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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Life, randomness


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Book Review: The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.


The opening line of Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series is a powerful and very descriptive line, without going into huge detail.

The Gunslinger is Roland of Gilead, who is based off of the poem by Robert Browning called Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.  Make no mistake, this series and this first book has very fantasy elements to it; talk of mages and sorcerers, dark magic, portals between planes of existence, and even demons and devils that manifest into reality.  But while it has it’s Arthurian aspects to it with the grand and epic quest, Roland of Gilead’s world is also the world of the wild west.  Whereas knights of old would have codes and honours with the blade and sword, in Roland’s world those codes and honours exist but it’s with the way of the gun.

And Roland is an expert gunslinger.

We find this out when Roland has an encounter in the town of Tull, which ends horribly (for the citizens of Tull, and in a way, for Roland too).

While Roland is seeking out the man in black, it is ultimately the Dark Tower he pursues.  Some undescribed place that holds ominous power that is felt merely in the whispers of it’s mention.  Something is there, and we want to find out as Roland goes on his quest.

This first book in the entire series was one I read years ago, but read again just to re-familiarize myself with it.  Originally, I’d only read the first three books in the series, of which there is seven (plus the Marvel Comics compilations should one seek to read those as well).  For those that like the epic adventure that fantasy often brings to the plate, but want to read something that is not in the same sort of backdrop as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (which King himself admits is something he drew on for the Dark Tower Series), then this series is one you should pick up.

This book series is far and away very different from King’s previous works that he is best known for.  But there is something familiar within these books as you read them.  His style is still there and still prevalent throughout the series.  It may not be horror, but there are moments that are horrific.  And that is just one of the things that makes this series worthwhile.

As a side note: it was King’s Dark Tower Series that helped with the inspiration for my own Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider, mixing the backdrop of the wild west with a pair of elven gunslingers who were adept at magic.

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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Fun, randomness


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Annie Oakley was a gunslinger


Born Phoeby Anne Mosey on August 13, 1860, became an incredible target shooter and an expert marksman.  Her talent was so good that she toured as a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Because of her showmanship and her ability to handle a gun, she became known as the very first women in the United States to be known as a superstar.  Oakley also was variously known as “Miss Annie Oakley”, “Little Sure Shot”, “Watanya Cicilla”, “Phoebe Anne Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Butler” and “Mrs. Frank Butler”.

But Annie was a gunslinger, a gun fighter, just as good as any man was, if not better.  This was proven when she won a contest against Frank Butler who bet a Cincinnati hotel owner he could out shoot any fancy shooter.  Annie, only fifteen years old at the time, did so with ease.  It wasn’t long after that Butler began courting Annie, and they were married in 1876 (it should be noted, Annie was only 16 years old, and that’s kind of creepy by today’s standards).

Annie Oakley wasn’t the only woman to wield a gun and be branded a trick shooter.  Martha Jane Canary, who wasn’t involved in a traveling wild west show, became known as Calamity Jane.

calamity jane

Jane’s bigger claim to fame was he claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok.  But she was a professional scout and frontierswoman, and helped Wild Bill fight against the Indians.  While many may have heard stories of a brutal nature, Jane is said to have been best known for her kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy.

While Jane was older than Annie Oakley, Jane’s exploits didn’t begin until Annie began her life in the showman’s circuits in the east.  Jane was already in Wyoming and South Dakota by this time.

The point is, we often hear stories of women like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane and the first thought is that they are trick shooters.  When in fact, they do exactly the same thing that men are already doing (in Annie’s case, even better).  These two aren’t the only gunslingers of their kind; Belle Starr, Pearl Hart, Harriette Tubman, Kitty Leroy, and Sally Scull just to name a few (to read more about some of these women, click here).

For the longest time, the only gunslingers that were taken seriously were men.  This was even reflected in the media we consumed.  From books to television to movies (and even radio serial series) gunslingers, or the heroes of the story were always men and the women were there only to be saved or the love interest.  It`s taken a very long time, and there`s still a great deal of resistance, to portray women as gunfighters in their own right.


The Quick and the Dead starred Sharon Stone as `The Lady” and she co-produced the movie that came out in 1995.  The premise was a reversal of the old story of the gunfighter who would roll into town looking for the man who shot his family.  Instead of it being the lone gunman it was a woman who lost her family as a child, and came back seeking revenge in a contest of quick draw between combatants in a lawless town.


Bandidas starred Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as two Mexican women who sought revenge against a cruel gunman who worked for a New York bank (played by Dwight Yoakam).  The gunman used intimidation and murder to get his way to have a rail line built through farmer’s lands.  Hayek and Cruz’s characters go onto a series of bank robberies to thwart the efforts of this gunslinger.


