Song of the Day: I’ve Gotta Be Me (by Sammy Davis, Jr.)


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Today is the date that will forever become a date of remembrance for me and my family.

My father, Fernando Sandoc, passed away after losing his battle with cancer. He’s been a huge influence in my taste in music. I remember listening to him when I was younger singing songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin to The Beatles, Tom Jones, The Temptations right up to The Eagles and Elvis Presley. His was an eclectic taste in music, but one that I didn’t appreciate at a young age.

Yet, as I grew older I began to listening to the very same bands and singers and really become fans of them as well. It was one of many ways he and I bonded throughout the years. This was especially true as I grew into adulthood.

One song which always stood out for me was of the Sammy Davis, Jr. song “Ive Gotta Be Me”.

I remember him singing this song with as much enthusiasm and vigor as Sammy himself. It became a sort of anthem (in addition to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” which was another favorite of his and mine) as if he tried to live his life just how the lyrics spelled them out. I can’t say whether he succeeded or not, but he definitely lived his life “his way” and remained to being true to himself.

He and those he called his closest friends were lived to be their very own Rat Pack.

So, I shall be forever grateful for having such a loving, understanding father and a great friend and mentor who will remain eternal as I take up the mantle he has finally set down to rest.

I’ve Gotta Be Me

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am

I want to live, not merely survive
And I won’t give up this dream

Of life that keeps me alive
I gotta be me, I gotta be me
The dream that I see makes me what I am

That far-away prize, a world of success
Is waiting for me if I heed the call
I won’t settle down, won’t settle for less
As long as there’s a chance that I can have it all

I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be
I can’t be right for somebody else
If I’m not right for me
I gotta be free, I’ve gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I’ve gotta be me

I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be
I can’t be right for somebody else
If I’m not right for me
I gotta be free, I just gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I gotta be me

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Well Review


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It still seems tame, almost like the creative team is holding back. Skye and Coulson continue to be the saving grace of the show. The nerds are growing on me slowly.

What I liked:

  • A closer look at Agent Ward’s troubled past and why he became the man we see before us.
  • A hint of what Agent May faced and what ghosts still haunt her.
  • The possible Faith-Xander like hook-up that occurred in tonights.
  • The potential traumatic/sinister nature of Coulson’s stay at Tahiti.

 

What I was expecting:

  • The focus character of the week to be Vali Halfling instead of some generic Asgardian or at least a reformed Skurge the Executioner, an Asgardian known for his blood rages and cursed weaponry.
  • The MacGuffin  was the Blood Axe instead of a random spear.
  • Some of Steranko’s trippy spy fiction.
  • Some sense of threat or true danger… it’s missing the “ZOMG What just happened” endings that Buffy/Angel happened.
  • High tech weaponry and gadgets… either Steranko inspired or something taken from Millar’s or Ellis’ ventures in the Ultimate Universe.

 

Review (Spoiler Free):

The villains were weak this week. They came off as a background annoyance rather than a real threat. They were even brushed off as some rowdy punks. It was the common “Find the MacGuffin before the baddies get it” plot. Fortunately it did give us some detail about May’s and Ward’s past in addition to giving us another spin on Coulson’s stay in Tahiti

AMV of the Day: See Who I Am


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Just going to be brief with the description of the latest “AMV of the Day”. The latest pick was the winner of Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) 2012.

“See Who I Am” is the title of the video and also the title of the song used by the video’s creator (Speedy180). This particular song is a favorite of mine from symphonic metal band Within Temptation and also used in one of the very first AMV’s I watched (Alchanum) and one which got me into the scene to begin with. The video itself is an anime mix of so many anime titles that I could only recognize some of the one’s that I’ve actually seen. I’m sure there are many more I missed.

It’s a well-done video that uses Sheryl Nome of Macross Frontier singing to sub in for Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. It’s a very dramatic song and the anime visuals picked and they’re put together more than matches the emotional content of the song.

