Friday, December 31, 2010

All These Worlds Are Yours

The space shuttles are being decommissioned, the Hubble telescope is soon to de-orbit, and the habitable extrasolar world Gliese 581g might or might not exist.

But in more EXCITING space news, night vanishes forever this year when a horde of bizarre alien monoliths devoured Jupiter and ignited the remains as a second sun!

So, that happened.

Welcome to the Earth of the future. A world of Perpetual Twilight. (Although, thankfully, not the book and movie franchise).

U.S. President Arthur Clarke & Russian Premier Stanley Kubrick urge a world in the grip of the Cold War to remain calm and go back to their beer pong.

We here at Mike's Best Blog Ever wish the crew of spaceship Leonov well on their return journey from Jupiter's moon Io:

John Lithgow, Roy Schieder, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban- we wish you well.  And David Bowman, whatever you are.

USE THIS BLOG TOGETHER.

USE IT IN PEACE.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

They Fight Evil... With Mixed Results


"I can't watch this!"- Todd cries, appalled by something horrific not meant for human eyes.

"I can't NOT watch this!"- his friend Curtis responds, MUCH too excited.

If I had just one channel, (and trust me, that is not the case) I'd want it to be the SPACE channel. The same people who brought me the heartwarming Doctor Who Christmas special (which was tremendous, by the by) also bring me this spine-chilling horror comedy from the frozen plains of Winnipeg: Todd & The Book of Pure Evil

Apparently, I was the only one I know watching this 13 episode violence and cursing-filled tale of two stoner buddies and a pair of somewhat cleverer young ladies who attempt to stop a Satanic Tome intent on granting wishes in the same manner as Lisa the Genie from 'Weird Science' only with the same mortality rate as the Djinn from 'Wishmaster'.

Director/creator Craig David Wallace brings all this unpleasantness together in a high-schoolers battle monsters heavy-metal-loving splatter fest with heart. Yes, I know that's a lot to ask, but I swear I think this works.  For kids! (NOT FOR KIDS.)

"Supported" by the world's worst guidance counselor and a janitor mentor, will Todd and his friends save Crowley High?  Will they save EVEN ONE PERSON from grisly death?

Watch it this January.  IT'S YOUR LAST CHANCE!

Probably.




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Favourite Characters: The Daft Punk MP3s


This past Saturday was a delight when I went with friends to TRON: Legacy.  The original TRON is a great favourite of mine, and this film is a worthy successor.

My friend Kirk beat me to the punch, character-wise, on his blog.  


I was most satisfied by the return of zen beardy Kevin Flynn & (too-briefly) of noble Alan Bradley, and by the technical accomplishment that is the dastardly CLU. 

I was adequately served by angry Sam, and my favourite is surely the dashing, gleeful Quorra (seen here from behind, not on Flynn's ever-present couch). Classy, no?

But, fun as the picture is, when the writing or the editing (I can't say which until I see a DVD with deleted scenes) removes motivations and FEEELings in favour of MICHAEL! BAY! SPLOSIONS! you can lose the glimmer of overall significance.


Thus all due praise and props to: The Daft Punk MP3s.  Musical Programs who deftly sweep us along and deliver the pulsing heartbeat that keeps this movie truly alive.  Cool, robotic, driven, and soulful all at once.

The religiously zealous old-school TRON-fanatic Users who Wrote these living embodiments of electronica gave non-verbal voice to the hidden heart of this flick.  Thanks, Daft Punk!

If the head of dialog fell too silent for my tastes, this movie is still a success in the visceral realms of thrilling sights and bit-blasting soundtrack.

Right on, programs!  

Like the Max Rebo band before you, I can only hope you got offstage before the explosions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Hugos: Gateway


Frederik Pohl is 91 years old, and writes a blog, which I only discovered today and therefore have very little to say about it.  I read the entries tagged 'Gateway', the only book of his I've read, which won the Hugo award in 1978.

Pohl's won the Hugo for other things 3 times, and has a large body of work both as a writer and editor.  I've snapped up several of his 'Heechee Saga' (Gateway is the first) books at used bookstores, but thanks to the lure of television I am practically illiterate, so they've just  gathered dust for years.

Ancient treasures like Pohl and his books are the subject of 'Gateway', along with the wonder and terror of extremely dangerous space travel.

Picture this: an asteroid was left behind in our solar system eons ago by an advanced culture called the Heechee, about whom almost nothing is known.  The asteroid, called Gateway, is a thriving destination for desperately insane prospectors struggling to survive on overpopulated Earth.  Gateway is riddled with little automated interstellar spaceships that still... work.  Kind of.  Humans are dangerously underqualified to run these spaceships, but that's fine because nobody's qualified but the Heechee- and they're gone.  

