Archive for June, 2016

Dear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: here’s my advice on playing Doc Savage

June 22, 2016

Dear Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: here’s my advice on playing Doc Savage

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Oh, actually, I don’t know…do I call you The Rock? Dwayne? The? Please pick whatever appellation you would prefer.

I believe you make intelligent choices as an actor (being a former actor myself), and that you’ll possibly appreciate some insight from a fan of Doc Savage.

You see, while Doc clearly inspired Superman and Batman (and others), you’ll need to find a way to make him stand out, to be different from all those other heroes out there.

He is…and you can be, and still make it appealing and commercial.

You see, Doc is vastly superior to most of us, but believes that he will never be good enough.

That’s the key.

He is intensely introspective, and acutely aware of anything he sees in himself as an imperfection. Of course he is self-sacrificing…perhaps, he thinks, even in dying, he could contribute in some small way to make the world a better place…and what right does he have to stay in it?

Where does he get this attitude?

It goes back to his childhood…not to get all Sunday Supplement psychological on you.

Doc’s mother died when he was a baby. Does Doc blame himself for this? Possibly, but it’s what happens after that which shapes his sense of unworthiness.

Doc’s father was already an adventurer, a world traveler. Clark Savage, Sr., makes the decision to raise his son to be a “superman”. Doc is raised on an island, and (exclusively male…he doesn’t see a woman until he is an adult) experts are brought in to tutor him, to make him into Homo superior.

Pressure, much?

Any slight failure proves to himself that he has not achieved his father’s life’s purpose for him.

Once he gets into the real world (fighting in World War I), his obvious physical and mental superiority (in part derived from an incredible self-discipline and commitment to improvement) becomes apparent to him. He becomes a leader to a group of extraordinary friends.

In the first few adventures, he kills people right and left, perhaps a bit overwhelmed to be that superior…he may actually believe he has a chance to make the difference he was raised to make.

Then he fails.

He comes to believe that his killing people was a weakness…a proof of his flaws. He vows never to kill again, and would rather die than kill even a villain.

He is driven to, as the Doc Savage oath (not part of the original adventures, but from that time) says, “…strive, every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit from it.”

He can never be good enough. Not as a brain surgeon. Not as a pilot. Not as a leader. He can, though, be better than he is now.

That’s the core.

It explains a lot of things.

It’s why he ignores questions about what he thinks is happening in a mystery, until he is sure. He thinks he could be wrong, and his error could be disastrous.

It explains his two hours of exercises a day…exercises which include mental and sensory exercises. Why does he do it even when imprisoned by a bad guy? He’s not worth surviving as he is…he needs to be better, to closer to the goal his father had for him. If he dies, the world might be better off without him.

He risks riding on the running board of cars…his being able to see better and possibly help his associates is worth the risk of his life.

It shows his anger at being told he was more useful at home in World War II than being in the thick of the fight.

It’s why, in the later adventures, he abandons many of his gadgets…if he relies on them, he isn’t getting better, no matter how useful they are.

That’s not to say he wants to die. He doesn’t: he wants to make the world a better place, and dying for its own sake doesn’t do that.

Dying in the service of others would.

He’s not illogical in this…he knows the value his skills give to his team and to society at large. He’s not going to throw his life away on a small item.

To play Doc, work with this motivation: “I can never do enough to be as good as I should be…but I can be better than I am.”

I hope that helps! You’ll get a lot of advice about being Doc Savage, and some of it will be contrary to this, I’m sure. No doubt, there will be some who suggest you play him as supremely confident. I would say this: on the surface, he can appear confident, because he knows it benefits others that he seem to be so…but that unconscious trilling will show you that there is an uncontrolled undercurrent in Doc Savage’s thoughts.

Take the opportunity to make Doc as complex as he is…we don’t need to see it overtly on screen, but I hope to see it inform your performance in a movie I have anticipated for years.

No pressure, though…I’m not Clark Savage, Sr. 😉

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Geeky reference books on a great sale!

June 5, 2016

Geeky reference books on a great sale!

In my I Love My Kindle blog, I recently wrote about getting an alert from eReaderIQ that

Universal Horrors (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

was on sale for $3.99 (the digital list price is $29.99).

I’d had that one on my Amazon Wish List for some time, and snapped it up at that price.

What I didn’t realize was that this is a sale on many titles from the publisher McFarland!

I know McFarland best for producing high-quality reference works on topics that generally get short shrift. You aren’t going to find a heavily researched book on “monster movies” (as is Universal Horrors) from most university presses.

Typically, the books are not inexpensive. $29.99 is a lot for a Kindle edition, usually, but this falls into that category for me where it’s a legitimate price. It’s not like a novel.

These books will make excellent gifts! You can delay delivery of a Kindle store book for the appropriate gift-giving occasion. Even though I don’t often buy books for myself any more, since we have

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

but some of these are too good not to have in our library.