Anime: Guilty Crown, Macross Frontier, Fairy Tail, Fate/Stay Night, Fafner in the Azure, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Bleach and many others…

Song: “See Who I Am” by Within Temptation

Creator: Speedy180

Past AMVs of the Day

Review: The Walking Dead S4E06 “Live Bait”


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“And I ask for no redemption in this cold and barren place.” — Ben Nichols

[some spoilers]

Season 4 of The Walking Dead, from the very beginning, has been exploring the theme of whether those who have managed to survive this far into the zombie apocalypse could ever return to who they were in the past. Could they return from the brink of having to do some unthinkable acts in order to survive? It’s this running theme which has dominated this first half of the season, so far.

We’ve seen Rick trying to leave behind the “Ricktatorship” of Season 3, but only to find out that this new world won’t allow him to go back to the way he used to be. He has changed, and so has everyone, some of the better and some for the worst. We’ve seen several main characters of the show go through this very crucible and some have turned out much colder while others have seen their moral center strengthened.

The series has been hinting that the Governor was still out there and last week’s episode ended with a sudden reveal that he’s back and has now set his sight back on the prison. While quite an ominous moment considering the Governor’s past actions towards Rick and the prison group, tonight’s episode has put some ambiguity on what the Governor’s agenda in regards to the prison really is.

“Live Bait” is the title of the latest episode of The Walking Dead and it takes a risky move by concentrating on the Governor only. We don’t see Rick or anyone from the prison community. This episode was all about the Governor and what happened to him after his failed attack on the prison in the season 3 finale. We already know that he massacres pretty much every member of his attacking force with the exception of his two most loyal lieutenants in Martinez and Shumpert. We see during the episode’s cold opening the total breakdown of not just the Governor but also the full destruction of everything he had built with Woodbury both literally and symbolically.

Yet, we don’t see him continue his rampage against those who he sees as having been the architect of his downfall. We see that he has blamed no one else but himself for turning into something that Rick and his people always feared he was: a charismatic, but psychotic leader who would destroy anyone and everything if he can’t have it. Tonight’s Governor has come a long way from Season 3’s version. Tonight he’s become a wandering, disheveled loner who looks to have more in common with the very zombies he hates. He’s on automatic with the barest sense of survival in his mind. Yet, just when we think he has finally given up the image of someone in a second floor window of an apartment complex peaks his curiosity enough to want to live another day.

This begins the meat of this episode as we see the Governor encounter a family who has survived the past year of the zombie apocalypse on their own. A family of a cancer-stricken father, his two daughters and a granddaughter. A group that has managed to survive without having learned just exactly how to destroy zombies they encounter and the true nautre of the infection.

For some this latest episode was too much talking and exploring the state-of-mind of the Governor, but it was actually a very strong episode that shows not every week has to be action-packed. While the episode (written by series regular Nichole Beattie) wasn’t very subtle about having the granddaughter becoming a stand-in for the Governor’s daughter, Penny, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that we see a sort of reset on the Governor as a character. The almost cartoonishly villain that the character had become by the end of Season 3 looked to be getting a sort of rehab to something that retains some complexity. This is not crazy Governor tonight, but a damaged individual who doesn’t see redemption in the future for the sins he had done in the past.

By episode’s end we see him having built a sort of surrogate family from the two daughters and the granddaughter who took him in, but his attempt to try and escape his Woodbury past (going so far as to use a name he had seen during his aimless wanderings) goes for naught as we see his past literally come back to confront him from the bottom of a pit. Like I said, not the most subtle episode, but for the most part the ideas and themes explored stick the landing.

Now, time to see if the sudden change in the Governor in his road to redemption will continue with the next episode which, hopefully, will catch up to the reveal of him watching the prison in episode 5. Some may decry the loss of lunatic Governor, but I prefer my villains to be much more layered in their personalities and motivations. The Governor has come out of this latest episode a sympathetic villain, but who might still have that dark side just waiting in the shadows of his psyche for a chance to assert itself.