It works like a Vegas slot machine: get in the ship, pull the lever, and you takes your chances.

Two thirds of the people who get in the ships die- of starvation, radiation, deadly destinations, who-the-hell knows and other.  Less than a third make it back to Gateway... but the lucky ones make themselves and Gateway Corporation filthy rich by discovering livable worlds, advanced technology, or other such doodads.

Our wealthy protagonist Bob relates the three such trips he risked his life on to his computer psychologist Sigfrid von Shrink.  You know Bob got out alive... and yet...

This was a great concept and an exciting read, with very human characters and certain inescapable tragedies.  Despite my preference for happy endings, I gave it 4 stars out of 5 on goodreads for some reason.  It's good, is what I'm saying.  

I'll be drawn back to the sequels someday- I never know what I'll get but I just can't resist the gamble.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: The Barsoom Series

Kaor, John Carter, Warlord of Mars!  

Kaor, Edgar "I Can Write Stories Just As Rotten As That" Burroughs!  

And Kaor, Carlos, who loaned me the eleven delightful books of Barsoom!


Kaor (it means hello in Barsoomian, the tongue spoken on Mars) to you also, dear reader.  

May I heartily recommend you borrow, scrounge, or have downloaded into your cerebellum these fine stories of the warlike red planet Barsoom.  (I just can't stop saying it!) 

These books spin a tale of pulpy high adventure from the days almost one hundred years agone, when men of Earth were men of Earth, red women of Mars were red women of Mars, and hideous giant fish-faced caterpillars from Jupiter were hideous giant fish-faced caterpillars from Jupiter.

Probably you know Burroughs best for his character Tarzan, at least if you are someone who's ever heard anything about anything.  


Now, me?  I like the version of Tarzan that Eddie invented first: the immortal Civil War veteran John Carter, who somehow astral projects his naked butt to Mars, battles the hordes of green barbarian Tharks, rescues the equally but incomparably naked butt 
of the Incomparable Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and inside of a few short books is running the whole damn planet (shown here) with his good right arm and phenomenal abs.

What courage!  

What stamina!  

Optimism up the wazoo!  

After nine days without food and water you won't catch me winning any hundred-to-one swordfights (Book Three).  

Carter meets an array of bizarre creatures, from the vicious four-armed white apes to the ever-mutating vats of synthetic men.  He gathers (or sires) a veritable army of stalwart companions, from humorless Tars Tarkas to the spidery kaldane, to his spirited grand-daughter Llana of Gathol.
There can be a certain same-y-ness to these books if you read them in a matter of months (as I did) instead of over the forty years they were printed.  You may find yourself nodding through another tale of dungeon escape, swashing buckles, and primary-colored princesses just-barely-saved from marriages worse than death. 

But the sheer energy!  The madness!  The creatures!  The passion!  When Edgar Rice Burroughs decided he could write "just as rotten" as the pulps of his time, he started down a path that made him an unstoppable immortal. Kind of like Carter himself. 

One day they'll be reading these on Barsoom itself, probably in the Burroughs crater, with genetically-engineered six-legged frogs snoozing at their feet in front of a roaring red moss fire.  But they'll probably still wear pants, though.  

Real Mars is chilly.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Starship Troopers 3: It's A Good Day To Sigh

In case it's not apparent from my earlier posts, I was and am a big fan of the movie 'Starship Troopers'.  

However, Starship Troopers 2 was such unutterable bilge I don't want to waste even one sentence describing how godawful... 

  
Yes, it's not good.  It is a steaming piece of... cheese.  But, that said, if you were a big fan of the original and there's nothing on but 'Dancing with the Bears', then, like me, you can watch this one without using the fast forward button... much.

Otherwise (and that's a big otherwise) just avoid it. The way I couldn't.

Casper Van (Not As Bad As Tom Welling) Dien returns to flash his derriere as Johnny Rico, finally given the (very brief) opportunity to drive the robot suits promised in the book.  Like all the other 'special' effects, they left me not only underwhelmed but entirely Unwhelmed.  (The robots, not the butt.  Man's got a fine butt.)

The bugs that Rico's butt and company battle were apparently much cheaper and rarely effective- see one jarhead gutted by a cartoon you've seen them all.  I enjoyed the bug nickname 'Archie' as in 'Archie's on the move, sir'.  It's Riverdale, but stabbier.

Less enjoyable is the incomprehensible delivery of buxom Lt. Manikin- sorry, Manion, who was recruited to round out the Toplessness Division of the Federation, and who makes young Schwartzenegger sound like Sir Ian McKellan.

