Character Review: Arrow’s Malcolm Merlyn

Actually, this one is part “TV show review” and part character review.

First the show:

Arrow Season 1

I am not big on superhero storyverses. Or at least not the DC ones, apparently. Heck if I know why.
I like the X-Men movies, and I especially like how the more recent Marvel universe movies have that interconnected thing going on (guess I’m a sucker for underlying story arcs ;) ) but if any of the series just up and vanished, I’m sure I wouldn’t miss them.
And I’ve never really gotten into Batman and Superman and all the other DC and Dark Horse and whatever else is out there.

So when I first started seeing previews for the show Arrow, it was something of a surprise to realize that I really wanted to see it.
The more I learned about it, the better it seemed.
I think I can explain part of that: as unrealistic as some of Oliver’s skills might be (nearly catching a speeding motorcyclist while running on foot), the fact that his “powers” don’t rely on mutation or otherworldly sources or even the gadgets he carries, but instead were based on how he had to train himself just to survive–and likewise for most of the villains’ “super” origins–made it an entirely different sort of superhero show. But that’s my only theory.

Problem is, Arrow came on at a time when, due to homework, and focusing on my writing, and just a general lack of interest in most TV, I didn’t watch a whole lot of prime time television.
And either Arrow wasn’t advertised that much, or else I just didn’t really bother with the CW around that time. Or both.
So when Season 1 aired, I didn’t watch it because… I’d simply forgotten about it.

It took an off-hand mention on John Barrowman’s FaceBook page (since he plays Malcolm Merlyn) to remind me that the show existed, to make me think “Oh, yeah, I was going to watch that,” but by then, Season 1 was nearly over.
I think the first episode that I’d seen even part of was Episode 21 “The Undertaking,” during the flashback scene in which a then-still-alive Robert Queen is arguing against Malcolm’s plans to destroy the Glades. (Not the best first impression, there, eh, Malcolm?)

Life happened, many an episode was either no longer available On Demand or required a rental fee, and I still never got around to watching Season 1… until shortly after Season 2 finished. Specifically, I started watching it the week after I saw John at the Motor City Comic Con and got his autograph on my copy of Hollow Earth.
And I only watched it then because I happened to find a DVD set at Walmart for about $15. No such luck finding Season 2 for that price, not yet.
Needless to say, I haven’t watched Season 2 just yet; I’m recording Season 3 so I don’t actually miss it while waiting, and hoping, to get my hands on a copy of the Season 2 DVDs (if I have to pay for them instead of watching on regular cable, I’d rather DVDs than downloads) before the show gets much farther.

All that being said, following Barrowman’s FaceBook and other online feeds makes it kind of hard to avoid spoilers when I’m that far behind on the show, so while I may not have watched specific episodes and thus cannot review them, I do know about certain… revelations that have occurred.

And now the character:

Malcolm Merlyn

My own accidental first impression of the character besides the point, we see Malcolm as a business-savvy and extremely charming man–how much of that is Barrowman’s natural charm coming through and how much is the character, we’ll probably never know–but with a terrible secret hidden beneath the charm.

Malcolm the family man

Officially, our first time seeing Malcolm with his son shows us that either he is a total jackass with his family… or is so much the business man that he doesn’t have the slightest clue how to show that he cares.
Given later scenes, in which he is shown gazing at a photo of his son and we, the viewers, are the only witnesses to that oh-so-tender expression, or the knowledge that it was his wife’s murder that broke him and turned him villain, I would lean towards the second theory, that he hasn’t a clue how to act with his son, but crossed quite a bit with the Tough Love approach.

Case in point:
Revoking every possible source of finances from Tommy in their very first interaction, under the guise of forcing Tommy to grow up and take responsibility for himself. Now, I don’t know how the economy works in Starling City, but here in the real world, not having things like a permanent residence or reliable transportation tends to count against you in finding a job, unless you can wrangle some kind of government assistance.
Tommy might’ve been given the chance to earn his wages at Oliver’s bar or in Malcolm’s company later on, but that doesn’t change the fact that both those jobs, and moving in with Laurel, were all, to some extent, a charity that he simply had no choice but to accept.
Although on the flip side of that: why do people who need money reject job offers simply to refuse charity? Sure, the offer was made to help that person, but it isn’t free money; it’s a chance to earn that money–and at least one instance had the job offered to someone who the qualifications anyway–and yet, the rejection is there.