Notes

  • Tonight’s episode was written and directed by series regular Nichole Beattie and series newcomer Michael Uppendahl.
  • The barn spraypainted with the name Brian Heriot and instructions for this unseen individual on where to go was another reminder of how much the world of The Walking Dead has lost in terms of society and civilization.
  • The first episode of The Walking Dead where the original cast (those that still remain) don’t make any sort of appearance.
  • This episode also marks the very first flashback-only episode of the series.
  • The characters of Lilly and Tara look to be this show’s version of two characters from the comics and the novels. Lilly was one of the Governor’s loyal supporters in the comics while tv version of Tara was much closer to the novel version of the same name.
  • When the Governor gives the sisters his name as Brian it’s a little detail that fans who have read the novels know as the Governor’s real first name. Philip is actually the name of his brother whose identity and personality he takes.
  • The episode didn’t have much zombie and gore until the end and much props to KNB EFX for finding new ways to kill zombies. Best kill of the night being the use of a femur bone to rip off the head of zombie by pulling back it’s top jaw off violently like a pez dispenser.
  • Talking Dead Guests: Ike Barinholtz of The Mindy Project and David “The Governor” Morrissey.

Season 4

Glorious Fantasy, Part One: Final Fantasy One


In the recent past, I decided that I was going to do some ‘series’ and write about my experiences. The first of these I devised was to finally make the commitment to read the ‘Wheel of Time’ series, which is unfortunately on hiatus after I couldn’t take it anymore. Later, I decided that one thing that I would almost certainly definitely have fun part of the time with… was playing every single title under the Final Fantasy brand that I could get my hands on. Like most gamers who enjoy RPGs, I was a consumer of the NA translations of these fine games when I was growing up. Unlike many people in my generation, I still enjoy even the most recent offerings in the series. So, something to write about, and a source of enjoyment for me? Sounds very win-win.

Most people have already played many/most/all of the games that I’m going to write about in this series (weirdly, as I compiled the list of games, I personally have not played a fair number of them). I don’t care. I’m going to look at all (most? I’m bad with structure, we’ll see how long this lasts) of the following things from these games:

– Some objective data. What version of the game did I play, and why did I select that one.
– Is the game any good?
– Is the answer to the first question, “It doesn’t hold up”? Why?
– How would I place this game in a historical context? I want to watch the series evolve and devolve and side-volve as I go.
– Did I enjoy this game? What were the emotions and insane facial expressions I went through while playing it?
– How many times I frantically Googled maps for enormous maze-like dungeons because I no longer have the patience to solve them on my own?
– Was it… challenging? Were these games ever hard? Does the challenge ebb and flow?
– No MMORPGs. Sorry FF14 fans, I don’t ‘do’ MMORPGs anymore. Plus, the plan here hopefully doesn’t involve spending a bunch of money acquiring games.

I think all of this is extremely important knowledge, and that the human race will be improved by my research.

That preamble having been dealt with, let us begin our odyssey at the very beginning. And with one of the core series games that I had never played before.

FF1

Version: Gameboy Advance, “Final Fantasy I & II, Dawn of Souls”

So, I already know, guys. I got jobbed. I knew it as soon as I fired up the GBA version of FF1 and found out that I had MP instead of spells per day. I made a terrible mistake! Unfortunately, while I do know a guy with an NES console in excellent working order, he does not have a working FF1 cartridge. Oh, and he probably doesn’t want me spending a week in his basement emitting 8-bit bloops and bleeps at him. I could have resorted to emulation (indeed, I may have to, for some of the more obscure titles on my list) but being totally ignorant of the gameplay changes going in, I already made a fatal mis-step.

