Friday, December 30, 2011

Things I Pretend To Notice: 2011 Book Round-Up

As the year draws to a close I am eager to pare down. No, not my middle-age paunch, but my expansive collection of DVDs and Books (the Paper DVDs)!

Sometimes when I try this, I discover I like everything I own and I want to let nothing go to trades or donations. And that's o.k., too. I can be that horrible junk-covered harridan from Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth' if I want.

I looked back at and discovered that (including super-short books like 'Go The F To Sleep' and Weird Al's 'When I Grow Up') I read 153 books this year. That's a lot for some people, a mere book snackwich for others.

I've never measured it before. I feel mildly disappointed and I wanted to mention five that felt like accomplishments or made a real impression.

5) 'Norstrilia' by Cordwainer Smith is a fun SF adventure tale. It simplified the way I define evil in my own head- suggesting that humans are only evil when they are bored or scared. That felt really true to me, you know? It makes evil feel like it can be fought.

4) 'Earth The Book' by John Stewart and Company was most amusing and reminds me how little I know about anything.

3) David Mack's 'Star Trek Destiny' trilogy, for better or worse, was so enjoyable I started an obsessive Star Trek reviewing project that derailed this very blog in favor of its sister blog and ate a DEVASTATING amount of my spare time since September. I'm... grateful? I guess? Damn it all to hell.

2) 'The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology' by Ray Kurzweil did my noggin in. Turns out there's a way to be extremely optimistic about the future without belief in God's intervention. Or putting that aside, Science might be about to make everything a whole lot better for everybody, whether you believe in it or not.

1) 'Mort' by Terry Patchett. I owe my BFF Bookmonkey great thanks for the loan of the Discworld books, and this was my favourite so far. If that Singularity is never forthcoming, then I pray meeting Death will be for the best. Or good for a laugh.

The forests of the Vasta Nerada won't need to be leveled on my account- I'm sliding inexorably into a paperless reading experience that renders my "paper DVDs" quip meaningless...

I'm saying I am loving my birthday eReader, a gift from my sweet lady wife.

Peace, long life, and great reads to you all in your new year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

I saw it this afternoon in a virtually deserted theatre. A couple, a bearded singleton, a dad and his noisy, stomping tots. If I start with complaining ($14 dollars for parking!! My fingers ache! Aren't the Muppets dead?) it becomes apparent I'm pretty much both Statler and Waldorf already.

So thank you to everybody involved with "The Muppets" for dancing, singing, and smiling past my layers of crusty cynicism for a blast of fun. I needed that, and you guys and gals brought it.

Steve Whitmire- Kermit The Frog for the majority of my life. Brings nostalgia home hard and tender and tragic and beautiful. Always a romantic, always a dreamer, and always forced to be the realist in a barnyard crapstorm of chaos. Will Kermit carry the day?

Jason Segel & Amy Adams- adorable as Gary and Mary. Will their love survive... The Muppet Show?

Bret McKenzie- my fellow 35 year old, whose music, as always, is sheer delight. Is he Man, or is he Muppet?

Dave Goelz- still my favourite Not-Much-Like-a-Turkey alien.

Rashida Jones- the straight-shooting CDE TV executive Veronica whose ratings charts prove you can't go home again. Are you going to finish that latte?

Chris Cooper- evil Tex Richman, humorless oil tycoon. Is it as thankless job as it looks to be scary standing next to Uncle Deadly?

And Peter Linz- who plays Walter, the Anything Muppet in the midst of realizing himself.

Walter is the Muppet's biggest fan (for all the good it does him) and his love and devotion may be all that can bring the floundering Muppets together again. Can they find a celebrity to raise them from obscurity and raise $10 million to save their derelict theatre?

And why does nobody ever notice Hobo Joe?

To the most salient question: can devoted fans of the original cast see their way clear to accepting the newbies? I think some will. Gene Roddenberry's dead but the Star Trek reboot film was deservedly successful. Though the Muppets are even more the emotional brainchild of Jim Henson's toil, and though his too-early death was deeply tragic, I see no reason to bury the Muppets with him like some tyrant Pharaoh's powerless slaves. Jason Segel's story CLEARLY comes from a place of great veneration and love. I hope he makes a mint, because it's obvious the man loves these ping-pong balls on socks like the beloved characters they are to so many.

