Official™ Renophaston review of Flatland 2

I finally got my hands on a copy of the legendary “unpublished” sequel to Flatland (one of my favorite books of all time). I’ve been looking for a copy of this my whole life. I know, I know, there are plenty of sequels to Flatland, but I’m talking about the official, from Edwin Abbott’s notes, direct continuation. This thing is practically myth, and all but the most obsessed Flatland-fan would deny its very existence. Don’t believe I have it? Check this shit out (click to enlarge):

So why haven’t you heard of it? The way I heard the story, Abbott considered Flatland a one-off thing, but due to public pressure, he started work on a sequel. But apparently he never arrived at anything he was happy with, so he shelved the project indefinitely, and eventually died. BUT! The 50s came along, and sci-fi was selling, and out of nowhere came… this guy (whose name I exasperatingly can’t recall, and who is mentioned nowhere in the cover-stripped paperback I have) who claimed to be Abbott’s illegitimate grandson, and who was in possession of notes and papers he claimed were Abbott’s. Among these were an outline for a sequel to Flatland and numerous aborted drafts of the same.

Enter Avon Books, who was like, “fuck it, good enough”, and commissioned a full novel, which was finished, printed, bound… and then pulped. Presumably due to some legal issues overlooked during the accelerated production schedule and arising from the increasing likelihood that the alleged grandson was entirely full of crap. So all orders were canceled, the books were destroyed, and (as this was way before the Internet) the book was promptly forgotten. Mind you, any or all of this may be false, and up until two weeks ago, I was pretty much convinced the book itself was solely rumor and legend.

But now, I’ve read it, and I’m ready to share my two cents!

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

As you can tell by the subtitle (“Sphere Is the Mind-Killer“) and table of contents pages above, Flatland 2 is no longer a “Romance”, but rather a pulpy sci-fi in the vein of Asimov and Heinlein, only not as good. In fact, throughout my reading, I often found myself thinking of the big, dumb blockbusters that pass for “sci-fi” today (think Transformers, Independence Day) which feature the trappings of sci-fi without any of the heart or intelligence.

But that’s being too harsh. There are certainly some worthwhile ideas here (the manner in which the Flatlanders mollify Cthulhu—which I wouldn’t dare spoil on my lame-ass blog!—is fucking brilliant, and I can’t believe I haven’t seen it elsewhere), and as a meditation on the relationship between science and religion, I think Flatland 2 was ahead of its time. Its these aspects that make me tend toward believing that the author was indeed in possession of some of Abbott’s notes, though I wish he had stuck to them more than he did, or maybe passed them on to someone more qualified to finish what Abbott had started.

But all this is overshadowed by a generic “sci-fi” war story with overly-telegraphed, “shocking” revelations in every chapter and plot holes (e.g., the “Proof Cube”, which the disciples of Sphere revere in a way similar to the Catholic’s “bleeding statues of Virgin Mary”, is revealed to be a simple square, but it is never explained how any of the Flatlanders can know this) that make this really hard to take seriously. The fact that the ideas (what this book is ostensibly about) are actually intriguing makes this all the more frustrating.

For example, when Sphere returns, he finds that the Flatlanders have made a religion out of the knowledge he brought them 1,000 years ago, but that religion has divorced itself almost completely from any rational, scientific discourse, and the Flatlanders have made literally no progress—if anything they’ve regressed to a more primitive state. Instead of freeing their minds, he has frozen them like deer in headlights. But the author does nothing with this. He drops that story line, and instead, has Sphere show up with a deus ex machina that would make James Bond blush, never to deal with the real conflict. Not only does this ending come out of nowhere, but it also manages to avoid resolution of nearly every plot thread set up in the previous 250+ pages. The whole book is like this, and while some people would call it “subverting expectations”, I call it shitty plotting. Maybe the author should have spent more time on the story, and less on the countless puns that litter the text.

But as I said, the seed is there for a quality novel, perhaps not on the level of the original, but compelling nonetheless. The idea of two warring religious factions being confronted by their deity and being found lacking is both archetypal and compelling, as is a religion based upon scientific knowledge of reality, rather than upon morality (the ideas of “right” and “wrong” are rarely—if ever—mentioned in the novel, and most of the conflict stems from disagreements about conflicting “truths” and their relative usefulness and accuracy, though dogmatic bullheadedness certainly comes into play). In someone else’s hands, this may have done for religious and scientific thought what Flatland did for the Victorian social-structure and multi-dimensional thinking.

