Changing The Story

It’s not often that comic books make headline news anymore.

The movies based on them are usually the top story of entertainment pages for much of the summer, especially the weeks leading up to San Diego Comic Con. Many of the trailers concerning them will soon be among the most watched on YouTube once they’re displayed for the first time in a stuffed-to-the-brim panel at the convention center. This is nerd season. The time of year people like me spend a weekend clamoring for the latest news from the west coast.

Comic books themselves, though, have not had quite a year like this going into SDCC in quite some time.

Marvel’s most recent announcements about changes were enough to warrant late-night-talk-show level attention (as well as some strange mid-afternoon-talk-show attention). By now, if you’re a fan of this blog, you’ve likely heard the big news.

Thor is going to be a woman. Marvel has insisted, emphatically, that this is not just some “She-Thor” or “Thor Girl” sub-character, this is the real-deal, Mjolnir-wielding, lightning-throwing, hammer-smashing, Loki-pummeling Thor.

There was some raucous over the canonical inscription on Thor’s ancient weapon that “Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Personally, I always thought of it as “…if THEY be worthy…” because, for one, there should have been no reason in the first place a woman wouldn’t be worthy of becoming one of the world’s greatest heroes and, two, Wonder Woman actually lifted the hammer once, though the probability of that being canon is sketchy at best what with all the “punching reality” and “Age of Ultron” level nonsense that’s gone on since that point in the 90s.

I love the change. Thor has a long tradition of being a staple and main cast member of The Avengers but suffers when it comes to solo stories. Asgardian drama, while appealing to some, has never really been the comic reader’s cup of tea. Thor isn’t typically solo-ing any super villains of note in the Marvel U aside from Loki and sometimes they put aside their differences and work together – so often that, when Thor gets all wrath-of-God on him, it makes Thor look like he’s got some serious bi-polar issues. In the end it winds up not being an interesting read. Even though Thor is a mega-badass and can (on most occasions) stand up to even the Hulk in a fist fight, based on his mode of speech he is relegated to near comic-relief status in the Avengers. I have had many chuckles at a well-placed “Verliy”, I won’t lie.

Nerd alert: the current story does allow for this to happen. Recently, original Thor inherited the Odinforce, essentially making him Odin. Also recently, it was revealed that Angela (a refugee from Spawn brought to Marvel by Neil Gaiman as the result of a lawsuit he won for rights to the character over Todd McFarlaine) is actually Odin’s daughter and Thor’s big sister. If they’re going to keep it in the family, it seems likely that this is how it’ll go down. Original Thor inherits Odin’s throne in Asgard and Angela steps up to claim her birthright (as the firstborn Odinsdottir) by wielding mighty Mjolnir. Seems like the smoothest way to do it and allows for more permanency than another “I got cursed by Loki” jaunt where Thor, suddenly a woman, must go on a quest to find his lost sausage while complaining about being one of the “fairer sex” the entire time as it feels has been done a million times before.

I am extremely interested in this and want to see which direction this will go. Thor was never one of my favorite characters but this change makes me want to read that book.

The other headline they made was announcing that Sam Wilson, aka, the Falcon (you might remember him as the dude with the wings from the Cap movie sequel) will be taking over duties as Captain America. This means that, for the first time, the mainstream current Captain America will be African-American.

They’ve toyed with this notion in the past by introducing Isaiah Bradley. After the original Cap was dosed with super-soldier serum and sent out to punch Hitler directly in his Nazi face during WWII, the government continued trials on the serum attempting to replicate the results that made Steve Rogers into a shield-throwing sentinel of liberty. The storyline was actually pretty dark and involved a Tuskeegee Syphillis Study-type situation where African-American soldiers were deemed “expendable” and thus used for experimentation. Isaiah Bradley was the only one deemed a success. He didn’t receive nearly as much recognition as Cap for his part in the war but was considered the “Black Captain America”.

This was all encapsulated within a 2003 mini-series and, really, had no major impact on the mainstream Marvel U except for the fact that Isaiah’s grandson, Elijah, wound up in the Young Avengers. That title didn’t last very long, unfortunately.

This type of change is nothing new to Cap fans who, at the end of the Superhero Civil War, saw Steve Rodgers “killed” which brought Bucky (the Winter Soldier) to pick up the shield and carry on the name. When Steve returned, the President appointed him Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, though he still ran in the field a bit, allowed Bucky to retain the mantle. He returned to it after Bucky’s “death” and held onto it until now.

Nerd alert: the current story does allow for this to happen. In the recent Original Sin storyline it was revealed that Nick Fury is dying. Quickly. Seems to me that the only logical replacement for S.H.I.E.L.D. would once again be Captain Steven Rogers which leaves Cap’s actual shield on the shelf. Bucky (since resurrected) has returned to his dickish Winter Soldier ways (probably to fall in line with the movie) leaving the vacancy open for Sam Wilson to take over.

It won’t be as world-shattering a change as Thor but I still like it very much. I enjoyed the post-resurrection Steve Rogers, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff. It was nice to see someone with such authority and wide-ranging respect in the Marvel U take over. It was fun to see him as an actual commander rather than just a field team leader. If anyone deserves a cushier job it’s Steve. I think it will be fun to see how he handles it for real this time and how Sam reacts to his new mantle.

Comics need more changes like this. Both sides of the major-label war, DC and Marvel, need to remain flexible and realize that making changes like this within the main canon universe only make for more interesting stories. They should also learn that erasing things that someone didn’t like about a particular character (or erasing an entire character itself) via “reality punching” only shows weakness. You want someone gone from continuity? There’s nothing better than DEATH to solve that problem. You want someone back into continuity after they’re dead? Don’t punch reality. They’re dead. Leave them in the ground. If you want a particular mask back in play, have someone else pick up the mantle.

For years we’ve had more and more of the same unless there’s a major event. Just back there, I mentioned Cap dying. Yeah, he was dead. Shot point blank. Boom, done, end of story, right? That is, until you find out that the bullet that killed him actually took him outside of time and allowed for him to return. I like Steve and all, but if you’re going to kill him, let the man die. The books dealing with his loss were some of the best character stories I’ve seen in a while. Watching Tony Stark cry over the man he was directly opposed to during the Civil War – that was a moment. Bringing Cap back out of some random ether invalidated that entire scene. Change was awesome. They kept it pretty good by allowing Bucky to hang on to the shield for a little while longer. By the time Steve was back in the saddle, everyone forgot that he died in the first place. Such is the cyclical nature of comics.

I personally can’t wait until my characters in Unlucky Seven are recognizable enough that, when the hatchet comes down and the game changes, it will shock my audience and please them that in my book death is for real and is insurmountable. Mostly.

