Korsgaard's Commentary

You know, I really do miss the days when the police made me feel protected instead of paranoid. Of course, given recent events, I doubt I’m the only one anymore.
Police-action-in-Ferguson-690If you’ve been watching the news, then no doubt all of you know why. The last few weeks have seen a number of cities brought to a standstill by multiple protests – including my native Richmond – following a chain of events that has sparked conversations nationwide on topics ranging from race relations, police militarization and the terrifying scope of a justice system that many feel no longer serves justice.

Now, before proceeding further, needless to say, the following article will contain controversial topics and likely controversial opinions. Agree or disagree, please remain calm, and lets all do our best to discuss this like rational people.

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As plenty of others before and after me will likewise point out, one of the great ironies of Thanksgiving here in America is that not even a few hours after we sit down with our near and dear ones to break bread and give thanks for what we already have, we storm our nearest shopping malls to trample our neighbors to obtain slightly discounted consumer goods.
Black-Friday-ThanksgivingYes, I’m talking about Black Friday, the day of the year where hordes of people storm doorbuster sales nationwide in an annual frenzy of consumer capitalism that regularly summons as many exasperated sighs as it does sales, at least as the inevitable news stories of crowds trampling some poor retail worker to death or stabbing fellow shoppers begin to flow in. It’s hard to believe what began as a day most workers would call in sick has been so utterly transformed into one where those same workers now have to work on Thanksgiving so that America can enjoy the closest real life answer to The Purge that exists. Especially given Cyber Monday offers better deals anyways.

Still, with dozens of shopping centers nationwide being turned into something out of an old Romero movie, it’s all too fitting that someone has made a mock movie trailer highlighting the horror movie Black Friday has turned into. From Nacho Punch, the trailer for Black Friday the Movie mocks all the absurdities of the retail holiday, from the open mob violence to justifying it because “it helps the economy”. Funny as it may be, it’s also tragic that there will no doubt be real footage of people acting just as ridiculously flooding YouTube tonight.

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Though the latest Hunger Games movie may be getting most of the ink this weekend, it’s not the only franchise based on forcing children to fight brutal war games – the latest PokeMon game came out this weekend as well! Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are no doubt as reliably fantastic as the PokeMon games tend to be, so a review really doesn’t serve much purpose – for the record though, get the game! Gen V aside, you don’t get a game series with a track record this good too often, complaints of too much water be damned.
nidoking_artSo instead, I suppose I’ll use the occasion to share with you something special – my longtime favorite PokeMon and steady team member in near every game I’ve played in the franchise: Nidoking.
Nidoking_cardA staple of every eventual team I’ve used in the PokeMon franchise ever since I first caught a Nidoran♂ during a detour down Route 22 early on in Red Version, Nidoking has earned a spot as one of my most reliable team members for good reason. Thanks to some solid stats and one of the most diverse move pools in the franchise, Nidoking is a versatile and hard-hitting PokeMon that can sweep entire teams when trained well.
nidoking-animeBetter yet, Nidoking is one of the rare Gen 1 PokeMon that has only gotten stronger with age, thanks to a pair of well-placed additions in newer games, gaining Sheer Force as a hidden ability in Gen V, and a boost to its already formidable attack stats in Gen VI. Toss in the fact that, given its Poison-type, it’s absolutely lethal to the myriad of Fairy types flooding the metagame.
nidoran-nidorino-nidoking-familyIn spite of this, Nidoking remains probably one of the most underutilized PokeMon in the franchise – something that I am to change starting now.

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It cannot be understated just what a game changer the Hunger Games movies have been. It’s only been two years since the release of the first film, launched in the era where most of its rivals were concerned over paranormal love triangles, and has since launched a dystopian boom that this year alone has seen the rise of several imitators. The Hunger Games has become a genuine pop culture phenomenon, Katniss Everdeen an icon, many of its stars have become household names, and now, with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 out today, the first part of its finale looks to be the biggest event of the year at the box office.
hunger_games_mockingjay_part_oneThat’s not to say that there will be smooth sailing for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. It adapts the first part of Mockingjay, the famously unwieldy installment of the book series. There is the fact it is yet another example of the unpopular practice of splitting the final book into several movies. Lastly, there is the more explicitly political nature of the narrative, to the point one of Hollywood’s biggest in-house propagandists handled the screenplay. The Hunger Games franchise is entering its riskiest phase, but if anyone can handle such a gamble, its Jennifer Lawrence and company, especially if Catching Fire was any indication.

