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Becoming Superman

This is a dark book, with moments of light shedding rays of hope into dark places. People have different thresholds, different limits to how much they can endure. I know I have mine and I know where I would lose all hope. But J. M. Straczynski surpasses all these trials; a terrible childhood of impoverished circumstances and abuse that only shocks the senses.

We witness the struggle as he inches on as a writer of screenplays and comic books, towards his career in Hollywood; from The Twilight Zone and Changeling, to Babylon 5 and onto Netflix originals with Sense 8, and shows us how it’s done with perseverance, courage and determination. He offers essential writing advice throughout his personal story, advice which makes the book indispensable.

The story of becoming superman exceeds any story written before of the superman I’ve grown up to know and admire. J. M. Straczynski’s Becoming Superman is a life tale that goes well beyond the fictional account of Clark Kent and what we’ve come to know of him after he arrives from Krypton. For him, meeting Superman as a child was transformative.

But Straczynski’s biography is both inspirational and horrifying. A young boy raised by damaged adults, who must learn to survive. He finds refuge in comics and imaginary characters, where he discovers a world of superheroes whose special powers give them the ability to overcome their misfortunes. Here he makes a discovery that will change his life, a realization that change comes and can happen to the most unfortunate and emotionally devastated souls. Where Straczynski, a little boy whose story is part darkness and part creation, uncovers his own superpower. The ability to weave stories from the depths of his imagination and break free from within. From here the writer’s journey begins. A journey that takes us on a personal history of discovery, which up till now was veiled in mystery. J. M. Straczynski manages to keep a balance on the horror we discover in the mystery, with humor and intelligence.

My first and most noteworthy meeting of Straczynski’s work was Babylon 5, a story that encompassed a single-story arc across five seasons, a “novel for television”, with a defined beginning, middle, and end; in essence, each episode would be a single “chapter” of this “novel”. This was new territory for television, something we take for granted today with Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime etc., but a great risk for TV in the early 90s. Not only did he take on this immense challenge, Straczynski wrote most of the 110 episodes, as well as the pilot and five television movies. On the journey, he constantly kept his viewers and fans updated online on the fan-run website, The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5. And this was in 1993, with the internet in its infancy! Yeh, I was one of the fans who after every episode would dial up the internet to learn more from the lips of our hero, Straczynski, who would post detailed analyses and answer fans’ questions. Oh, and by the way, The Lurker’s Guide is still alive and well today. A historical legacy and testament to what J. M. Straczynski achieved with Babylon 5.

Becoming Superman is a story with controversy and drama, but it never overwhelms you. Instead, it’s a tale of discovery and coming to terms with yourself, of breaking away from your past, no matter how ugly it was. A narrative that chronicles a journey to uncovering your true potential.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – Blue Moon

Trapped in the most improbable place, the traveller finds himself separated from his friends. His only chance is to find a way to escape, but that will require helping his captor as well.

Chapters 26, 27 & 28 are available now! Hope you enjoy them.

You can follow the Traveller’s journey by clicking on the image on the right, which will take you to the list of chapters on this Site.

Otherwise, you can read the latest chapters 26, 27 & 28, by either clicking here or by going directly to the Ode to a Lost Explorer Site.

Enjoy!

Several chapters are already available and can be heard from these links below, and the list will grow:

iTunes

Podomatic

The Galactic Hub

Player FM


I’ve also uploaded audio chapters to My YouTube channel here.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – The Singer in the Sea

These chapters (Chapters 22, 23, 24 & 25 available now!) are long overdue, but it couldn’t be helped due to other obligations I had.  Hope you enjoy them.

The Travellers’ journey has taken them to a strange and dangerous place that should not exist.  It is here they hope to find the last part of the missing puzzle to help them escape an uncertain reality.

You can follow their journey by clicking on the image on the right, which will take you to the list of chapters on this Site.

Otherwise, you can read the latest chapters 22, 23, 24 & 25, by either clicking here or by going directly to the Ode to a Lost Explorer Site.

Enjoy!

Several chapters are already available and can be heard from these links below, and the list will grow:

iTunes

Podomatic

The Galactic Hub

Player FM


I’ve also uploaded audio chapters to My YouTube channel here.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – The Dancer in the Wind

I’ve added a couple of more chapters (20 & 21) to the story, if only to show time is not on my side.  Not that it ever was. The same might apply to the Traveller and his friends.  When they encounter a very old nemesis their dangerous path takes a surprising turn for the worse and they are found wanting.

To catch up with their journey, click on the image on the left, which will take you to the list of chapters on this Site.