Permanency, though, would be preferable to resurrection or reconstruction. As long as there is money to be made, comic book companies won’t see it that way.

With the amount of publicity they’re generating, I can hope that these changes will be for the long term. It seems unlikely. Thor will be back to a man and Steve will be Cap again before the Avengers Sequel drops next summer because what’s the point of crossover marketing when your main movie characters don’t match up to what’s in the comic. Bet you a dollar. Any takers?

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

I Wrote a Book.

More like I finished a book. Finally. Really. You can buy it here.

If you’ve known me for a while and you’ve been around since way back in the old livejournal days (God, that feel so dated it’s almost embarrassing) then you know about Unlucky Seven.

I’ve mentioned it in this blog on a few occasions, mostly using it as an excuse in the long lapse between blog entries. It is, actually, a real and tangible thing. Well, as real as words typed on a screen can be.

Some of you still reading from way back when may remember that I used to post chapters of this story on a separate livejournal (there’s that feeling again) as a sort of serial. I had at least two or three people who I considered fans that kept up with it as it grew ever more monstrous.

It got to be too big. 60+ chapters. Over 2 million words. At one point, I said to myself that enough was enough. If I ever wanted this thing to hit print, I couldn’t keep going, especially since the narrative had grown out of my control with continuous foreshadowing to things that were never realized or were simply forgotten about leading up to a time travel story arc. What can I say? The last livejournal posts were made in the summer of 2008 (just went to check for sure, THAT was a trip down memory lane…) and the last parts of the gigantic ridiculous original tale were written sometime around 2010. They weren’t publicized as the audience had largely dried up. I kept working and, let me tell you, I’m glad I kept the rest of it behind closed doors. It was utter travesty with absolutely no direction. I blame the fact that I was watching LOST with severe interest at the time.

It was upon this realization in 2010 that I decided it was time for an overhaul. I read through it, hated most of it, liked some of it, and decided that my original idea of chopping it up into bite-sized chunks for mass consumption would not be as simple as that. There were so many problems and I was guilty of pride in not noticing them. This work, which had taken most of my creative time (between ranting about things and arranging fictional fisticuffs), was a literal monster.

The first thing I realized was that initially it had taken fifty (that’s 5 x 10) chapters in a story about superheroes to get to any kind of real, major, tangible conflict. I’m talking over a million words before a serious blow was thrown. There had been minor conflicts, sure, but not to really resolve anything. I created some of the most amazingly super-powered people and did next-to-nothing with them for the majority of their existence on the printed page. Obviously, I couldn’t just chop it off at a random chapter. The story needed a climax – a major event – before the first manageable (read: not 500 page) installment could end.

The tool belt was broken out. The rewrite had begun.

I started hacking away using the original monstrosity as source material. I started to cherry pick the best parts and stuff them into a neat little package. Entire chapters survived because, again, I was too proud to eliminate a majority of the work I’d already done. After a year or so, I had it down to about thirty chapters with a definitive ending including a cliffhanger into what I planned to be the next book. I was fairly pleased with what I had Frankenstein-ed together enough to start submitting to publishers.

Dozens of rejection letters came. After really reading over it and evaluating, I wasn’t surprised.

Chapter one was garbage. It would have to be redone. Chapter two wasn’t much better. Something I stated as untrue in chapter seven was suddenly made crucially true in chapter twenty-one because it just had to be there. The pacing wasn’t right. The ending was flimsy. Even the cliffhanger wasn’t well executed. As a whole, I was displeased.

I put it down for a year. I stepped away and didn’t touch anything. I tried to move on to other projects. I tried to write something else but that specter, the shadow of that giant, loomed over me. I knew what had to be done.

I started with a ground level rewrite and I did it the right way this time. I outlined everything just for the sake of having notes. I knew where I wanted the story to go, I just had to write my way there. I changed so much that the tone of the entire work was permanently altered. Character dynamics, interactions, places, people, situations… nothing looked the same. It was like blowing up your hometown, leaving for a decade, and coming back to something completely different yet still somehow familiar.

As typical and pretentious as it may sound, I found the voice of the work. I figured out the devices which might help to set it apart from its contemporaries. Eventually, after poring over it time and again, it was complete.

The concept for Unlucky Seven came to me in 2002. I started writing it in 2004. That’s an entire decade this story has been added to, chipped at, broken down, reconstructed, played with, rearranged, and untangled. Ten years later, it was finally what I wanted it to be.

It feels like an achievement that it’s now out for public consumption.

I got tired of waiting for publishers and literary agents to get back to me and tell me they weren’t interested or that the market wasn’t right or that their house had another similar project in the works. I wanted this out there and I wanted it out there now. A friend suggested Amazon as an outlet and, after some serious research, I decided that self-publishing would allow me to keep a tighter grip on my beloved IP and I hope that I’m right.

With no excuses left to hold me back, I pushed the go button. So, now we’re going. Hopefully we’ll keep going and keep going well.

A cover design is all that is holding back a print-on-demand version of the book, by the way, but if you want it cheap, I recommend the Kindle version. Kindle reader is available for just about every platform from PC to Android to iOS, so it’s not just limited to one particular brand of eReader. If you’ve enjoyed my non-fictional words in the past, I humbly ask that you pick up a copy of U7. Swag will be forthcoming as well (there’s a logo, which means merch can be produced with relative ease).

I thank you, my loyal audience, for all the times you’ve read and commented. Now, I call on you to help a brother out. Spread the word about Unlucky Seven. Get your friends to buy it. Get your family to buy it. Get your enemies to buy it. Write a review for it on its Amazon page. Most importantly, get ready for a sequel. It won’t take ten more years, I can promise you that.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Fixing the Pens: Who Stays, Who Goes?

Pittsburgh is a city spoiled rotten for sports victory.

Before you start throwing your parking chairs at me in rage, hear me out.

Within the last 10 years, our city has experienced back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances with one win, three Super Bowl appearances with two wins, and one brief brush with post-season baseball. Only cities ending in “oston” can claim better overall.

We are the City of Champions, which is something to be proud of. We have been host to some of the greatest teams in all of sporting history. Some of the greatest in their respective sports have played here, won championships here, nested here, and are citizens here. Even the most disinterested Pittsburghers, the one who claim they don’t watch sports (a rarity), turn a slight eye to the television when the big games come around and can at least name one of the current starring players on the three major teams.

We have decades of success to look back on. Since the popularization of professional organized sport, Pittsburgh has had a presence and, indeed, a winning tradition. It is to the point that we, as Pittsburghers, cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to live in Toronto or Buffalo or the disgusting Philthy cesspool on the other side of our state. We cannot conceive what it is like to truly and honestly suck in sports across the board.