Alas, despite its auspicious but stymied sparks of brilliance, this book can’t hold a candle to its predecessor, or even to most of the unofficial sequels written by others. Carelessness on the part of the author (at one point, a Flatlander actually holds up the severed head of an enemy soldier so that all can see) and a reticence toward actually dealing with the substantive subject matter (along with the fact that it was not actually published, of course!) doom Flatland 2 to obscurity through reader indifference. Beyond all that, though, the real tragedy of this book is that, while reading it, one can’t help but wistfully imagine what this book would have been if Abbott was able to finish it himself.

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Official™ Renophaston Gangsta Babies Series 1 Review

I woke up to a pretty nice surprise this morning! Mezco was nice enough to send me 100 cases of series 1 of their new Gangsta Babies line for (I’m assuming) review purposes. After going through most of them, I’ve come to this conclusion: they rock… or rap, if you’ll pardon the pun! Details in the review:

Gangsta Babies a kill you sucka!

Gangsta Babies a kill you sucka!

(I should note that these were pre-release review versions, and they might not accurately represent what is finally sent out to retailers later this year. Also, I have to apologize for the lack of photos—I tried taking some, but the Babies would always fade out of them like in Back to the Future. I didn’t know that could happen with digital pictures, but oh well. The pictures here are from promotional materials.)

Packaging

I have to say I don’t entirely understand the packaging. I’m not up with modern gangsta culture, so let me know if I’m missing a reference or something, but they came in a broken-down UPS truck. Does that mean something? It’s full-size, and it looks real, but it won’t start. Color me confused. Inside of that were a bunch of regular window display boxes that I found somewhat garish, but that I guess fit well enough with the “bling-bling” theme. I was surprised to notice there weren’t any air-holes (!), but I’ll get to that later. I give packaging a tentative 3 / 5, but I’m willing to reconsider if someone can explain the truck to me. [UPDATE: The truck is now gone! I guess somebody stole it? I live in a pretty nice neighborhood, so this is kind of unexpected. It’s not trash day or anything. Fortunately I already unloaded most of the boxes.]

blingin' the town red!

Gangsta Babies: blingin' the town red!

Design

Okay, here’s where we get to my biggest problem with this series. The lack of air-holes should have tipped me off, but when I see a box of “Gangsta Babies”, that’s what I expect to get. I guess they were trying to save on manufacturing costs or something, but these little guys are made out of plastic. Not even the hands are real. I don’t know if they thought collectors wouldn’t notice or what, but they’re fucking toys. I know, right? But if you can get past that, there’s a still lot here to like about these lil’ niggaz.*

*”Niggaz” in the platonic sense.

First off, these guys are cute. Seriously, I bet I could swap one of these out for one of my friends’ real babies, and even if they noticed the change, they’d be cool with it because these guys are so precious. Rey Rey in particular has stolen my heart. (If I wasn’t already married…!)

The one exception here is Benjino, who creeps me the fuck out. All my Benjinos are burning in a pile in my backyard.

One other quick nitpick—at 10 inches, these aren’t quite to scale with the traditional 16-inch Cabbage Patch Kids line. This may not be a problem for you, but it really pissed me off. I’m better now, but… well, let’s just say my phone bill is going to be huge this month and leave it at that. Overall, I give the design a solid 4 ¾ / 5 ½.

Accessories

Going over the list of accessories for each doll, something “interesting” pooped out at me: no guns! Personally, I’m okay with this. I know some people will be upset that they decided to go with the Ebonics™, gaudy-jewelry, singing-songs-about-money-for-a-living gangsta rather than the kill-your-brother, rape-your-sister, sell-drugs-to-your-kids gangsta, but I am pleased with the decision. With all the violent, vulgar toys being marketed to kids these days, it’s nice to see something as benign as this on the shelves. Still, a gangsta without a gun is like Harold Melvin without the Blue Notes—he’s gonna get shot. Or melted.

One other notable oversight: no hos. It’s a regular plastic-sausage festival up in here. To make the babies objectify anyone sexually, I had to buy a case** of Baby Alive Wets and Wiggles, and those are literally fucking expensive! If this first wave does well, I wouldn’t mind seeing a “couples” wave that had magnets in the crotches or wherever. (Also an action-feature would be nice; after nearly 100 “gang”-bangs, I was getting tired.)

**Only one case was needed because gangstas prefer to share the women they use for sex. See “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None)” for further information.

As for the accessories they actually come with—they’re alright. Not great. 10 / 10

Value

I hate to harp on this same point over and over again, but if these were made using real babies, they would be a steal, but as it is, I think $25 is a little steep, and Gangsta Babies might find themselves appealing mostly to a niche market of collectors willing to spend a bit more for a collector’s-quality gangster-themed plastic baby. That said, I do think Gangsta Babies are probably the best gangsta-themed (plastic) babies on the market right now. Score: 7 / 6.5

Verdict

I’m still bummed about the name (“Gangsta Dolls“, anyone?), but overall these deez pimps iz da shiznit, real talk! Seriously, these guys are really great. If I had any interest at all in things like this and didn’t just think they were stupid, I’d be all over them like blue on a crip’s onesie.