The biggest coup will be somehow pleasing that wide, jaded middle ground between the tykes and the aged. I'm not sure this film will work for everyone. But it sure does for me. I laughed out loud. I cried a little. I clapped. It was like a (kind of) torture.

When my wife returns from her adventures in the city where they filmed it, I hope we can see it together. To paraphrase the small green one: She makes me happy, now and forever.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Movie Review: Tower Heist

It's a lazy Sunday, and if you have nothing to do but set your clocks back, why not see a great little comedy?

I saw a preview of Tower Heist with my wife and friends recently and enjoyed it so much more than I expected to from the so-so trailer I saw.

Ben Stiller plays a genuinely nice guy, a fastidious building manager who finds himself hatching a scheme to rob the secretly cruel despot Alan Alda and repay the poor serfs who toil beneath his penthouse.

Eddie Murphy is a riot as the more practical thief Stiller bails out to assist him.

Lots of laughs, some of my favourites came from sad-sack laid-off Matthew Broderick and safe-cracking, wise-cracking Gabourey Sidibe. And I'm impressed as ever by Tea Leoni. You know what? Great work all around.

It's a mark of distinction for me how loudly I heard my wife laughing throughout.

Please see a fine review at WISDOM OF BOOKMONKEY now.

Then treat yourself to a little comedy wish fulfillment from the emotional core that yearns for justice in matters of greed and brings us the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Do not give in to the desire to pirate the movie itself, despite the madcap robbery theme.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TV Review: Superboy, Episodes 1 & 2

1988 saw the 50th anniversary of the creation of DC Comics' famous character Superman, and (not coincidentally) the first season of "Superboy" the TV series. I recently traded away some used DVDs including Ben Affleck's 'Daredevil' when, during an enjoyable Rifftrax evening with my wife and our friends, I discovered it was not worth re-watching 'Daredevil' as much as I already have.

The upshot of which is: I traded for various possible treasures, including "Superboy" Season 1.

Maybe I'm not sure how to use the term upshot. Then again... all it has to be, to be worth my time, is better than the wretched, long-running, inexplicably popular TV series 'Smallville'.

This it achieved- six seconds into the opening credits. The lead actor is IN costume, FLYING, and by gum: he's SMILING. It's the cocky smile of a guy thinking 'hur, hur, I'm Superboy, and you're not' but you know what? That's what I'd be doing if was him. So there.

It's goofy, it's cheap-ass, and it makes 'Miami Vice' look like fine classic cinema. But I'll tell you what it has: Superboy. This is both good and bad. But nowhere near as bad as "Smallville'.

Alexander Salkind (who previously brought me the 1984 'Supergirl' movie as well as some movies normal people liked) presents this series, with character creation credit (and little else) going to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In this incarnation, young Clark Kent is attending the Siegel Journalism School at Shuster College in Shusterville, Florida. His classmates include T.J. White (Daily Planet's Perry White's nephew, duh!) and Lana Lang (Stacey Haiduk, whom I recall fondly from equally implausible adventures on "SeaQuest DSV" Season 1). Haiduk's performance is as far above the 'Smallville' Lana as the star Rao is above doomed planet Krypton. High nerd praise.

Also along for the ride is scheming bully Lex Luthor and his crony Leo. I have never seen Luthor portrayed as a golf-sweatered preppie douche canoe before, but it kind of works for him. (Actually, the actor's terrible so far but he might be the smarmiest Luthor I've ever seen. That should count for something, right?)

Finally, John Haymes Newton as Clark Kent/Superboy. Huh. So, it's possible to look surprisingly LIKE Tom Welling, while still possessing a modicum of talent. Good on you, sir!
Also, Newton and his wife earlier this year provided the voices of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in a minute-long cartoon I just enjoyed on youtube called 'Superman Classic'. Nice!

And that's my review. Nice. Call me crazy, but I like a Nice Superboy, not some perpetual mope. These early episodes were made Super-Cheap, so kidnapping crooks, a poorly-defined cursed jewel, leisurely car chases and a typically energetic '80's dance have to suffice instead of giant robot battles (which, face it, 'Smallville' never gave us either). The music, the dialog, both stories- were pretty darn hokey. It's a poor substitute for Supes in comic or cartoon form, where he shines best in my books. 'Superboy', at least the early episodes, is a warm, brightly coloured cheeselog. But it's got moxie in spades, chums!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TV Review: Terra Nova

I watched the pilot for 'Terra Nova' and the bottom line is: I have so few new SF choices I'm going to keep watching it. If I start to actively DISLIKE it... well, I'm never going to run out of cartoons and sitcoms, am I?