True Grit that came out in 2010, is based on the novel of the same name, written by Charles Portis in 1968.  The book was adapted to film in 1969 and starred John Wayne.  The 2010 version includes Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper.  The story is another about revenge, where Mattie Ross hires the assistance of Marshal Rooster Cogburn in hunting down the man who killed her father.  Mattie is an intelligent and even stubborn young woman who tries to dictate the hunt for the killer.


This CBC series is being released shortly in October of this year.  Strange Empire is a story who’s heroes are women.  Set in the 1860s along the Alberta-Montana border, three women set to act out revenge when the men in their town are all killed and the women forced into whoring.  It stars Cara Gee, Melissa Farman and Tattiawna Jones.

The trope of revenge is used in each of these examples, but it’s a familiar one when it comes to westerns.  The difference is that when the trope is used it’s used for men who want revenge against a cutthroat gunfighter.  It takes on a different light when it’s women who are the ones seeking revenge.  Often when it’s women thrust into the roll of a gunfighter seeking revenge, it’s treated more like a comedy (such as the feel from Bandidas) than an actual drama.  This idea needs to change.

Women are just as capable of seeking revenge as men are.  They are just as adapt at gunfighting as men.

Annie Oakley wasn’t a trick shooter.  She was a gunfighter.

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Fun, randomness


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Rape Culture is pervasive in every culture

I’ve been spending some time watching an interesting video about men and rape culture.  Moderated by Eve Ensler, with panelists Peter Buffett, Jimmie Briggs, Joe Ehrmann, Tony Porter, Dave Zirin. I’ve seen a few of Tony Porter’s talks, there’s TED talks I’ve seen with him talking about the man box and how to tear that down.  Here’s the video, make some time to watch it as it’s two hours long.

There was a comment that Tony made that struck home in something that I’ve heard before in another aspect of culture, and that being in the media.  Tony mentions that men are not taught to be interested in women’s interests.  If you see a man or two men in a college environment that happen to be enrolled in a women’s studies class, there’s an assumption that either those men are trolling for a date (especially if there are two or three men in a class of thirty women), or that they happen to be gay.  There’s an automatic need for men to question that aspect.

And we see this in another area; comic books.  We have this very ingrained and stereotypical view of women who enjoy and read comics.  Women are questioned and grilled and forced to justify why they read comic books.  A woman walks into a comic book shop (for this shop, it may be her first time even though she’s an avid reader).  The men in that shop will automatically justify the reason why she’s there.  Say there’s ten men in the shop, chances are that only one will think “she’s here to pick up some comics or reserve a pull box for comics for the week”.  The rest will think she has either A) come in to meet her boyfriend B) come in to see if there’s some crappy indie comic C) has come into the wrong shop D) needs to get out of the rain/snow/wind and the shop was the closest.  There’s probably other automatic instances that come to mind, but for me those things are things I’ve actually thought of in the past.

Take that stereotype of women in comics and how readers and creators who happen to be women, and now exam the reactions to seeing men taking an interest in women’s interests.  It’s pretty clear that those men who question the validity of a man in a women’s studies course are exactly the same men who question the validity of a woman who reads comics.

This idea is present in every aspect of culture.  Rape Culture is merely a sub culture throughout everything.  And it starts with idiotic preconceptions about women, and idiotic preconceptions about men taking interest in women’s interests.  Which also goes hand in hand with homophobia.  Which also goes hand in hand with sporting events and athletics.  Which goes hand in hand with movies, television and books.  Which goes hand in hand with advertising.

Now at this point, someone is screaming “Whoa, hold on!  That’s too much!  We’re talking about rape culture”.  But rape culture isn’t a single thing you can point at.  There’s hundreds of venues where rape culture lives.  It’s lives in NFL stadiums, in CFL stadiums, in NHL arenas, on NBA courts, on the mound at the local ball park and in the MLB,  It exists at comic book conventions, right from San Diego down to Brandon, Manitoba and Humboldt, Saskatchewan.  It exists in Hollywood.  It exists in the business world.  It exists in high school.  It exists in the church.  And it exists in the home.

You might say that rape culture and violence against women doesn’t happen in the locker room, but the athlete doesn’t stop existing once they leave the locker room.  Look at what happened with Ray Rice.  Look further back to what happened to the young men that were sexually molested by their head coach who played with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.  Look at the case of Ben Roethlisberger charged with rape.