Here’s a search for 885 (!) McFarland books for $3.99 each (those seem to be the ones on sale…not all McFarland books are) in the USA Kindle store right now. Some of these may be false positives…Amazon’s search sometimes seems…imprecise, and an author of “McFarland” may be returned when I searched for the publisher McFarland (using Amazon’s own advanced search):

McFarland books for $3.99 (at AmazonSmile*)

I have no idea how long this sale will last, so check the price before you click or tap that sale button. I might be getting some gifts for other people, too. 🙂

Oh, one other note: these are often “coffee table” type books…they will be large files to have on an EBR (E-Book Reader, and may have color pictures which render best on a tablet)

Here are some that caught my eye:

  • The Literary Monster on Film: Five Nineteenth Century British Novels and Their Cinematic Adaptations by Abigail Burnham Bloom
  • Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren and Bill Thomas (I bought this one)
  • Illuminating Torchwood: Essays on Narrative, Character and Sexuality in the BBC Series (Critical Explorations in Science…by Andrew Ireland and Donald E. Palumbo (put it on my wish list…love the show, but this interest seems too narrow for me to buy right now)
  • Italian Horror Film Directors by Louis Paul
  • Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science by Howard V. Hendrix and George Edgar Slusser (bought as a gift)
  • Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film by Mathew J. Bartkowiak (wish list)
  • Mass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566 by Robert E. Bartholomew and Bob Rickard (Bob Rickard is a driving force at Fortean Times) (bought as a gift and wish list)
  • Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (wish list)
  • In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of…by Robert G. Weiner and Robert G. Weiner
  • Super-history: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present by Jeffrey K. Johnson (wish list)
  • Inside Gilligan’s Island by Sherwood Schwartz (wish list)
  • A History of the Doc Savage Adventures in Pulps, Paperbacks, Comics, Fanzines, Radio and Film by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter (bought this one! I just wrote a piece on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being cast as Doc Savage…Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Doc Savage: a fan’s view)
  • Creating Characters: A Writer’s Reference to the Personality Traits That Bring Fictional People to Life by Howard Lauther)
  • Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937-2012 by Vincent Terrace (digital list price $99.99)
  • Fright Night on Channel 9: Saturday Night Horror Films on New York’s WOR-TV, 1973-1987 by James Arena
  • Teaching with Harry Potter: Essays on Classroom Wizardry from Elementary School to College by Valerie Estelle Frankel
  • Of Bread, Blood and the Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy (Critical Explorations in…by Mary F. Pharr
  • The Body in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on Middle-earth Corporeality by Christopher Vaccaro
  • Encyclopedia of Imaginary and Mythical Places by Theresa Bane
  • Respecting The Stand: A Critical Analysis of Stephen King’s Apocalpytic Novel by Jenifer Paquette
  • The Wizard of Oz as American Myth: A Critical Study of Six Versions of the Story, 1900-2007 by Alissa Burger
  • A History and Critical Analysis of Blake’s 7, the 1978-1981 British Television Space Adventure by John Kenneth Muir (this show came up in a comment recently on this blog)
  • Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century by Kristin M. Barton and Jonathan Malcolm Lampley
  • Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson’s Muppets by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham
  • The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction: 42 (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and…by Thomas D. Clareson and Joe Sanders
  • America Toons In: A History of Television Animation by David Perlmutter
  • The Video Games Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962-2012, 2d ed. by Matt Fox
  • The American Popular Novel After World War II: A Study of 25 Best Sellers, 1947-2000 by David Willbern
  • Marketing Your Library: Tips and Tools That Work by Carol Smallwood and Vera Gubnitskaia

I could keep going and going, but I’m worried about the sale ending while I’m writing this. 🙂

I’ll get this out, and I might add to it later. If you are thrilled (or puzzled) by any when you go to check it out (which I recommend) feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. Update: I did add…I couldn’t leave off the Vincent Terrace book(s)…I have some in hardback, and they are terrific!

Enjoy!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Doc Savage: a fan’s view

June 5, 2016

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Doc Savage: a fan’s view

I can legitimately say I’m a fan of Doc Savage.

I’ve read (and have on my shelves) all 181 of the original “adventures”. I’ve kept the Doc Savage oath (not in the originals, but still dating from that time) on my computer, and recited it for inspiration. I have a Flipboard magazine devoted to linking to Doc resources and news articles on the web (Doc Savage Fanflip), a Doc Savage category of articles on this blog, and Doc’s introduction is one of the “des-time-ations” in The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project.

Doc is one of my literary heroes: I am a better person because of Doc Savage.

I also like Dwayne Johnson: I have The Rock Clock, which is a fun alarm app from the actor/wrestler, on my Galaxy S7 Edge.

However, when I heard that The Rock was being considered for the role of Doc Savage in Shane Black’s new movie, I was not immediately convinced.