Speaking of objectionable, the part of Captain Beck goes to former Vulcan sexpot Jawlock Blaylock- sorry, Jolene Blowfish, SORRY- Jolene Blaylock.  (Why? Why would you do that to your face?!?)
If I can go off tangent here, (if tangent I had,) then, Ladies of Hollywood and Earth, this lip surgery is the lady equivalent of the Comb-Over.  

Yes, I'm sorry, but you're mortal.  

Try to face it with dignity and stop listening to the doctors and hangers-on who aren't telling you: THAT looks WAY WORSE than natural aging.

Anyhoo, Sky Marshall Anoke livened up the proceedings as a merchandise-hawking, pop-singing, religious zealot who leads our heros(?) right down the vaginal gullet and pointy phalluses of the monstrous Behemecoatyl 'Brain of Brains', finally splattered by the planet-busting bomb promised in the book.

I return from the killing fields of planet Roku San to bring you these details so you don't have to.  Do your part, Citizen!  Pretend this trilogy stopped at one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stodgy or Sanctimonius... WHICH SHALL IT BE?

In April 1927, sci-fi writer Herbert Wells lambasted 'Metropolis' in this review.

He begins by saying he doesn't think it would be 'possible to make a sillier film'.



Ten years later, he made a movie himself, and proved that ANYTHING is possible!





Wells calls Lang's movie 'thin bunkum', 'old-fashioned balderdash' and 'sentimentalizing make-believe' which 'ruins the market for any better film along these lines'.

Which brings me to 'Things To Come' (1936).  And not in a good way.  

It certainly IS devoid of sentiment- that is to say, it is a plodding morass of wretched tedium where I was hard pressed to find ANY emotion I could identify with save the obvious notion that 'war is bad'.

The film covers 100 years (and feels like it, too) in an hour and a half.  

The first half hour introduces us to stilted conversations and warbling hymns as the London Blitz comes to Everytown a year late in 1940 and global war stays until the mid-sixties.  This is followed by the Wandering Sickness (ie zombie plague, only more boring) that kills half of the world.  

In the second half hour, we discover 1970 is the year smug, fetish-clad English airmen sweep in from the scientifically advanced and benevolent dictatorship of Basra and 'Peace Gas' the backward savages of Everytown into submission.  The leader of these douchebags we're meant to be applauding is John Cabal, seen here looking sensible and not at all silly in his personal plane and Wondrous Ice Cream Scoop Hat.
The airmen of "Wings Over the World", "World Communication", "The Government of Common Sense" (or whatever it is they're actually called) crush the feeble locals and their horse-drawn motorcars and rusty biplanes.  Having made the world safe for dictatorship, they set up AN EIGHT DAMN MINUTE MUSICAL SALUTE to industry and efficiency: welding, strip-mining, and science-ing up a storm!  This "soon" culminates with the image of a 40 foot long automated toilet plunger assembling a building because...

It's 2036!  Spindly moving sidewalks NOT AT ALL CRIBBED from Metropolis!  Creepy stone lady statues NOT AT ALL CRIBBED... never mind!  Cuddly little helicopters!  SO CUTE!

We're told man has "conquered nature and built A GREAT WHITE WORLD."  Oh, dear. That's an unfortunate couple of phrases.  And, yeah, it sure is WHITE.  

The conflict now is between an odd, loud craftsman who fears space travel will FORCE(?) humanity to live in awful, nasty, old outer space, and the strident, speechifying descendants of Cabal who are chomping at the bit to fire their lovely suicidal kids out of a GIANT GUN pointed at the moon, never to rest until all of space and time are conquered.  A fey and orderly riot breaks out and may or may not be resolved somehow.

WELLS WROTE 'THE TIME MACHINE'!  And 'The Invisible Man'.  And 'War of The Worlds'. And 'The First Men in the Moon'.  This guy FOUNDED twentieth century science fiction!  WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

My theory is he tried SO hard to make the opposite of 'Metropolis' he forgot that logical, meticulous extrapolation and scientific accuracy are fine and dandy, but a film audience really wants to have some FUN with their Message Flakes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Between the Head & The Hands... Jodhpurs!















Nothing says FUTURE like a tight, wistful pair of jodhpurs, or so it seemed to Freder Frederson, ineffectual son of wealthy industrialist Joh Frederson in 'Metropolis', the 1927 black and white silent film by Fritz Lang.

Many thanks to my buddy Ron for running the recently released restored version of this sci-fi classic for me yesterday!

