Bravestarr

So another short and sidetracked post, rather than a Sojourners in Shadow one.

I’ve been watching Bravestarr on Youtube. Not seen it since I was a kid, so thought I’d give it a go.

You know what? It’s a lot better than I remembered. It was one of the many cartoons I watched back in the 80s when I was young, along with He-Man, Thundercats, MASK, etc. I often thought of it as the lesser among that group.  Bit hokey, fairly daft, with a cliched premise.

Okay, it has to be said, those things aren’t far off the mark. I often laugh when Bravestarr shouts “Strength of the Bear!” and then lifts a giant boulder or something. Same with speed of the puma. He runs faster than a puma on a motorbike, for crying out loud.

So for anyone who doesn’t know, Bravestarr was about a planet called New Texas, where outlaws sought to raid a precious ore, and a marshal repeatedly stopped them. He was, of course, Bravestarr, a Native American with special powers, able to summon the abilities of animals. His enemy was Tex Hex, who, to be honest, should be a much more dangerous opponent, seeing as he can summon creatures and change things at will. Think of him as someone with powers like Skeletor but more incompetent. Laughs more too.

For all the geek revival and nostalgia we see today, I don’t see this show referenced. Like I said, it is better than I remember, with some interesting stories, but you have the same scenes roll over as Bravestarr summons his skills or Tex Hex laughs manically. You can see why it didn’t leave a lasting impression, and yet I remembered it, and judging by comments on the videos I’m far from alone.

This isn’t a post to really go on about the show. It’s in the past, had its day, and while a remake or something could be fun, I can’t see it gaining ground. People would probably sneer at the native with the animal powers trope, for one thing.

There is something worth noting though. Something I quite enjoyed.

One character who always stood out was Thirty-Thirty. I didn’t recall the name until I watched it again and I have no idea why he’s called that. But the humanoid horse with the big gun was entertaining when I was a kid and remains so now. He’s that typical good guy sidekick character of the 80s – gun-toting, eager to scrap, ever loyal, brave to the edge of recklessness.

What’s interesting is that Bravestarr and Thirty-Thirty are friends as well as marshal and his deputy. But they are also very different as people. Bravestarr is open-minded, ready to trust and see the best in people. Thirty-Thirty tries to do some of that, but he is quick to judge and quick to speak his mind too.

There are a few examples but a very good one is when a kid says the dingoes are all thieves. Thirty-Thirty agrees with him, Bravestarr strongly disagrees. Thirty-Thirty gets the hump and walks off. The kid worries that he caused a problem but Bravestarr assures him that, while he and his deputy see things differently a lot of the time, they are still friends.

That’s the thing that struck me about the show. I think it is a lesson taught often back then and it sticks with me now. You don’t see this viewpoint a lot these days. I understand why, but still…

Basically this show makes the point a number of times. You can disagree with someone and still be friends. You can see the world and people differently and remain friends. You can be almost opposites and get along.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim Thirty-Thirty would vote for Trump, but I bet he’d like his bulldozer style. Bravestarr, however, would clearly be an Obama man.

They might argue, get into heated arguments even, but the end result would be the same. They had each other’s backs and that’s what matters. You don’t cast aside a friendship because you disagree, even if it’s a lot.

This isn’t a political post or anything like that. I just enjoyed watching a show where one of the moral lessons is about trying to understand those different from you. In that very episode, the dingoes – usually two dimensional baddies – end up making peace with a farmer and helping out. So yeah, the show leans to Bravestarr’s view, but damn if you don’t enjoy Thirty-Thirty and his bullishness sometimes. Even if he loves his big gun, Sara Jane, just a little bit too much.

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Random Shakespeare

I have nothing much to post right now, so here’s a random piece of something I wrote on a forum back in 07 (I think). It was done as Shakespeare in a western, and I always remember that my dear, late friend Janrae responded by simply saying: what hath Steven wrought? That, I recall clearly, was the first time she called me by name and I was so tickled as she was the one I was desperately trying to impress at the time.

So here we go:

“Why stand you there, grim visage set, hand but a breath from your gun? You think yourself unequalled; a man of such swift action and reckless nature that the Devil himself would stop from barring your way, instead preferring to skulk to the saloon with the other cowards? Let me assure you, fool youth, that speed of action does not necessarily mean speed of thought, and while you would blaze away in frenetic gusto, my one shot would prove true.”

“As usual you are quicker to words than you are to offer proof with deeds. Your time is past, you are a mere illusion of that deadly spectre who once ruled this town. Arrogantly you claim to perfection, yet how can any aim be honest when my gun, swifter to obey my call, sends shrieking lead to burrow deep in your frame? If I waver, it will be but a little, and you will react to pain as all living creatures must. So come, let us draw, and let loser taste the earth we stand upon, while winner will forever more have his name toasted as the greatest gunslinger of our day.”