Packaging: 3 / 5
Design: 4 ¾ / 5 ½
Accessories: 10 / 10
Value: 7 / 6.5

Total: 24 ¾ / 26.5 ½ ≈ 0.91666667

(All scores out of 5.)

The Official™ Renophaston review of TMNT: “Enter the Shredder”

Did you guys catch the latest episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It was episode #2 and it was called “Enter the Shredder“, and I think it was the best episode yet! But I bet you’re more interested in hearing what I thought about it! Beware: a serious Spoiler Warning is in effect from this point forward!

The Big Picture!

This episode had it all! We even got to see the turtles sans masks! From the introduction of three new villains to our first sight of the Technodrome, this episode left me wanting more, but still feeling satisfied! We finally got to see that Leonardo can definitely defeat Michaelangelo in combat (even if it was just practice!), and when they put cereal on their pizzas for breakfast, I was laughing my ass off! (“Choco-Puffs for me!” LO!L) When the Technodrome blasted through that wall of rock, I nearly lost my shit! That thing is colossal! And when Shredder said, “That’s quite a brain you’ve got, Krang!” and Krang said, “Of course it is, it’s all I’ve got!” I totally laughed my fucking shit off for hours! It was cool that the zoo was just two cages in the middle of a park in the city—I wish I lived in New York! The big fight against all the robots made me so hard I had to change the way I was sitting! (“Taste cold steel!”) Bebop and Rocksteady were pretty cool before they were mutants, but afterwards they were awesome! When Raph stuck his sai into Rocksteady’s gun barrel and made it explode, I was like “Oh shit!” That was tight!

Donatello’s Missing Cock!

When Michaelangelo gets captured by a robot, Donatello leaps into action! And for those of us paying attention, a long-standing question in fandom was finally answered:

Donatello’s Crotch

In-You-Endo Watch!

This episode was the edgiest yet—the sexual innuendo was nearly off the charts! Here are some of the best (unintentionally?) sexual lines in the episode (titled, sexually, “Enter the Shredder”):

  • “All I need are animals!”
  • “My legions are waiting in Dimension X to storm into this world and crush it! All I lack is a body!” (This one’s more of a metaphor!)
  • “That rock is freshly drilled!”
  • “Man, look at the size of those tank treads!”
  • “I need two of you for an experiment!”
  • Donatello and Raphael are making me hard.
  • “Now that’s what I call a serious pizza!”
  • “I’m onto something big!”
  • “Let’s boogaloo!”
  • “There must be some way inside!”
  • “We know how to handle ourselves in the sewer!”
  • “Leonardo—cut it open!”
  • “I feel like a marshmallow in a nutcracker!”
  • “You think they wanna mix it up with us?”
  • “Donatello—try to get to their rear.”
  • “Hit it Leonardo!”
  • “It’s the same guys we fucked last night!” [Edit: Oops! Turns out it’s actually “fought last night”!]
  • “You idiots!”
  • “Come on Splinter!”
  • “I just hope I haven’t missed out on the action!”
  • “C’mon, lets annihilate those turkeys!”
  • “You boys have fun together, and we’ll be back to check on ya in ten years!”
  • “Ooooh, ya little bimbo! I’ll make ya eat that camera!”

The Verdict!

Out of the two episodes that have aired, “Enter the Shredder” is by far my favorite. I think the only thing that could have made it better is if we got to see Krang’s mechanical body he’s building, but they’ve got to leave us with a reason to keep watching! I give this episode 5/5 turtle power! It was cool as shells!

Stert Does a Movie Review: Rockin’ Mother Goose

Remember when you were a child? Remember? Now think back to being a child. Remember watching TV as a child? Think back to the TV you watched as a child. Did you watch Rockin’ Mother Goose? Maybe? You can’t remember? Oh. Here’s a review.

I watched this a long time ago, and then I watched it the other day on youtube.com. Here it is: http://youtube.com/watch?v=naIGGZf1TdY

This movie is terrifiying and PACKED FULL of sex jokes. Like every other line for the first half hour is a sex pun/joke/in-your-end-o. And it comes pretty close to feeling like my bad dreams feel. Like, maybe my bad dreams are the way they are BECAUSE of this movie (The reason I use all caps is cause I don’t want to take the time to figure out how to use italics).