This is why Pittsburgh sports fans feel entitled and are spoiled rotten to the core. We become emotionally invested in these teams and the games they play, sometimes more than the players getting paid to play them. We believe, more than most other fanbases (excluding football hooligans) that our actions as fans matter. That if we cheer loud enough and hope strong enough and wave those towels hard enough, somehow, someway, the Sporting Gods will look down upon us and grant us our much needed miracle. We’ve been given every reason to believe that this works (the shoestring tackle in the AFC championships, Johnny Cuedo dropping the ball on the mound, the last three minutes of game seven vs. the Red Wings in 2009) and we feel that our teams are the Achilles of the Sports Pantheon – favored of the Gods, nigh invulnerable, and virtually undefeatable.

We demand victory above all things. We crave it like vampires, drinking the sweet nectar of achievement to keep us eternally young and virile. Without that, we are lost. In our city, anything less than a championship team means that our guys sucked and heads must roll.

That’s why I’m here today; because I am one of your entitled and privileged number, oh my brothers and only friends. Because my vampiric lust for victory is five years starved. Because my hockey team was defeated – brutally – at the hands of a foe believed inferior in a part of the world where every foe is believed inferior. I am here today to talk about change and what needs to happen to get our beloved Penguins back to the way they should be. Heads will roll. Heads must roll. If there’s anything we Pittsburgh sports fans are good at, it’s pointing fingers and assessing blame when our teams lose.

This team was supposed to be a dynasty – The Crosby/Malkin Dynasty – and we have been left sorely disappointed.

That said, how long should the line for the guillotine be this off-season? Like the French Revolution, we the people will determine which nobles get the chop and which get to live another day. This is only my humblest of opinions. You’re welcome to disagree.

We will look at my top three choices for who goes, who’s on the fence, and who stays for sure.

Who Goes?

Dan Bylsma
Let me be perfectly clear: I have nothing but the utmost respect for Coach Disco. He deserved all the praise he ever got and he led this team out of the darkness to ultimate glory when things seemed to be most dire in the early-year winter months of 2009.
That said, Dan has a lot to answer for.
Coach Disco has been the focal point of the sports pundits’ rage since the Stanley Cup hangover of 2010. His inability to change his team’s style when utility cried out for it has been his major downfall. His distaste for playing the line matchup game is a close second.
Disco did not properly utilize his team and, when shake-ups were necessary and change was required, refused to bow to the pressure of the media, the fanbase, and the game itself. His mentality was a stubborn one. He rammed into a brick wall, time and time again, hoping that the wall would eventually yield to his sheer will and create a door. He wanted the game to fold to his line combinations rather than adjusting more than on-the-fly when a late-game rally was needed.
He played players where they shouldn’t have been played, as evidenced by last summer when he took Jarome Iginla and made him look like a lost pee-wee on NHL ice by making him play on the opposite-side wing from that which had made him such a hot commodity in the first place. The entire reason Iginla was acquired was flushed and made a superstar into a complete bust causing him not to even think about resigning with our team in the off-season.
He became the players’ friend rather than their boss which meant that, when the time came for a reprimand or for the flexing of nuts, he couldn’t do it with any authority. He could yell and scream and I’m sure he did from time to time, but a coach is supposed to be more of a boss than a friend. Players should feel accountable for their actions, but getting criticized by your friend can cause real emotional problems.
Being a friend to the players destroys the professional dynamic and makes everything personal. That benching, that bag skate after a horror show, that call out in the locker room, becomes personal and leads to bigger issues, which I honestly believe what had Sid giving less than a shit and Geno more fired up during these playoffs. This negative emotion has been palpable for the last two or three years.
A coach is supposed to be a figure of authority; someone that these multi-million dollar players should respect if not outright fear. Dan was a breath of fresh air to them after the reign of Iron Mike Therrien, who was too much of a disciplinarian. Dan, however, was too lax in the end.
This was as evident on the Pens bench as it was on Team USA’s this past winter.
His confidence and faith in the “little guys” as many in the media had cited caused potentially bigger guns to go unutilized and also caused many players to be retained far beyond their expiration date. I understand that this is also in part due to the General Manager. We’ll get to that later.

James Neal
He was once The Real Deal. I admit, I was blinded by the points totals. I was convinced by the general skill, the fast release, the fit with Malkin. I was content with James Neal.
Then, he kneed Brad Marchand in the head last season.
I fought against the media hype and all the people who claimed James Neal was a dirty player. I called for his innocence during replay after replay, saying that he was just skating up ice and didn’t see Marchand lying there.
But, the seed was planted.
As reality crept in, I saw the purpose in that knee. I saw the ever-so-slight acknowledgement on Neal’s face as he did it. I still denied it. People started to cite past targeting of heads and sneaky dirty plays. I still denied it.
Then, as I watched this season, I finally acknowledged it: James Neal is one of the dirtier players in the game.
Not the dirtiest by far, but certainly willing to try to sneak in that extra hit. He’s a pest, but not in a Jarkko Ruutu/Matt Cooke “fun yet aggrivating” kind of way. His pestiness is a bit more subtle and a lot more malicious. His big concussion-inducing high-elbow hits are just as resounding.
James Neal this post-season contributed heavily to the opposing team’s power play opportunities by amassing a total of 24 penalty minutes, 12 of those in Game Six vs. the Rangers alone. Over the course of 13 games, he gave the opposition a little more than a period’s worth of extra-man time which, as of last night, ranks him 10th in the post season in PIM. Yes, he was also ranked 2nd for total shots (49), but only converted on two of those attempts with two helpers for four total points in those two rounds.
Neal drastically underperformed and, yes, most of the team did just the same however James Neal is no longer the super-mega-star he was in 2012, his career year. He is a frustrated mid-carder who benefitted heavily from being on Malkin’s line and has since cooled way down.
While he is certainly not solely to blame for the Pens post-season flop, he is potentially the biggest piece of trade bait available within our arsenal. Whether Shero stays or not (again, we’ll get to that later), I think James Neal is gone. What the return could be is left unknown.

Brooks Orpik
This one is more of an unfortunate truth. No fingers can be pointed at Brooks for the post-season problems, but none-the-less, he will be gone.
Last night, rumors began to stir amongst the twitter-verse that Brooks was spotted limping around the Pens locker room and it was overheard that the injury he suffered was one which could potentially end his career, at least with the Penguins.
His contract is up and he will be eligible for free agency this summer. While it will pain me to lose a character guy and a solid defensive defenseman like Brooksy, the sad fact is that we will not pay him what he will need to stay in town, especially not if he is hurt.
I will miss Brooks and all the Free Candy he handed out.

There will undoubtedly be other casualties. These three are assured.

