- Music: Has Been (William Shatner, arranged and produced by Ben Folds)
I think a person could do worse than to have a life as rich and accomplished as William Shatner: Movie and TV star, writer/director/producer, novelist, pop culture icon, and singer/songwriter.
His latest offering, Has Been (arranged and produced by Ben Folds), is a fantastic album. It features a variety of styles (gospel to twang) and flavors, from the tongue-in-cheek "Common People", "You’ll Have Time" (with a gospel feel), and "Ideal Woman", to the Denis Leary-esque rant of "I Can’t Get Behind That" (featuring Henry Rollins), to the poignant "It Hasn’t Happened Yet" and "What Have You Done", to the non-defensive (but cleverly combatitive) titular tune. Also featuring the likes of Folds, Jon Auer, Adrian Belew, Matt Chamberlain, Joe Jackson, Lemon Jelly, Aimee Mann, Brad Paisley, and Sebastian Steinberg, the whole thing is a tribute to what makes Shatner, Shatner: Having fun with who he is and what he's accomplished.
"Live every day, like you're gonna die. Because you're gonna."
Ah, Bill, you always know just what to say to me. You're going to inspire me all the way to the grave, aren't you?
And the word "titular" still makes me grin.
- Comic Books: Astonishing X-Men (Written by Joss Whedon, art by John Cassaday)
Joss Whedon is a masterful writer, independent of medium. As if his comic book creation, Fray, wasn't enough, Whedon's taken on marvel's merry band of mutants in a new series, Astonishing X-Men.
Whedon does that rare trick of being true to a franchise while shocking the hell out you with unexpected twists. The difference with the shock factor between Whedon and someone like Chris Claremont, is the former will shock you with things you realize are totally in keeping with the character, whereas Claremont would shock you by going against type (Colossus killing Riptide during the Mutant Massacre storyline.)
Only Whedon could get away with a Willow-esque take on Shadowcat, and introducing a character like "Ord of the Breakworld" that we can totally take seriously.
Wonder if Marvel is wishing they'd used Whedon's X-Men script ...
As an aside, don't get me wrong -- I'm a huge Claremont fan (despite his First Flight novels). Chris kept my love of comics alive in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men while Mark Gruenwald was busy trying to kill it at the same time in the pages of Captain America, my all-time favorite hero.
- Video Games: X-Men: Legends and Star Wars: Battlefront
Dang, not one, but two franchise licenses done right with video game treatments. Comments below are related to the XBox versions of the games.
X-Men: Legends is a Role-Playing Game (RPG) treatment of the X-Men license from developer Raven Software and publisher Activision, and it is great on every front -- graphics, gameplay, story, voice over, and extras. It's an accessible game for the RPG fan, the X-Fan, the "good video game fan", the "co-op video game fan" (up to 4-way skirmishes), and the comic book fan. If you're all 5, then this is a really, really good game.
Really, whoever thought to put RPG and X-Men together is like the person who first dipped his chocolate bar in peanut butter. The game has been so well received, that Activision recently announced a sequel.
Star Wars: Battlefront isn't a stellar sing-player game (though it's very good), but it hits the suite spot for Star Wars fanboys. It's pretty cool to have Battlefield 1942-esque skirmishes across the franchise locals (Hoth, Bespin, etc.), and to have heroes jump in to assist in attach you. For example, while playing as a stormtrooper quelling a rebellion on Tatooine, suddenly Darth Vader joined the fray, blocking Rebel blasters and whacking the scume with his lightsaber. Truly satisfying.
Multiplayer is the game's strong suit, with XBox live support for 16 players (with a ton of additional bots for good measure).
The game also features a bunch of unlockables (like concept art from the movies) and cutscenes from the film (unfortunately, they cutscenes are from the "Special Edition" theatrical re-release, but at least don't appear, so far, to be from the "Special-special re-rerelease" of the trilogy that shipped at the same time as the game.
- Relationships: Mentorship
OK, networking is important, but it's inherently selfish ("what can you do for me or my career"), usually superficial, and ultimately not rewarding beyond a couple of avenues (work, etc.).
Building relationships, on the other hand, is hard work, rewarding, and deeply personal.
I've been meeting with a guy in a descipleship/mentor/accountability relationship for going on 4 years. Mark is a local businessman, husband, father, and elder in his local church. I meet with him for advice and accountability so I can be a better husband, dad, businessman, performer, and person. This week, I was struck by how much this relationship gives me.
No in his 50s, Mark is one of my closest friends. In a lot of ways, we're different ages of the same guy -- we're both husbands, and we're both married and have two girls. We both know we need to put our convictions above our selfishness, and we know that personal growth isn't optional, but positive or negative movement is. We share the same hobbies -- movies, comic books, toys, etc.
This week, he brought awesome finished drafts for my upcoming MangAdam release ( (c) Copyright 2004 Adam Creighton); we talked about the same cartoons and comic books we'd read over the past week; we talked about our fandom to artists like Joss Whedon and Chris Claremont. We talked about how tough (but still how ultimately rewarding) it is to be the only guy in an all-girl household. Mark said being in his fifties is the best time of his life and being comfortable in his own skin.
And we both finished our day talking about how were both bummed to be missing the Death Cab for Cutie concert.
A Mentor is someone who gives you advice, leads by example, motivates you when you need to get something done, and convicts you when you need to stop doing something. A mentor is someone who you aspire to be like.
Mark is a mentor, and a friend, and I'm thankful for the relationship that blesses both of us.
Monday, October 25, 2004
This just in from Great-stuff-by-which-to-be-inspired: It's been a big couple of weeks on the comic book, video game, music, and (as always) the relational front. Some highlights below.