Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Batfleck - Why All the Hate?

Rumors tell tale that the sequel to Man of Steel will be a Batman vs Superman movie. If you haven't heard, Ben Affleck was cast recently into playing Batman/Bruce Wayne. In the DC Universe, Batman covers Gotham city while Superman covers Metropolis and much of the rest of the world. So it's not so weird as you might think. In the same way that the Marvel Universe has a million superheroes (X-men, Fantastic 4, Avengers, etc), the DC universe has them as well.

Anyway, the initial reactions to Affleck being cast as Batman have been negative to say the least. I have even seen a few sites that offer a top 10 list of tweets bashing the casting choice. Some of the comments are pretty funny, others just seems rude. Why all the Affleck hate? For a long time, Ben Affleck has been criticized for his acting. People usually cite Gigli as their evidence for his poor acting skills, but I've seen the guy really turn it on before. Of course, people LOVE to bring up his, probably most relevant role, Daredevil. Admittedly, the role of Daredevil was not his best.
Responses have been... interesting
I have a few ideas of my own about this. Probably my most compelling argument for Affleck: He plays a really good tortured soul. Some of the movies in which he's played a tortured soul: Argo, The Town, Chasing Amy, Dogma... etc. Even in Gigli, which was a ridiculous movie, had him playing a tortured soul - and these moments were not the worst in the film. I've watched it beginning to end, so test me if you really want to. Even Daredevil, which was a pretty bad movie, or at least not good, saw him in this same role. I think the guy knows how to play pain, and I think the guy can draw on this experience.

Experience is key here. Ben Affleck has already, essentially, played Batman from another universe: Daredevil. It doesn't take much thinking to see that Daredevil is almost the same character as Batman - each are flawed, each lost their parents, each are rich, each fight crime, etc. I like to think of his Daredevil performance as a prep course for this role as Batman. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Look! He's already got the Bat-pose!
There are a slew of reasons that have arisen after the initial backlash that support the choice of Affleck as Batman. Even as a Batman fan, I can't disagree with most of them. For one, Matt Damon supports him, and Damon has a history of making some pretty great movies. In Damon's own words "You know, he's not playing King Lear." Which is an excellent point... it'll take much more acting talent to play Bruce Wayne than Batman.

Additionally, there is a writer over at Forbes named Mark Hughes that wrote a fantastic piece about Batfleck. Of the 6 reasons he lists for Ben Affleck, I strongly agree with 2 of them. First, in becoming a director (and a successful one!), he has a different perspective on acting and what acting is used for. Now, his acting will be informed by a different perspective than before. Again, practice makes perfect. Secondly, Hughes comments that super fans have had a pretty bad track record on determining who makes a good casting choice. People didn't like Daniel Craig as the choice for James Bond. Fans didn't like Tobey McGuire as Spiderman - While I didn't like those movies, I do think he played a decent Peter Parker. Most relevantly, people hated Michael Keaton as Batman back in 1989. Even though this film didn't really feature a good Batman (he killed, like, everyone), Keaton was great in the role of Bruce Wayne. Fans are so crazy, that they even started an official petition with the White House to get the president to step in and stop the casting.

I think all these haters are judging way too quickly. I'm sitting in the "hopeful" category, and I expect that, at the very least, Ben Affleck will deliver a decent job. If I were a betting man, I'd bet money that Affleck will do a good or even great job in the role, and I'm looking forward to it.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Games!

E3 or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, was back in June. What stole the show then was information regarding the release of Microsoft's and Sony's newest consoles, the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, respectively. Because of the notoriously bad presentation of the Xbox One, these "next gen" consoles stole the show... but what about that games they showed there? Let's take some time to go over a few of the games that really caught my eye. These are the games I'm most looking forward to for the next generation of consoles.

The Order: 1886

This game caught my eye because it takes place in a Victorian Era England and features knights fighting Demons. There are so many ways that this is cool. First, the Victorian Era has a type of character and ambiance that is very appealing to a lot of people. It's even spawned it's own separate subculture, but notably it's a very gothic setting that appeals to a lot of people. There already exists other fictional universes that feature both gothic themes and supernatural themes quite heavily. In this case, the main characters appear to be normal humans, but with a twist. If you watch the trailer and listen, one of the men is called "Galahad." So this story isn't just about humans vs demons, it's a King Arthur story. Could be pretty awesome. The game is being developed by Ready at Dawn. It will be released on the Playstion 4.