If you say that violence against women isn’t pervasive in movies, tv and advertising, you need to crawl out of the rock you’ve been living under.  If you say it isn’t pervasive in the church, you’ve been ignoring years of abuse committed by Catholic priests.

This aspect of culture becomes worse when you look at race.  Black women suffer a greater deal of violence than white women.  First Nations women, even worse.  In Canada, there is a call to launch a public inquiry.  That’s how bad violence against First Nations women and children is in this country.

I can hear that lone cry, which happens to be really loud, coming from the opposite corner of the room.  “But men get raped too”!  I’m not saying they don’t.  But men don’t live their day to day lives in fear of being raped, sexually assaulted, or beaten.  Women do.  Men go on a blind date and think “I hope she’s not fat”.  Women go on a blind date and think “I hope he doesn’t kill me”.  Men may be victims of rape.  Boys may be victims of rape.  Women definitely are victims of rape.  But the primary perpetrator of rape is men.  A woman who rapes is nearly unheard of, even though it does happen.  But it does not happen nearly often as men who commit and promote acts of violence and acts of sexual violence.

Rape culture isn’t just one place that we can solve with something magical.  We have to understand that it exists everywhere.

I’m not gonna say that I came up with this all on my own.  This has come from the past few years since I wrote that little book about gunslinging elves.  I’ve listened to men and women talk about the male gaze, the female form in media, rape culture, the objectification of women, the issue of women of colour and violence perpetrated against them, women who discuss popular culture, and men who have discussed it as well.  But the key is not just repeating information, the key is listening and understanding what’s going on.  Take the blinders and remove them.

It’s scary when you do, but you’ll be able to move forward and work to improve it.

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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Life, randomness


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The Problems With MMOs

MMOs, or Massive Multiplayer Online games (once also called MMORPG, where RP stood for Role Play), can be a fun time to get together with some friends and hack and slash or send a photon torpedo spread into an armada of ships, or pull a jedi mind trick on someone.  Let’s just put it this way, if there’s a genre out there, it’s a good bet that there’s an MMO about it.

There's even a porn MMO out there.

There’s even a porn MMO out there.

But MMOs have a slight problem.  It’s the immersive entertainment factor of the game that sometimes just seems to drag.  For a lot of people, the point of an MMO is to level up a character and get as much of the best stuff as you can get to make your character pretty awesome (I’m not sure if that’s how it works in a porn MMO, to be honest).  For others, it’s a chance to meet with friends and take part in a past time that explores a world in a genre one really likes, or even a setting from a movie or TV franchise.


Have to ask yourself, how many people tried to name their character Darth Maul and get their hands on a dual lightsabre.

Some MMOs have an issue, however, that makes playing the game a complete and total drag.  The first part is what’s called the fetch quest.

We’ve seen it before, those who have played MMOs that is.  You go to a contact, the contact asks you to fetch them five or ten or fifteen of something.  In some games at higher levels the number can be a lot higher.

Really?  You want me to kill 200 of those?  Do I look suicidal?

Really? You want me to kill 200 of those? Do I look suicidal?

It’s part of the story progression in some MMOs.  Others have done away with the fetch quest.  Some have implemented it in another way where it’s not necessary to do the quest if you don’t want to.  For others, this is the bread and butter of the game (especially for smaller MMOs by lesser known companies).  Others have made more of a story like aspect that has a complete narrative.

In Star Trek Online, there is a progressive story arc, and there’s even added seasons, just like the actual television series.  The attention to detail is incredible, as a player will run into historical information that points to an episode of The Original Series, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise or one of the movies.  I can only imagine that as much, if not more detail was done to Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Even obscure references in Star Trek are found, as Captain McKenzie Callhoun, from Peter David's novel series Star Trek: New Frontier, can be found at Deep Space Station K-7.

Even obscure references in Star Trek are found, as Captain McKenzie Callhoun, from Peter David’s novel series Star Trek: New Frontier, can be found at Deep Space Station K-7.

Guild Wars has taken up the story aspect, giving the players a full and detailed story which helps the player level up their character.  There are higher level and more difficult dungeons that a player can go into, but they aren’t necessary in order to have fun.

One dungeon is connected to the story, but it's a dungeon players will want to take part in.

One dungeon is connected to the story, but it’s a dungeon players will want to take part in.

A lot of games also have a problem once the players hit the level cap.  Some games are at level 50, some at level 60, others at level 80 (and some are higher).  What do you do once a player hits the level cap in order to encourage them to keep playing their character?  Some games sort of have that solved in a way.