And then, following that financial fiasco, we see Malcolm actively trying to get in Tommy’s good graces (and even having a good motive for closing down the mother’s clinic if you can ignore the source of that motive), and trying to protect Tommy when running from a sharpshooter.
So in this context, I deem him someone who genuinely cares about his family and is absolutely terrible at showing it.

Malcolm the villain

As mentioned before, Malcolm Merlyn can be a very charming man when he wants to be.
We the viewers could see, almost immediately after his introduction, that he is a bad man, but most of the characters he deals with (and some of the viewers, in fact), can be forgiven for being lulled by his behavior and believing that he’s one of the good guys.
In fact, though his willingness to murder thousands of people whose only “crime” was living in the same area as where his wife had been murdered is more than a little unsettling, it’s made quite clear throughout the first season that his ultimate plans for the city are effectively good intentions with a bad application.

And that makes him one of the most dangerous kinds of villains: the kind one can sympathize with, the kind that seems to make sense in his own way.
The kind that truly believes, himself, that what is doing is for the best for everyone else.

He is even more dangerous when you realize that, had he not broken, he and Oliver would have been on the same team.
Malcolm’s original plans to “clean up” the city were exactly what Oliver began as the Arrow, and it was the combination of grief at his wife’s death and frustration and anger at long it was taking that persuaded Malcolm to take other steps. And yet those “other steps” turned him into the very corruption he sought to cleanse, the very corruption that Oliver was succeeding at cleansing, prompting Malcolm to try to eliminate the Arrow before he could be targeted himself.

And yet, for all that we know that about him, the charm remains.
We see him as much through the other characters’ eyes as we do through our own, and he does a very good job at persuading people that his plans are justified, or even simply misunderstood.
It isn’t until the end of Season 1, in what I personally (for reasons that are totally insignificant, more on that in a bit) find to be the most frightening display of his character, that he drops the charm… in front of his son… displays just how badly he’s lost it, right before he takes the final steps to put his plans to murder thousands of innocents into motion.

The Fright Factor

Why do I find that scene so frightening?
Well, the obvious explanation, which could apply to any viewer, is the simple matter of this oh-so-charming man dropping the act and shouting about how these people deserve to die. That’s pretty scary by itself.

But my “insignificant personal reason” for finding it extra frightening is simply this: the extremely small age gap between myself and the character of Tommy, and the effectively lack thereof between myself and Colin Donnel who played Tommy, makes it so much easier to imagine my own father in Malcolm’s position. Or, more accurately, to imagine myself in Tommy’s position.
Granted, my father would never do as Malcolm has done–or so one realistically assumes. ;)
My father has never had a trigger that could “break” him as Malcolm has been broken, and his moral compass would not allow him to act in such a manner without that trigger.
It’s just one of those odd, meaningless coincidences that I normally find amusing (I have a weird sense of humor) that just happens to add up to a frightening thought rather than an amusing one this time around.

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Places to See: Devon, England

More specifically, the moorland south of Devon known as Dartmoor.

One of my online friends, queenmoreta on deviantArt, lives in England and recently took photos on a family trip. One of those photos, which I’ve added here with her permission, is a beautiful panorama of Dartmoor.

Welcome to the Moor by queenmoreta

 

 

 

Now, as for landscapes, I personally prefer water- and mountain-scapes that don’t have a lot of plantlife in them.
Not that I want dead areas, per se, or deserts or anything like that. I just like images that show more of the water or of the rocky and possibly snow-capped mountains than of whatever plant life happens to be there (so no fields of flowers for me ;) )

But this one looks amazing.

