-Yo leads the argument for the world, Daisy for Coulson, Fitz-Simmons popping in their insights. Daisy is about to make the decision unilaterally, but Yo-Yo steals the centipede serum from her, and she’s breaking down because she’s alone and nothing is holding them together. That’s when Mack tells them that they still have hope to hold them together, bringing her around, and they’re going to vote until May grabs the odium and smashes it. She decides the save the man instead of the world.

Coulson would have agreed with Yo-Yo, as he tells her when she comes to make herself clear on that. May made the choice to save Coulson, but she also leaves the needle with the serum that will save his life on the desk next to him. It’ll be his choice, then, whether he lives or not. She’s fought to save him, she just took away the alternative, and now she leaves it to him, to live and get back in the fight, or just lie there and die.

With the impending end of the world, Deke does what he can to prepare the Lighthouse for its soon-to-be status as humanity’s last refuge, but he’s not staying. As he figures it, either the world will break, and he wants to see it’s beauties first, or they’ll break the loop and he’ll wink out of existence, so he wants to see the world’s beauties first. He was never an agent, never really fit in with them, but that’s because they’re all so willing to die for each other, rather than just kill for each other, while he’s a broken man from a broken place. So, as a bit of parting advice, he tells Daisy that she needs to fix that first, if she wants to ever lead the team.

Daisy takes that to heart and does one better. See, she doesn’t want to lead. She actually agrees with Yo-Yo, that she’s not fit for it. She can’t hold the team together. (as I’ve said, she’s good at taking point, but she’s not ready for leading Shield just yet) But Mack is. Mack, not Daisy, is the one who can hold them together, a general they can all rally behind. And everyone on the team agrees, including Coulson, who walks in, hands Daisy her Quake gear, and hands the reins of leadership to Mack.

So, what are the agents of Shield going to do with Mack as their leader? Save lives.

Talbot got Robin to talk, to show him where the gravitonium is, by taking her mother away from her. Even knowing what she knows, even having May as a second mother for much of her life, Robin is still just a little girl. So she gives Talbot what he wants, and he descends on Chicago. He lands is ship, which he’s levitating to fly, on top of several tall buildings, raining death and chaos in the streets as he tears them up to absorb small pieces of gravitonium. Cops, firemen, medics, everyone’s trying to help, but there’s so much damage, so many people getting hurt, that they’re overwhelmed.

And then comes Mack’s voice, the voice of Shield. Oh, thank God.

Shield guides the evacuation, using aircraft to carry people who are trapped, going inside the buildings the ship landed on to clear them before they collapse. And as for they enemy? Do not engage. Shield will deal with him, sending their two biggest guns, Coulson to talk and Daisy to punch.

Shield is here. They got this.

…except, Coulson isn’t going. He can barely stand. He didn’t take the serum. So with some counsel for Daisy, he sends her in. She relents, at first unwillingly, but tells him to go and back and take the serum right then and there.

The audience sees this scene as the creation of that footage she was shown in the future. The day the world ended. The last day she was ever seen. The day of the huge earthquake that began the shattering of the world.

Mack and May reach the top of a building just below the ship, finding Robin and some others. Mack goes in after Robin’s mother, Polly. Fitz arrives shortly after, and realizes that Mack and Polly, two people who don’t make it to the future, are alone, out of sight, on a hostile alien ship. Mack finds Polly quickly enough, but two enemies come on them and they’re cornered, unable to run. But May and Fitz arrive, saving them and getting them out. Robin reunites with her mother, Mack makes it out alive… but rubble falls on Fitz.

Davis flies Coulson back to the Zephyr, but he’s unconscious and unresponsive on arrival. Simmons races for the med-bay and the needle while Yo-Yo prays and does chest compressions. Daisy tries to reason with Talbot, and she got close, perhaps, but the man turns on her and intends to absorb her so he can quake the ground apart, gather the gravitonium faster.

And then Robin, running from danger with her mother, says, “Something’s different.”

Fitz is uncovered, but grievously wounded. He dies. The loops is officially broken.

Robin’s mother lives. Mack lives. The loops is further broken.

The needle is missing. Coulson put the pieces together and hid it in Daisy’s gauntlet. She jams it into herself, getting a ridiculous power boost to break free from Talbot’s grip. Then she sends him up, into the sky, into space, becoming a block of floating ice on route to the sun.

The loop is broken. The world is saved.

Shield has saved the world, at the cost of several of their own.

Daisy had the right of it when she told Talbot that he was already a hero, that there were heroes in the streets all around them, that everyone who took the oath to protect others, they’re heroes. And Shield, they’re heroes. They signed up to lose everything, including each other, in service to others.

It’s a sober victory they have.

Simmons intends to find Fitz. He’s dead, but his past self is still frozen in space, taking the long way around to the future. She’ll find him.

There is intimation that Deke did, indeed, just wink out of existence.

Mack is the new Director, with Daisy as a strong number two, Yo-Yo by their side, Simmons looking for her husband who isn’t married to her yet, Davis flying the plane, and Piper joining them all in the cockpit.

Coulson has days, maybe weeks. So what does he do? He retires. They fly him and May to Tahiti, they all share one last drink together, some words, and then it’s off to the beach. The older generation steps down and the next one takes off.

The End.

Very, very satisfying.

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