Monthly Archives: August 2015

Short Circuit: “Life is not a malfunction.”

“Number Five is alive!”

I was very young when I first saw Short Circuit. But I never forgot this line from the film. For years afterward, I called the movie “Number Five Is Alive” because I did not know what the actual title was of the film.

Short Circuit centers on a set of robotic droids built to help soldiers in combat, if not outright replace them. At the beginning of the show, the five robots with humanoid torsos and tank treads (instead of legs) perform in front of American military officials and the company’s owner, as well as U.S. senators and other high ranking representatives.

The exhibition goes off without a hitch, the machines blowing up their military targets easily. Bad weather moves in, so the executives, senators, generals, etc., take the party inside. The owner of the company then calls the maker of the robots, a man named Newton, and orders him to join the party and help sell his creations.

Newton does not want to mingle with senators and generals. He does not want his robots to be war machines. He built them because he thinks robots are the way of the future and will make life easier for everyone. His buddy (played by Fisher Stevens), coaxes him out of his office and the two join the party.

Meanwhile, a pair of technicians is getting the robots primed to go back indoors. They have unplugged four of the five, but before they can unplug the fifth robot, lightning strikes a set of nearby power lines, and the energy surges through the wires into the diagnostic computer of one of the techs…as well as the fifth robot.

For a minute, the techs are sure they are “so fired!” (Nice one, Stan Lee!) But, when they check out Number Five’s electronic systems, they find nothing fried, melted, or damaged. So they send the five machines inside the building.

Robots one, two, three, and four all head in to their rest areas. Meanwhile, Number Five ends up smacking into a wall. Thus discombobulated, he follows a waitress robot (which looks like a trash can) through the back corridors of the building. He gets lost and lands on a garbage truck, which takes him out of the company’s factory/lab and into San Francisco!

Well, this is a whole new world for Number Five. He calls the lab, asking for “input,” so that he can learn about the world around him. However, his question confuses Newton and the other scientists. Why does Number Five want input? How come he is putting images of billboards hyping Coca-Cola, gasoline, and other things on their computers when he asks for “input”?

They figure out pretty quickly that Number Five is no longer in the lab. The company’s president has a panic attack, since the machine still has his weapons on him, and they are active! So he sends the company’s militaristic chief of security after Number Five. The Chief is happy to oblige. He does not like the robots, hates the idea that they will someday replace real soldiers, and he cannot wait to blow one of them to smithereens.

Newton manages to reign the company president and chief of security in long enough to extract a grudging promise from them: they will not destroy Number Five, but shut it down and bring it back to the lab so he can study it.

In the meantime, Number Five continues on his way into San Francisco. He ends up in the food truck of Stephanie, a young lady who rescues injured wild animals and injured domestic animals or pets from owners who can no longer afford to keep them. Her house is literally bursting with animals: cats, at least one dog, birds, kittens, one (maybe) skunk, mice, chickens – you name it, odds are she has it.

The only problem Stephanie really has is her last boyfriend. He has been harassing her for a while, threatening to take her animals from her and get her in trouble with the authorities. He is doing all this in an attempt to hook up with her again.

Stephanie is not having it. This guy, Frank, absconded with her savings to buy himself a Firebird. All he wants out of her is her money. Once bitten, twice shy; Stephanie chases him off with a baseball bat, then goes into her house.

That evening, she hears noises coming from her van. So she goes out to confront whoever is inside, thinking it is Frank come back to bother her some more. Instead, she finds Number Five, locked and loaded because of the threats she’s been shouting at “Frank.”

Stephanie is ecstatic to find Number Five. Like most people (*cough* NOT *cough*) she thinks that she has finally met an extraterrestrial who got lost somewhere between the Andromeda Galaxy and Jupiter. She coaxes Number Five into her house, showing him the television and letting him read her encyclopedias. (This scene is a real hoot!)

The next morning, Stephanie finds Number Five still watching the TV. She shuts it off; he turns it back on. They play this game a little more, and then Number Five shows off how much “input” he has gathered from her books. He points out and scientifically names the cats, the mice, the raven, the pasta, the pots and pans, the stove. In doing so, he makes a bit of a mess. To keep him from wrecking her house, Stephanie leads him outside to watch the sun rise over the bay.