More places in England that I’d like to visit

More places worldwide that I’d like to visit

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Bugging Me: Supernatural is not Scientific

No, I’m not talking about the TV show Supernatural. ;)
Just supernatural concepts, be they religious, paranormal, so-called fringe sciences, cryptozoology, anything along those lines.
This post has nothing to do with what I believe or don’t believe; I’m simply trying to understand the “scientific” attitude towards these topics.

In fact, what specifically prompted this question was an episode of Bones: The Truth in the Myth.
In this episode, the crew is investigating a murder that was seemingly related to cryptozoological studies. The character Bones does not believe that cryptozoology can be scientific because according to her:

Cryptozoology starts with a conclusion and then works backwards to prove it. That’s the opposite of science.

Let’s explore that notion, shall we?
Cryptozoology uses prior observations (typically anecdotes from other people)
to form a testable hypothesis (the “conclusion” Bones claims they start with, that a certain creature exists)
and then sets out to find evidence to support this hypothesis (looks for the creature and/or further evidence of its existence).

Now, I’m no scientist, but isn’t that basically the scientific method? I know there’s more to it than that, but still….
In fact, as far as I can tell, the only thing that truly makes it “unscientific” is that a scientific theory has to be negatable… that is, it must be possible to prove that the theory or hypothesis is incorrect. And, well, I’m not sure how you’d scientifically “prove” that something doesn’t exist.

Same problem with the “atheist versus religious” debate, as far as I’m concerned, both in the real world and in shows like this one.
Bones frequently disparages religion throughout the series for one reason or another, the anthropologist who seems to ignore cultural beliefs as largely irrelevant to her cultural studies, a symptom of other factors but never a cause worth investigating for itself… apparently not even when it relates to a criminal’s motives.
But that’s an argument for another day.

And to return to the particular episode in question: sure, they proved that the victim was not killed by the chupacabra, that that particular instance was a hoax.
But in what universe, in what “science,” does disproving one single instance disprove all sightings throughout history? Again, how does one “prove” that something does not exist?

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Bugging Me: Missed Photo Ops

Those situations that would have made for the perfect photo… except I don’t have my camera ready.

I’ve made up my mind to carry my camera as much as possible after a few such missed opportunities, like a triple rainbow that disappeared before I got home.
But even when I have my camera on hand, and even when I have it prepared for any split-second photos (usually by cheating and taking video), it isn’t always possible to get every perfect picture. There will always be something I see

Case in point:
On a motorcycle ride with my parents, and this huge bird (crane?) takes off right next to us. I had the camera mounted to my bike… on the other side.
On another ride, and a hawk dove down right in front of me, practically filling my view of the windshield… the batteries had just died.
In both cases, the camera was set to video–I can’t very well take photos while I’m riding, now can I? ;) –but I could easily have broken that video up later into its individual frames. But I never managed to record the event to begin with.
Riding in the car after dropping off my mother’s motorcycle off for its regular maintenance, and another hawk takes off from the grass in front of us… and not only was my camera not out, but my dad was on the phone with me, discussing I don’t remember what.
Another bike ride, and we passed by what might have been an amazing landscape… yet I was trying to conserve my battery power and we’d passed the area before I could switch my camera back on.

And, like that first bird, plenty of things I might miss on a bike ride, simply because it’s impossible with my mount to aim the camera at every little thing.

So, my readers, what things have you seen that you’d love to have taken a picture of? Or better yet, what unexpected photos have you taken?
How do you prefer to prepare for these opportunities?

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Playlists

Everyone has their own list of songs they like for different reasons, and different occasions.
Have a look at mine, if you dare, and maybe you’ll find some old favorites, or discover new ones. ;)
Or perhaps my readers would like to suggest other songs for me to try?

The lists will, naturally, be updated as time goes on.

Themed lists:

Self Esteem/Standing Up For Yourself/Others

Continue reading

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Patreon?

I’m currently at the curiosity stage about Patreon.
That is, I’m curious if it would be a worthwhile attempt to fund my writing (not to mention help contribute towards my student loan), but aside from the odd google search–or the odder topic to search for on search engines that reward me for searching ;) — I haven’t really looked into it that much.

