Monthly Archives: March 2016

Batman & Supeman Vs Movie Critics

I haven’t read any of the reviews of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice because I wanted to see the movie with an untainted mind. Still, when the titles are all along the lines of “This is the worst movie ever” and “I would rather gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon than see this again”, the sentiment is pretty clear.

My official verdict: The movie is pretty good. There are great visuals and a steady (if slow) build up of suspense and threat. DC is sticking by its grimdark approach to superhero movies, which I’m OK with – there a people who say they should take a lesson from Marvel, but then all the superhero movies would be the same…and they’d probably be criticised for not trying something new.

Ben Affleck played Batman the same way all the other actors since Micheal Keaton have. Henry Cavill played Superman the way you expect him to be played, with possibly less smiles. The actors for the support characters did their job, and Gal Gadot was great as Wonder Woman. I’m looking forward to that movie now.

However, there were some things I thought were mistakes, or which could have been changed to improve the movie.

Too long a set-up
The set-up of the premise – that Batman was going to try to kill Superman – went for ages and ages and ages. A third or a half of the movie. Seriously, they should have checked out Fast & Furious 7, which introduced the main villain and had the entire premise set up in two minutes. If the audience is suspending their disbelief enough to accept an invincible man who can fly and shoot laser fire from his eyes, it isn’t much to ask them to make the leap that some people want to kill that man, possibly for erroneous reasons. Then straight onto the action. There are some subsets of this point:

  • Superman’s Screen Time Was Wasted: Superman’s personal story could have been edited from the film and it would have been just as good, if not better. The only scenes which added were the scenes where he interacted with Batman and Luthor, and the hearing. If the other scenes had been left out it woud have added to the overall impression of him as this distant and overpowered being, instead of changing that to merely indecisive. Or else they could have been used to add more viewpoints and consideration to the themes, rather than just have Supes look mournful and confused.
  • Batman V Superman
    Batman Is a Second-Rate Villain: You know how villains, such as Batman’s line-up of adversaries, often lose because they spend all their time blabbing to the hero instead of just dealing the death blow? Considering how many people he’s thought, you’d really think Batman would know better.

    Featuring The Joker as Lex Luthor: Apparently DC thought that since the Joker is their most popular villain, possibly their most popular character, the movie would be improved by having Lex Luthor talk a lot of oblique nonsense. I don’t think it suited the character at all. Jesse Eisenburg played the character well, but he should have been playing a different character. I think if he’d had better dialogue and direction he would have made a great Luthor. This might lead into the greatest problem of all with the movie:

    The Characters Aren’t Consistent With Their History: I’ll be honest, I don’t much care about Batman or Superman, so I didn’t particularly care that they both seemed rather cavalier with life. However, I think a major idea behind those characters is that they don’t kill people, and changing that really changes the character. I can see how that would annoy fans.

    Finally, the title – Dawn of Justice. What the hell did that have to do with the movie? If it’s setting up the Justice League, it’s pretty lame. You don’t title the movie to be a hint about a sequel.

    The Ultimate In-Betweener

    I’ve driven back to Cuernavaca so the kids can visit their friends. Karla has to stay behind and work, but she doesn’t have the kid-chaos in the evenings. I wonder who is better off?

    On the plus side, I’m getting the hang of the journey. Nine and a half hours between here and there, with stops and traffic, so it can be done in a day. I’m wrung out at the end of it, and the kids are still bouncing off the walls, but anyway…

    The most annoying thing is that I was “coming home”, so I didn’t pack properly. All the things I just assumed would be here are not. Things like cooking knives, a decent pillow, sheets, and so on. So the new house still isn’t home (although we have got a fridge there, finally, which is a great leap forward) but the old house isn’t home anymore either.

    I’m traveling between two in-between places and I’m not even on holiday.

    The Intellectual Property of Language

    There is action in the copyright field with Paramount suing a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film for copyright infringement.

    That’s old news, but the people being sued asked for specific instances of copyright violation, and Paramount provided them. They include:

    –The uniforms – which is valid, since clothing design can be copyrighted
    –The appearance of Vulcans – probably valid. Calling a race Vulcans isn’t infringing, and having a race with pointy ears isn’t infringing, but having a star-faring race with pointy ears called Vulcans is infringing.
    –Specific characters – probably valid.
    –Using Stardate for a calendar – this is getting into dodgy territory. If it was a completely different universe you’d be hard-pressed to call this infringing.
    –Phasers, beaming up via transporters, warp drive – absolutely not. These concepts have been around for a lot longer than Star Trek, are incredibly generic in the sci-fi genre, and are fair game.
    –The Klingon Language – Now, this one is interesting.

    The Klingon language is clearly a Star Trek thing – created originally by Star Trek writers and used exclusively by Star Trek media, or by people specifically referencing Star Trek. This would seem to make it clearly their content, yet it is a complete language with a large number of people around the world who speak it – or claim to speak it.

