Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Will Not Be Teenage, Mutant, Ninja, or Turtles. Aside From That, They'll Be Exactly Like the Original.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that I have a fondness for the cartoons that I had enjoyed when I was a kid.  In fact, I have DVDs of the original Transformers and G.I. Joe series that I occasionally still watch when I'm in the mood.  I hope that I can share some of these cartoons with children of my own one day so they can enjoy some of the classics of the 80s.

One of the other cartoons I loved as a kid was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I loved the theme song, the characters, the storylines, and the humor in the show.  I even once wrote a spoof play when I was a kid for a family party based on the Ninja Turtles; I wrote in myself as the villainous Shredder.

I say all that to add context to the news that came down the pipeline last week about - sigh - filmmaker Michael Bay's plans to produce a new version of the Ninja Turtles for kids and families to enjoy now.  I use the word "enjoy" in the loosest sense possible, especially for those like myself who are familiar with the original cartoon.  Bay has decided he wants to reinvent the Turtles, so to speak, and has made some changes to their origins.

I don't like what he has in mind.  At all.

First, he's decided to make them aliens.  For the life of me, I have no idea why, but now they're Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles.  The problem is, that one little change completely undermines their origins.  They were baby turtles lurking in a sewer when they came upon this radioactive ooze, which made them into humanoid lifeforms (don't ask - it's a freaking CARTOON, okay?).  Their master also came into contact with this same ooze and turned him into a half-man, half-rat hybrid (again, don't ask - cartoon, remember?).  Their master was named Splinter, who was skilled in the ways of ninjitsu, hence the ninja part of the title.  As they grew up, he taught them those same skills and gave them ninja weapons to fight with.

Things don't stop there, though.  When he was a man, Splinter had a taste for classical artwork, so he named the turtles after four of his favorite artists from the Middle Ages: Donatello, Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo.  And in a funny way of making the turtles a little more identifiable to kids, they had one absolute insatiable appetite for one food above all others: pizza. 

Now taking all that into account, I have one question to ask: How in the name of ZEUS' BUTTHOLE will ANY of that make sense if they're aliens?  They won't have Splinter as their master, they won't be able to have the same names as in the original storyliine (assuming they don't just pick those same names randomly, which would be insipidly stupid), and most of all their actual NINJA training won't fit with them being aliens at all.

It'd be bad enough if the changes stopped there.  But after making his initial statement about changing the very origins of these turtles, he's also dropping the teenage aspect of them, so now they'll simply be known as "Ninja Turtles." 

I know I sound like I'm throwing a massive fit over this, like Michael Bay is somehow ruining what memories I have of my childhood.  But his reimagining/remaking/rebooting of this property brings up something that I see many people talk about when discussing any remake: the new version will change too much from the original.  I don't normally mind changes when a property is remade in order to update it to a modern setting; it's more about getting the tone and characters right.  The problem here is that this new version will be so radically different from the original version that there's no real reason to call it "Ninja Turtles" at all.  Just give it a whole new name and no one will care.  In fact, creating an entirely new property as a family franchise is a pretty awesome idea.  The likes of Harry Potter, Shrek, and Toy Story are over, so kids nowadays could use something new to look forward to.  Instead of ripping up a fairly beloved property, why not create something entirely new?  I know there's less of a risk in marketing and merchandising a known property versus something new, but that doesn't take into account the massive changes from the original version. 

I somehow suspect that Bay got involved in this project in a similar fashion to how he got involved in Transformers.  When Paramount had approached him in 2006 to make Transformers as a live action movie, he came right out and said he wasn't a fan of the original cartoon.  He didn't know anything about the property or what made it popular.  What he did want was to make a family-oriented film, one about a teenage boy who got his first car.  He didn't become familiar with the Transformers or its mythology until well after the first film was completed, and it showed in the film.  Now I should say that I hadid enjoy the first Transformers, but the film was still deeply flawed in very fundamental ways (namely focusing on the humans in the film and merely using the robots for the action sequences).  I have a feeling Ninja Turtles will turn out in a similar fashion, and Bay doesn't know much about their origins or why they were popular 20 years ago either. 

Then again, I'd be shocked if Bay cared at all about what I or most other fans have to say, considering his three Transformers films made over $1 billion worldwide.

Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 MLB Predictions Sure to Go Wrong

Believe it or not, we're just over a week away from the start of the 2012 baseball season.  It's actually starting on a technicality of sorts since the Mariners and A's play in Japan for three games before the rest of the league kicks off the following week.  I don't really like the idea of a single series in Japan to "start" the season, but I'm not Bud Selig.  (There's plenty other stuff I'd change that Selig has incorporated to baseball, namely making the All-Star Game determine home field advantage in the World Series, but that's for another time.)

Anyway, here are my division title winners and major awards that, if my March Madness and previous MLB season predictions are any indication, will be horribly wrong by season's end.

National League:

NL East Champ: Philadelphia Philliles
NL Central Champ: Cincinatti Reds
NL West Champ: Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Wild Cards: Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers

American League:

AL East Champ: Tampa Bay Rays
AL Central Champ: Detroit Tigers
AL West Champ: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AL Wild Card: Texas Rangers, New York Yankees

World Series Matchup: Detroit Tigers vs Philadelphia Phillies

World Series Champ: Detroit Tigers

NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera

NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee
AL Cy Young: James Shields

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Won't Be Heartbroken If You Read Single Dad Laughing More Than My Blog

Every now and then - and by that, I mean "almost every day" - I come across something online that's written far more cleverly, eloquently, and intelligently than I could ever fathom writing.  Typically it's something on Twitter, which despite my fairly recent understanding of how to use it properly, I still read plenty more tweets that are funnier and more insightful than anything I've ever posted on there.  Last night, I was introduced to a blog site called Single Dad Laughing.