Chicago 2147 AD, a world on the verge of environmental collapse. Humanity is cut off from the sun and the moon and uh, oxygen. Perhaps oxygen deprivation helps explain some truly bizarre choices in this culture. The Shannons, Jim & Elizabeth, are a cop and a doctor who break the two-child law. Already blessed with demographically appealing Josh (15) and Maddie (13) they have kept Zoe (3) hidden until our story begins with government jackboots. Jim fights the Man and earns 6 years in jail.

Two years later, an exciting action-packed break out from future prison, followed by an action-packed break-in to The Tenth Pilgrimage. You see, Elizabeth and her legal kids were invited, Jim and Zoe were NOT. It's a voyage through a fracture in space-time to Terra Nova: a human colony 85 million years in the past. So, I gotta ask: apart from wanting to show us Jim is bad-ass, WHY?
Why split up families? What kind of colony doesn't want breeders? Why crowd your jails if you can dump your problem citizens down a time hole?

Well, it's a colony with problems, to be sure, and despite the dinosaurs outside the gates, most of them are human. Commander Nathaniel Taylor gives a speech about how greed, war, and ignorance destroyed their home. Now that it's a brand new beginning, he and all the other gun-toting soldiers have a second chance. My hypocrisy sense is tingling.

So, a splinter group with a nebulous agenda from the Sixth Pilgrimage are up to something, and they started their own gun-toting colony with uh... with blackjack... and hookers! Our group call them Sixers. To keep them distinct from Slashers, which are dinosaurs with sort of a certain slash-y quality.

I should mention that 'Primeval' spoiled me on what CGI creatures on a TV budget can look like, and these look a little... well, primitive.

While I'm picking nits, I should point out that if smarty-pants Maddy's dialog is to be believed, then the basis for believing this is a separate timeline from theirs (thus safe to step on butterflies in), is down to the fact that nobody in 2149 has yet found an 85 MILLION YEAR OLD basketball-sized probe. That's a hell of a supposition. Hey, they looked for it almost a month. Things to do, man!

"Control the Past, Control the Future." No shit, Sixer. How about, Save the Cheerleader, Save the World?

I'm a complainer, but I'm watching episode 2. I notice Star Trek veterans Rene Echevarria & Brannon Braga wrote it. Worth it? Sure, why not?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Favourite Characters: His Heart is in His Head

Six parsecs past the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster there's a purple sun shining on the rubble where a planet of highly evolved beings once lived. 25 years ago, in the month of Nathinganger, Melmac exploded, but the cosmos' loss was Earth's gain.

Former Orbit Guard Gordon Shumway entered our atmosphere at Mach 16 on September 22, 1986. Ten years and many hundreds of thousands of unusual meals, wild schemes, and uproarious wisecracks later, the U.S. government named him ambassador to Earth. Most just call him ALF.

Some aliens boast phenomenal powers, while ALF boasts.

Kal-El of Krypton may have laser eyes, but ALF has a voice that can stun anyone unconscious.

E.T. may have a healing touch, but ALF touches us all with the healing power of laughter.

Most people only remember ALF as that obnoxious puppet that ate cats. I remember how he hoarded lint and played bouillabaisseball. I remember how he was ashamed when he learned his parents were married BEFORE he was conceived. I remember how he spent hours on the phone urging Ronald Reagan to stop making nukes. I remember how he figured a tow truck was full of toes. I remember how he played Sancho Panza in dinner theatre on Melmac and encouraged others to be their best. If their best was making him a pie, then who was he to argue?

I love what ALF taught me about Certainty and The Truth. In episode 24, "Weird Science" ALF helps young Brian Tanner with a school report. Thanks to ALF, Brian is scoffed at for declaring the existence of two planets beyond Pluto. (This was 1987, Pluto WAS still a planet.) ALF, known to exaggerate the truth particularly when honesty isn't as funny, is blamed, but meant no harm: he's BEEN there. His Rand McNally Guide to the Stars shows 9 planets and a lot of little rocks including Dave, Alvin, and Alvin Heights.