At 2 and a half hours, it is an hour longer than the version I watched back in my university film studies class- but this time I stayed awake and it made more sense!  The restored footage comes partly from an all-but-scratched-to-hell copy found 2 years ago in a Buenos Aries museum.  Thus, this DVD is the closest you can come to seeing this film in its original form without a time machine and a willingness to visit NEARLY-NAZI Germany.

(If you have a time machine, PLEASE consider going forward.)

Such as fabulous 2026!  

Where biplanes meander between skyscrapers and hordes of miserable workers die in horrible explosions while servicing bizarre machines! 

Where the elite drive classic hundred-year old German cars along spindly sky-high roadways!

And where C. A. Rotwang (yes, a name and a venereal disease all in one!), the mad scientist, kidnaps a lady preacher, copies her features onto an eerie robot and incites rioting via alternating strip shows and church sermons using her indoor screams.

The writer joined the Nazis 6 years later and her husband, Lang, divorced her over it and continued his film directing in less deadly countries.  He remained chapped about the extreme editing job done on the film and it seems he was right.

Metropolis had a hella big budget: 5 million is a lot of ANYTHING, even twenties-era Reichsmarks.  And although it didn't turn a profit, it was very popular.  That kooky Joseph Goebbels thought the world of it!  Joey killed a lot of people before he got the right one, but I guess we agree on one thing: it's a cool movie.

83 years old and it managed to give me both heebies and jeebies.  

That's precision German-engineered creepy!


The gyrating robot girl was a mere 17 in her triple role as Maria, Machinemenchen Maria, and Tod (the Grim Spectre of Death), while the bad guys lusting after her closely resemble Grand Moff Tarkin and Beetlejuice.  Yeeurgh!  

H.G. Wells gave Metropolis a thumbs down, apparently, so to see what the future will REALLY be like, I'll soon be watching Wells' 'Things To Come'.

Jodhpurs!


Monday, November 29, 2010

"You Might End Up Dead" is my middle name.


Charming, talented, and wickedly funny, Leslie Nielson appeared in over 100 movies, including my favourite film of 1956: Forbidden Planet.  He was a man to admire, and he will be missed.

Surely, he was a national treasure.  And don't call him Shirley.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Future World, Here We Come!


I'm here as Gushy McFanboy to sing the praises of a science adventure cartoon created by Nelvana for Discovery Kids & Teletoon, based on the UK-German-Austrian Discovery Channel 'future wildlife documentary' of the same name.  It aired in 2007 & 2008 and I just caught the reruns with my PVR last month, much like one might catch squibbon raisins beneath the trees in 200 million AD...

It's called 'The Future Is Wild', and I give it three tentacles up!  26 endearingly rendered episodes of speculative evolutionary biology appeal very much to the kid in me.  I like the stories, the score, the action, the wit, the science-y stuff, and I adore the characters.

The humans of 12000 AD, faced with extinction due to mega ice age, send determined young Cassiopeia G in a Time Flyer to scout locations for possible relocation.  Her robot crew damaged, she recruits three 21st century teens (plus a disaster-prone stowaway tree squid called Squibbon).

The bold, jocky Ethan, tenderhearted animal-loving Emily, and savvy but hypochondriac Luis aid the fish-out-of-water future girl "CG" in three time zones.  They discover the possibilities of Earth's evolution after 5 million, 100 million, and 200 million years, usually while screaming and running for their lives from ravenous monsters descended from the current animal kingdom.  From the swamps of the lurkfish to the glacier poggle farms of the silver spiders it's a mash-up of science and imagination to spark your sense of wonder:

Emily (approaching tribe of babookari, with her palms up: 'I hope this is the universal primate term for friendship'.

Luis (less optimistic) 'It could be the universal monkey term for 'don't our fingers look yummy?'.

The only possible drawback here is that it was short-lived.  But my cursory research indicated they may soon be making a second 'documentary' with plenty more speculative creatures.  I'm all for it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Hugos: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang



The 1977 Hugo award went to Kate Wilhelm for 'Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang'.

When pollution and disease wipe out humankind, a rich little bunch of Americans save themselves.  They soon discover they are infertile, and turn to cloning in the hopes that their clones will be able to reproduce as per usual again someday.

The clones decide it's NASTY to do the nasty.

What will Cosgrove do?  What will Cosgrove do??  WHAT WILL COSGROVE DO???

(There's nobody called Cosgrove in this story, sadly.)

What little I recall was kind of dull but frankly I'd read worse and will again.  There's stuff about how nature is good and communities are bad and individuals are great.  It does not make me want to ride off by myself in a canoe: I like communities. And the TV series Community.  