Both Star Trek Online and Guild Wars 2 have added more story content.  In the case of STO, it’s new seasons and new places to go.  Sadly, you have to pay for the new content, treating it like an expansion to the original game.  They did that with the Legacy of Romulous and it’s being done again with Delta Rising, as characters can now go into the Delta Quadrant.  In Guild Wars 2, the content is free, and it’s completely separate from the original game content.  New characters and new stories.  There are other games that do this as well, but these two I’m familiar with.

STO has gone a step further, adding in reputation marks in different tracks allowing a player to “level up” beyond the level 50 cap (soon to be level 60).  There’s Borg, Romulous, The Voth and Dyson Spheres, and Species 8472, and soon to be a Delta Quadrant rep system.  This rep system allows a player to get extra active and passive abilities, plus craft specialty space and ground gear which includes armour, weapons, shields, warp core, and so on.  A complete set will give an added bonus.  Which sounds great, but there’s a big draw back.

All of the content for these rep tracks have the same task forces for each track.  Some, it’s the usual four or six different task forces that take a five man team.  Some are ground, some are space.  The first rep track, with the Borg, had five space and five ground task forces (with normal and elite settings).  That’s fine for the first level of the rep system, but once you get to level two it becomes repetitive.  This is even more so with the Species 8472 track, as there is just one ground and two space task forces.

Didn't we just protect this temple yesterday?  And the day before?

Didn’t we just protect this temple yesterday? And the day before?

The Romulous rep track was better, as it had a story to go with, but it was by no means perfect.  It too got very repetitive.  Even Guild Wars 2 gets a touch boring after a while, especially when waiting for the new content.

Some games have a shelf life, some have a long lasting life.  Some games get yanked and shut down that were good way before their time (City of Heroes).  But all MMOs have an issue with their content.  Some enjoy, others don’t.  It’s more a case of buyer beware, and take the time to explore all of the aspects of a game.  Do you see yourself playing it three, six, or twelve months down the road?  If so, then great.  If not, are you willing to sink all of that money into it?

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Fun, randomness


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Darkness Within


I was going to do a piece on women in history, sort of a match to yesterday’s history versus fantasy, but I became distracted by the final book in Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl.

The NewDC has taken the characters of all the really good things about their characters and stripped them back to basics.  This happened when the New52 launched.  Since then, there’s been nearly 52 failures.  As of May of this year, there were 47 cancellations in the New52.  Some were really fun books (All-Star Western, Blue Beetle), some were really well written (The Movement, Firestorm), and some were just plain terrible (The Savage Hawkman, Hawk & Dove).

But with stripping down the characters, something was left out.  Something that was left behind.  We read superhero comics as a form of escapist entertainment, but also with a mirror reflecting real life.  What if Superman came along to save some kid who was contemplating suicide?


Gone are the everyday comedy and drama of the antics of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle (even the Young Justice versions of Kid Flash and Blue Beetle).  Gone is the on again off again relationship with Ollie and Dinah due to Ollie’s infidelity.  Even the aspect of family that came about with Connor, Roy, Dinah, Mia, and Ollie.  Gone is the dynamic of Birds of Prey, an all female book which showed you don’t have to write women in some male gaze way, that they can be smart and funny and loving to one another.  And gone is any aspect of a disabled person as a superhero (though, the Movement tried, it really did).


According to DC editorial, you can’t be a superhero and be happy.  That’s a defeatist attitude, and sheds off any concept that superheroes bring to the table.  Hope.  If superheroes can’t be happy, why should I be happy.  The brooding darkness works for Batman, but even the Batfam can’t live in perpetual darkness.  Even Batwoman, who may be the antithesis of Batman, needs that light.  After all, it was Kate Kane who said that it could be anyone under the cape and cowl, even her.  So she became an aspect of Batman that wasn’t so scary.  She even came close to getting married to her partner (Renee Montoya before the reboot, Maggie Sawyer after).  But no, she can’t have that.

Meanwhile, at the Marvelous Competition, the heroes aligned with the Avengers and X-Men continue to have their everyday dramas and comedies hit them.  And they survive.  They survive having relationships, meaningful relationships, and even manage to crack a few jokes.  These things are very telling about superheroes.  The ability to laugh, as opposed to being dark and brooding 24/7/365 is far more entertaining and far more healthy.


But DC has moved away from that, feeling that success of the Batman trilogy is the way to go.  Forgetting completely that dark and brooding works for Batman, but doesn’t work for everyone else.  This isn’t the early 90s, we’re past the awful stages of grim and gritty.  Were they good?  At the time they were, because it was different.  But it’s 2014 now.  We need to move past that and into a place where diversity of character and emotion is just as diverse as people and culture.