On the Fence

Ray Shero
Yes. This man is an absolute wizard. The certified Jedi Knight of the trade deadline. The Jesus Christ of Free Agency. Responsible for some of the biggest blockbuster trades and acquisitions in the history of this organization.
And, now it’s time for him to say goodbye.
Ray brought us such hits as the Marian Hossa deal, in which the “throw-in” player of Pascal Dupuis ended up being the mainstay. He proved that a turd could be polished and traded for diamonds by dealing Alex “the most worthless defenseman ever” Goligoski to the Stars for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. At a deadline when prospects were slim and it seemed nothing would happen, he made a grab for Jarome Iginla and got it.
While I am a card-carrying member of the Church of Shero, Ray’s time with the team may have run its course.
Pundits are predicting the axe based on poor drafts. I can’t fault them there. We have been stacking up a young defensive core for years without any true merit to the big-league squad aside from the first-half of this season in Olli Maata. As a result, offensive depth has suffered. None of the guys in Wilkes-Barre are capable of filling a bottom-six let alone a top-six spot.
The thought was that these young, skilled defensemen would someday pay dividends and serve as trade bait to build a squad of known quantities around Sid and Geno. The problem with this theory is that the better type of players we would want will not be easily given up by their teams for defensive prospects alone if at all. We could leverage them to potentially pry players from the hands of lesser teams, but, most teams will not deal the caliber forward the Pens need for a handful of magic beans that could one day sprout into a defensive core for their team.
I believe that, behind the scenes, though ownership thought that the two were inexorably tethered to each other via Disco’s two-year extension meeting neatly with the end of Ray’s contract, I think Ray and Disco didn’t do well in the communications department. At least, not beyond being bros. Ray’s choices this year seemed to be more in-line with Disco’s “type of player” than years past but I still don’t think Ray ever truly understood Disco’s coaching style.
This was most evident in the Iginla deal as Shero had done the impossible in snagging the superstar only to have Disco completely misuse this resource. This should not go down as any kind of bad mark on the record of Ray, as the deal done was incredible. Any other coach would have made Ray look like a God for adding a weapon like Iggy to an already formidable line-up. Of course, any other coach would have played Iggy on his proper wing and potentially made it past the Conference Finals.
So, Ray is on the fence. I think the Pens give him one more year, sans Disco, to see what talent he can pull for potentially better development or better fit with different coaching. In the end, Ray is like the hardware store and Disco is a carpenter. Ray only supplies the building materials, it’s more up to Disco to determine what to do with them. Sometimes you wind up with a kick-ass treehouse, sometimes you wind up with a 6th grade shop project. We need a better carpenter.

Olli Maata
As I mentioned during the Shero bit, Olli Maata, at first glance, seemed like a genius move. For the first half of the season, especially while our defensive core was in disrepair, the kid stepped it up. We decided to hang on to him knowing that the terms of his contract demanded that he play lest he be sent back to Major Juniors – such is the problem with his age and terms.
Olli proved himself to be a decent playmaker most of the time; often jumping up on the rush, contributing a good share of assists and even goals, and caught himself a hot streak. He was an exceptionally good two-way defenseman this regular season. Keeping him seemed like the right thing to do.
Post-season, it all disappeared.
Maata, especially noticeable in the back half of the Rangers series, appeared lazy, confused, pressured… I dunno, man, something. He was made to look like a rookie, by his own hand or by the more professional hands that surrounded him.
I suppose we could see how he continues to mature, however, I believe we’ll be doing so at least from the safe distance of Wilkes-Barre. He might prove to be an answer next year as a mid-season call up, but, with potential defensive departures, he may be a best option available for the big league squad.
I believe that Olli is trade bait next season. Maybe not at the outset but surely at the deadline. This is one of those defensive prospects that could pay dividends though, hopefully, he won’t become another Marcus Naslund and really break out before we gave him a chance.

The Rest of the Coaching Staff
As goes Disco, should the rest of the staff be ousted as well? Coaches Granato, Rierden, and Martin could be brought to task just as much as their boss and, if the Pens are indeed looking to tempt a strong, established coach from a well-established team (as I’ve heard whispers of), the rest of the staff seems likely to be on the block as said well-established coach may want to pull in his own staff.
While I like to think that the rest of the coaches aren’t as much of a problem as Disco (and, likely, don’t have the same declining relationship with the team’s superstars as portrayed in recent media revelations), when you treat a cancer, it’s sometimes hard to excise a tumor without removing the organ entirely.
I very much like these three and would hate to see them go. I would like the chance to see Martin given more reign over the team, as it has been said that he was largely discredited by Bylsma. If any of them go, Martin seems the most likely as Bylsma seems to have caused him to “lose the room”. I suppose we’ll see as things progress.

Who Stays?

The Big Stars
Sid, Geno, Flower, Kuni, Fleury, Tanger.
There’s no reason to panic with the big six. Sure, everyone on this list had a sub-par post-season except Fleury (who was the only reason they stayed past Round 1), but damn near the entire team had a sub-par post season.
This is the core around which a new coach/GM tandem will build the future and all of these guys have long-term deals. There are honestly no deals I could see which would get anything near equal return for any of these guys. Cap dumping isn’t even an excuse.
Fleury played out of his mind this post-season and I don’t think that can be said enough. This was not the head-case MAF who barely showed up in last year’s failed playoff. The Flower was planted strong and would have been a Conn-Smythe candidate if he had a team in front of him who could have carried him to the finals.
I believe with new leadership (specifically, a new coach, one who is more boss than friend), these guys will light up and become the core that they once were. Keep what works, shed what doesn’t, and each of these guys work.

Jussi Jokinen
If you could find a harder working guy on the Pens during the post season who wasn’t one listed above, I’d like to know who it was.
Jussi has really blossomed this year. It may be a late-career rally, but I think we should let him ride this wave until it crashes. Could be next season, who knows, but every effort should be made to retain him when he hits free agency.

The PK
Specifically: Adams, Goc, Gibbons.
When they were on, they were generating short-handed breaks like crazy, blocking shots, and doing their best to stifle every conceivable shot while being down a man. I loved 90% of what I saw from these guys. They are strong and, if left together, would be half of an incredible special teams package in the season to come.

Funny, isn’t it, how there are always more words for condemnation than praise?

That’s my take. This closing is a bit abbreviated because I want to get my views out before any big moves are made (especially in the Head Coach department). As I write, rumors swirl of ownerships displeasure with Bylsma and the axe seems to be hovering over Shero as well.

My voice is just one in a chorus and I don’t expect it to be abided by in this instance but I do believe I’m on the money with most of this commentary.

I told you I would do it and it’s done.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

An Open Letter to Pharrell

Mr. Williams,

Through none of my own doing, I have been repeatedly exposed to your recent single.