So having finally caught fire, does the latest Hunger Games movie take flight, or has splitting it in half plucked the wings off this bird? Ready or not, here comes the revolution my dear readers, so join me as I review The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

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If you’d have asked anybody even just a year or two ago about Interstellar, you’d have likely been heard about a movie that was all but guaranteed to be a definitive hit to rule at the box office and sweep the Oscars this year. After all, how could Chris Nolan’s first post-Batman directing job, packed with newly-minted Oscar winners and nominees fail to impress?

Because the movie in question is Interstellar, and we really shouldn’t have been surprised.
interstellarThis has nothing to do with my own misgivings about Chris Nolan or his past handiwork, though I do think part of the general panic is over people discovering the same things about Nolan I’d sized up about halfway through The Dark Knight. You might not know it, but Interstellar has a very troubled production history - it was originally conceived as a project for Steven Spielberg, before being handed to Chris Nolan, already a radical departure for Interstellar given the two very different directing styles of the two. The script itself is famously convoluted, and Nolan had it rewritten by Kip Thorne, an astrophysicist who helped write the middling sci-fi film Contact.

So now as the hype evaporates, and reality sets in, there is a very different future in mind for Interstellar, with lukewarm reviews, the Oscar talk drying up, and high odds it will be beaten at the box office by Big Hero 6. So what happened? Was it simply too heady for mainstream audiences? The famously mess of a screenplay unadaptable? Has Chris Nolan finally had his Tim Burton moment? Whatever it is, I plan to find out.

So does Chris Nolan’s much hyped sci-fi vehicle soar beyond our expectations, or at least my own, or crash-and-burn upon takeoff? Join me my dear readers as I see if the stars have aligned for Interstellar.

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Despite the Harry Potter series being a beloved, best-selling fantasy series that has made an immeasurable impact on both speculative fiction and the lives of countless readers, I’ve always had some small quibbles with the collective Harry Potter universe as a whole. Nothing against the series or characters themselves mind you – at least until the latter books swap the initial whimsy and adventure for a grimdark macguffin fetch-quest at least – but with the universe itself.
Harry-Potter-muggle-racismA part of this may come from the fact that, from a certain view, the Harry Potter universe is a very disturbing place – a backward, aristocratic society that not only segregates themselves entirely from perceived racial inferiors they term “Muggles”, but extremely oppressive of most other magical beings, usually justifying it by “they’re inherently evil” or “house elves are happy as slaves.” I’ve just never managed to see the Harry Potter universe the same way since I realized the magical world was a veneer covering the fantasy equivalent of Apartheid-era South Africa.
Harry-Potter-time-travelThe other big issue though, is the same issue many take with a lot of the urban fantasy boom Harry Potter had a hand in sparking: how can a magical world capable of the wonders described both manage to be baffled by light switches and so incapable of action the only thing that saved it multiple times from Voldemort was a bunch of bored teenagers. It’s an inherent issue in speculative fiction, with Harry Potter being a famous example, that magic and time-travel can undo the suspension of disbelief in even an otherwise immaculately crafted narrative. Why is the society that created the time-tuner wasting such power by using it for helping a child do homework?
A-Kind-of-Magic-Potter-02To the latter question, French cartoonist Boulet, whose past works tackling the butterfly effect or grimdark I’m quite a fan of, applies himself with equal fervor of asking what it would be like if the wizarding world of Harry Potter would apply itself to say, space travel, with the same intensity as it does creating chocolate frogs. The comic is called A Kind of Magic, and the resulting view we get it pretty hilarious.