Number Five is enchanted with the sunrise, as well as a cloud. “Cloud!” he says excitedly. “Butterfly! Rhinoceros!”

He goes on to list several other things and Stephanie realizes that, like any young child, Number Five has named the things he thinks the cloud resembles. (Myself, I did not see a rhinoceros.) While outside, Number Five accidentally attracts the attention of Stephanie’s three-legged dog, who chases him off the balcony.

Luckily, Number Five lands in the chicken coop. No chickens are hurt, and neither is he, as he starts listing scientific facts about the chickens from the encyclopedia. But while he’s down, Stephanie notices the name of the company that built him impressed on his torso.

Stephanie is very upset that she has not met an extraterrestrial but in fact has rescued one of this “warmonger’s” toys. So she calls the company – which lost track of Number Five when he got out of range of their scanners – and they promise to give her a reward for finding the robot. They also say they will send someone by to pick up Number Five, take him back to the lab, and disassemble him.

Well, all worked up, Stephanie goes out and tells this to Number Five. Number Five takes the news just fine, then spies a grasshopper. He watches it hop away and, like a child, hops after it. Hop. Hop. Hop…

Squish.

Stephanie reprimands Number Five for killing the grasshopper. “No problem, Stephanie,” Number Five says cheerfully. “Stephanie reassemble!”

“No, I can’t,” she replies. “It’s disassembled. It’s dead. Once something’s dead, it’s dead.”

“Dead?” asks Number Five. He looks at the smushed grasshopper. “Dead? Disassemble? Dead – disassemble! NO!!! No disassemble! Stephanie, NO DISASSEMBLE!”

Number Five, Stephanie learns, is now in a panic because he thinks that, once the company disassembles him, he will die. “You can’t die,” she says, though only half-heartedly. “You’re a machine. Machines don’t die.”

“No, Stephanie,” Number Five says softly. “Number Five is alive!

The rest of the movie shows the adventures and travails that Number Five and Stephanie go through trying to convince Newton that Number Five is not longer just a machine. He is actually, really and truly, alive. At one point, when Newton and Stephanie are talking, he says, “It’s not alive. It’s a machine. It’s just malfunctioning!”

Stephanie replies calmly, smiling as she speaks, “Life is not a malfunction.”

Even today, I still love watching Short Circuit, though it has some mild language in it. Number Five is a great character, as lovable as R2-D2, but easier to relate to, considering his speaks English and does not whistle or beep too much. The mistakes he makes, the way he talks – it is all just perfect!

Of course, there is one other thing about this film that I really like. I did not know when I first saw the film just how important the words “Life is not a malfunction” were. But I do now. So yes, “Number Five is alive!”

But, just as importantly, “Life is not a malfunction.” It’s the greatest gift in the universe.

So it is no wonder Number Five does not want to be “disassembled.” How can you enjoy a gift if it is stolen from you?

Until next time, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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This God-Forsaken Land

This “God-forsaken land,” they call it,

As they gaze with pitying eye,

“Nothing here but sand and sagebrush,

And a vast expanse of sky.”

“We don’t know how you stand it,”

These city folks declare,

“How do you make a living –

Or do you live on air?”

We could tell them of our ranches,

Where the great herds of cattle roam,

Or of the flocks of woolies

That claim Wyoming for their home.

We could show them our oil wells,

That pour forth liquid gold,

And in these places they call “barren,”

There’s deep, rich veins of coal.

They may not see our fertile valleys,

With their fields of hay and grain,

But nestling there among the hills,

We have them – just the same.

This “loneliness” they talk about,

To us is God’s own peace.

There’s so much beauty all around,

Our thanks shall never cease.

Our streams are full of rainbow trout,

We’ve antelope and elk and deer,

We’re a mile up nearer Heaven,

And the air is pure and clear.

Our sunsets glow with color,

And in the pearly dawn of morn

The pungent scent sage drifts down

On a breeze that’s mountain-born.

If they only lived here for a while

Those folks would understand

Why we only smile at them

About this “God-forsaken Land.”

We don’t know much of city life

Or where they seek God there,

But we do know in Wyoming

That we find Him everywhere.