When I say repeatedly, I mean excessively. In an office environment where many people are listening to variety radio, your song “Happy” is played at least once an hour. And, just when I thought I could escape the madness, I hear your song on television or on any number of overhead speakers in stores or someone who still enjoys this tune will reference it or even sing a bar or two. It is becoming difficult for me to not blindly claw at my eardrums at the sound of your voice.

Let me be clear, Mr. Williams, that I have no problem with you or your musical prowess. I enjoyed your earlier work with The Neptunes and N.E.R.D., I loved your recent collaboration with Daft Punk, and I have defended your rampant abuse of the Arby’s logo by saying that you are one of the greatest producers of our generation and you can wear whatever ridiculous headgear you like.

Your song, however, is slowly pushing me to the brink.

I understand your motives. Every artist wants to write that one song that’s catchy and will hang around forever. The generic feel to your song, being about nothing in particular but the emotion of happiness, guarantees that it will be played at any number of events requiring a DJ for quite a long time. You have written your version of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, thus guaranteeing royalties for as long as you continue to draw breath and even afterwards for whoever you leave behind. The song itself is a catchy juggernaut which will likely never go away and will make an appearance on the playlist of every fifth-tier DJ who will ever spin a wedding, bar mitzvah, or birthday party. My kudos to you on a job well done in this regard.

My problem with your song (aside from the repetitive nature of its playing making me want to carve the eardrums from my head with a rusty switchblade) lies within the lyrics. I hope you’ll hear me out and understand very clearly why I make the following statement:

I will not “clap along” with you.

The qualifications given in the chorus of the song do not fit me and, indeed, should not fit any human being of nominal intelligence. This is ok, however, as your target audience is likely not anywhere near what would be considered sentient let alone intelligent. Again, no problem with your marketing to these people. They are gullible and will make you a Maersk Freighter’s worth of money. This was a smart move on your part. I will, however, go on to explain exactly why myself and no one else who is capable of reading this should “clap along” by analyzing the four tenets delivered in the refrain of “Happy” itself.

1. “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof”

This statement is nebulous. Are you suggesting that we clap along if we feel like being within a room without a roof or are you suggesting that there are some of us out there who have the feeling that they themselves are a room without a roof?

If it is the former, I don’t believe there should truly be a room without a roof. Any room without a roof, to me, is technically outside. In this instance, clapping would be dependent on the weather. If it’s raining or snowing or cold, I certainly don’t “feel like a room without a roof”. I very much feel like a room with a roof would be the safer play for everyone involved. So, I suppose, weather permitting, I could potentially clap along, however I won’t.
If it is the latter of my previous statements, wherein a person could themselves feel as if they are a room without a roof, then that would suggest that they have some sort of dissociative personality disorder in which one of their additional personalities identifies as a structure. Based on the absurdity of this, it seems that your target demographic for clapping is quite small as this is a very nuanced portion of an uncommon condition. Also, while asking psychologically disturbed people to clap along to your pop song is kind of a nice thing to do, you shouldn’t patronize them.
Either way, I will not be clapping.

2. “Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth”

Well, we’re jumping right into the difficult philosophical portion of this, aren’t we?
Personally, I cannot say that happiness is the truth. Maybe it’s just the part of me that is the old French guy in the back of the café smoking cigarettes and bitching about how he could have had it all but, if my time on this planet has taught me anything, it is that happiness certainly is not the truth; at least not all of the time and certainly not for all people.
You may get a few people who will clap along blindly based on this statement because they want to believe happiness is the truth. It is likely that in the moment they hear your song (unless it’s during the drudgery of the work day) that happiness is the truth to them in that very moment. In fact, I am inclined to believe that if the people listening to your song took a moment to think about this, they would not clap at all. The ones which do based on this criteria are likely pretending.
With all of the pain and suffering in this world, misery seems more to be the truth. Yeah, it’s a very emo thing to say, but when you take a moment to look around, not many people should be clapping.
Again, I continue to remain clap-less.

3. “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you”

An even deeper philosophical quandary than the previous statement which begs the question: can one ever truly know the meaning of happiness?
Sure, things make me happy – the warmth and comfort of my friends and family, a good slice of pizza, beating a video game, completing any number of tasks, hockey, etc. – but are these things truly what happiness is to me? Can I ever know what happiness truly is, in the metaphysical sense? There’s no real way to qualify it.
Without some serious searching for whatever transcendental truth lies somewhere out there, I cannot ever truly know the meaning of happiness, either in general or what it is to me specifically. This one requires much more thought and I don’t appreciate being put on the spot to clap based on truths which I have not yet fully realized. In fact, calling me out on this one is just plain embarrassing if I wind up in a room full of people who are clapping based on this criteria because I will feel like the only lazy jerk present who hasn’t yet had whatever life-affirming journey one must take to be qualified to clap here.
On this third note, my hands still remain motionless.

4. “Clap along if you feel that’s what you want to do”

At last, the listener is given some free will, apart from the great questions of life and potential psychological problems which plague the first three qualifiers. At least, that’s what we are left to conclude.
By the time we get to this statement, it is likely that people who fit the qualifications of the first three statements or those who already chose to clap based pre-emptively on this statement, will be clapping. At that point, if I begin to clap, is it truly of my own free will or am I just bending to the peer pressure of all those around me who are already clapping? Do I want to be part of the crowd simply because I don’t want to be singled out? To clap or not to clap? This statement is a clever escape clause which, in all likelihood, will result in the majority of the people clapping.
Some may be exercising free will here based on the catchy nature of the song. They may be clapping because the rhythm makes them feel like that’s what they want to do, and that’s their right. It’s not in my particular interest to clap to the beat like so many other mindless drones but the pressure would be on if I were amidst a crowd of clappers and may, indeed, bow to the hoi polloi of the situation. As a contrarian by nature, I would have to restrain myself no matter how left out of the shared experience I might feel.
So, finally, I will not offer one solitary clap to your great machine of pop music.

In the past, Mr. Williams, it has been suggested to me by other musicians that I complete certain tasks under certain qualifiers. I don’t believe I have once fit the bill of any of them.

One Mr. Z suggested that if I was feeling like a pimp that I should go on brush my shoulders off. I have done no such thing per his instruction, as I have never felt like a pimp, but I have indeed brushed my shoulders off from time to time though this is mostly due to my ownership of two cats and the consistency of their dirt being on my shoulders. If someone does feel this way, they are welcome to use it as a better excuse to brush their shoulders off, including the ladies because, as Mr. Z suggests, ladies is pimps, too.

One Mr. Smalls suggested that I throw my hands in the a-ya though I have not because I do not consider myself, as the song suggests, a true playa. For the record, however, I would not be adverse to someone calling me Big Poppa, even though it might be mildly offensive as I am slightly obese and working to lose weight.