Here’s the deal, for those who don’t know: In the original Final Fantasy release on the NES, your party was always poor and under-equipped, if you killed a monster and someone else was also targeting that monster, their turn was wasted with an ineffective hit, and your wizards gained spells per day, the system inspired by noted fantasy author Jack Vance, and also the inspiration for the system of magic used up through the 3.5 edition of “Dungeons & Dragons”. In “Dawn of Souls”, ineffective hits are gone, your casters now have the traditional Final Fantasy MP pool (and unbelievably cheap Ethers to boot), and the monster encounters are both more frequent and more lucrative. In short, the game is much easier on the GBA than in its original form.

And it is pretty easy, on the GBA. Even the content in the bonus dungeons included with the game did not pose much of a challenge for me in the game’s later stages, and while the final boss, Chaos, had a formidable quantity of HP…it really just delayed the inevitable. My party never seemed to run out of resources, and once I had reached a certain point, I achieved critical mass. I had too much gold, too many powerful items, and my entire party could cast useful spells to set up for boss encounters. Most of the regular mook encounters were just auto-battles by the end, which, really, can be seen one of two ways. I normally prefer the regular enemies to at least present the illusion of a challenge. It’s nice to have some enemy types who demand the use of a powerful spell to avoid some dangerous attack, and so forth. However, given the extremely high encounter rate present in Dawn of Souls, I didn’t mind the auto-battling too much.

The one aspect of the original game’s gameplay that very much remains intact in the Dawn of Souls remake is the fact that nobody tells you where to go next or what you have to do, aside from the basic instruction of ‘save the four crystals’. When I first conceived of this series, I had planned to have a ‘no frantically Googling answers’ policy. It has already eroded, as I’m honestly stunned that anyone had the patience to figure out how to beat this game when it first came out. I suppose that isn’t true: I remember spending a ton of time on equally murky NES and SNES games when I was a kid. We eventually managed to puzzle out countless secrets in ‘The Legend of Zelda’. Alas, it seems that my patience (or focus…?) just isn’t what it used to be. Several times, I sought basic instructions on what to do next, and I don’t even feel all that bad about it. It’s such an incredibly stark difference when compared to games even slightly later in the series, where the connective tissue of a story draws you from point to point, perhaps with a little wandering. Even a game like the classic “Chrono Trigger”, where several times the only way to proceed is to go to a time period and see if things have changed, you have a relatively small set of places to wander through before you’ll find your answer. Not so in FF1: once you’ve acquired even the simplest vehicle, a canoe, there’s a huge amount of space to explore, and if you pick the wrong direction, you’ll be in mortal danger.

I’m honestly not sure, on the other side, whether I really enjoyed the game or not. Certainly, it was diverting; it managed to hold my attention for twenty hours or so, despite possessing no story to speak of, and only a couple of characters worth mentioning (your entire party in FF1, for those coming very late to the party, consists of silent protagonists). It seems that I can’t really judge whether the game has held up properly because of the way in which it was remade for the GBA, which is a bummer. My first article, already smashing my expectations into dust! As a result, I’ve re-added FF1 to the master list, and next time, I’ll find some manner of replicating the experience of the original game. Humankind will be improved by my research.

44 Days of Paranoia #2: Executive Action (dir by David Miller)


The Kennedy Memorial in Downtown Dallas

The Kennedy Memorial in Downtown Dallas

Even though it happened 22 years before I was born, I sometimes feel as if it was only yesterday that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

A lot of that is because I’m from Dallas.  When I was born, my family lived in Oak Cliff, a few blocks away from where the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald once lived.  I drive by the Kennedy Memorial several times a week.  I’ve gone to the Sixth Floor Museum.  I’ve made out on the Grassy Knoll.  On a daily basis, I see tourists who have come down here from up north with their preconceived prejudices, their unwieldy copies of Stephen King’s 11/22/63, and their overactive sweat glands.  (“How do you handle the heat!?” they ask when the temperature is barely above 90.)  With the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaching, the Dallas Morning News has been running daily stories examining every detail of that terrible event.