So we’ll leave them the cities

Where the living is so grand.

And we’ll stay in Wyoming

In our God-Beloved Land.

– Juanita M. Leach

Book Review: The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

TheTalismanRing.jpg

I am not usually interested in romantic fiction. The romantic fiction I typically enjoy has derring-do, villains of various and sundry levels of evil, the occasional explosion, and a hero and heroine who fall in love as they fight side by side to stop the bad guy (think Lord of the Rings). That is my preferred romantic fiction; I do not enjoy stories about summers where girls run into eligible guys who somehow just happen to walk into their small towns.

So when a friend of mine insisted I read Georgette Heyer’s The Talisman Ring, I agreed to take a look at it. My compadre and I have similar views of so-called “harlequin romances” and, since Georgette Heyer was a favorite of this friend’s, I figured, “What could go wrong?”

I was not disappointed. Georgette Heyer was a British writer who specialized in writing romances set in the centuries around the 1800s. Her fiction is a great deal like Jane Austen’s – except she wrote her books in the twentieth century, while Austen wrote about what she saw around her in the early 1800s.

Heyer’s work has received untold acclamation for its historic authenticity. I cannot say anything about that, since I do not really bother with it beyond how it affects the ways the characters behave. Nor do I take the time to verify the accuracy of the historical details.

It is not that I do not like historical accuracy; it is simply that I do not know enough about the latter to comment on it, and I have not the time to confirm it. Setting is always a big seller and it always will be. I like the film Avatar entirely because of its setting of jungles, floating mountains, and bioluminescent plants and animals. In this movie, all the rest can go hang.

These diversions aside, what can you expect from The Talisman Ring? A rip-roaring good time, for a start! Heyer’s romantic fiction, more so than Jane Austen’s, is almost always sprinkled with comedy. In fact, one might say her works are romantic comedies. For all I know, that is how they are classified.

Anyway, The Talisman Ring starts out with Sir Tristram Shield arriving to see his uncle, Baron Sylvester Lavenham, who is barely hanging on to “this mortal coil.” In fact, it is probably only a few days before he will kick the bucket.

Shield apparently has no love or concern for his uncle. Shield appears cold and unfeeling, though he has a sense of humor and an honorable, kind heart. At the same time, he is eminently sensible and practical, and he sees no reason to go around wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Shield goes up to see his uncle and final matters are discussed, among them the fact that Shield is thirty and unmarried, and the last of his line. In typical aristocratic fashion, this is something he wants to rectify somewhere in the near future.

Staying at Sylvester’s house are Shield’s cousins: Basil, the heir to Sylvester’s fortune and a fop, and Eustacie, the men’s seventeen year old French cousin. Sylvester got her out of France just ahead of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and so she was spared going to the guillotine in a tumbrel. Sylvester wants her and Shield to marry, simply for convenience.

Times being what they are, both Shield and Eustacie see the sense in this. But Eustacie proves to be a romantic with a desire for adventure, and Shield is unable to wrap his mind around the girl’s fantasies. To top it off, Basil is mincing around the mansion, sighing and purring to his cousins, waiting for Sylvester to kick off and wondering over the whereabouts of their other cousin, Ludovic Lavenham, who is the direct heir to the old man’s fortune.

Upon hearing about cousin Ludovic, Eustacie is at once curious. As far as she knows, she has only two cousins – Basil and Shield. Who is Ludovic and why has she never heard of him before now? Shield tries to avoid the subject, but Eustacie is determined to know, and so Basil obliges her.

Apparently, Ludovic was the debonair, dashing heir of Sylvester Lavenham. He was a dead shot with a pistol and, like all good gentlemen of the time, he liked to gamble. He would go out with his friends and have a game every other evening.

Well, the last time he was at one of these card games, Ludovic was losing. So he bet the most valuable thing he had on him – his talisman ring, a signet ring that was the heirloom of his family and virtually priceless. Ludovic lost the bet – and the ring – to one of the other players. A few days later, Ludovic went to redeem the ring, since he promised that whoever won it would get the money he could not bet at the game as soon as he could arrange it.