Also, speaking of clones I REALLY like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and I REALLY dislike Spider-Man: The Clone Saga.  

Approximately between them at 'it was o.k.' lies 'Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang'.  If you have a strong urge to read it I suggest you do what I did: clone yourself and get your clone to review it for you.  

(The review will be 'meh'.)

And now, here to eat some sweet, sweet birds...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Focused, Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm

Dentistry's done now, much easier than expected. 

I joined the august ranks of the cackling gap-toothed cartoon mascots like Mad Cat or Slimer from the Real Ghostbusters.












Can YOU spot the difference?

Thanks to Teletoon Retro this week for a blast from the past, the ghost with the most, that stinky, smelly, bloated bellied, lousy, gluttonous spud from beyond.  (And ironically, had his own toothpaste.)

Voiced by Ivan Reitman, Frank Welker, Billy West, and Troy Baker at various times, Slimer was (in  Dan Ackroyd's mind at least) the ghost of John Belushi, and I can only hope he would have appreciated that(?).

When I cast off this mortal coil like a discarded rotten tooth, I intend to haunt your refrigerators and hotel dessert carts myself.
Certainly Slimer is easy for kids to love, as kids are also incoherent, ravenous, mung-encrusted, and usually full of sugary cereal.

I certainly was. And am.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Comic Review: The Ballad of Halo Jones

From 1984 to 1986 there was, in 2000AD, an adventure from 4949 that I just read in 2010!  I love that sentence.  
Timey-wimey!

From the minds and pens of British artist Ian Gibson and brambly hedge in human guise Alan Moore (pictured) comes a three part space opera about an ordinary 50th century gal.  


Book One throws us into the slang-filled future time of young Halo Jones. Features a shopping trip as undertaken by Mad Max on the oceanic slum called the Hoop.  Gibson's cheerful art works well. (That artist is one hoopy frood, I saw his stuff previously in DC's mid-1980's Mr. Miracle comics.) 

Book Two has Halo sign aboard repurposed old starliner Clara Pandy as a hostess.  Mystery, murder,  and tragedy.  THAT'S moore (sorry) what I've come to expect from the 'From Hell' guy!

Book Three has Halo in the military in her early thirties.  Slaughter and discoveries.

It's a little bit 'Hitchhiker's Guide', a little 'Forever War', a smidgen of 'Podkayne of Mars'.  All splendid.  It's my kind of thing EXACTLY, I'd like to own it one day.  It's SO good!

And although the tale is built to support at least three moore (sorry) books, that's all they wrote, and all there ever will be!

 Fleetway comics, also known as IPC, (the makers of 2000AD magazine) and Moore disputed the rights to the character and couldn't resolve the issue.  Typical.  Moore may be a genius, but I get the impression he doesn't play well with others.  

Yah, yah, blame the madman rather than the evil corporation, I'M THE JERK, fine, all I know is: gimme more story, damnit!  Stop fighting over the cash and spin me a fucking yarn!  Then make a half-assed movie out of it so I don't have to think so hard when I'm reading it!

Sigh.  This was supposed to be complimentary, consarnit.  (I'm really sweating this tooth extraction tomorrow.) What I mean to say is: thanks very much, Mr. Gibson, Mr. Moore, for the highly enjoyable fantasy that took my mind off my crap for a while.  Keep up the good work!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Favourite Characters: Third World Americans


Bob, June and Carol Ann Wheeler (Brent Spiner, Annie O'Donnell, and Keri Houlihan) recently made my day in the Night Court episode 'The Wheels of Justice'.  Click on that for a youtube clip, stay with me for a summary.

Night Court lead Judge Harold (Harry Anderson) Stone's Reason For Being (apart from corny jokes, magic tricks, and Mel Torme) is his upbeat, often unwarranted optimism, and on a REALLY bad day that tests Harry's very soul he meets the Wheelers: the last straw.

They are the ultimate pathetisad expression of Third World America (thanks, Ron, for a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher which used that phrase).  

They became recurring characters because nothing makes us laugh like people worse off than us, and NOBODY is worse off than the Wheelers!  Begging the courts to lock them up forever or just give them the gas chamber, with a grandma dead on the railroad tracks and a dog embedded in a tree, there is no end to their bottomless misery.

My fiscal inability to afford a root canal up front is about to make ME over as a gap-toothed hillbilly myself.  Or at least remind me that despite my comfortable status I really am only a couple of paychecks (and a tornado) away from becoming the Wheelers.

And just in case you searched for the terms 'tornado' and 'Wheelers' I'm not going to disappoint you like a little girl who'll 'NEVER see Disneyland, not in a MILLION years':
And remember never to say: "Whelp, It Could BE WORSE."