Otherwise, you can read the latest chapters 20 to 21, by either clicking here or by going directly to the Ode to a Lost Explorer Site.

Enjoy!


But I did promise something special was coming.  With the help and wonderful enthusiasm of my friend Donnie Gallagher, Ode to a Lost Explorer can now be heard coming alive as an exciting new audio adaptation.  Several chapters are already available and can be heard from these links below, and the list will grow as the story unfolds:

iTunes

Podomatic

The Galactic Hub

Player FM


I’ll also be uploading more audio chapters to My YouTube channel here.

Finally, Donnie hosts his own podcast here at Craft Brews and Geek News.  So make sure to check it out.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – An Online Novel

After a long hiatus of interruptions, disturbances and distractions I was finally able to upload some more Chapters.  Hurrah!

But enough with the excuses.  There will be more Chapters coming soon, as well as something special.

So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you can find the latest chapters 16 to 19, by either clicking here to go directly to the Ode to a Lost Explorer Site.

Or by clicking on The Priest image here to the right, which will take you to the list of chapters on this Site.  Enjoy!

Lost in Space – Reboot

I feel that I can safely say, I’m excited.  More so than I have been in a long time for an upcoming new series.  On April the 13th Netflix is launching a new reboot of Lost in Space.  One of my very early, favourite childhood shows.

The original Lost in Space series, created and produced by Irwin Allen, ran for three seasons, from 1965 to 1968 on CBS.  Season one was my favourite, starting off on a serious tone with the characters developing over time.  It was also the only one filmed in black and white.  But I never knew that at the time, since our TV set was black and white throughout the entire three seasons.  Maybe another contributing factor as to why I prefer the first season nowadays.

In 1998 we had a film of Lost in Space released in cinemas, with a plot adapted from the 1965–1968 original series.  It debuted at number one at the box office, ending Titanic‘s 15-week-long hold on the first-place position.  However, critics were generally negative towards the darker tone of the film.  I didn’t mind it.

With the new reboot we also get surprising new changes, one is of the robot.  No longer part of the crew, the robot is an alien machine that is discovered by Will Robinson by chance on a distant planet.  Gender unknown and who is playing the robot is also unknown.  We’ll have to wait for the series to start before we find out.  All we have for now is an amazing looking alien machine and the voice of the robot warning of an impeding threat with the original “Danger Will Robinson.”

Most of us who have seen the original series fondly remember the character of Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris).  Whom Bill Mumy, playing the role of Will Robinson, referred to him as “This man we love-to-hate, a snivelling coward who would cower behind the little boy, ‘Oh, the pain! Save me, William!'”

Well, in the reboot, the role of Dr Smith is taking on a gender switch, making Dr Smith a woman.  Parker Posey spoke of her role at WonderCon.  She explained:

“I love the original (series) and I certainly love the original Maureen,” Posey said (via Deadline). “But we live in a different time of gender dynamics.

“The women (on the show) could do whatever the men do – it isn’t even a question. It’s just the reality. It’s incredible to play a woman as smart as she and at the same time, has these flaws and has to connect with her kids.

“It’s 30 years into the future and we have imagined a reality we would like to see. We will hopefully be in a place where we want to be in terms of class, race and gender.”

She added: “When I heard they were going to offer me the part it was really touching for me. I loved that they made her into a woman.

“You’re going to see over 10 episodes how this new Dr Smith evolves.”

Well, I for one will be watching that development closely.

Blade Runner 2049

Honestly, when I first heard they were making a sequel I wasn’t thrilled, but once I learnt Denis Villeneuve was involved, I was curious to see what he would manage to produce.

Having watched his previous film, Arrival—based on the original short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang—I felt he had the skill to create an outstanding adaptation. And while listening to an interview, I learnt Denis Villeneuve also happened to be a passionate fan of the original, which was a plus. Of course, I loved the original, for the obvious reasons I reiterated in the Blade Runner review I posted here in the blog. Still, I was skeptical.

I saw Blade Runner way back in the 80s. It was a time when a lot of us were scared and excited about the future. But that was then, and today that future seems partially here. So, while watching 2049 I didn’t share the same emotions I had back then. The foreboding of what was to come, had been replaced with, it’s here, now. Well, somewhat.

Fortunately, after viewing Blade Runner 2049, it turned out to be a splendid sequel, leaving me pleasantly surprised. Denis Villeneuve pays homage to the original, and does so admirably. I can’t wait to see what he does with Dune.

However, some found it to be a long film. And to be truthful, it’s much longer than the original. Two hours and forty-three minutes long to be exact. The original had a running time of under two hours. I didn’t mind the length. It actually gave me ample time to relish in the spectacle, the soundscape and the visually stunning sights, which were staggering. But the film’s length might have accounted for the less than stellar box office performance, possibly hampering a further sequel.