As I have not taken suggestions from hip-hop in the past, I hope that you will understand my refrain from clapping. I have too much going on in my life at the moment to really delve into whether I should clap along or not and I mean no offense. Philosophically and psychologically, I can assume that I would not meet any of the qualifications you list which results in my withdrawal from the situation entirely. I hope you can understand and I hope this doesn’t present an issue to any potential working relationship we may have in the future.

Congratulations on your ability to use music to print money.

Sincerely,

Bidula

—end transmission—

The Redemption of Diablo (DIII Reaper of Souls Review)

I don’t particularly understand why I picked Diablo III back up, but I did.

Up until my re-download of the game, I had forgotten about the rumored game-changing patches and new Reaper of Souls expansion. Mine was a pick-up based on no hype, just a desire to run through some dungeons on a mad three-quarters-perspective loot grab. Such has been the case with Diablo games for me in the past; I just get that craving and there’s nothing that can satisfy like the real name brand.

It was easy to pick up where I last left off, probably more than a year ago. Thanks to the battle.net debacle, I still had my case of characters and a fair amount of gold in my pocket and a clutch of gems, dyes, and items stashed. I took a moment to assess the damage from the closure of the Auction House, realized that I had left about a dozen auctions running (none of which sold) while I was away and spent time scraping up the errant yellows I had put up for grabs.

My thought was that I would start anew with a Demon Hunter and be able to use most of my salvaged stash to kit out a lowbie with some sweet starting gear.

I quickly realized that most of it could simply go out the window because, while I was gone, the Loot 2.0 patch had swept in like a cleansing wind and severely changed the playing field.

Diablo III, even without the Reaper of Souls expansion, plays like a brand new game. You’re not going to get anything but your standard run from Act I through Act IV as far as content goes but things certainly have changed. Like moving out of town for a year and then coming back to visit; the scenery is largely the same but there’s a coffee shop where that Radio Shack used to be and they put in new pumps at the gas station. Also, there’s a new Subway… because there’s always a new Subway.

Going back to DIII now and playing an old character guarantees that, within approximately the first half-hour of gameplay, you will gear up in just about every slot. Loot 2.0’s sweeping changes cause less quantity with item drops, but higher quality and better targeting. If you’re running around as a Wizard, it’s likely you won’t see many quivers or mighty weapons or awesome wands with +ridiculous strength. You’ll see gear dropped, about 90% of the time, which is gear for your character; actual, usable things which will cause less anger at the futility of repetitive runs and more indecision as to which exact yellow helmet out of the seven you have in your inventory is the best investment for your future development. And, oh, by the way, you just found an orange.

When Blizzard blew up the Auction House, all those items were scattered throughout Sanctuary and are sitting there waiting for you to rediscover them.

They’ve also changed the way difficulty works and made the game much better for solo players. Rather than forcing you to continue running through the tiers of difficulty, the enemies and loot now scale to your level even if you leave the game set on Normal for the rest of your career. You can, of course, boost this to give yourself (or your party) more of a challenge, but only if you want to. Normal, Hard, Nightmare, Hell, and Torment are the settings and they advise you on where you should be in your development before you decide to make a change. You can also tweak this on the fly, so, if at any point you find yourself bored or facing down a particularly tough situation, you can seamlessly, mid-game, raise or lower the difficulty level by one step.

This means that the consummate solo player, like myself, does not have to bother themselves with twisting friends arms (or, indeed, having their own arms twisted) in order to make runs to improve their gear. Soloing remains possible indefinitely on the lower difficulty levels and will always produce newer, better items as you continue to rise in experience. This beats the shit out of getting as frustrated as I’d been with some classes around the 30-40 level bridge because they just weren’t cutting it when it came to solo boss battles and actually encourages me that playing every class will be a fun and rewarding experience.

I enjoyed leveling my new Demon Hunter and had just finished my second run (putting me around L55) when payday struck and I decided to buy Reaper of Souls (after having most of its features flaunted temptingly in my face all over the front-end of the game). I jumped right into the new Act V.

The story continues nicely from the end of DIII proper, allowing for some mourning of the dead before charging forward into battle once more. The new Act is rife with side-quests and events and ends on a note which could either allow for an Act VI or could be positioning for Diablo IV. The latest rumors have Blizzard probing the market via selective survey regarding another DIII expansion. If they can do as well as this one, I’m all for it.

Beyond the story and the additional playtime, the game also introduces a new vendor in the Mystic. If you love customization, then all your gold will be spent here. Not only does the Mystic allow you to “re-roll” any one stat on an item but she can also transmogrify your gear to give it a different appearance. Like the new armor you picked up but hate the way it looks because it clashes uncharacteristically with the rest of your set? Transmogs will fix that. You’ll also gain Transmogs for every Unique (orange) item you pick up. Though these cost significantly more gold to swap, I found Blind Faith for my DH and love the look so much that I’m willing to spend the G it takes to retain the badass appearance, if only for my own enjoyment.

Re-rolling stats is rather handy, but has a degree of randomness which may make the expense steep. You are given a long list of possibilities but, in the end, are only allowed to select from the original enchant or two random others from the initial long list. It will not be perfect every time but it can help you get the skill bonuses you want to match your current spec.

After Act V is done, the game presents you with Adventure Mode which is where the whole new world of fun begins. Adventure Mode presents you with a series of five “bounties” per zone (act). These bounties bounce you around the map doing varied quests from killing a specific boss mob or elite to killing x amount of enemies in a given area to doing an event/sidequest. Each completion rewards you with XP and gold. When all five are completed, Tyrael gives you a pack full of crafting materials and items which can include up to orange and set items.

It doesn’t stop there. Throughout the bounty completions, you amass both blood shards – a new currency allowing you to purchase random magical items of any type from a new vendor – and special coins of which five can be redeemed to open a Nephalem Rift. These Rifts are portals to dungeons which combine random tilesets with random lighting effects and random enemy pools to create entirely unique areas populated heavily by blue and gold elites as well as chests and treasure goblins. Kill enough enemies to fill a gauge and it triggers a boss fight where you will see another ton of incredible equipment drop. You’ll have to portal back about halfway through because your inventory will be full of ridiculous yellows and you’ll wind up having nothing much to do with them but sell or scrap.

There’s also the addition of the Crusader class. Haven’t toyed with it yet but I’ll probably start one soon. Reports state that it plays like the Paladin from DII which, if that’s the case, I’ll feel quite at home.

One of the main headlines surrounding Reaper of Souls is: “Can Blizzard Save Diablo III with $40?”

Yes. Yes it can and yes it did.