I was raised with a lot of Certainty about the fundamental nature of life. I've found there may be more to The Truth than any one person can handle, and too much certitude can get in the way of new discoveries.

ALF is seen here with Paul Fusco, a human of little consequence.

Fusco claims ALF: The Movie is a likelihood, but where The Smurfs was undoubtedly awful, ALF will be undoubtedly awful and I will love it so.

Thanks, ALF, for being that terrible show that was MY terrible show.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: The Lost City of Z

** (2 stars out of 5)

I'm in a book club full of delightful nerds that meets at a reasonably priced local eatery each month, and this one was no exception. We read and discussed David Grann's 'The Lost City of Z'.

Non-fiction is not my usual read, and I wouldn't ever have explored this one on my own, but it's well-researched so I can't give it one star, even though I dearly want to. For me, it is a tenuous "O.K.".

LCoZ relates the tale of Col. Percy Fawcett, an ultra-manly jerk-off who vanished in the Amazon in the nineteen-twenties. He took his kid and about a hundred other people who went looking for them over the years with him to their horrible graves. Nice job, ass! Also, it's about the lost city he didn't find.

Spoilers: it's a mystery story that
remains a mystery, and I really dislike that sort of thing. The only answers I got were: DON'T abandon your wife to hack your way through deadly bug-infested nothingness, DON'T enslave or genocide the locals, and El Dorado probably existed... but it was probably biodegradable.

I want to call this The Lost City of ZZZs- I fell asleep about a dozen times while reading it.

Since you are not me: why not? You're only going to lose your time, not your skin, sanity, or safety on a pointless quest for fortune and glory. If you're that interested, just watch Indiana Jones again... maybe the one with the aliens and nuclear explosion fridge and that Transformers kid.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TV Review: ALF episode 7 'Help Me, Rhonda'

I am most grateful today for a PVR and Disney XD. They gave me something yesterday I hadn't seen since I was ten.

A little background. Next week marks the 25th Anniversary of a little NBC sitcom I like to call 'ALF'.

What do you mean, you don't remember it?

Well, nuts to you, because for me if was the best thing ever in the history of forever... until the ALF Animated Series came out.

Yes, I had friends! My love of this show just... drove them all away, that's all.

Neither here nor there. ALF was a very stupid sitcom about a sarcastic, narcissistic but well-intentioned glutton who is the last survivor of his exploded planet, rocketed to Earth where he... cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound and is mainly confined to the Tanner household in the L.A. suburbs. Sort of what would happen if Lucy Ricardo, E.T., and Superman were mushed together into an adorable furry couch potato full of wacky schemes. I say again, I LOVED it.

I watched it again in syndication about 10 years ago on the Family Channel where all was well until my buddy Bookmonkey spotted a frame from a (horrors!) EXCISED SCENE!
Whether for time, content, or deliberate, malicious sadism, they hacked a section out of episode 7. This has stuck in my craw ever since. All the more since it isn't on my ALF Season 1 DVD, either! It was seemingly lost for all time. I am a petty, small man, and I wanted that scene. What had it been?

I finally saw what I was missing yesterday. It was a treat called 'Help Me, Rhonda' from writers Tom Patchett and Lloyd Garver.

In his laundry basket under a map of the cosmos with a little red 'x' where one point of light had been, a 228-year-old alien is mired in the half-hour comedy version of soul-crushing depression and loneliness. ALF (Paul Fusco) regrets that a date he made with Rhonda (the furry girl of his dreams) never happened... what with all the nuclear devastation and subsequent extinction of their kind.
In an attempt to raise ALF's spirits, Willy Tanner (Max Wright) ALF's surrogate father/warden/apologist sends a plea to the heavens, specifically any meter high, eight-stomached, cat-munching ex-denizens of planet Melmac: a faint and plaintive distress signal in the form of a hit single by the Beach Boys.

Lo and behold, when all seems lost, a radio response: Bob Fappiano as the in-your-face space trucker Skip, ALF's buddy from his days in the Orbit Guard.
Skip's got the hammer down and headed for Andromeda, and he's not alone: Lisa Buckley's breathy Rhonda (with her Markie Post 1985 hair) assures ALF:

"You're the only one for me!"