You need to look up this blog.  Like, now.  I won't be offended if you close out reading this post to find that site.

From what I gather after having read several of his posts, it's a guy about my age (early 30s) writing about anything under the sun: his son, life, insights, etc.  He writes much more frequently than I do, and implied a few times that it's his full time job.  It's clearly paid off because he thousands of followers on his blog who comment on his posts all the time (I'll talk more about that later).  He's become something of an online celebrity, where his readers know so much about him and his life despite being spread out all over the country.

One of the great things about his blog is that it's ridiculously funny.  I've tried being self-depricating and sarcastic occasionally here, but this guy is way funnier than me.  One of his posts I read last night was about a date he went on with a woman to get sushi.  By the end of the night, she had accidently cut open his cheek, leading to him falling to the ground and her standing over him and laughing hysterically. 

However, the best part of his blog are the comments from his readers.  Another post I read was about confessing fears and secrets he's dealt with most of his life.  He then asked his readers to talk about stuff they've kept hidden for all their lives, and some of their stories were truly moving.  There were thousands of comments on that single post, far more than I could possibly read, but they were both fascinating and heartbreaking.  When one person wrote about something truly upsetting like dreaming of suicide or depression, another complete stranger would reply and offer words of encouragement. 

Think about that for a moment.  Two (or more) people, who live probably hundreds or thousands of miles apart, each confess their darkest secrets to each other, and they all tell one another things will be okay.  These people would never have come into contact with one another had they not been reading Single Dad Laughing, and now they have common ground already built in.  Plus, many of us feel a bit more comfortable telling strangers what we hold inside versus telling close friends or family members, including myself. 

In short, you'll definitely be doing yourself a favor by taking some time to read Single Dad Laughing.  You'll feel a whole lot better after you have.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

When I was in high school, I listened to Rush Limbaugh's radio program frequently, and also watched his daily television show.  I make no secret regarding my conservative political views, and I got a thrill watching him dissect people like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and other prominent Democrats in the mid 90s.

Over the last decade or so, I haven't listened to his show or kept up with his comments very much.  I still occasionally read what I can of what he has to say regarding political topics of the day, but not nearly to the extent to which I did in high school and early in college.  Of course, I did see his infamous comments about Donovan McNabb on ESPN, and I was shocked at the reaction given by the general public.  His comments about McNabb were taken completely out of context, and he was accused of being a racist for making such statements.  The great irony to that entire incident was that Limbaugh was ultimately proven right about McNabb's talents as a quarterback, and he certainly didn't step out of line in his comments.

That brings me to last week.  By now, you've probably read about Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut after she went before Congress and testified that universities and colleges nationwide need to provide health insurance coverage in order for her and other women on college campuses across the country to obtain the contraceptives they need.  A national controversy has sprung thanks to both the original testimony and Limbaugh's reactions. 

Limbaugh has always enjoyed bringing attention upon himself and his agenda.  He makes no secret of that, and I don't think I'm offering any new insight into his methods or intent.  I actually agreed with his original idea, that the American public shouldn't have to pay for Fluke and other in taxes in order for them to obtain birth control.  If college women want to have sex, that's their business, but I'm not in favor of having my taxes raised so their insurance will cover their contraceptive costs.

It was about there where I drew the line with Limbaugh's comments.  He then went on to call Fluke a slut and a prostitute asking for the American public to, by extension, pay for her to obtain birth control.  He also said that if the rest of America did ultimately contribute to health insurance premiums via taxes, we should be entitled to watch these college girls use their birth control in action.

Limbaugh claimed his comments were meant to be funny, but I don't see where the humor in such a statement is.  He failed to raise the hypocrisy of Fluke's statement; most college students are still provided with health insurance coverage via their parents' insurance, but Fluke wants her own coverage so Mommy and Daddy don't get the bill.  If an 18-year-old woman wants to have sex, that's her decision to make.  But if she wants to get a birth control pill prescription, it will likely show up on her parents' insurance.  How many 18-year-old girls are going to be okay with that?  Answer: Not many.

The other major issue with Fluke's original statement was her claim that a woman's birth control totals over $3000 every year.  I can't pretend to know much about how much birth control pills or the Nuva ring cost, but I know what the price of condoms is.  The amount of money Fluke mentioned would buy several years' worth of condoms, depending on how often she needs to use them.  Where did she get such a number from?  And once again, why should she expect the general American public to foot the bill for her own personal needs?  (I know she's speaking on behalf of women in colleges all across the country, but you get my point)

There's something to be said about Fluke wanting to be a responsible adult woman and not run the risk of an unexpected pregnancy.  She also had to expect some negative backlash for openly talking about needing access to birth control, which is hypocritical of the other side to do so.  I see no reason why a young adult woman can't openly discuss her needs for birth control.  Other people who criticize her and expect her and other college-aged women to be completely chaste and celibate are simply naive.  She may have a legitimate issue with having to find a way to pay for her birth control, but that's her problem.  It shouldn't be mine. 

And so I come back full circle to Limbaugh's comments.  He had the right idea, but he went about it in the completely wrong direction.  His cynical sense of humor got in the way of a much larger point, and he ended up insulting Fluke and other women in the process.  He then issued an "apology" a day later on his show, but after I had read the text of his statements, he clearly didn't have any remorse or regret over much of what he said.  I'm sure he doesn't really care about his public image given that people's opinions of him, both positive and negative, won't change much after this incident.  In fact, he only issued the apology on air because advertisers were pulling from his show, and so he stood to lose revenue as a result of his words.  He'll still continue his methods of being a polarizing figure, which is probably just how he likes it.