Christmas on a Sunday

So I have gotten well behind on posts and posting due to the build up to Christmas. That and time consuming/wasting acts, but the build up to Christmas is a busy time for us all so things go by fast. Can’t believe it is next week. I need to write more Sojourners in Shadow posts to have ready, and I plan to start mixing in character bios for the series, like the ones I was posting last year for my book, the Silent Slayer. I plan to get a lot more going for Sojourners in Shadow and start putting the short stories out there, with help from my former publisher. Still, Christmas comes first.

But I have to say, as much as things have been busy, I’m really looking forward to this week. I still have things to do, but the worst is behind me and I know I’ll be finishing work and other things with time to spare. In the past, I’ve been preparing for Christmas up until the day itself sometimes. You don’t get time to appreciate what’s coming. Christmas can just show up and then you’re done, if you’re not careful.

So while this has been busy, having a week to head for the day itself really helps. I love the fact Christmas is on Sunday. It gives us the entire week to get there. Having it in the middle of the week can leave it feeling very rushed and sudden. If it happens at the start of the week, then it has this off-kilter feel, as you have a special kind of weekend right after the normal one. We may get that this year as we have bank holidays filling in for the holiday weekend, and yet Christmas being on Sunday just fits right. It feels like a perfect fit.

My mother and I were discussing it recently and it surprised us how many holidays have a fixed day. Easter and Mothering Sunday. Thanksgiving, for the Americans. There were some others I’m too tired to think of right now. But it left us wondering why Christmas can’t have a set date. I know, it’s the 25th and has been for centuries, and yet that’s a day the early Christians took up from a pagan festival. It’s isn’t a sacred day as such. Christmas could be the last Sunday of the year. I think most of us live by the named day of the week a lot more than we do by dates.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe fixing a day over a date would be too much for too many. I can see the problems. But this year, I really appreciate that Christmas is happening when it is, to give us a week to ease into it, and maybe a week to ease back out.

Christmas Mayhem

 

 

I was going to follow up my pirates blog post with another following up on it by running through some notable pirate captains. Maybe next week.

Basically, this last week has been hectic yet fun. Horrible fun sometimes. Essentially my wife suddenly became intent on getting all Christmas shopping done now. I mean NOW. Not next week. Not in December. Not even before December. No, NOWWWWW.

As someone who hates shopping and travel, this was hell for me, and especially as things kept going wrong and we often didn’t get anywhere until later than planned. At least twice, maybe thrice I suggested we didn’t go that day and wait, but no. NOW.

Yet after it all, I can say I’m relieved we have done 99% of the Christmas shopping. We even have some presents wrapped. I still think we could have done it all via a gradual process of smaller incursions rather than one bludgeon charge, but there we go. The missus is happy and that’s what counts.

But it was something I’m glad we did too. I live near a market town called Chippenham and the city of Bath. The first we went to just planning on shopping and ended up watching Torvil and Dean turn on the Christmas lights. So that was nice. The main street was packed like I’ve never seen before. I’ll never walk up it again with dozens of people around and consider it busy.

Speaking of packed, Bath was churning with people. The buses were the same. Only just managed to get a seat on the ride there, but going back – due to the trains being out – it wasn’t just standing room only. We were almost wedged in. The whole thing fogged up, which made it difficult to spot the right stop. We ended up getting off a lot earlier than usual, but both of us wanted out of that jam jar on wheels. Not even going to mention the lights going out. Okay, so I just did.

But Bath, while so busy it made Chippenham the night before seem spacious, was great to visit as usual. We saw the small stalls and the tree and lights. These two events I’ve never been to before but have heard of, so, thanks to my wife’s insistence, we got to experience them. I STILL maintain we could have done them in a more easier way, especially picking a day less busy for Bath, and yet, hey, it’s all in the past now, and I have a tale to tell.

While I hate shopping and look forward to a lot less busy week, I am glad we went and saw these things. I’m glad we got to share them. As my mum would say, it’s one of those times you get to be sat there some other time, at peace, and chirp “oooh, remember that time we did that thing!” This Christmas, as we had out presents, we have a history to go behind many of the items, which I’m sure we’ll bore the receivers with more than once.

I don’t really care for dates and calendar events. I live for experiences and genuine change in life. This week has had plenty of those. So, while I should post about pirate captains from a fictional world I’m still building, here is a bunch of me going “ooohhh, what a time we had!”