Because, Yes, it can.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Hugos: The Forever War

In 1976, the year I was born, Joe Haldeman won the Hugo award for 'The Forever War'.

It concerns the adventures and tribulations of William Mandella and Marygay Potter, Earth soldiers in an interstellar war with the Taurans, of whom nothing is known and with whom the Earth is at war "for no raisin".  

From 2007 to 3143 these bright young people suffer the brutality of war on several brief tours of violent duty which take them not only away from Earth but centuries of out of time.  Due to relativistic time dilation, they return to a home world which they can no longer relate to and which reviles and despises them.

Take away the sci-fi trappings and it's familiar enough tale to the veterans of Vietnam (such as Haldeman), or indeed of any war.  I really enjoyed this one, 4 stars out of 5, I'm glad to own it and I'm looking forward to more from this author.

For what it's worth, I thank VETERANS today.  

I may be an ungrateful pacifist couch potato, but I wouldn't even be THAT without their sacrifices.  

I'm talking sacrifices of all kinds.  My grandmother's brother came back from WW2 but it killed him anyway.  Drove him mad.  I'm VERY glad they turned my grandpa down when he tried to enlist.  Plenty of our grandpas did not come back, and from where I stand that might have been the last time a war was WORTH IT.

It's just a fantasy, of course, but a good one: someday we'll either stop having these things (on land, sea, or space) or we'll treat our veterans better.

Meanwhile, never forget.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Hugos: The Dispossessed

Praise be to Heinlein, it's 1975 and I'm finally halfway out of the blasted seventies!

Praise also to Ursula K. Le Guin, but not from me. Not for this book.  Her previous Hugo winner 'The Left Hand of Darkness' also got my 'meh' review, and I liked this one slightly better, but not a full star rating better.   I felt about the same level of 'not GETTING this at all'.  I gave them both two stars out of five on goodreads.

How can I like 'The Lathe of Heaven' SO much more?  5 out of 5, deeply moving, awesome sci-fi.  The Hainish Cycle (of which The Dispossessed is a part) is NO Vorkosigan Saga.  No outer space thrills here, just a sociology lecture.  

'The Dispossessed' takes place around the year 2300 on the planets of Urras and Anarc-who-cares and feature diatribes about culture clashes of incompatible political and economic systems, what it means to own or not to own, and the faint wish of hope for a utopia that can never be... 

BAW-RING!  Very slow pacing, nothing to hold my interest, nothing I even RECALL about this book all this time later.  Fish-out-of-water physicist Shevek has a Vulcan name but there's no Star Trek fun here.  Nor is he a quirky laugh-at-yourself kind of physicist like those delightful nerds on 'Big Bang Theory'.  

Shevek's loaded down with the crush of his angst in two worlds without compassion where no one can see the value of his work.

I swear by all you hold holy, I WISH I liked this.  Le Guin is an amazing person, deeply gifted, well worthy of the esteem of the science fiction community.  

Nevertheless, BOTH her Hugos left me cold and disillusioned, wondering what I ever liked about her Earthsea books back in the day.

It's a book about US.  About our limitations as a species.  The miseries and the lonely isolation and the cruelty. There is NO good reason not to like this book.

But that didn't stop me! 

Despite how I come across here, I STILL think, outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Because INSIDE of a dog it's too dark to read.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Binge on Fringe- Season 1


To blog properly about the series Fringe (seahorse), I need to fill a page with random gibberish (cityscape butterfly).  Then I'd insist you pay attention to it for long periods of time to figure out THE PATTERN (creepy fetus apple).

About 90% of the reason I once watched X-Files, and for as long as I did, was Scully.  She was mesmerizing to a young man chock full of patience and hormones.  Several seasons and a movie later it was becoming abundantly clear I would never GET either a full understanding of the evil conspiracy, or Scully in my bedroom.  Whichever came first.

So when Fringe arrived in 2008 I gave it 3 episodes to impress me and when it didn't I gave up. (six finger hand).

It is therefore both an exercise of my severely underdeveloped sense of patience and a measure of my desperation for new sources of science fiction that I undertook it once more.  It is also a measure of my respect for my excellent friend Ron, who loaned it to me (tree frog).

It's got buckets of atmosphere, great writing, and the fear that it will lead exactly NOWHERE is built right in!

Dogged FBI Agent Olivia Dunham is the closest to a character I like, since quirky/cuddly as he is fringe scientist Walter Bishop almost certainly performed experiments on kids (I find I can't warm up to that) and his son Peter is full of snark but WHY he sticks around is hard to relate to.  Unless you accept that Peter's mesmerized by either Olivia or the science-y mysteries.  