Set 30 years after the original Blade Runner, the earth has waned into a dystopian quagmire. With technology no longer the answer to all our prayers, nor humanities savior from ourselves; but a cold, clinical enslaver.

Due to persistent poverty, only the few—I suppose the rich and powerful—have access to more advanced devices and luxury, and even they seem misplaced from their empathy on a world plagued with mass extinction. Where the distinction between humans and replicants is blurred by a shared ‘quasi-alive’ subsistence. So, in retrospect both films share the same gloomy outlook Philip Dick had for humanity, when he wrote Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep. Exploring what it means to be human and the moral distinctions made between life and simulated-life.

Looking out from ‘K’ Ryan Gosling’s shabby apartment, all one sees is an endless night awash in constant rain against a backdrop of lost hopes. Those hopes play like mirrors in the form of corporation logos and giant holographic images, which tease and tempt at what’s left of our addiction to consumerism.

The film’s soundtrack fails to reach the original’s greatness, one that is often described as mythical, evocative and pristine. But it has its moments of brooding beauty and seismic immersion, and manages moments of subtle ambience. Finally, towards the end, it pays homage to Vangelis’s “Tears in the Rain” with an emotive redux.

As a soundtrack, it’s full of echoes and haunting as hell. Zimmer and Wallfisch did a commendable job, and they were well aware of the fact that it would never match Vangelis’s magnum opus, so they decided not to even try. Though listening to the sweeping suites of “Sea Walls” and “Blade Runner”, one feels they captured ambient elements of the original. And that’s an opinion coming from an amateur soundtrack buff like myself, who also is a huge fan of Vangelis’s work.

The critical response was positive, general consensus calling it an instant classic. Quite an interesting difference in retrospect, if one compares the change of attitudes over the years in relation to the originals initial mixed reactions from film critics of the 80’s.

As a sequel, I would highly recommend it. As does a rewatch, which I intend to do in the not too distant future.

Life Luminescent – Short Story

Life Luminescent is a short story, originally an entry submission to the XPRIZE competition, exploring a unique vision of the not too distant future.

While en route from Tokyo to San Francisco on board ANA Flight 008, Kaira Winters is woken by a strange sensation.  From her window she catches a glimpse of a shadow veiling the stars.  Unaware that anything has changed, she will soon discover her world is no longer the same.

You can read the story here: Life Luminescent

Utopian Tide – Poetry

Utopian Tide is a little poem I wrote a long time ago when I was younger, and felt that this world was a forbidding place with little empathy.  Well not much has changed, but for the fact the world is how you perceive it and what you do with your life.

So, even though the poem was about escaping to find Utopia in some other life, I prefer to see it now as a metaphor to finding truth and strength in your mind.  You are your world, and the world is what you make of it.  You can read it by clicking here.

Blade Runner – A Timeless Classic

Back in 1982 I sat in a musky, antiquated cinema that no longer exists, watching the opening credits to Blade Runner. The credits ended with a scrolling introduction to the Replicants that finished in pitch black. Out of the darkness, the endless night of the dystopian cityscape of Los Angeles materialized, smeared in smog and toxic rain. Performing to this surreal futuristic film noir was a combination of classical arrangements and synthesizers—the melancholic, yet beautifully haunting music of Vangelis. I was looking at a prophetic November in 2019.

As the rumble of massive flames exploded from towering industrial funnels, I was struck by a frightful question, could this be the future? By the time the film’s final scene ‘Tears in Rain’ ended, I think I was in tears as well. I left the cinema emotionally shaken by the experience.

Over the following days I was saddened to read in the newspapers of the time, the generally negative consensus. Critics and public alike seemed to have missed the point somewhere. The negative criticism, in particular from the United States, impacted the film’s success, stigmatizing for years the film’s true influence. Over the course of time, however, it became a cult classic and was eventually accepted as a science fiction masterpiece, the definitive sci-noir.

The film underwent seven iterations.  In 2007, on the 25th anniversary, the digitally remastered Final Cut was released.  Scott had complete artistic freedom over it and it became the decisive version to watch on Blue-ray. 

I’ll be re-watching Blade Runner: The Final Cut, before I go and see the sequel, Blade Runner 2049.   If you’re planning to see the new sequel and you haven’t seen the original, do yourself a favor and watch the Final Cut.  It’s definitely my favorite version and the one that Scott considers his final true vision of the film.

Come October, I’ll have the opportunity to watch Blade Runner 2049, and hopefully post my views on it afterwards.