The rest of the nation, of course, will never let us forget that JFK was assassinated in Dallas.  Just last week, there was an idiotic and bitter opinion piece in The New York Times, written by James McAuley, in which he claimed that Dallas was a “city of hate” that should feel more guilt over the JFK assassination.  As McAuley (who is studying history at Oxford and is not a resident of that city that he apparently feels qualified to judge) put it, “For 50 years, Dallas has done its best to avoid coming to terms with the one event that made it famous: the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.”

This, of course, is bullshit.

There are two competing schools of thought about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  One says that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible.  The other is that Kennedy was killed as the result of a complex conspiracy.

JFK Assassination Bullets

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  Well, Oswald was born in New Orleans but he was raised up north in New York City.  He was also a communist with a history of mental instability.  Hence, if you accept that Oswald was the lone assassin than you also have to be willing to accept that Oswald would have tried to kill Kennedy regardless of what city he was living in.

IMF Head-Perp Walk

Things get a bit more complicated if you believe that Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy.  But let’s consider the usual suspects that come up whenever people start talking about the possibility of conspiracy.  The Mafia was based in the north.  The CIA was based in Washington, D.C.  The anti-Castroites were based in Miami.  Again, all of these conspirators would have killed Kennedy regardless of what city he went to in November.

It’s easy for the rest of the country, in a fit of jealousy, anger, and delusion, to blame Dallas and Texas for the assassination of John F. Kennedy but, regardless of whether you believe in the lone assassin or a larger conspiracy, the truth is far more complex.

Over the next few days, as part of the 44 Days of Paranoia, I’ll be taking a look at some of the many films that were inspired by this assassination.  Let’s start things off with one of the lesser known entries in the JFK genre, 1973’s Executive Action.

Executive Action opens with a series of grainy, black-and-white photographs of both America in the 1960s and the men who, over the course of the film, will be portrayed as having plotted and carried out the assassination of President Kennedy while a mournful piano plays in the background.  It’s a low-key but eerily effective opening and it also lets the viewers know exactly what type of film they are about to see.  As opposed to Oliver Stone’s far better known JFK, Executive Action is a low-key, almost deliberately undramatic film.   Despite the fact that there are some familiar faces in the cast (or, at the very least, familiar faces to those of us who watch TCM), Executive Action almost feels as if it could have been a documentary.

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As the film opens in 1963, we see a group of very rich men talking about the future of America.  Ferguson (Will Geer) and Foster (Robert Ryan) are concerned that President Kennedy’s policies are going to destroy America.  Foster is worried that Kennedy is planning on cutting back on military spending.  Ferguson is upset by Kennedy’s support of the Civil Rights movement.  (In one memorable scene, we see Martin Luther King delivering his Dream speech on TV before the camera pulls back to reveal Ferguson watching in disgust.)  Their associate, the shadowy Farrington (Burt Lancaster), argues that the only way to stop Kennedy is to assassinate him and put the blame on a lone gunman.

With the support of Ferguson and Foster, Farrington recruits a group of gunmen (led by Ed Lauter and including Roger Corman regular Dick Miller) and works to set up the perfect patsy.  A man (James MacColl) goes around Dallas, acting obnoxious and telling anyone who will listen that his name is Lee Oswald.  At Ferguson’s insistence, a picture is doctored to make it appear as if Lee Harvey Oswald is posing in his backyard with a rifle.  As all of this goes on, the date of November 22nd steadily approaches…

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As I stated before, Executive Action is an almost obsessively low-key film.  That, however, works to the film’s advantage.  Ferguson, Foster, Farrington, and the other conspirators are chillingly believable because they are presented almost as being anonymous.  Instead of being portrayed as being super villains, they are instead men who approach assassination as just another part of doing business.  The impression one gets is that Kennedy isn’t the first leader they’ve had killed and he probably wasn’t the last.  Director David Miller seamlessly mixes historical footage with film reenactments and the end result is a disturbingly plausible film.

Unfortunately, Executive Action is less well-known than some of the other films that have argued that a conspiracy was responsible for the assassination for John F. Kennedy.  However, it may very well be the best.

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