DIII now feels less like hopeless drudgery and more like an actual game. I feel much more rewarded for the time I’m putting in now that an orange drop isn’t something so incredibly rare that your first thought is “how much can I sell this puppy for on the AH”, rather, it’s an exciting moment where you can be legitimately excited that you’ll probably be replacing something after you identify it. My DH (L61) currently has four oranges and two greens (set items which were crafted from a set of found plans, something I didn’t even know was real before). It looks to get even more badass as my level climbs.

If you played DIII before and lost your taste for it, I recommend picking it back up again for the Loot 2.0 patch at least (it’s free!). If you like what you’re playing at that point, I strongly recommend investing in Reaper of Souls. With these two improvements, Blizzard has taken a game which was the butt of many jokes after release and reworked it into something more akin to the classic Diablo we all know and love. For that, I say good job boys. Looking forward to Act VI.

Bidula’s Last Word – 9/10

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Indiana Jones and the Rebooted Franchise

Reboots.

Sometimes I feel like it’s the only topic of discussion when it comes to movies – which beloved franchise is getting a fresh take and how awful will it be?

Finally, the Great Reboot Monster has come for our good friend Indiana Jones. At least, that’s according to the rumors.

We have yet to visualize how the House of Mouse will handle the fairly-recently acquired Lucasfilm properties, though, it admittedly is not the fear-inducing cringe which would have accompanied any other big production company or, God forbid, Lucas himself.

The Big D likely has the best intentions in mind for the franchise, just as it does for Star Wars. I stress the word “likely” here, however, as we haven’t seen any product just yet. They are continuing to make smart moves with their ownership of Marvel (mostly by just holding the main license and letting the dough flow in based on all the established projects out there) and the Muppets (by allowing more movies to be made and, honestly, another Muppet movie is never a bad thing), so it stands to reason that the Lucasfilms will likely make the cut as well as long as they limit JJ’s lens flare budget on Star Wars VII.

Right now at the top of the rumor pile is the potential replacement of Harrison Ford as Indy and a full-on reboot of the franchise.

The first question we must ask is: “Why not just pass the torch?”

Yes, rumor has it (again…) that the new Star Wars flicks will likely keep the returning characters to minimal roles which will allow for continuity and the movement of the franchise into a newer, younger direction likely aimed at bringing in newer, younger fans whose sinner parents never showed them episodes IV – VI in their original format and deserve to be punished under the full extent of nerd law.

I digress. But, there will be a torch passing moment there.

When Big Dumb George was still in charge of putting his old ideas into a blender to see exactly how long it would take them between the blades until they died, screaming and whirling into an unrecognizable pulp, he shat out Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which you might remember as the WORST ONE EVER EVER. Remember that one guy in there who used to be famous? That Shy-a-la-something-or-other? His Mutt Williams, aka, Henry Jones III, was rumored (again…) to be the one to pick up in Indy’s footsteps. His character was introduced not only as a way for Harrison’s age to avoid many difficult action sequences by having someone younger do the heavy lifting, but as a way to potentially bridge the gap and give Harrison Ford a more Sean Connery-type Henry Jones Sr. role as the franchise moved forward.

Based on the Kingdom of the Vomit-strewn Toilet Bowl, that would have been a colossal mistake.

Though Mr. Ford would very much like to be involved in Indy V as the hero and though it’s difficult for me to say that I can picture another actor ever being Indy, I have to admit, if we’re going to see another Indy movie, for better or worse, a reboot seems the best course of action.

Mind you, I’m not going back on what I said. I am largely opposed to reboots and remain staunchly so, especially when it comes to a franchise which farted out one horrible last cloud before collapsing and nearly dying in such recent memory (only six years this summer – I remember because I saw it the weekend of my bachelor party). There should be a longer moratorium on rebooting though, I imagine, if this starts moving forward, it’ll likely be a decade since the last once the next comes out and that could potentially be long enough.

There are reasons why it should either be prequels or a reboot. Here they are.

First: the time period. The Indiana Jones movies were always about that capsule of time of pre-WWII when adventure was still a real thing and not just a series of tourist traps; that mystical era when things were still largely undiscovered and the world was a vast and endless unknown. There’s something about that time period which remains special and oozes potential.
Based on Bathroom of the Crystal Bidet, if Harrison retained the role, it would put us into the 60s. Crystal Bumcover showed a post-WWII world where Indy and those like him were becoming their own sort of relics. Indy vs. Nazis always worked. Indy vs. McCarthy Era Russians, not so much. They become the movie’s stand-in for the Nazis after the Third Reich was toppled. If we move into the 60s, how far do we go? Does it wind up being Indy vs. the Vietcong? Indy vs. Hippies? Even with a younger actor to whom the torch could be passed, consecutive movies in the franchise would bring us closer to the modern era and the magic would be lost entirely.

Second: a younger actor playing Indy offers massive potential. If they got someone young enough, they could do Indy adventures prior to Raiders which would not necessarily fall into the “Young Indiana Jones” portion of the playbook. We could see Indy meet Professor Abner Ravenwood and his spunky young daughter Marian. Indy as a student and at the beginning of his career gives us a decade of time from the late 20s until 1935 (the year Temple of Doom takes place which, yes, was chronologically before Raiders). This would, by rights, ignore all stories and whatever might be considered canon as established by “expanded universe”-style novels and comics which is ok by me. I’m sure there’s some pretty big stinkers in there.

Based on that – Third: taking this sort-of-prequel route would allow them to get in a few good flicks while still respecting the continuity of the franchise at large. If Harrison Ford could do the accent, you might even be able to get him to play younger Henry Jones Sr., which would be pretty sick when you think about it. Like, better versions of the opening of Last Crusade, we could see Harrison as Sr. constantly scribbling in the Grail Diary and having long chats with someone playing younger Marcus Brody or something like that.

The person at the top of the current list to play the “new” Indy is Bradley Cooper. I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery, but consider that he would bring the same level of action-comedy and, when necessary, gravitas to the role. That and he already plays off the Indy level of unkempt quite expertly as well as cleaning up nice when required. Easily, I could see him swinging the whip.

In what context, though, remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, it’s not up to peons like you or I to decide the correct direction for Hollywood. All we can do is speculate.

I might consider drafting a screenplay for this were there any potential at all that it could get picked up. If you want to read it, I’ll write it. Let me know.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

100th Post Special – Back to the Beginning

The first blog post I ever wrote was about my disdain for fan fiction.

It was an angry, expletive-laced tirade mainly directed at Harry Potter Slash-Fic (in my opinion, the absolute bottom of the barrel) and moved into more mainstream ideas like the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” (one step up from the bottom of the barrel). Bear in mind, it was over ten years ago that I wrote those words. I would link them here for you now, just for the sake of argument, but I believe livejournal has removed my archive to make room for more mopey emo kids desperately crying out for attention.