What is Patreon?

From what I have seen of Patreon, both in looking at other people’s profiles on there and the various articles people have written about it, it is a crowdfunding platform similar to kickstarter: the person requiring funds describes a project of their making, asks for pledges from people who wish to support that project, and offers rewards for different levels of pledges.

And that is where the similarity ends. Because Kickstarter is designed to fund one single project, with a definite “end date,” or at least an expected one, and the person doing that project typically doesn’t see the money until around that date.
Further, I believe they have the option to cancel the project (and refund all that money) if they don’t reach certain preferred amounts.
Patreon, on the other hand, is designed with ongoing projects in mind. It’s not intended for that one video, it’s intended for your entire YouTube channel, for continuing to make videos. It’s not meant for that one book, it’s meant for the writer to keep writing even after that first book is published. It’s not built around that one game, it’s built around the indie developer continuing to make his or her mark with as many games as they can come up with. And so on.
And with Patreon, the pledges are set up on a monthly basis.

Is Patreon right for me?

Whether Patreon is right for the individual is something that only that individual can decide.
They can, however, try to bounce ideas off other people, which is exactly what I’m doing here, and ask advice from and offer it to anyone else who’s interested based on what they already know about it.

The question is, what do I have that I could offer that would be worth setting up a Patreon account?
What do I have that would be worth giving as rewards if I set up such an account?
What would someone be interested in supporting me for?

Early access to my writing, possibly.
Patrons could theoretically see each of certain short stories before such time as I’ve put them together and compiled them into an anthology, or see certain novels on a chapter by chapter basis before that novel is completed as a novel.

Early access to videos? I’m not quite as certain there.
Patreon does say it’s suitable for YouTube videos, but I’m not sure what their set-up is for posting them. Not to mention, most of my YouTube videos are gaming videos (copyright) and the rest are random nonsense things that I doubt anyone would care to fund (Haunted Lamp), or the occasional video from rides I’ve taken.
If I offered the ride videos as the the most likely option, I think I’d technically be asking people to fund my trips and help me afford a better camera. And maybe, eventually, a newer motorcycle. (Dare to dream. ;) )

And what of higher-level rewards?
I’ve seen some artists offering sketch requests, writers offering free ebooks, magazines offering extra stories, YouTubers offering to simply add patrons to a list of those who contributed, game developers including emblems or badges designed by patrons, and musicians offering concert tickets. And more.
Now, I am no artist or musician or game developer. “Sketches” would likely be of my own characters, and they’d be drawn by someone I’ve commissioned for the job. And the emblems and tickets are beyond me. I might want to try something once I’ve finished with this game scripting class, but I won’t hold my breath on that one just yet.

But I wonder… could I offer those free ebooks?
Or perhaps an autographed print copy for higher-level pledges (to account for publishing costs, naturally, since I am self-published).
And if I expect to become a “professional” writer someday, I suppose I’d have to be willing to include writing “commissions” of some sort among my list of rewards… but only to the higher level rewards, simply to ensure I still have time for my own writing.

And what about videos?
Would a list of contributers be sufficient in a video for low-level pledges? What would work for higher-level pledges?

And finally, would I be better off doing all this on one account… or making one profile for writing and another for the YouTube travel videos?

Summary

All this is speculation at the moment. Curiosity, like I said.
Whether I’d actually make any money at this, even enough to have “spending money” (without my dad constantly ragging on me about where I keep getting money from ;) ) let alone to pay that student loan, obviously depends on having the traffic for it, and having the patrons willing to offer pledges. And the lower the pledges offered, the more patrons I’d need.
But I do need to learn to market myself better regardless, and it wouldn’t exactly cost me anything to try the site.
But the question remains: should I try it? And what should I do with it if I do try?

So… any thoughts on this?
Is anybody else out there interested in trying out Patreon, or already using it? What are your goals for the site, and what would you like to offer your patrons?