These are NOT a fun bunch of people!  Of course, if there's a genetically engineered macrovirus trying to force its way out of your gullet, these ARE the folks you really should hope are nearby.

(Actually, I like the Observer best, but he's not really a character. He's like Marvel's Uatu The Watcher with a hat and an extra helping of ambiguity.  Pictured here without his hat.)

So... an ambiguous ongoing mystery. (odd puff of smoke) The writing, producing, and music guys who make Fringe ALSO made 2009's EXTREMELY DAMN AWESOME Star Trek movie. Which this is not.  It may have odd creatures, advanced science, teleporters, parallel worlds and Leonard Nimoy: but only for a FEW SECONDS now and then.  If, like me, that's barely enough for you, you're going to have to enjoy either the drama or the mystery.

But I have to admit: it's too late for me now. I AM hooked.  LOST, if you will.  Ingesting 'Fringe' in large gulps over the last couple of weeks made it easier to believe the puzzle will eventually be revealed (flower with fly wing petals).  

And I don't want to miss out if it ever manages to have something I'd find funny or sexy.  Or an alien.  Maybe an alien with a hat!  Now that's sexy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ones Who Bump Back

With all the ghouls, vampires, ghosties and Twi-hards roaming the land these days, isn't it nice to know there's an organization who has humanity's welfare at heart?   And don't they deserve some thanks?

Hellboy, that big red son of a witch with the bigger fist. Abe Sapien, Victorian era fishman.  Johann Krauss, bodiless ectoplasmic medium. Liz Sherman, pyrokinetic with the overwhelming destiny.  Kate Corrigan, knows her history.  Just some of the many hard-working, hard-fighting members of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense)  Just a few of the heroes holding back the end of days and stopping the inevitable demonic apocalypse.  It goes without saying that almost nobody knows about them and they get very little credit.

The excellent writing skills of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and others, and the fine drawing ability of Guy Davis and Mignola himself have made my recent reading of the Dark Horse comic book series a pleasure. 

And who do I have to thank?  My BFF Kirk, for owning the series and introducing it to me. How about a big hand for him and his lovely wife, on this Halloween, their THIRTEENTH wedding anniversary!

 There are things that go bump in the night, and they're the ones who bump back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VOTE NOW! VOTE OFTEN!

Yes, kids, it's that time of year again.  It's 3010 and the Legion of Super-Heroes needs a new leader!  A stalwart sentient to guide us into the new decade!  

No idea what I'm talking about?  That's o.k., too.  Just put down your crack pipes and your beer bongs and surf the interwebs over to LegionElection.com.  Click on any brightly colored square with a picture of some damn superhero.  But WAIT!  There's more...

That I should live in such a time!  Paul Levitz back writing the Legion AND MY FIRST LEGION ELECTION!  Yes, I, THE READER can have a tiny say in what fictional character runs a fantasy league of aliens!  I feel more relevant than I did in my civic election of Slumlord A vs Slumlord B, and I CARE ten times more, too!  Sad, really.

But this isn't some phone-in campaign to kill Jason Todd the erstwhile Robin, oh no!  I'm part of a grand tradition since the days when kids wrote on paper and some poor schmo hand-delivered the results to Mort Weisinger.  Or something.

That's why I want to see the first NON-HUMANOID elected.  And if I'm not mistaken, the first extra-dimensional.  Also the first socialist!  I'm talking about Ti'julk Mr'asz of planet Vyrga, Universe-247, the insectoid teleporter also known as GATES.  

Created by Tom McCraw, Mark Waid, and Lee Moder in the fabled 1990's, Gates is the bug bolshevik drafted into the Legion by his hive-minded commie world of exoskeleton pinkos.  Ever since he's been preaching on the proletariat and championing the underbug.  I loved Gates from the moment he urged the (then all-humanoid) Legion "Good luck manning your teenage death squad!"  That's the guy I'm campaigning for right now.

Gates gets to see plenty of action as an interstellar shuttle-bus, and he's been spotted (with his beak closed for once) helping out in a soup kitchen, but never yet in a leadership role.  And no matter what you may think of Gates' politics, you can't let that Earth-first anti-alien xenophobe Kirt Niedrigh win!  That ding-a-ling shouldn't even be on the team!  'Reformed' my Eyeful Ethel!  No tolerance for the intolerant!  Also, and I shouldn't have to say this, attempted multiple murderer.  Torturer.  TURNED THE SUN RED!!!