Most of my beliefs about fan fiction continue to hold true. Much like the junk in the Pacific Ocean, this sort of tripe floats around on the currents until it arrives at an enormous garbage atoll of a community where it joins with other detritus and becomes part of the large burning reminder of all the horrible writing in the world.

Occasionally some of this flotsam washes ashore. Much of it is still refuse but on rare occasion something of value (or something someone thinks is valuable) is recovered. Some of it is repurposed to fit a new and even more valuable niche, such as the Fifty Shades series being sculpted from Twilight fan-fic (of the worst variety, if there can be a true “worst variety” of Twilight fan-fic) into the screamingly awful bondage and dominance extravaganza targeted specifically at bored housewives and unfulfilled cat ladies and exploiting that market into millions upon millions of dollars in revenue and a forthcoming feature film.

That aside, I have recently come to believe that fan fiction for the sake of personal fantasy fulfillment (interjecting an original Mary Sue-like character into an established universe or engineering settings for impossible and completely out-of-character romantic relationships for example) is the true enemy here; those who secretly wished Snape and Harry were meeting in the dungeons of Hogwarts to engage in late-night “wand battles” or those who write parallel fiction within the same universe where their character with a name and appearance similar to their own – a 5th Year Ravenclaw Animagus Metamorphmagus Auror-in-Training who is attempting to avenge their parents by single-handedly defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and collecting all the Deathly Hallows before Harry Potter has a chance while balancing romantic relationships between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy – are the people from whom we must remain guarded.

Alternate fictional universes have long been a passion of mine. I understand that this largely works in contradiction to my original rant about fan fiction and the sanctity of the creator’s domain, but it’s true and I’ve only recently come to discover my hypocrisy. For as long as I’ve been reading comic books, I’ve been in love with alternate universes. It started with “Days of Future Past” for me and continues right up until now. Multiple tracks of fictional development – Marvel’s What If…? Stories, DC’s Elseworlds series, the big events in regular continuity where something incredible, for better or worse, alters the landscape forever – account for some of my favorite story arcs. It’s as fun as alternate history but even more so because it usually comes with a flashy graphic redesign that will probably result in alternate costume choices in video games (looking at you, Batman Arkham series).

It’s only natural, then, that I would gravitate toward alternate histories of other fictional universes which didn’t involve pre-teen sexual experimentation or downright child molestation by adults who are normally portrayed as authority figures. Something with a decent point of divergence, or even a few, could make something much more interesting and revitalize your passion for that work of fiction.

I am speaking, specifically, of my discovery of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I’m always a bit slow on the uptake with trends like this, but I understand HPMOR has been around for at least a few years and is an ongoing project, stretching 100+ chapters. I’m just doing my part to get it out to a wider audience.

The idea behind HPMOR is that Harry was raised by his Aunt Petunia and her husband, an Oxford University Professor, to become an intellectual prodigy, gifted well beyond his years in scientific knowledge and the titular rationality. He’s still eleven-years-old when he receives his owl from Hogwarts but his perspective sounds more like that of a frustrated intellectual thirty-something. Being of a scientific mind, he immediately questions the existence of magic and the wizarding community. When this existence is proven to him, he resolves himself to unravel the secrets of magic through science. Like, real science. Like, you could actually learn things from the principals discussed.

Of course, hijinks ensue.

The story is an absolute scream. I have been reading it just as I’ve read any other J.K. Rowling-penned, canon-official Harry Potter book (which means with nearly every spare minute) and, over forty chapters I have so far read, it has not yet lost my attention and has presented a sufficiently twisted track for the hero and has only thus far adhered to the most necessary conventions of that universe and accurately shown the reactions of established characters to this different set of circumstances. I highly recommend it to any Harry Potter fan out there.

Random interjection: The guys as How It Should Have Ended are also, technically, writing alt-universe fanfic and animating it. Mostly, this is done out of parody and, mostly, this is hilarious.

When you think about it, a great deal of comic books written after DC’s Golden Age and Stan Lee’s inception of the Marvel Universe Proper are technically fan fiction in the sense that writing for certain characters has changed hands so many times over the years that the characters involved have passed from the creator’s vision to something of a more public ideal such to the point that almost anyone could write a passable Batman or Spider-Man story arc without much of a problem (in fact, if you’ve read more recent issues of Spider-Man, you’d think that was exactly what was happening). I’m speaking mostly of the older and more mainstream characters, mind you, there are still some creators writing their original books.

On that token, characters introduced by other writers via their piece of the storyline are original characters interjected into the same fictional world. Some of them are the 5th-Year Ravenclaw Mary-Sue train wrecks that I was describing before; good for mostly nothing but a Deus Ex Machina unless they really hit big with the fans in which case their fade into obscurity from the core will take a little longer. Some of them stick around for quite a while. Some of them are even retconned into the mythos and lore to add to their staying power.

But, that’s the world of comic books. Surely literature, even YA, should remain with the original creator, right? My answer has changed from a resounding yes to a slightly hesitant not always.

HPMOR has opened my eyes. It has emerged as a single diamond found deep within a river of sewage. I am sure, with some hard searching that I honestly have no intention of performing, that there are other diamonds down there. I plucked this from the surface due to an obscure reference found somewhere and only dirtied my fingertips just a tad. I will not dive in head first in search of more.

I will, however, give one other fraction of kudo to an interpretation done as an infographic which has been making the Facebook circuit. It states a slightly different grammatical interpolation of the Prophecy which deemed Harry Potter the chosen one and the ultimate fate regarding his destiny. It proved to be an interesting concept and something like my original prediction as to how the series would have ended.

In this case, I am guilty of “predictive” fan fiction. I never wrote down my Harry Potter ending theory (which would have been super badass and cool unless I’m falling into the same trap as every other fanfic writer, in which case, burn me at the stake) but I did write down one I had predicted for the ending of LOST, which wrapped the whole thing up in a nice little bow and didn’t involve a church or any of that BS.

Seeing as I have Potter on the brain and, in a way, to compete with the “mind blowing” change to the ending of Rowling’s beloved story, I may be writing down my version of how Harry Potter should have ended and posting it here within the next short while. I assure you it doesn’t rely on any grammatical oversights and abuts perfectly to the original story, only changing the last few chapters (from the point Harry discovers the Resurrection Stone to the finish) and adding a deal of gravitas where once rested a truly happy ending.

I can’t believe I just confessed I’m going to write a bit of fanfic. I feel dirty.

I have to get it out, though. Now that I feel it’s slightly ok.

And because I can’t let some infographic changing the ending blow people’s minds more than my epic last three chapters.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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