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The polls are closed, the results are in, and it looks like America will be seeing red, at least for the next two years, as the Republican Party has won an undeniable mandate in the 2014 Midterm Elections.
2014_Midterm_Elections_ResultsDwarfing even the gains of the 2010 Midterms, the GOP made historic gains across the board, with the Republicans as of the time of this posting having won seven Senate seats, gaining at least 13 seats in the House, three more governorships while Republican governors like Scott Walker or Brian Sandoval all winning reelection handily, and even sweeping to power in multiple state legislatures.

Notably, one factor behind the GOP success this year was the party managing to put a lid on social conservatism, play it safe and back moderates when it proved wise – hopefully this means they’ve begun to learn the painful lessons the last few elections have made all too clear about the shifting social values of the country.
RepublicansGOPStomppingonObamaAgendaCartoonWith two more likely Senate seats in Alaska and Louisiana, and a number of still ongoing House races likely to go in the GOP’s favor, the Republican Party is likely not just to have full control of Congress, but by the largest margin since before the Great Depression. With a number of races still too close to call, the Republicans now have full control of Congress, with a 52-44-2 majority in the Senate and a 244-184 majority in the House of Representatives.
Ballot-2014-Midterm-ElectionsThe Democrats are in complete shock, if not by the defeat, than by the degree of it. Defending a number of seats won in the 2008 election, the Democratic Party watched on in horror as it lost nearly all of them, as they lost ground in “purple” states like Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa, and even deeply Democratic states like Massachusetts and Maryland elected Republican governors.

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Attack on Titan. Odds are good you don’t even need to have watched the show to know about it, and to have heard plenty about it, which is quite remarkable in some respects.

Like the lovechild of Pacific Rim and HP Lovecraft, Attack on Titan is the biggest media franchise out of Japan since the late 90s and the heyday of PokeMon, DragonBall Z and Sailor Moon. While you’ve had a number of successful anime over the last few years, Attack on Titan has reached a level of mainstream popularity unseen in anime in years. The manga is not only almost single handedly responsible for reviving the struggling manga industry, it’s outselling even mainstream comics like Batman and Superman here in the USA. You can’t go to a convention without it dozens of Attack on Titan cosplayers, while a merchandising empire has seen everything from video games to car commercials. And of course, you have the anime series, whose English dub has been the crown jewel in the revived Toonami lineup. Tonight is the season finale, so I’m finally reviewing the biggest anime phenomenon in recent memory, Attack on Titan.
Attack-on-Titan-posterSo does Attack on Titan measure up to the massive hype, or will it fail to stand up to my scrutiny? This, my dear readers, is my review of Attack on Titan.
Attack-on-Titan-titansOne hundred years in the past, the Titans appeared. These giant humanoid creatures are seemingly immortal, nearly indestructible, and exist for the sole purpose of devouring human beings. Pushed to the brink of extinction, what remained of humanity retreated behind a country-sized multi-walled city, where for the last century, humanity has lived in peace – until now, when even larger Titans breach one of the walls, once more putting the fate of humanity in the balance.
Shingeki-no-Kyojin-Attack-on-titan-image-Armin-Eren-MikasaIt’s this turn of events that sees childhood friends Eren, Armin and Mikasa join the military, both to escape the past, and idealistically, to do what they can to give mankind a future free of the Titans – even if mankind has to become monsters themselves in order to do so.
attack-on-titan-eren-overwatchThat combination of creative world-building and near universal theme work has no doubt been a driving factor behind Attack On Titan’s astonishing success. Set in a vaguely medieval/steampunk world, a lot of the overall setting is either left vague initially, of a slow mystery at this point – even the question if it’s a fantasy world, some far fallen future Earth, or an alternate past is mostly left to interpretation at this point. What Attack on Titan does flesh out though is wildly creative, such as the military whose main combat tactics involve use of compressed air powered jetpacks allowing soldiers to fly on tethers.