First,  there’s the physicality. I find it hard to imagine the Rock in disguise as an “ordinary person” and making it work. It’s hard to think of him as anything but big…when he walks into a room, that’s going to be the first impression. Famously, Doc doesn’t look big, until you realize how tall he is because of some item of scale. Yes, he’s tall. Yes, he’s muscled, but not broad like a bodybuilder. However, they may be able to work with that…I’m just concerned that casting someone who is that big suggests perhaps an inaccurate surface assessment of the character. I expect, though, that Shane Black has read all of the adventures, and he’s smart and a good screenwriter…I’d call it a yellow flag, rather than a red one.

Second, I tend to think of the Rock as comedic or intimidating, in most roles. Neither of those fit my image of Doc Savage, who is taciturn…an immovable object rather than an unstoppable force, perhaps.

That brings up a reason why this casting can work.

Doc evolves.

Some characters, like Sherlock Holmes, come to us largely fully formed. Outside of some practical elements, you can read any of the stories about them and it doesn’t matter much in which order you do it.

The Doc Savage stories are self-contained…it’s not that a story continues from one book to the next (although there are some callbacks to previous events). It’s that Doc in the first stories is different from Doc in the middle stories who is different from Doc in the last stories.

Maybe it was because Lester Dent, who wrote the vast majority of the stories, wrote them so quickly…in the beginning, it was roughly like writing a 100 page book with a complex plot, clever dialog, and distinctive characters…every month. I think he had to be very engaged with the character…and if Dent evolved, Doc would evolve as well. Not that they held the same attitudes at the same time, but that Dent’s philosophy and emotional state would influence how he wrote Doc Savage.

Let’s take a look at some things Doc Savage fans would tell a non-fan in describing the character and the books:

  • Doc is a physical and mental marvel. He isn’t just unusually strong as well as being fast and skilled athletically. He is literally a brain surgeon. He is an inventor. It doesn’t matter much what the scientific discipline is: Doc is at the level of the best in the world. That doesn’t change much during the books
  • Doc never kills. He would rather die than kill someone else, even a villain. This was a radical change in the books: in the beginning, it’s not unreasonable to describe Doc as bloodthirsty. He kills right and left, and kills for vengeance. He rethinks this (Doc is always thinking, and examining his own behavior), and comes to believe that killing is wrong. He develops special non-lethal weapons (guns that fire “mercy bullets” that only knock people out, anesthetic gas glass globes…). Because his associates respect him so much, they adopt the same policy…at least officially. Monk, one of Doc’s aides, never really seems to get on board with this…he doesn’t kill because Doc doesn’t like it, not because the rule is part of his moral core
  • Doc has gadgets…he even wears a “utility vest”, the forerunner of Batman’s “utility belt”. The pockets are full of all kinds of things, including  underwater breathing apparatus, the aforementioned gas globes, a grappling hook, and so on. In later books, though, he eschews these, believing he has come to rely on them too much (again, being introspective). The “gadgets” extend to vehicles: a submarine, an autogyro (sort of like a helicopter), cars, planes…and a high-speed elevator in the skyscraper headquarters
  • There are five “aides” who accompany Doc on his adventures: Monk, a chemist who looks so much like an ape he is sometimes mistaken for one; Ham, a Harvard lawyer, and Monk’s “odd couple” verbal sparring partner; Long Tom, an electrical engineer; Renny, a civil engineer who, unlike Doc, is immediately noted for how big he is (especially his fists); and Johnny, a geologist and archaeologist noted for his use of big words. Outsiders might think of this as being a team, like the Justice League or the Avengers, but that’s not the case. They are friends, and Doc is the leader in their group…but being a Doc Savage aide is not a full-time job. Any of them may be too busy to join an adventure (and we usually hear what they are doing instead)…think of it more like buddies going on a road trip than an organization of crimefighters. Doc might even have an adventure with none of them around
  • Doc is disciplined. He does two hours of self-improvement every day, regardless of the circumstances.  These are often described as “exercises”, but it’s important to note that this is not just a physical workout. Doc does math problems in his head, practices identifying smells, hones his sense of hearing

I think that discipline is key to the character. Doc is always trying to make himself better…and that doesn’t just mean new personal records. It also means being a better person, for the benefit of society at large. Doc, like Mr. Spock on Star Trek and Kwai Chang Caine on Kung Fu, believes he is imperfect morally…a failure, in a sense. Rationally, he knows he is superior to most people physically and intellectually…but that doesn’t mean he thinks he always does the right thing. Doc repeatedly ignores questions when his aides ask them…it’s not because he doesn’t respect the aides, it’s because he thinks he could be wrong.

That part of the character is where Shane Black and Dwayne Johnson will have to convince me yet. There’s a real temptation with an iconic character like this, who has every reason to believe he is the best in the world, to play him as supremely confident. Doc doesn’t need to have angst on screen…he doesn’t have to doubt his cause to do good in the world, he never questions that. He has to doubt that he is morally strong enough, and to always think he can be better.

I am looking forward to the movie, and there is no question that casting Dwayne Johnson has called a lot more attention to it than it would have had as this stage. I like Shane Black. I like Dwayne Johnson. I like Doc Savage. I just hope I like them all together.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 


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