The casting is the only thing that is good about the movie. Stand-out performances include Woody Harrelson as Mary’s little lamb. The guy from nightcourt is also very weird to watch as Peter Piper. And I wonder if Little Richard knew he was making a movie.

4/10 starts.

Movie Theater Review: AMC Loews Boston Common 19!!!

This movie theater is pretty nice. It has 19 screens and always play the latest and greatest hit movies from around the globe! The main problem I have with it is that the people working here are bitches and cunts. And fags. They are mean. I bought popcorn and after the lady gave me my popcorn I said, “thank you,” and she didn’t say anything or even look at me. I also got a small soda, and the guy was like, “you sure that’s gonna be enough?” like he was calling me fat or something. I hate them. The main thing I like about the theater is they have old movie posters everywhere and thy picked pretty good movies, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Aladdin, Forrest Gump, Singin in the Rain, The Rock, and stuff like that.

This is boring to type.

3 points!

The Official™ Renophaston review of Resident Evil: Extinction

I saw it: Resident Evil: Extinction. I should preface this review by saying that I’ve seen both Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, beat the first Resident Evil video game, played parts of the second, and watched my brother (whaazzzup, Ste!) play RE: 4. I didn’t particularly like any of them. But I like Milla Jovovich and I love zombies. Make a movie with both of these things in it, and I will have sex with its corpse. That’s almost an apt metaphor, because I don’t think I’d like to have sex with a corpse, and I don’t think I liked this movie. I’m going to review it now, like this (minor spoilers for the first few minutes of the movie):

The Good:

Milla Jovovich. Well, actually she wasn’t all that good in this movie. But after the movie I checked her website to see if she put up any more music demos, and she did! (You can find them here!) She really needs to put out another proper album, because her movies are hit and miss, and modeling is boring, but I like her music, except some of the Peopletree Sessions, but she only did that album on accident.

Another good thing was I saw a trailer for The Strangers, which looked pretty scary. You can see it here. (You’ll have to sit though a trailer for The Darjeeling Limited first, but that isn’t so bad.) The Strangers has Scott Speedman in it, and I like him. Felicity is one of the shows I like. He was awesome in Underworld, which was a pretty awesome movie. And speaking of complete circles, Milla Jovovich had a song on the Underworld soundtrack! (I c wat u did ther!)

Yet another thing: there was this one part of the movie where (original idea alert!) this one guy who was bad left this other guy to die even though he probably could have saved him, and someone behind me said, “That’s fucked up!” I really appreciated that, because I was confused and thought that maybe that was the heroic thing to do. This is the kind of “added-value” experience you can only get if you see the movie in the theater—why do you think it’s cheaper to rent a movie on DVD than to see it in the theater?

The Bad:

OK, I know they explained it, but there was a serious lack of water in this movie. I mean, I live in a world with a lot of water. There are literally knobs all over my house I can turn and water will come out instantly, whenever I want. How am I supposed to identify with any of these characters if they live in a place with a shortage of water? That’s ridiculous. And since I couldn’t identify with the characters, the whole movie was completely incomprehensible. They might as well have been speaking Aramaic. It was all Greek to me. I also don’t understand Japanese. I understand a little bit of Spanish and Hebrew, but that’s pretty much a lie.

Plus, the acting, writing, story, and special-effects were all pretty bad.

The Ugly:

Someone behind-the-scenes had the great idea to airbrush all the face out of most of Milla’s close-ups. This was very helpful in reminding me that Milla is beautiful, like how laugh tracks remind me that fart jokes are funny, even if I don’t understand them. I’m pretty sure I would have been able to figure it out even if they didn’t draw it all over her face, but as I said, I knew who she was before coming into the theater, and a good filmmaker always assumes the audience is made up of retards. So why is this in the “Ugly” section? Because they only did it most of the time, and they only did it to her face. There were some shots of her in the movie that were untouched, and while I could still tell she was beautiful, I’m not sure the other people in the theater with me could. Or would. Or did.

Also, this movie had two black people in it. WTF?

The Verdict:

If this movie was actually a series of webisodes leading up to Resident Evil: Vengeance or something, they would probably make me want to see the movie less, but I would still see it because it has Milla Jovovich and zombies in it. Kind of like the 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails series, except that series made me decide to not see 30 Days of Night because the webisodes I watched really sucked. Ha! I get it! 30 Days of Night would be cool if the vampires weren’t all violent, careless, and gory, like… zombies…

Maybe I will see it. (That’s the punchline.)

If you’re going to see one zombie movie this year that’s based on a video game and stars Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr, see Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Or you could see this one instead, but I don’t think it’s as good. I give it a D out of 10 zombies.

The final word: Resident Evil: Extinction should have been called Resident Evil: The Least Entertaining One of Them.