Except the winner of the card game denied that Ludovic had said this and attempted to keep the ring for himself. Ludovic got drunk that night, then headed out to have a duel with the crass fellow and get the ring back. Shield stopped him, sent him home, and tried to meet the man in order to reason with him. However, he and Ludovic had barely parted ways before a shot rang out! (Cue suspenseful music!)

Shield doubled back and found the winner of the talisman ring dead in the woods, the ring nowhere on his person. When questioned, Ludovic said he had shot at an owl and missed. He did not encounter the man that night and did not have the ring on him the next day. Knowing that this defense would not hold up in court, Shield and Sylvester sent Ludovic overseas, where English law could not touch him. So Eustacie learns as much as anyone knows about Ludovic.

Somewhere in the next couple of days, Sylvester dies. With Sylvester’s death, Basil wants Shield to try and find Ludovic. In all the fuss, Basil was the only one who believed Ludovic’s claim of innocence; that he had in fact shot at an owl and, being drunk, managed to miss it – he who never missed a target in his life. Shield says no, but Basil quietly says, “I think you should.”

Meanwhile, Eustacie comes to the conclusion that Shield is very un-romantic. He does not think of, nor does he crave, adventure. Well, if he does not want any of that, then she does not want to marry him! So a few days after Sylvester’s death and funeral, she sneaks out to catch the midnight stage to London to escape Shield and boredom.

What she gets is caught. On her way to the stage station she is discovered by smugglers – or rather, rum runners. Their leader is a certain romantic fellow (*cough* Ludovic *cough*) who charms Eustacie at once. However, the law catches on to the runners’ presence and, to buy his men time to get away, Ludovic leads the lawmen on a merry chase – with Eustacie sitting before him in the saddle!

During the chase, Ludovic is shot. Eustacie takes him to a nearby inn (where Ludovic has stored his illegal wines on previous occasions, and they know him). There, Ludovic is patched up, and Eustacie meets Miss Sarah Thane, the sister of a Justice of the Peace. Sarah and her brother are staying at the inn because her brother has a cold – and he likes the wine too much to up and leave just yet. Eustacie explains her and Ludovic’s situation to Sarah, who has to hide her mirth at the youthful exuberance of the girl. Sarah Thane agrees to help Eustacie protect Ludovic and find the man who framed him for murder – and so partaking in the adventure she admitted she had always craved.

Well of course Ludovic was framed! Dear readers, I am shocked – shocked! – that you should disbelieve his story! Quite surely, Shield shot the man, blamed Ludovic for it, and stole the talisman ring! He even collects such trinkets. How could he not be the villain of this piece?

*Sigh.* Eventually Sarah and Eustacie later agree that Shield is not the perpetrator. But they agree to this only after Shield has arrived at the inn, had an argument with a recuperating Ludovic, and stood by listening to them try and fit him in to the villain’s mold. Sadly, he is not a square peg and he fits roundly in a nice circular hole, but he takes the savaging of his character with rare good humor. Though, since Shield is a bit cold to outward appearances, you have to pay attention to see that he is highly amused by all the wild theorizing.

So then who murdered the man, stole the talisman ring, and framed Ludovic for it all? You will have to read the book to find that out, readers! I highly recommend it. If you are not laughing by chapter – oh – four, then call me a Zaber Fang’s uncle!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Zoids – The Command Wolf

Irvine's Command Wolf in full

Glad to “see you on the battlefield” today, readers! This particular Spotlight! post is to showcase another zoid from the various Japanese animated series. This zoid is the Command Wolf.

The Command Wolf is a light, agile, fast zoid which is primarily used by the Helic Republic as an infantry zoid. The Command Wolf’s cockpit is positioned in its head, underneath the obvious orange canopy.

Command Wolves are versatile zoids, which means they can be equipped with almost any type of weapon – a couple of Wolves in Zoids: Chaotic Century were even given Gojulas armaments! These weapons, as you know from my first Spotlight! post, pack a punch. But they are also heavy and limit the Command Wolf’s speed and agility. To quote Chaotic Century, “Only the very best pilots [can] handle the zoid under those conditions!”