Dying Light

From the brilliant minds that brought us Dead Island, Techland has revealed that Dying Light is their next big project. They showed the above video at E3 and the reception seems to have been pretty decent. This game is being described as a mixture of Dead Island and Mirror's Edge. For some people, these two references mean nothing, so let me explain: Dead Island is a first-person action-adventure game where the goal is to get off an island invested by different kinds of zombies. You can customize weapons along the way, use firearms, and level-up a character. It gets pretty great when you can swing a huge electric hammer at a zombie's head. Mirror's Edge is a first-person action-adventure game that features Parkour as the main mode of travel. It's set in a dystopian future where you play a courier for the resistance movement. Since you don't really have any guns in the game, it's important to evade capture and bullets. I admit that I'm a sucker for zombie games, I've owned quite a few in the time that they've been popular. Indeed, I'm not even tired of them yet, they just seem to be getting better. Dying Light will be released on both consoles.


Warframe looks like it could be something quite different than we've seen recently. Based on the trailer, it looks like it could be start of a great new franchise. The studio in charge of this one isn't one I've heard of, Digital Extremes. However, the founder of this company was one of the guys who gave us the Unreal series, so I'm not going to judge early. From what I can tell, it's a far-future action game that features at least 2 different factions. One is highly militarized while the other appears to be some ancient technological species with far superior weapons and armaments. I don't know if you've gathered, but I love sci-fi. This will be released for the Playstation 4.

Star Wars: Battlefront

Battlefront was a franchise of Star Wars games deeply loved by many, myself included. I remember fondly rushing up the Jedi Temple doing my best to execute order 66. Or, my personal favorite, destroying as many droids as possible with my clone trooper trying to hold the line during the battle of Kashyyyk. It has been 10 years since a new one of these games has been released thanks, in part, to developers closing and the rights to the game shifting hands. Finally, EA has announced that they have DICE working on the next installment of this series. DICE is responsible for bringing us Battlefield 1942, so I'm fairly sure this game is in capable hands. Battlefront is a first-person shooter similar to the Battlefield or the Call of Duty franchises but set in the Star Wars universe. Really looking forward to hearing more about this one! It will probably be released on all major systems.


I'm really excited about this game. Probably the most excited about all of them. This is a new franchise being developed by a company called Respawn Entertainment. This company was founded by the two guys who brought us the original Call of Duty from the company Infinity Ward. For those of you unfamiliar, this was the company that made the good call of duties up until Modern Warfare 2. Titanfall is going to be a mech-based game that reminds me a lot of how I imagine the Battletech series should have been. I liked the Mechwarrior games, but this is a new take on all that. You can enter and exit mechs at will. Particularly pleasing to me is the idea that even infantry can be deadly, and the battlefield isn't dominated by just mechs. The game play looks phenomenal, and the level of action outpaces most of their competitors. As a debut game, this certainly has my attention. It will be released on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

I skipped a bunch of pretty good games that were revealed at E3. Honorable mention games are: Arma 3, Batman: Arkham Origins, DayZ Standalone, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Dead Rising 3, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

3 Common Misconceptions

In every day life we will come across many things that we think we know. Sometimes we know them accurately, but there are many times where we think we know something and it's actually wrong. These misconceptions are a part of our daily lives and I'd like to talk about them. Below you will find 3 common misconceptions that I came across recently.

Swear Words
First off, let's talk about something everyone loves. Swear words! There are so many of them to choose from, and they're all so deliciously flavored which makes it difficult to choose just one. However, I'll do just that, and stick with everybody's favorite swear: Fuck.

I'd like to begin by telling a story: When I was working for a large Oil company, my boss - a PhD engineer - loved to tell a story in meetings about where certain swear words came from. "Fuck" he would say, "is a hold-over from a time when the royalty of England were forbidden from visiting mistresses and brothels." The idea is that fornication was considered not just a sin, but against the law and carried a severe punishment. Legend says that, in order to circumvent this law, certain fortunate people would carry a written form giving them free reign to put their bits wherever they wanted. Such forms are thought to have said "Fornication Under Consent of King" and include a royal seal, giving these people a hall pass.

Despite what you may have heard, his is un-correct! In fact, the word comes from a place that makes total sense. The earliest written form of the word is believed to be in an old English poem from the fifteenth century. Incidentally, this is over 100 years before the Puritan movement got into power in England (the types of people who would pass a law against fornication). This poem is called Flen Flyys, and the author mentions how certain people won't go to heaven because they fuccant the wives of other people. You don't need to be a genius to figure out that context. Earlier than this, it is believed that the word came from a Scandinavian origin. There is a Norwegian word, fukka, and a Swedish word, focka, that both mean to copulate. This seems like a pretty logical origin of this word given our usage of it.

For further reading, you might find this amusing.

Napoleon's Height

I'm sure that some of you are familiar with the military leader Napoleon Bonaparte. He's a very famous French military leader who ended up ruining most of Europe's military in what began as the French Revolution and grew into the Napoleonic Wars. It's a pretty interesting part of world history since, for one, the Napoleonic Wars developed into a continent-spanning war that involved most (all?) of the major European powers. This war paved the way for some major political and national changes. For example, it saw the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and is said to have begun the German sense of nationalism that became famous in later years. Plus, this period of history has spawned some pretty cool games.