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Migrating my Headcanon

namely my Doctor Who headcanon, over to my Whovian Crossover Cameos blog.

I’ll also want to copy over whatever found its way to my main deviantArt account, and probably rewrite a few of them as I go, along with updating the links on there.

And, of course, update the placeholder page for my Personal Headcanon on the Crossover site.

So none of this will be a straight “copy, paste, and I’m done” quick fix. It’ll be a gradual thing, done in between other postings to whichever site happens to need updating.

 

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Bugging Me: Weird Dreams

Obviously, there’s the whole notion of “dream logic.”
This bugs me.
I know things that occur in a dream don’t often make sense in the real world, but I still like to figure out just what’s going on, you know? Especially when most of the dream looks like it could work for a story, or even if it’s just a case of wishful thinking.
(See the Torchwood example on my You Know You Need a Job When post for an example of both.)

And speaking of a dream working as a story, the other thing that bugs me, the real reason I put up this post:
When I have a weird dream, like I did last night, that looks like it could make for an interesting story, say, as a fanfic for a favorite movie… except that the bulk of that dream happened to involve Bad Things happening to real living people… happening to the actors rather than to the characters.
Let’s just say, if I ever make a story out of this one, I’ll be spamming the whole “names have been changed to protect the innocent” variety of disclaimer, or something along those lines. Okay, the “resemblance is coincidental” disclaimer would sound a lot better, since “names are changed” tends to imply real events… but I would know, in my heart, that the resemblances are most definitely not coincidental.
The fact that the “story” is based on a dream ought to be disclaimer enough, but I respect these people far too much to write about them the way this dream happened, no matter how much it could work as a story. Something needs to be changed before I even think about publishing or posting, and “character” names are right at the top of that list.

On the other hand, it might work as an original fiction if I change the “characters” themselves. Maybe swap them out with some of my recurring characters…. Hmm….
Then I could use a disclaimer like “the following events are based on a dream, any resemblance to real people” etc.
Thoughts?

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Bugging Me: Assorted

Most of these are… minor annoyances. Nothing that I’d go so far as to call pet peeves, or berserk buttons, or anything else worth worrying about. I just thought I’d go and write them up and put them in a list somewhere.

Although they are things that I wish would change.

This list might include a few items that belong on my wishlist posts.

Anyway, to start:

Things that bug me about….

FaceBook

People who upload a bazillion photos from all different events and themes and such on their FaceBook pages… and don’t ever sort them into albums.

Seriously, the only albums that exist on some of these pages are the defaults: timeline photos, profile photos, mobile uploads, videos, and whatever else FaceBook pre-creates for the purpose.

Yes, sorting that many takes time… but sorting them as they’re uploaded would have made it much easier.
And yes, some people rely on sites like Whosay to upload the photos for them… but they can be sorted immediately after they’re uploaded.
And nobody’s saying you have to sort them all at once. ;) Just start with the most recent event and sort those into a themed album. Once that’s done, move on to the next group. And so on.

And in the case of some pages, e.g. certain actor’s or other public figures’ pages, they could always have someone else add it to their list of responsibilities if they can’t afford to spend the time doing it themselves.
The work is more tedious than difficult, and once they’re sorted, it’s kind of a one-time thing; sort the old photos so it’s over and done with, and then all you need worry about is the new photos as they’re uploaded.

Or, people who upload a bazillion photos… and then reupload those photos as a way to get more people to see them.
Then again, “sharing” your own photo multiple times, as some people in this category have started doing, has similar problems, but at least then I can go straight to the photo album if I want to comment on the original… provided it’s easy to find, as per my point about sorted albums.

On the flip side, things that bug me on Twitter:

The inability to create albums. But that’s a wishlist item; it has nothing to do with the people using it.

Things that bug me on….

deviantArt

Or probably any art site.

People who take someone else’s work and reupload it to their own accounts under the assumption that they’re “helping” the original artist get more page views and favorites and such.
And then blocks anyone who tries to tell them why that won’t work, or to add a link to the rules, because they believe that it’s nobody’s business but their own and the original creator’s. Thus killing off their potential viewership (their loss, not mine, especially if their gallery includes decent pieces of their own work) and stubbornly clinging to their ignorance in the process.