Essentially, we need hope in our comics again.  I could walk away from DC completely and ignore it, but I care about the characters a little too much, I suppose.  I’d like that future generations would care just as much, and give them something to hope for.

I was going to talk about the final issue of Batgirl, but there’s a much better article that sums it up completely, found here.

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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Fun, Life, randomness


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Historical accuracy versus fantasy


Hogwarts Founders presented as Idris Elba, Lucy Liu, Hrithik Roshan, and Angel Coulby.

Lately there’s been this cry heard whenever someone makes a post or even writes a book based on fantasy and includes people of colour in the story.  Not just as background characters, but as main characters.  Here’s a recent example of a comment made about the founders of Hogwart’s, all racebent.

While I do love that whoever made this did a good job matching actors to characters, the one issue I have is that Hogwarts is in England and what founded several centuries ago. I’m not saying that there wouldn’t have been blacks or asians in England at the time, but it’s still a historical inaccuracy to depict them as anything other than white Englishmen, since the culture of England at the time wouldn’t have had room for blacks and asians as anything other than slaves or traders.

Please don’t take this as me being racist, this is just me with a debilitating and incurable need for historical accuracy.

The last paragraph of the comment is the telling one.  Before claiming to want historical accuracy, the defensive is automatically put on for a wish to not be considered racist.  The opposite in fact happens.  Is it historical ignorance?  Is it racism?  It’s a lazy form of racism, yes.  The reason I call it lazy is this.  When presented with something that is different than what the person has been taught, instead of researching and discovering true history, they will automatically claim it is historically inaccurate.

Let’s really get a focus on this problem here.  The Harry Potter series isn’t the first series to have this issue.  And it’s also strange how in the movies themselves one character, Lavender Brown, went from being black to being white within a year once she was to become Ron’s girlfriend.  In Thor, there was an outcry for having Idris Elba as Heimdahl.  Yet, in the recently announced Exodus: Gods and Kings which is a retelling of the Biblical story of Moses, all of the principle actors playing the roles of Egyptians and the Middle Eastern Jews are being played by white people.  I’d love those who claim for historical accuracy to try and defend why there seems to be only white people in a movie about a location that has historically been home to black and brown people.

Whenever a black or brown person is cast in a role for a fantasy film, there’s always a demand for historical accuracy.  Whether the person riding this ignorance train realizes it or not, they’re basically making a claim of how racist they actually are.  You’re not okay with a black or brown person in a fantasy film, but you’re completely fine with dwarves, wizards, dragons, magic, pixies and elves?  Basically, creatures that don’t exist in reality.  You’d rather see fictional beings that do not exist at all than see black or brown people, who do exist, and have existed for thousands of years.

There’s gonna be somebody who’s going to complain about this post, I just know it.  Someone who’s going to say I need to prove that what I’m saying is accurate.  Fine.  Here’s a list.

  1. Black Moors in Scotland
  2. Moors in the Court of James IV, King of Scots
  3. St. Deiniol in Wales
  4. Ghanaians in London
  5. Art from the 1600s showing brown men in turbans
  6. Here’s an Indian man who in the 1700s ran a successful restaurant in England and taught white people to shampoo their hair
  7. Japanese emissaries came to Europe as early as 1584
  8. Mongolian Genghis Khan made it to about Poland-ish in the 1200s

And these are just a few examples.  Do a proper search, you’ll find hundreds more (unless you’re search engine happens to link to Fox News, then good luck with that).

There’s also many more articles on this subject matter which say things and explain things far better than I can.  Here they are!

  1. The problem with colourblindness
  2. Racism in fantasy
  3. United Colors of Albion: Race in Fantasy Media
  4. Can I Just Watch Game of Thrones In Peace? (Brown Feminist Fan Rant)

Bottom line is the world is made up of more non-white people than there is white people.  Yet, media portrays both fantasy and sci fi as a hugely white area.  That only white people lived in those times.  And fans are duped into believing this by shouting “historical accuracy”.  But your historical accuracy is completely wrong.  People of different colours have been a part of Europe for over 2000 years (and maybe even longer).  If there’s a chance white people can exist in Ancient Egypt, then you bet your ass that black people can exist in a Viking village.  Take the “historical accuracy” argument and throw it away, because it’s easily disproved.

If, after that, you still rail against such things as a black or brown person in an English court, then I guess it’s time to realize that you don’t want historical accuracy, you’re just racist after all.



Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Life, randomness


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