Random Musings – 03-01-11

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    Item the first: Silver Blade Magazine is publishing my novella, Kestor. It can be read at www.Silverblade.net/serials

    What happens in Kestor, you ask? D’Ahid, an apprentice woodsmith in the occupied community of Noule, finds himself thrust into a role he never expected. A decade ago, Kestor, a local hero of the people, saved D’Ahid from execution. Now Kestor has been captured by the Imperials, and D’Ahid is determined to help in some small way.

     On an impulse, he sneaks into the mountains to seek the rebel leader’s small band of followers and offer his assistance. When D’Ahid finds them, he learns that Kestor had foretold of his coming; and that he is meant to become the new Kestor.

    Naturally, complications arise.

    Item the second: On March 5, the Kalamazoo-based reparatory group All Ears Theatre will perform my radio play “The Widow’s Revenge” (a western). The performance, which will be recorded and subsequently aired on WMUK 102.1 FM, will take place at 6 p.m., at the First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo MI 49007.

    A previous radio play I wrote, “With Best Regards, Ronnie Silver”, can be heard on the All Ears Theatre website, www.allearstheatre.com. Click on “All Ears Theatre Rewind” and select it from the list.

     Item the Third: Max Headroom is back.

    The sadly short-lived Max Headroom TV series from 1987 is now out on DVD. If you remember Max Headroom, it’s worth revisiting that 14-episode series. If you never saw it, you should.

    Set “20 minutes into the future”, Max Headroom took place in a dystopian environment where TV networks comprised the de facto government. Television was at the center of everyone’s lives, and off switches were illegal.

    Matt Frewer played Edison Carter, hard-hitting reporter for Network 23, who while investigating a story that could prove embarrassing to his bosses, was injured in a motorcycle crash. The last thing he saw, as a gate to a parking garage came down, were the words on the gate, “Max Headroom.”

    Carter is too dangerous to let go free, but too high-profile to simply “disappear”; so Network 23’s CEO agrees to have his memory downloaded to a computer. The idea is that a computer-generated avatar will continue to give his reports, and no one will know the difference.

    It doesn’t go as planned. The computer generated version, whose first words— and subsequently his name— are “Max Headroom”, does not look exactly like Edison; develops something of a satirical bent; and believes TV is real. In one episode, he continually asks why no one’s doing something about the “bloodthirsty” main character in an action show.

    Edison eventually gets out of the jam he’s in, and goes on to do his job (with some degree of interference from his own bosses) throughout the run of the series.

     Meanwhile, Max is running loose in Network 23’s system, and proves to be both a ratings darling for the network and a bane. He’s known to insult the sponsor on the air, for example. And it’s not always fun for Edison to have a sometimes tactless part of himself loose on the airwaves, either.

    There is a lot of satire in Max Headroom, which is probably why it didn’t last very long. Much of it centers around the television industry. Not only are TV networks in charge; and not only are off switches illegal; but throughout the series, people’s lives are shown as revolving around their televisions.

    If you like good TV programs, ones that are willing to challenge the medium itself, Max Headroom is worth a look.

    Item the fourth: Last year, I wrote about The Green Hornet, which began on radio in 1936 in Detroit at WXYZ; and subsequently spawned movie serials, comicbooks, a TV show, and most recently a feature film, which opened in January. Here are my thoughts.

    Minor SPOILERS follow for those who haven’t seen it yet.

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    Overall, the movie was good. I liked that even as a child, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) tried to help people (in this case, a little girl being picked on by bullies); and that fighting back against bullies was part of his impetus to become the Green Hornet.

    I also liked how Britt was smart enough to ask Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) what she thought the Hornet would do next, once he learned she’d studied criminology.

    One thing I didn’t like is that even though Britt genuinely does want to fight against criminal gangs— who he probably sees as the grown-up versions of the playground bullies— and help the people of his city, he’s still something of an immature brat. Yes, by the end, it was clear he had the potential to make something of himself; but I think a stronger story arc would have been: Britt’s father is killed, Britt gets a wake-up call about adult responsibilities; he becomes the Green Hornet, but he makes some mistakes along the way.

    I also think that as long as Britt’s father’s death was going to be a part of the Hornet’s origin, Britt seeking revenge for his father rather than getting a symbolic revenge against his father would have been a better motivation for Britt becoming the Hornet. Yes, revenge for a father/loved one/mentor is a standard trope, but that strikes me as a stronger motivation for Britt to become the Green Hornet than for him to just happen to witness an assault while he just happens to be pulling a prank in an act of symbolic revenge.

    In fact, had the young couple he and Kato (mostly Kato) saved from being attacked not been in the area of the cemetery, Britt and Kato (Jay Chou) might well have just gone back to the Reid mansion, having succeeded in their revenge for the broken toy, and that would have been that. Yes, it’s great that even though he’s been an irresponsible party animal, Britt Reid wants to help people (at least people being bullied); but I’d rather he’d have become the Green Hornet to essentially fight bullies than to just happen to run into some after playing a prank.

    Suppose the scene involving the statue had been reversed, with Britt witnessing an assault en route to the cemetery? Hating bullies, he impulsively tells Kato to stop the car. Before Kato can fully react, Britt has leaped from the car. Kato goes in and saves his bacon. Later, still pumped up with adrenaline, they go on to vandalize the statue. Only later still does Britt think about helping people. The childish prank with the statue remains (as well as the related scene near the end of the film) but separated from Britt playing hero.

    Maybe it’s just me, but if the attempted rescue of the young couple had come before Britt and Kato went to the cemetery, the scene would have been stronger (though still a plot development). And true to Britt making the right decisions for the wrong reasons, he would still have gone on to vandalize the statue instead of thinking better of it, and going home.

    class=”MsoNormal”>The movie is far from perfect, but it’s far from a disaster, either. And the complaints I’d heard over the past year about the casting of Seth Rogen (whose previous work I’d never seen) reminded me of the complaints by some comics fans in 1988 about the casting of Michael Keaton in Batman. Flash forward a few years, and a lot of people were calling for Keaton to return to the role. Probably many of them were the same people who decried his casting in the first place.

    Be ironic if the same thing happens with Rogen regarding a future Green Hornet movie.

    Whether you think the movie is great, crap, or somewhere in between, if you’re an old-time radio fan, you can still use it as a stepping stone to introduce friends unfamiliar with the radio show, or OTR in general, to The Green Hornet on radio. After all, if not for the radio show, there wouldn’t be a movie. Or the serials. Or the TV series. Or the comics.

     Copyright 2011, Patrick Keating

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