And here’s some pictures of Bath:

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Little Goody Two-Shoes

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. A lot of my early influences are from the 80s, especially in terms of tv I watched as a kid that left an impact I didn’t realise until much later. For instance, it wasn’t until my twenties that I understood I saw all evil henchmen as either a Starscream or a Soundwave – that they’re either smart but craven or stalwart and subservient.

I watched Transformers, He-Man, Thundercats, MASK and the A-team, as well as many others. Personally, I loved the bad guys a lot more. Megatron and Skeletor were far more entertaining and I admired their ambition. Mumm-Ra I was never much of a fan of. He always ended up skulking back to his crypt and claiming he’d win one day. He never did nor would he.

Back then, bad guys were designed to lose. The 80s – at least this is how I feel looking back – were much more black and white. Good guys were smart, brave, loyal, nice, etc. Bad guys were nasty, dumb, cowardly, treacherous even to their own (glaring at you. Starscream) and would always lose. So I wanted them to win. I got bored of the bad guys losing. I liked them a lot more, some were pretty cool characters, and Evil-Lyn was perhaps my first love in life. I wanted them to win, if just to shake things up a bit.

It’s not as if I didn’t like the good guys. Optimus Prime remains my shining example of what a good and strong leader can be. But the bad guys appealed more and, again, I just wanted a change. Just once, let the baddies get a win. Even a dream sequence! Actually that could have been dumb.

I suspect the baddies had their day occasionally and I just don’t remember it, but back then, I saw a lot of goody good guys beating bad baddies. I preferred the latter and still do. I proudly wear my t-shirt with the Decepticons badge on it.

Then anti-heroes came along and I loved them. At first I found many confusing. I remember watching Snake destroy the tape that could have brought about world peace at the end of the Escape from New York film. I was aghast and shocked. Why would anyone do such a thing?! Now I’m older, oh, I know why. But despite that, I loved his character and many more.

I’m a Batman fanboy. I also love Judge Dredd. Clint Eastwood’s characters in westerns inspired me. I found myself preferring darker heroes and champions. I enjoyed seeing someone be sarcastic, even selfish sometimes, and challenge the ways of the world while winning in the end. Which could piss off those they saved.

But you know what? I do love a good goodguy. I do. Maybe now we’re inundated with anti-heroes and we see bad guys more often get a one up on the hero, if not several, that the nice guys feel like the refreshing change. I liked the good guys back in the 80s, I admit. Even though I wanted to rebel and cheer on the baddies, I still admired the likes of He-Man and Lion-O. I saw the Christopher Reeves Superman films and loved them. Not as much as the later Batman films by Burton – although Superman 2 remains one of my favourites. Yes it is campy and daft, welcome to the 80s.

So speaking of Superman, I saw the latest incarnation on Supergirl. Well I loved the bloke. From the moment the music kicked in (yes, I’m sure that played a huge part in it) and he ran through the smoke (wherever that came from) and ripped open his shirt to reveal the S, I was into it. I almost cheered. It was great to see Superman back. Not just back, but how he should be. I really liked how they made him in this show. He isn’t worried about Supergirl getting in this way or taking his limelight, nor is he condescending to her, nor does he try to lecture her. Superman is Superman, so he knows he’s THE GUY and doesn’t need to prove anything, so he enjoys letting her get the glory, but also genuinely respects her and likes being around her. They captured the nobility of the man as well as the do-goodyness.

Superman is a goody two-shoes. One of the biggest. But that isn’t a weakness. It’s his strength. While I love the brooding Batman and his questionable ways, while I get a kick out of the fascist Dredd, while I want DECEPTICONS FOREVER! engraved on my tombstone, it is great to see a purely goody-goody running around again. Not as a parody or a sly injoke. No, he’s just being Superman. All American good boy, and I say that as an uppity Brit.

I love complicated characters and those who work in shades of grey, who question themselves and those they represent or serve. I love those the most and always will. But I do love me some nasty, despicable baddies, and I love me some goody two-shoes. There’s room for all, and when one lot is everywhere, it makes me appreciate what qualities the others bring to good storytelling. After all, a good story is what I want most of all.

Cinema Experiences

I have never been a big cinema goer. I get engrossed in movies and feel far more comfortable doing so alone or with few others, without distractions. I want to think and analyse and soak it all in. I watched the Lord of the Rings at home on DVD and I wouldn’t want to change that. The first I watched alone and was utterly absorbed by it.

Mind you, my wife is a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings and one day soon we’ll watch it all in one day together. That should be great.

Last summer she and I went to the cinema a couple of times. It was a small one and quiet, about twenty or so people in there at best. We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. I enjoyed them both, even if my wife is loud when she sobs or glees over something.

