Sunday, July 13, 2014

Signet, Pershing, and the Power Rangers

First, an update. I've been using my Signet for about a month now. I'm pleased with this little typer. As mentioned before, all I have to figure out is how to replace the rubber feet and the putty substance that was holding the ribbon spool cover in place. I'll dedicate a special post for that little project.

I cleaned out some dried ink out of the type slugs, which makes the characters appear much better on the page. No more blacked-out middles of letters.

I didn't go anywhere last week, except on Saturday when I visited the General John Pershing boyhood home in Laclede, Missouri. The town has only 300 people, just 100 people bigger than Blodgett, where my mother was born.

The man himself: General John J. Pershing
Commander of U.S. forces during World War I

Outside, view from the sidewalk.

Through the front door.

Parlor, where the family would entertain guests.

Fancy clock.

Upstairs landing.

Tween bed.

Downstairs. Father's study.

Girl's bedroom.

Another children's bedroom.

Nice old piano.
John Pershing was a man who really got around. After a failed teaching job, he went to West Point and became Captain of Cadets four years in a row. Few others have held that rank for so long, including Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and William Westmoreland.

Pershing fought in the Indian Wars, then rode with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, then went to quell the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines. He led the army into Mexico to chase after Pancho Villa. Among the young officers to accompany him was a brash George S. Patton.

Pershing's rank was called General of the Armies. He is the only man to have been appointed this title while still alive (George Washington was given the rank posthumously). He chose to wear four stars on his uniform, but it was actually worth six. If Pershing came back to life, he would outrank every general that preceded him.

It would be difficult to cram the man's entire life story into this post, so I'll relate three of (what I think) are the neatest facts about him.

1. He commanded black troops after graduating from West Point, and this experience motivated him to advocate for total integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.

2. He predicted that there would be another world war only twenty-five years after the first.

3. He refused to run for President and demanded an ordinary headstone at his burial site.

If you're traveling through northern Missouri, drop down to Laclede and check this place out!

And now, it's morphin' time.

Best superheros ever.
To say I was excited when I heard the news would be a huge understatement. Power Rangers was my favorite show as a kid. My dad had to bribe me with a VHS tape full of recorded episodes to get me to learn how to tie my shoes. I played that tape until the film snapped.

The show was great not only because of the content, but it because it was made under adverse circumstances. The producers had little money and had to splice images of American actors with Japanese stock footage (I never knew that PR was inspired by Super Sentai until years later. Kind of a shock...).

Sure, they had to hold back. The question of whether kids would start kicking their siblings or karate chopping their school mates was raised over and over. And yet, PR still holds the world record for the longest-running and most-watched kids television franchise in history.

Very few details have emerged about the film (who's on the cast, director, etc.) so at this point, we can only speculate. There are a million ways they could do it, and I'm willing to bet they'll take a page from the recent Marvel/DC film successes.

Here's one fan's opinion of what would make the new Power Rangers film great.

1. Atmosphere and Characterization

If the new film takes place in the 21st Century, then the feeling will be completely different. The optimism that characterized childhood in the 1990s died on 9/11 and has long faded into a pleasant memory. Most of the characters will have to reflect this. Sure, it's great to tell kids that if you don't give up, everything will turn out all right. But adults know that even if it does, it's often a painful struggle. The Ron Wasserman song "We Need A Hero" from the original soundtrack was years ahead of its time.

   The Rangers

In terms of characterization, the humans need to be more well-rounded individuals. In the original series, there wasn't much to tell the difference between one PR from the next. They all joined hands to do community projects, but we rarely saw any glimpses of their individual lives.

There were stereotypes. Jason was the leader and martial arts expert. Zack was carefree and hip. Billy was a nerd. But we're never told why. What made Billy decide to pursue science? He turns out to be a capable fighter. How will this affect his passion for the workings of the natural world?

   Zordon and Rita (and company)

While we're on the subject, Zordon and the non-human characters probably need the most fleshing out because they cause the events that lead to the Rangers' formation. Fans have long speculated what exactly happened between the sorceress Rita and the wizard Zordon. It's been hypothesized that they were once friends who learned their magic arts from a powerful intergalactic entity. However, they became enemies, and the ensuing war would eventually lead to planet Earth.

Granted, it was a 90s-era kid show. Deep subject matters like betrayal, blood-feuds, and so forth weren't popular. TV programming emphasized very black and white views of the world (kinds like the 50s but with mutant turtles and robot dinosaurs). But if they're serious about this movie reboot, the backstory needs a ton of work.

As stated before, we need to know why these characters are here. Yes, Rita is a childish brat who takes orders from Lord Zed, but that can't be the end-all explanation. She chose to join the dark side for a reason, the same way Zordon chose to forever oppose her. For that matter, all of Rita's minions made a choice. Why? I'd like to know.

On a side note, I think it'd be really cool to see Zordon and Rita having a conversation, reminiscing about the past like old friends. Hey, Professor X and Magneto do it...

   The Monsters

There are some monsters from the original series that deserve a comeback.
Here are my picks:

Zed's first creation. Took control of the Zords and turned them on the Rangers.

The Terror Blossom
Froze three Rangers in combat before they could attack.
Seeks a heat source to germinate its see pod, by which it would freeze the whole planet.

Nimrod, the Scarlet Sentinel
My all-time favorite.
Can split into three monsters, controls electricity.
Creepiest monster voice ever.
"A little high voltage anyone?"

Rita's ultimate monster. Capable of battling the Megazord and Dragonzord singlehandedly.

Gatekeeper of the Dark Dimension
Controls the passageways between Zed's world and ours.

A shape-shifting ape that can impersonate anyone.
Can only be defeated by using a mirror to destroy the illusion.

Capable of controlling hundreds of people at a time, making them attack anyone.
"I'm taking over the airwaves, and your brainwaves!"
The Nasty Knight
His magic sword is capable of reflecting any attack and destroying his enemies' weapons.

Turban Shell
Drains an opponent's strength the longer a battle drags out.
Sapped Tommy of his powers during his final battle as the Green Ranger.
Might want to make him a bit more menacing.
I hated this guy.

   The Music

Ron Wasserman. That is all.

   The Trilogy Question

If this becomes another trilogy reboot, I think all three movies should focus on the first three seasons.

Movie 1: Rita appears, PR are created

Movie 2: Tommy as the evil Green Ranger

Movie 3: Zed appears; Tommy becomes the White Ranger; future rangers Adam, Rocky, and Ayesha appear

   Miscellaneous Stuff

- Goldar shouldn't be the bumbling, brown-nosing idiot he was in the series. He's a cool monster. There's a reason he swore to serve Rita. Make him a chivalrous knight of the dark side.

- Tommy should have some kind of flaw that makes him a good candidate to be the Green Ranger. That whole brainwashing trick isn't going to work on modern audiences. His journey was a story of redemption. Give him some flaws and resolve them by the time he dons the White Light.

- Get the original cast to do any many cameos as you can (assuming they aren't reprising their original roles).

- Please please please please use the original morphing sequence.

- Zordon should be able to project an image of himself outside of the Command Center, like a hologram. Maybe in a human form? I've always thought of him as a grandfather figure to the humans.


I think this has been the most labor-intensive post to date. See you next week!

Power to the pen!

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