So here it is. A mere three months into his extended involuntary stay on that Earth we know and love, ALF packs his bags for a new home.
I remain moved by the good-byes. Willy's impassioned "You've enriched our lives", Brian's hug, Lynn's tears. Kate's admonition to go to the bathroom before a long trip.

And so, by the logic of a sitcom, against all narrative flow and his best interest, against the best interest of an endangered species, his sex drive, his heart, and his stomachs, ALF chooses to delay his gratification, perhaps for centuries, and remains with the Tanner family. For as long as they need him.

It's a total change of premise, a shark leaped. It serves the needs of a series while distorting all reason. ALF becomes simultaneously the most loyal, devoted friend OF ALL TIME, and the worst, most inconsiderate house-guest OF ALL TIME. And a legend is born.

I was pleased to learn (after 25 years without this missing sequence) that not only did ALF's buddy Skip and Rhonda survive the big ker-blooey of planet Melmac, but so did Stella and Rick Fusterman. It seems they married and now own a tanning parlour on Mercury (nice place for it). This matters to exactly nobody: unless you loved all five of these odd little fuzzballs from their cartoon.

I'm more than a little disturbed by how happy the "lives" of a pair of ratty guest star comedy puppets made me. It was comparable to the thrill I had in 1996 when I spotted a listing for the "Project: ALF" special in TV Guide. After 6 years, a weight was lifted when I learned Gordon Shumway (ALF's discarded given name) had survived his capture by the U.S. government in the final minutes of his series. He landed on his feet, of course. Or on a cat.

Then, as now, I am both gleeful and shamed to be so invested in patent nonsense.

Happy birthday, ALF, friend of my youth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Favourite Characters: The Mastermind

Nathan Ford blames the death of his son on the rich. As a former insurance investigator, he knows a little something about big business sticking it to the little guy.

He's lost it all, his job, his family, and even his self-respect to alcohol.

Now he's taking it all back from the powerful and the corrupt, with a plucky team of ne'er-do-wells who'll help the downtrodden by giving them... Leverage.

It's the A-Team again, which was Robin Hood again, but it's a smart, fun show and a phenomenal cast of crazy characters. The Hitter, The Grifter, The Hacker, The Thief... but it's the Mastermind who manages them, kind of like herding cats.

Nate keeps all the schemes straight and all the plates spinning, he helps the weak and he helps himself and his sticky-fingered little helpers help you.

Timothy Hutton is a great performer: I liked him in the movie 'Ordinary People', and I like him in this TV series a lot. By turns Nate is tragic, comic, menacing, harmless, funny romantic, and a little amazing.

Try some Leverage, you'll like it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Comic Review: Batgirl #1

DC Comics has launched 'THE NEW 52' which if you do not happen to be a comic geek means 52 new #1 comic book issues, some or all of which are brand new narratives. This means all y'all can jump right aboard and read a comic without knowing decades worth of classic super-hero back stories!

You know. If you have 52 times $2.99 to spend per month on comics. I'd do the math, but I'm lazy as well as broke.

My stupendous local comic store, Happy Harbor Comics, suckered me in with the cunning ploy that if I don't like them I get my money back. Well played, sirs.

I enjoyed Dan Jurgens' 'Justice League International #1', then I enjoyed 'Batgirl #1'. I already knew I liked Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, and company, but I was leery of the Bat title. I don't historically buy them... but, c'mon. It's Gail Simone!

Gail wrote Birds of Prey, The All-New Atom, Wonder Woman, the Wonder Woman cartoon movie, and 'The Mask of Matches Malone', a music-riffic episode of the 'Batman: The Brave & The Bold' cartoon. Yes, and mostly she won me over with her plentiful and gut-busting comic book-related tweets.

Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes deliver very fine interior art to supplement Adam Hughes' lovely cover. We start off with a grotesque and shocking murder: an unseen black-clad character who calls itself The Mirror accosts an elderly man who was the sole survivor of a sinking ship... and drowns him with his own garden hose. Then checks him off a list that includes...

Our heroine Barbara Gordon, former librarian, formerly wheel-chair bound, now miraculously back on her own two feet and fighting crime with "upper arm strength like a mother". No mention yet of what restored her spine from the Joker's bullet 'three years ago'. No hint whether she retains the history Gail & others wrote for her as Oracle (the super-hacker information guru to the costumed crowd that many readers know best.) Keep reading!