But in my younger years my family went to a much bigger cinema and saw some big blockbusters. The place was packed and I hated going there and coming out, but once I got settled I felt secure and ready to absorb another story. Or at least have my eardrums pounded by the speakers.

We mainly saw Star Trek movies because my uncle and aunt were huge Trek fans and they loved going to see them with us. My dad and I were Trek fans too. This made me like the Next Generation films a lot more than I would have alone. The audience enjoyed the banter of the characters and some of the set-ups. As I have watched those films since, I’ve found myself barely able to tolerate them. Especially after watching some of Mr Plinkett’s reviews. The point about TV Picard vs Movie Picard was spot on.

Still, people had a good time and so I did too.

The same went for watching the Phantom Menace (speaking of Pinkett). I saw that in the cinema and, well, I had a good time. We laughed at Jar-Jar (don’t hate me, I was swept up with the crowd!) and the end fight was pretty cool. However – and this is an important moment for me as a movie nut that I only realised later on in life – as soon as we were in the car, I did start complaining about a few things to my younger brother. Small things, like the bigger fish bit being repeated. He looked at me and muttered: You take movies too seriously.

He was right, of course.

I still have a bit of liking for the Phantom Menace. Oh I know it is a poorly thought out plot with annoying characters. But I find the simple and direct story an okay watch. The other two films I had no enthusiasm to watch and only did so when I got round to it. Neither worked for me. Probably because they were more about the bigger picture, telling a tale I already knew the outcome to. I can give a crappy scifi film a pass if it keeps things more simple and focused. After all, I grew up on science fiction most would despise today. Cheap effects, stereotypical characters, goofy music. Still, I loved them. I watched Roger Corman’s Space Raiders not long ago. It was daft but I couldn’t help enjoying it. So many deaths! Fun times.

So back to the cinema stuff, I have to relate a story while watching the Phantom Menace. We were at the big fight and had just seen Darth Maul kill Quids-In Gin, or whatever. Obi is mad but then is hanging from that thing, whatever that was. Darth Maul is glowering and growling. Suddenly Obi flips up, catches the light saber and cuts Darth Maul in half.

This bloke a few rows back yells in a hushed voice: Yes!

Everyone around us heard him. Everyone laughed.

I know that film is poor and I’d much rather watch Mr Plinkett’s review of it than the movie itself, but I do remember that moment fondly. I love knowing someone was so into the film that they had to let that out. Just had to exclaim it, but still tried to keep quiet. Good for you, man.

I did see Return of the Jedi when I was very young too. I have no real recollection of viewing it though. I just remember my brother and I running about pretending to fly ships and shoot each other. We must have driven everyone around us mad.

Another vivid memory I have is watching the Mask. Us Brits had no idea who Jim Carrey was back then. I didn’t even know I had seen him before! Turns out I had seen Earth Girls Are Easy and a few others he was in. Oh, only recently I watched a vampire movie which was kind of a sex comedy too, and I found that was him. Oddly enough, my uncle and aunt had put this film on one time while we were staying with them. They chatted with my parents at the dining table as my brother and I watched it. Basically we were at that age where we didn’t get half the jokes and didn’t want to let the adults know we knew the other half. It didn’t really stick in the mind until I came across it on tv recenly, and I had to go: Is that Jim Carrey?!

So yeah, we sit and watch this movie (the Mask) we only know has this green faced loon in. I always remember the mood. Everyone was still and relaxed. Things were ticking along. We meet Stanley, Milo his dog, his best friend at the bank, etc. You could just sense people urging the movie forward.

Then he puts the mask on. Wow, the energy level leapt up in the cinema in a second. This was what everyone had come to see! People were laughing and buzzing as the madness was let loose. When the mask was off, people calmed down, but they had had a taste now and you could sense people were still excited for the next time. It came. People loved the big musical number.

What I will say about the strength of the movie was that by the end, I actually cared about Stanley as a character and not about him as the Mask. That other side was fun but ego-centric and reckless. I think the audience went that way too. By the end, everyone was giddy having laughed a lot and, I think, cared a lot. Not many movies I have been to see have left a crowd that way.

There are a lot of things about going to the cinema that still aren’t for me. I was annoyed at having to watch Guardians of the Galaxy in 3-D, and having to pay extra for something I didn’t want. But there have been some films that would never have got me without that crowd atmosphere. There are some experiences I’m glad I had.

Oh, but that time I threw up on myself in the back of my uncle’s car on the way to a film, not so good. Had to change on the side of the road and everything. No idea what that movie even was! Would have been fitting if it had been Star Trek: Generations.