DeviantArt is not FaceBook, nor Tumblr, not any other site out there with reblogs and shares and such. Uploading work to your own account doesn’t affect anybody’s stats but your own.
If you reupload work to your account, you’re claiming it as your own work… and if it is not your work and the original creator has not given you permission, that’s theft.
And if you block anyone who tries to explain that, or to remind you of the rules you agreed to when you signed up for the site, you’re either a thief and a liar (lying about why you’re uploading it to begin with), or you’re taking the “ignorance is bliss” idea to extreme levels. Either way, you’re the bad guy.

In fact, there are only three situations that make it acceptable to upload work that is not your own.
The first, fanfiction/fanart, has always been a legal grey area, and probably always will be. e.g. I didn’t create the concept of Doctor Who, but I did put a lot of work into the stories I wrote in the series.
The second is adoptables. If I “adopt” a character from another artist, I’ve paid for the right to own that character. I prefer not to upload the characters until I’ve actually used them in work of my own, but that’s a personal choice; the option is there.
And the third is a commission, or other work that has been created for the uploader’s use. In my case, these are generally images someone else has drawn of characters I’ve created, that I might have paid to use as an illustration in a novel, or preview image on a character bio or some such situation. I typically choose not to upload these images to my own account (except as preview images)… but the work effectively belongs to me, and I could upload them if I wished to do so.

Or the fact that only the original owner of a picture can report it as stolen.
Okay, I get that it’s ultimately up to that person to say whether anyone else can use it, but if a particular picture has been reported a hundred times and the thief is blocking everyone who tries to say anything, you’d think the mods would do something about it. Isn’t that an abuse of the blocking system?
(For the record, I don’t condone flaming anyone, not even an art thief, but it might be amusing to see these people use up their block limits. :D I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they try to convince the mods to let them block more people.)
Or when an account exists for the sole purpose of theft (as admitted in one such thief’s journal)…why does the account still exist?

Or… people whose work has been stolen, but upon being informed of it, don’t say or do anything. Personally, I don’t believe “didn’t respond” means “gave permission,” I believe you have to actually give permission in order to give permission, but a lot of people seem to think the lack of a response means the person doesn’t care. Worse yet is when the person is rarely active, and people assume the lack of response is a lack of interest.
For my part, I’m planning to write a journal spelling out exactly which of my characters or stories can be used and by whom without requiring the person to ask first, which are up for grabs as “stock characters” (with a small fee attached) and which require anyone interested in using them to ask first. And, in the case of those art thieves, maybe a blacklist of who I will never give that permission to.

Things that bug me about….

Having an in-home office

And doing any type of work that doesn’t involve driving someplace for a nine-to-five job.

People that assume that because I’m home, I’m readily available for anything they want me to do.

Or people that assume that because my job doesn’t involve a specific set of hours, I can easily set aside that work to do anything they want me to do.

Or people that assume, or behave as though they assume, that work that requires me to concentrate on what I’m doing, to maintain a train of thought (e.g. writing) is something they can interrupt me at and I can easily get back to it whenever they’re done with me… but something that’s all tedium and no thought (e.g. sorting photos from a past trip) is something that they absolutely must wait until I’m done before they ask me for anything.

And so on.

Things that bug me about

Volunteer work

People that assume that, because I’m not being paid for it, it isn’t very important.
By extension, people that assume that I can just “not show up” for a scheduled event I’ve committed to helping with, simply because it’s volunteer work.

And there are probably others, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment.

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Places to See: Iverness, Scotland

I’ve said, time and again, that I need to create a “places I want to see” list, but it was only after finding this beauty on Karen Gillan’s (whom I’d first seen as Amy Pond on Doctor Who) twitter feed that I finally made up my mind to post that list.

More places in Scotland that I’d like to visit

More places worldwide that I’d like to visit

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