As a rule, though, Command Wolves are often outfitted with lighter arms. These include a double barrel laser rifle that has a seat in the back, as well as the ability to detach from the Command Wolf and become a separate fighting module. I have never seen the rifle used in this way in any zoids TV series, however. I think this is because of an obvious handicap in the design: the gun can become a mobile firing unit, but its pilot has no protection. There is no canopy on the gun – one good shot, and the pilot is either thrown from the rifle, possibly dying on impact with the ground – or they are killed outright when they are shot.

Another gun which Command Wolves regularly bear is also double barreled. The barrels on this rifle, however, are longer, wider, and sturdier in comparison to that previously mentioned. It has no seat for a pilot; instead, the rifle is fired from the cockpit of the Wolf. I find this gun to be much better than the one with the seat. It has more range and more power.

Irvine's Command Wolf 2

But for my money, the best armament for a Command Wolf is a sniper rifle. The character in Zoids: Chaotic Century, Irvine, piloted a black Command Wolf throughout a good portion of the series. His Wolf initially had the lower powered, double barrel rifle with the pilot’s seat at the back. But after about twelve or fourteen episodes, Irvine somehow upgraded to a sniper rifle.

He later proved to be a very capable sniper, and his Wolf’s gun is shown to be the most capable at neutralizing an enemy zoid. (Irvine was once able to shoot through two enemy zoids at once using this rifle!) The sniper rifle may not appeal to every pilot; but of the three, it is the best and most powerful gun in the Command Wolf’s arsenal. The Gojulas’ weapons are the only things that can outmatch the Wolf’s arms, but the rifle accents the Wolf’s speed and maneuverability more than these weapons do.

Like a real wolf, the Command Wolf’s claws are basically useless in a battle. But, similar to an actual wolf, the Command Wolf’s teeth are dangerous. A Command Wolf would be hard pressed to bite through the larger and more durable armor of stronger zoids. But zoids with armor of medium to light thickness had better hope a Wolf’s pilot does not have the nerve to jump on them and bite through the armor to rip out the vital circuits and wires beneath it.

If a Wolf rips out key circuits in an enemy zoid’s body, then the zoid will either have a Combat System Freeze (something like getting stunned; the zoid’s ability to fight is shut off by ‘shock’ as it were) or suffering a Command System Freeze (the equivalent of a real animal or person getting knocked unconscious). Some Command Wolves are also equipped with smoke grenade launchers on their rear legs, which supposedly act somewhat like the Shadow Fox’s smoke vents. I have never seen a Command Wolf actually use these grenade launchers in a fight; but they are part of the Wolf’s armament and therefore deserve a mention.

All in all, the Command Wolf is not the biggest, baddest zoid on the battlefield by a long shot. But for close combat and sniper combat, the Wolf has very nearly no equal in all of Zi. The only limits on the Wolf’s capabilities are what the pilot thinks it cannot manage. It is not the size or strength of the Wolf in the fight, but the size of the fight in the Command Wolf and its pilot. If I could get a real Command Wolf, I would. They are amazing zoids!

See you on the battlefield, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Irvine's Command Wolf

Vote for Your Favorite ZOID!

Zoids Chaotic Century

Here we go again, readers! Today’s poll concerns the Zoids I have occasionally posted about here on my blog. Most of these “mechanical combat units” (and non-combat units) are from my favorite zoids series: Zoids Chaotic Century. However, there are zoids in this poll from other zoids TV series as well; I may prefer Chaotic Century over all the other series in terms of plot and characterization, but I like a lot of different zoids across all four series!

As stated in my previous poll posts, this poll will only be open for about a month, give or take a few days. If you like zoids as much as I do, then feel free to vote, readers!

See you on the battlefield!

The Mithril Guardian

Shield Liger Missile Launch

Great Movie Songs and Themes

Movies are not nearly as fun if they have bad music. Below are some songs from some of my favorite films. Enjoy!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Blunt the Knives”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Misty Mountains”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – “Over the Lonely Mountain”

 by Neil Finn

Live to Rise

Sticks and Stones (How to Train Your Dragon)

Where No One Goes (How to Train Your Dragon 2)

St. Elmo’s Fire

(Never saw the movie, but I LOVE this song!!!)

Narnia: Prince Caspian (End Song)

Ladyhawke

May It Be

The Magnificent Seven

Rio Bravo

Pacific Rim (Main Theme)