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My more faithful readers might have noticed that I may be a bit of a fan of The Crow, be it the movie, or the multitude of comics spun off from the original graphic novel. So it’s with great pleasure that this Devil’s Night, I have a treat for all of you my dear readers – during Wizard World Richmond last month, I had the pleasure of finally meeting the man behind the Crow himself, James O’Barr. Not only that, but I had the chance to interview him, and today, I share that interview with you.

Along with footage from a panel he gave – which will be posted both here and on my YouTube when I finally can find my way around Adobe Premiere, so stay tuned – we talked about this year being the anniversary of both The Crow graphic novel and the Brandon Lee film, the various recent Crow comics published by IDW, along with a few upcoming titles, and of course, the very controversial remake of The Crow, which O’Barr recently did a 180 on – and I am among the first to ask him why.

All in all though, I can say I got some insight into a long-time idol of mine, and I hope you will be able to say the same. So without further adieu, let me introduce James O’Barr!
Wizard_World_Richmond_James_O_BarrKorsgaard: First, let me say what an honor and a pleasure it is to speak you.

James O’Barr: Not a problem.

Korsgaard: It’s been 25 years since the release of the original Crow graphic novel. Did you ever picture The Crow resonating the way it has when you first wrote it?

O’Barr: I thought it had a specific moment in time, and that it would disappear, like films and music and comics tend to. No one’s more surprised than I am that it’s still in print 25 years later, it seems to have been handed down from generation to generation.

Korsgaard: It’s the best-selling independent comic of all time, if I’m not mistaken.

O’Barr: It is, over a million copies sold, I’m pretty proud of that.

Korsgaard: That’s not even counting the spin offs or sequels either.

O’Barr: Right.
James_OBarrKorsgaard: I know when you first started working on it, you were motivated by personal tragedy – do you think part of the lasting appeal of The Crow is that it resonates with so many people going through tragedies of their own?

O’Barr: I certainly think that’s a part of it. When I was 18, my fiancé was killed by a drunk driver, and I was hurt, frustrated, angry. I wanted justice, I wanted peace, and by putting pen to paper I hoped maybe I’d get it out of my system – it didn’t but that’s another story. It actually took me a decade before I ever got it published with Caliber Comics, but I was doing it for myself. Over the years though, a lot of my fans tell me how it helped them cope or how they read it when they were in a dark place, and it means a lot to me. The Crow was born of my pain and tragedies, if it can help people through theirs, I’m glad to have done so. The heart of The Crow has always been the same: Pain and grief, no matter how bad, are temporary. Love is forever.

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Sometimes, you gotta go back to move forward. And I don’t mean going back to reminisce or chase ghosts. I mean going back to see where you came from, where you been, how you got here, see where you’re going. I know there are those that say you can’t go back. Yes you can. You just have to look in the right place.

I am of course, talking about those Lincoln car commercials starring Matthew McConaughey.
Matthew-McConaughey-Lincoln-AdBy now you’ve probably seen one of the several strange commercials for the ailing luxury car brand, where the folks at Lincoln evidently took the title of The Lincoln Lawyer a tad too literally, hiring Matthew McConaughey for a recent ad campaign.

The three commercials feature Matthew McConaughey as he mumbles weird existential utterings while driving a Lincoln MKC crossover, because apparently nothing moves units quite like the guy from Reign of Fire and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Of course, what do I know – there’s probably a reason why I’m writing about their commercials rather than running one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, but I digress.
Matthew-McConaughey-Lincoln-commercial-South-Park-parodyNeedless to say, they’ve been the subject of much mockery and parody everywhere from Ellen DeGeneres to South Park, but never quite so perfectly until a series of Saturday Night Live sketches starring Jim Carrey aired last night.
Jim-Carrey-parodies-Matthew-McConaughey-Lincoln-AdsThe spot-on parodies had Carrey driving around, perfectly mimicking McConaughey’s slow drawl, while parodying the “deep” phrases of the commercials, and even managing to get a pulse on just what is so absurd about the advertisements with one memorable barb:

“Sometimes you gotta go back to move forward, and I don’t mean go back and reminisce or chase ghosts. I mean take a big step back, like go from winning an Oscar to doing a car commercial.”

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