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.  

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.