I have one of me just like this... only on a lion.
One of the things you hear about Napoleon was that he had a complex associated with an inferior stature, or an inferiority complex. The Napoleon Complex is a colloquial term used to describe an alleged psychological phenomenon in people, usually men, of short stature. The idea is that these people are driven to excel in spite of any physical disadvantages, and compelled to prove themselves just as good or better than their taller counterparts. These people are usually said to be egocentric and very driven - often to the point of isolation. This misconception is a double-whammy because first, shorter people are actually less aggressive than their taller counterparts on average. Second, Napoleon was above average height for his time period.

You see, when you were a country of any significance back in those days, you had your own units of measure. It can cause a lot of confusion when you say that Napoleon was 5"2' which is, technically, a correct statement. Unfortunately, you're not including what units you're measuring in... he was 5'2" if you base your conversion off British inches. In fact, they would have used the French Pouce. The difference is that British inches are 2.51 cm and the French Pouce is 2.71 cm. This is a difference of about 7% - the difference between 5'2" and 5'7". While below average for today's standards, 5'7" was above average in they days of Napoleon. Converting units can be hard, and no one knows this like NASA.

Space Ships Burning on Reentry
As most of you are probably familiar, things light on fire as they reenter the Earth's atmosphere. Take a look at this video of one of the space shuttles coming in... that's not a nice sunset. That's fire.

 What most of us have been lead to believe is that this happens as a result of friction caused by traveling through the atmosphere at such a rapid pace. It makes a lot of sense to us because almost all of us know what an Indian burn feels like (thanks, brothers!).

Despite common knowlede, or perhaps common sense, this is not true! The fire that burns outside a spaceship during reentry is due to a process called adiabatic heating. The short version is that when you're going through an atmosphere at really fast speeds, the gases will apply high pressure to the front/bottom of the spacecraft. Think of it like going down the highway with your hand out the window of your car. You can feel the wind resistance against your hand - this is a force being applied by smashing air molecules against your hand. Now think of doing that same thing, but going 25 times the speed of sound... or 18,000 mph.

In an adiabatic process, is a change of a system in which no heat is transferred. If you had a closed piston system, like a bike pump with the end closed, and you pressed down on the pump, the existing gases trapped in the piston would be forced into a smaller volume. Since you're not taking out any gases, the pressure increases. This increase in pressure accompanies an increase in activity of the molecules trapped, which causes the heat of the system to rise. Heat is essentially a measure of how energetic molecules are. In a colder system, molecules move slower. In a hotter system, the molecules move faster.

To summarize, you're putting so much pressure on a space ship on reentry that the gasses will actually ignite against the hull of the ship. The result is a pretty awesome looking fireball.

I'd like to write about more misconceptions in the future. So stick around!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Star Wars

Soon there will be a new comic being released that will be called "The Star Wars". This comic will be an 8 issue series about the rough draft of Star Wars originally written by George Lucas before the first film had even begun to be produced. This originally story was vastly different from what ended up being released. As a huge Star Wars fan, I'm pretty excited to see what they're going to do with the story.

Kane Skywalker with his sons Annikin and Deak
One of the major differences in the rough draft is that Luke Skywalker is no longer the focus of the story. In the rough draft, Luke is actually a secondary character that ends up aiding the main protagonist. This hero goes by a name familiar to most of us: Annikin Starkiller. In this story, Luke is no longer a young, naive farm boy. Instead, he's a wisened Jedi in his prime. He's seated comfortably in a position of power in the government of their home planet, an aristocratic world. His role is to help Annikin and his father, Kane Starkiller, to right the wrongs of this unusual world.

Annikin and his father Kane go off to defeat the Sith that have infiltrated their home planet. In order to do so, they contact Luke, and Luke's smuggler friend, Han Solo. Interestingly, in the rough draft, Solo was a reptilian alien called an Ureallian. Chewbacca makes an appearance as well... interestingly not as Solo's best friend. In the rough draft, Wookiees would hunt Ureallians for sport - so these two species never really got along. I think there could be an interesting dynamic that occurs here if they actually do become inseparable buddies like in the films we know.
Alternate cover featuring Darth Vader

The comic is going to be produced by Dark Horse Comics, who have a history of releasing quality Star Wars literature in comic book form. Additionally, Dark Horse has a history of producing stories that get adapted to well known films: The Mask, Sin City, Hellboy, 300 to name a few. I'm a big enough fan of Star Wars and Comic Books in general (I've even written about it before) that I'm convinced this is going to be worth my time to read.

For any of you interested, the first issue of the comic will be released September 4th. So who among you is going to buy me this first issue!?