Or vote one of those other fair-haired rapscallions.  They all have their good points.  Heck, if he was eligible you know I'd vote Matter-Eater Lad.  If you don't vote, the Dark Circle wins!
Vote with your hearts. But know, like me, your hearts want Gates.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Hugos: Rendezvous With Rama

It won the Hugo Award in 1973, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on goodreads, I don't own a copy anymore and that's that.  

I find it hardest of all to do a review for a book that I liked fine.  Where do I go with FINE?  I can't gush, I can't spew my bile: it's a pretty good, if thick, space adventure in which a giant alien cylinder is discovered, explored, and abandoned when time runs out and it flies away again.  

I liked it, but I didn't love it. (And that COVER!  Is it intentionally inducing the nausea one would feel in outer space?  WTF, Nineteen-Seventies?)

'R With R' is a mystery story which ultimately provides no answers.  Still, I found it to be a good ride, an intriguing puzzle, and a fun adventure, in much the way that the TV show Lost wasn't.  Oooh, SNAP!   Plus, it had a giant biosphere with some robots and some other freaky stuff inside a metal tube in space!  That's better than some lame-ass smoke monster!

Although I understand the sequels have a bad reputation with some, I own them and plan to read them someday, if only so I can discard them as well, making space for more of the drivel I favor.  Or maybe I'll adore them. Who can say?  Mysteries abound.

There was a Niven and also a Heinlein nominated in the same year.  I haven't read them yet.  (Odds are real good I'll be royally pissed at the Hugo peeps for their lack of being in total agreement with me.  Heinlein vs Clarke?  No contest, mac.)

Morgan Freeman loves 'Rendezvous With Rama' and wanted it to be a movie decades ago, and if he hasn't soured on the whole thing, still does.  I'd go watch that, sure.  A world inside a cylinder?  Hook me up with them fancy visuals, brother!  As far as casting, the characters in the novel are all interchangeable space professionals with chiseled jaws (even the girl.  If there WAS a girl. I can't recall any point at which it would've made the slightest difference one way or the other).  

Competent Professionals + 
Giant Mostly Empty Artifact = 
Nobody Getting Laid.

Arthur Clarke was an army guy, briefly married, was knighted, loved scuba diving, and is partly responsible for the invention of the satellite.  Sweet, right?  I use those.  What did Heinlein ever invent?  WATERBED!  Feh!  
Clarke wrote much of the movie 2001, which is VASTLY overrated, and some of the movie 2010, which is keen!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Favourite Characters: Purple Pushover

I recently re-watched the first season of a brilliant sci-fi program from down under, Farscape (1999-2003).  The whole series came fairly cheap on DVD and I really feel like I got my money's worth.

Created by Rockne S. O'Bannon (way cool name! and he also wrote for seaQuest and Alien Nation), the series concerned the adventures of Earth astronaut John Crichton and a motley collection of escaped prisoners on the run from the corrupt Peacekeeper regime in distant outer space.  Like Blake's 7 with a budget.  And Muppets.

I like all the characters, really.  Butch ex-Peacekeeper gal Aeyrn, fierce warrior D'Argo, grasping deposed monarch Rygel, blue priestess/murderer Zahn, street punk Chiana, tortured lunatic Stark et al. They're all very enjoyable for a group of desperate, self-interested alien jerks.  And it's impossible to hate John.  He's the local boy!


But there's a special place in my heart for the gentle giant most directly responsible for making sure they all stay alive arn after arn, cycle after cycle.  His name and/or species is Pilot. 

Desperate to see the universe but with no space travel of their own, Pilots bond physically and mentally with living bio-mechanical spaceships called Leviathans.  The Leviathan Moya is like a prison crossed with a flying whale and the primary setting of Farscape.  

Pilot's fusion with Moya was exceedingly painful and not completely at a time of his choosing.  He was essentially enslaved and his lifespan was reduced by a third, but he regards the chance to travel in space as worth the sacrifices he's made.  I admire his placid, patient demeanor, his competence under duress. Pilot is usually the voice of reason, the soul of restraint.  He's like Wodehouse's Jeeves if Jeeves were a giant space octopus.
Pilot is a large, multi-limbed animatronic monstrosity from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, operated by Sean Masterson, Tim Mieville, Matt McCoy, Mario Halouvas and Fiona Gentle. His calm, measured tones the performance of Lani Tupu, who impresses me every time I am reminded that Tupu also plays the mad despot Bialar Crace who spends the first season trying to recapture and execute our heroes.

Frell me, that's a great show!  Wildly imaginative, exciting, just plain fun.  Plus I'm totally digging the ongoing comics Boom! Studios is putting out.  

Gotta see me some season two again!