Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Superhero Movie Would You Like to See Made?



This post contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises. I'll warn you when it's about to happen.


I like to ask people this question: what superhero movie would you like to see made?

I asked this question before I had answered it for myself-- and when I did I was surprised at the answer. Although I'd love to see a movie based on Wonder Woman, I think the movie I'd most want to see is... another Batman.

Yes, I know that Batman has been in many, many movies. The interesting thing is that they all focus on some single aspect of his heroicness. The Tim Burton Movies focused on gadgets. The way that Batman dealt with things reminded me of the more campy James Bond films. What makes Batman great? The gadgets he has.

The Christopher Nolan movies focus on Martial arts. What makes Batman great? He's the greatest martial artist, and nobody can beat him in a fight. That's what I think, anyway. Nolan has a different idea-- he thinks his superpower is his money.

"I always loved the relatability of Bruce Wayne," Nolan says. "He is not a superhero in the usual sense. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider and he wasn't born on Krypton. He's just a guy who's done a lot of pushups. His only real superpower is his extraordinary wealth." 


But if you look at Batman Begins, we see him training for years to be a great fighter. When he's done, he's ready to be a superhero. Morgan Freeman's character ends up acting like Q from the Bond films.

What's wrong with this? Nothing, really. Bruce Wayne is supposed to be rich, and a great fighter. However, what none of the movies so far have done is show Batman as the world's greatest detective.

He's supposed to be an incredible genius. Like Tony Stark level genius, but not just for tech, for human nature and the whole bit. I adore the comic stories where Batman is with the other superheros and just thinks circles around all of them. Even the gadgets are a result of his genius, much like Iron Man's armor is a result of Stark's.

But we don't see this, particularly, in any of the movies. He's portrayed as smart, but they don't play it up so much. That's the movie I want to see. I want Orson Scott Card to write it-- he's the best author I know for showing convincing genius characters. Even the Iron Man and Avengers movies do a great job of making Stark look like a genius, at least technically. It's doable.

To take a case study, let's look at the recent The Dark Knight Rises. I found this film dissatisfying in many ways, but the thing that bothered me most was that it didn't really feel like a Batman film. 

SPOILERS AHEAD


Okay, so let's accept that in the Nolan trilogy Batman is supposed to be an incredible badass in a fistfight. What happens? He gets into a fight with Bane and loses. I don't mind this, by itself. What it suggests to me is that Batman can't rely on his fighting skills for this one. Great! So he'd have to outwit Bane. Does he? Nope. 

When he gets a chance to face Bane again, what does he do? Gets into another fistfight. No outwitting, no gadgets, no genius. Just trying to beat Bane by hitting him in the wide open. This time, miraculously, it works.  Bane should not be that difficult to outsmart, especially for Batman. But no, it's just a straight up fight. Twice. 

But even the fight scenes were disappointing. These two are supposed to be incredible martial artists, some of the best in the world, but their fight looks more like a bar brawl out of Road House than an epic battle from The Matrix. The best Batmanish scene was when he was taking out criminals with Selina in the passageways on his way to Bane. So I got a few minutes of good Batman action, anyway.

Batman solves the problems in the film, in the end. But how? He rises from the pit. He gets back to Gotham (I don't know how) and recruits some friends. The cops fight the militia, Batman fights Bane. Then the day is won because he flies a bomb away in a helicopter that he happened upon by chance earlier in the film. Am I missing something, or is that really it? 

Don't know about you, but I want to see Batman show his stuff more than this. You don't need a superhero to have a helicopter. 

Anyway, that's what I want. A Batman movie where he's the smartest crime-fighter and gadget maker in the world, where he out-smarts all the criminals and the police. And Superman. 

A few great fight scenes would not be bad either.

To the reboot-mobile! Let's go!
http://youtu.be/489Ei0FA6xE





Pictured: People dressed up as Superman and Batman. Batman's smarter. He'd better be-- he has to have something to make up for his lack of cold breath.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Exporting Kindle Notes and Highlights



I have my reasons for still liking paper books once in a while, but those reasons are slowing vanishing, and the benefits of electronic books are accumulating.

I read Pinker's mammoth The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined on the Kindle app on my iPad. I was grateful not to have to read the enormous paper version of the book. It was a fascinating read, and I made lots of notes and highlights on my Kindle app. (You can make notes and highlights with a Kindle device too.)

Whenever I finish a book, I "process" it. This means going through all the notes and highlights I made and incorporating them into the books I'm writing, the literature reviews I maintain, etc. For a book the size of Pinker's, this would take a few hours.

However, on the Kindle those notes and highlights are saved automatically. I just went to
http://kindle.amazon.com/
logged in, and clicked "Your Highlights" at the top. It shows me all the notes and highlights I've made for every Kindle book I've read.
For Pinker, I had 164 highlighted passages, and a few notes. All of them were on this webpage for me to copy and paste into a googledoc. I still have to incorporate them, but I don't have to type them in.

Love it!

Added February 2013: They moved the link: https://kindle.amazon.com/your_highlights

Pictured: A bikeshare. Bikeshares tend to fail, I've heard, when helmet laws are in place. 

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Am Now a Psychology Today Blogger


I am now an official blogger for Psychology Today magazine. I feel very honored.

The Blog is called The Science of Imagination and will focus on imagination, approached in a scientific way. No surprises there. I will also continue to update this blog with non-imagination topics.

You can see my new blog here:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-imagination

Psychology Today is a great magazine that I have subscribed to for many years. It is written for non-psychologists, and touches on a great variety of issues relating to the mind. I also read Scientific American Mind for a slightly more in-depth and scientific approach to popular science journalism.

Psychology Today (PT) has an online component, and their bloggers are a part of that. I can also recommend two PT blogs written by friends of mine, Jeanette Bicknell and Liane Gabora.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-music-moves-us
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindbloggling

You can follow my blog the hard way, which is to check it periodically for updates. I will update it at least once per month.

A better way, particularly if you follow more than one blog (such as this one and my imagination one), is to use a blog reader. I use google reader. What it does is it treats new blog entries as emails, marking them as read, etc. Go to reader.google.com and sign in with a google account. Click the orange "subscribe" button, and paste the URL for the blog you want to follow into the window. Whenever you go to the reader homepage, it will show you which of the blogs you've subscribed to have unread posts. This is how I keep up with blogs, and it's a great system. 


Pictured: A Robber Fly. From Wikimedia Commons.


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Sunday, July 01, 2012

This Is How Poggle the Lesser Speaks: A Parody of "The Trip"

My beloved and I are very big fans of "This Is How Michael Caine Speaks," a clip from the TV show and film "The Trip." You can watch it below.
http://youtu.be/HFIQIpC5_wY





We thought it would be funny to make a version of this imitating the Star Wars character Poggle the Lesser, from Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

If you don't know who Poggle the Lesser is, you might want to watch this clip to get an idea of what the hell we're doing. Start watching at 0:45:
http://youtu.be/TLmM87r1ft4




Finally, here is our video! Shout out to Melanie J. Mortensen for shooting and editing.

http://youtu.be/Ahx5TCPRzcE


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