    Can you copyright a language, even one for a fictional race? What would be the difference between Paramount claiming copyright on Klingon and an indigenous group claiming copyright on its own language? What if someone invented a word that then became popular…could they sue for copyright infringement for every use of that word?

    So I think languages and words shouldn’t be subject to copyright, even if they are completely made up by someone for a fictional group or situation.

    The Excitement Of Going Pear-Shaped

    I am now very grateful our house has a floor.

    On Wednesday Karla got up and out the door so early that most civilised people would still refer to it as Tuesday night. She spent the next 28 hours or so traveling to Yucatan, and I got up a bit later, got the kids ready for school, and watched my six-year-old daughter wander off down the sandy road the house is on because she insisted she could and should walk to school by herself.

    That afternoon, while we were at El Costa waiting for a babysitter, rain thundered down. It continued to thunder down for the rest of the day. I’ve gotten less wet in a shower than getting the kids into the car to take them home – and a real shower, not the dribbly kind I find so often here. This was an intense storm, two months before the wet season is supposed to start… I dread that time if the rain is anything like this storm.

    The paved road near our house became a river. Apparently when the people built their houses on this road they didn’t allow for drainage, so it’s a fairly common problem, and a problem that’s fairly common in the town. Our road is sand, and about a foot higher than the paved road, so it was merely damp. It turns out the babysitter didn’t show up because the river near her village is in flood and she couldn’t get past it. I shudder to think what happens to people whose houses don’t have floors.
    El Calle del Rio
    As we were coming inside lightning struck near us and we lost power as well. This doesn’t just mean no light, it means that the pump doesn’t work and we can’t get groundwater into the tank, but most horrifying of all: The fan doesn’t work. The storm made it a pretty cool night and scared all the bugs away, but if following days also lacked power I was getting ready to move to a nice hotel in Puerto Escondido.

    And no coffee in the morning, but I don’t want to turn this into a complete horror story.

    This sort of thing happened all over Mexico. My wife saw super-heat and super-winds in Merida (although to be fair, we don’t know what the weather is normally like there), it hailed in Mexico City and the highway between there and Cuernavaca was covered in ice. It snowed in Guanajuato. This is what I picked up through Whatsapp and mobile FB, since I don’t have internet connection.

    As crappy as it was here and as basic as this house is, for the municipality we’re in it’s pretty good. Also, I had the ability to drive into Rio Grande and feed the kids pizza, which is not universal.

    The kids took it in their stride. On Tuesday we went into Rio Grande to get some metal shelves, and while we were waiting for them to be assembled the kids found a feed place with cages of chicks for sale, and we took five of them home. I kind of wish we’d planned better first – although there was no way we could have planned for the storm flooding the yard and us having to keep them inside.

    Well, we kept them in the box they traveled in and let them out to peck at ants, and the kids love them to death. Almost, anyway. Rigel mostly leaves them alone to feed, just playing with them occasionally. Poncho annoys them a fair bit, because he’s convinced they can fly, but doesn’t do too much damage. Nerida, the two-year-old, doesn’t seem to see a significant difference between the chicks and a toy. I spent today trying to teach her to be gentle, and then in the afternoon she shook a chick like a maraca and killed it.

    Cue tears, and me trying to emphasise to Nerida what a terrible thing she’d done while trying to convince the other two (sobbing) kids that she wasn’t actually the devil incarnate. It was Poncho’s chick, and I told him he should say goodbye, because it was still breathing but it wasn’t going to get better. Rigel was pleading for it to get better, and it’s eye was fluttering, and I was trying to prepare them for the inevitable, and then it’s beak opened and closed.

    So I told them we’d take care of it and see if it got better, but I really thought it wouldn’t last the night and they’d have to prepare themselves for that, and then the chick sat on its feet and I began to admit that – as bad as it looked – it was looking less bad as time went on. Then it started running around my hand, and I put it on the ground and it joined its friends. It turned out Nerida had only knocked it unconscious somehow, which is still pretty bad, but I’m not sure how brain-damaged a chicken can really get.

    I’m just glad that when I thought it’s neck was broken and it was panting in agony I didn’t put it out of its misery.

    In the afternoon a little girl on a pushbike asked me if I had power, and when I replied in the negative she assured me I’d have it by the following day. I have no idea who she was or on what authority or knowledge she pronounced the activities of the electricity utility, but I have to admit that just after sundown the light did come back on, and I can write this astonishing piece of real-life drama.

    The House by the Sandy Road

    The car was completely packed a mere 26 hours after we had originally planned to leave – that’s ok, we gave ourselves a few days leeway in preparation for just such an eventuality. We left at midday on Thursday with the plan to spend the night in Pinotepa Nacional. That worked well – what with stops for food and toilet breaks and just letting the kids out of the car we made it there by about 9pm. We stayed in a hostel we were familiar with, which is cheap and friendly and only a little disorganised.

    The following day we headed off early, along the road winding through the mountains down to the Oaxacan coast, delayed only slightly by a peregrinación of large and unwieldy trucks of the sort they always use* and tuk-tuks. We arrived in Villa de Melchor Ocampo de Tututepec (previously San Pedro de Tututepec) by 10am, several hours earlier than we had expected. I had a severely distorted view of the internal layout of Oaxaca, for some reason.
    It was pretty cool driving along the road to Tutuepec and recognising things we first saw at the conference we came to a couple of weeks ago. At Tututepec they were not ready for us, so we hung around the zocalo where the kids played on a slide and some hanging bars, and ran around playing tag and hide and seek. We had some tacos, of the sort that seem most popular in Oaxaca – fillings rolled up in a steamed tortilla and then heated, kind of like mini-burritos.

    The house promised us wasn’t ready, so we were put up in a 6-room hostel like structure behind the Municipal Palace. It had some chickens in cages and shared bathrooms … the toilets share the room with the showers. This is also a common thing in this area. Since we couldn’t really unpack until the following day we decided to head to the beach.

    We chose Galera, where the lagunas de Chacahua meet the sea, because it’s got a nice shallow beach protected by a sea-wall, perfect for the kids. The road to there is sand and runs between dense jungle, mangrove swamps and the occasional patch of farmland. It’s a beautiful road with great scenery and the chance to see wildlife, but even though it’s sand somehow – I don’t know how, but somehow – we had a tire get ground away. The rubber was completely gone from a patch, and the wires inside had also been rubbed completely away, so there were just little metal wires sticking out of the edges.

    Since we still hadn’t unpacked the car, we had to do it now at the side of the jungle road so that we could change the tire. It was hot and greasy and unpleasant but Karla thought it was a fun adventure, because it was the first time she’d changed a tire on this car, and she enjoyed putting the knowledge she acquired on her recent driving course to use…and she’s sort of a freak sometimes.

    The main result of this, apart from less sunlight to enjoy the beach, is that I chickened out on the last leg to the intended destination and we ended up a few hundred metres short, at a small beach at the edge of the lagoon, of the type that has a lot of mud mixed in with the sand. The kids still had a great time, despite Rigel being terrified that everything was a crocodile. The beach was less than knee-deep for 50 metres from the shore of the lagoon, so the kids could go out pretty far. There were some pretty fish and beautiful birds, but the highlight for me was the grungy looking thing in shallow water.

    I thought it might be some kind of anemone, or sponge, or seaweed, but when I poked it, it moved. It shook off some mud and started crawling away, and I realised it was a hermit crab as big as my fist. I’ve seen hermit crabs in the wild before (the first time I went to Oaxaca, in fact) but I’ve never seen one that big.

    Then we drove back and collapsed in our beds and that was our first day living in Tututepec.

    Now, sunrises in Oaxaca are absolutely gorgeous. The downside of obtaining that knowledge is that the kids woke us up in time to see the sunrise. We wandered up to the zocalo and the market there, and had queso fresca and mandarins for breakfast, along with some bad coffee and a chocolate smoothie. Then Karla’s contact finally arrived and took us off to see the houses. She was worried that the one they had intended for us was too small, and we agreed that the other, slightly bigger house would be better.
    New House
    So we moved into a none-up two-down house on a fairly decent block of land. The house is in Santa Rosa, and they have the same advertising system as they do in Tututepec: There’s a tall tower with powerful loudspeakers, and every now and then someone reads out what all the local shops and ambulatory vendors are selling that day. We unpacked the car and then tried to sort out how to get the water flowing, only to find there were no connections and to all intents and purposes the house didn’t have running water.

    Oh, how we laughed…

    But fear not, gentle reader, for someone came by later and installed a pump, and now we have a way to get water from a pipe-well in the yard to the tank on the roof.

    We weren’t there at that point, since we’d travelled to Puerto Escondido to get some essentials: Namely, a fan and a fridge. As it turns out fridges are more expensive that we’d expected so we’re going to try and borrow one, and in the meantime we have a small esky. We basically need things to keep us cool and keep drinks cold.

    As we had dinner a parade of the homosexual organisation of Puerto Escondido went by, and the kids went out and danced to the music. Then we went home and assembled the fan and went to bed.

    And that effectively concludes the moving part of our Oaxacan adventure.

    Postscript: I wrote this several days ago, but the internet situation here is precarious and unwieldy. Hopefully we’ll sort that out soon. One of the local women told Karla it was great that we moved into the house we did because “it’s beautiful – it has a floor”. We brought some baby chickens to distract the kids.

    Also, Karla left at 4am this morning to head to Yucatan for a conference, and won’t be back until Sunday. Bummer.
    Breakfast at Santa Rosa

    Plantas Silvestres de la REBE

    These plants were identified at la REBE on July 30th, 2014. They were not planted by people, but grew wild. This is in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at an altitude of 1893 m.
    Estas plantas fueron identificadas en la REBE el 30 de julio de 2014. No fueron plantadas, crecieron silvestres.


    (Not Malva)

    Mala Mujer (probably a Wingandia)

    Mala Mujer – Wigandia urens