Batgirl's just moved out of her dad's place, foiled a home-invasion gang, and had to get somebody else to push a hospital's elevator button to accommodate her cumbersome bat-bike.

Now face to (face?) with The Mirror, she stares down his gun... and she freezes. Reliving her trauma- just long enough for The Mirror to kill again and escape.

I'm of the 'tights and flights' school rather than the 'crime and grime', but I'm taking this ride.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Have Seen The Future: TGAGAAPP

No, not a phonetic belch, but an abbreviation for Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.

My love and I just saw a marathon from the 1998 sitcom staring the lovably amoral slacker Michael Bergen (hunky Ryan Reynolds) & his long-suffering pal Pete Dunville (likewise Richard Ruccolo).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn't identify with either of Two Guys. Not even with Immaculate Chemicals apologist-with-bucks Sharon Carter (Traylor "A Girl" Howard). Really LIKED them... but didn't identify with them.

No, I'm afraid at heart I'm most like delusional Mr. Bauer (David "Awesome" Ogden Stiers).

I'm convinced that even with the best psychological treatments the coming decades have to offer, I'm going to finally complete my metamorphosis into a rambling lunatic who's convinced film experiences are his own.

I'll live out my life regaling bored onlookers with tales of my youth driving into Toschi Station to pick up some power converters. Or how grateful mega-industrialist and weapons dealer Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg wept in gratitude when I saved his life with the Heimlich maneuver. Or how I epitomized "coolness" as the loudly-beshirted teen maestro of Santo Domingo High. (Go, Flamingos!)

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Worst Lantern Ever

Planet Korugar, located in space sector 1417 of the DC Comics multiverse, must once have been a lovely place. A trusting place. A place where reddish-magenta occasionally pointy-eared rarely big-headed people did ordinary Korugarian things... and nobody thought much of an archeologist joining the space police force of the Green Lanterns.

The devilish features, the vaguely Hitler-ish haircut, drawn in 1961 to resemble David Niven. Why would he turn on anybody? Who would ever suspect good old...

Then there's the name.

That's not a give-away, right?

O.K., so it turns out over the decades that he's had a lot going on. He wasn't just a control freak ruling his planet with an all-powerful green energy fist.

He's not just a giant yellow boot stamping forever on a human face.

No, sir! Sinestro had a love (Arin Sur) and a daughter (Dr. Soranik Natu), and even a first name (Thaal, by the by).

Voiced by a dozen guys so far, with Mark Strong portraying him in the live-action 2011 film, I have a personal favourite whose voice I hear when I read Sinestro through the brightly coloured Lantern Wars and now that he's been forced back into the Green Corps once more.

Though all the performers I've heard have been their own brand of evil, there's none quite like John de Lancie in the Duck Dodgers spoof 'The Green Loontern'. Nuance-shmuance! The guy's a rat!
De Lancie's Sinestro is definitive. Cackling, moustache-twirling, cop-kidnapping, over-the-toppest fruitiest of the nutcakes. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Catch the further adventures of that kooky Korugarian in a comic shop or download near you, as Geoff Johns explains what the do-dah-@#&% a fear-mongering genocidal jerkus is doing back in Green.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Star Wars is Brilliant so Shut Your Noise Holes

Ewoks? Love 'em.
Jar Jar Binks? Love him.
Jabba the Hutt digitally inserted into 'A New Hope'? Love.
Jedi Rocks? I agree. If loving fuzzy Yuzzem singer Joh Yowsa's basso wails is wrong, I don't EVER want to be right.

I get it, Internet. The prequels stink of bantha poodoo, the originals (maybe only Empire, even) are golden manna showers from heaven, Lucas USED to be a genius, now he's a troll, how dare he...

Suffice it to say, I don't think you're drinking enough rageohol.

Now I read that the upcoming Star Wars Blu-Ray release is going to have MORE of this. More Biggs. More Sandstorm. More missing scenes. More aliens. More womp-rats. More changes!!!

And I gotta ask: what kind of Star Wars fans hate MORE Star Wars?

Making Wicket blink? Adorable. CG Yoda in 'Menace' instead of the so-so puppet? Palpable improvement. FORTY DAMN HOURS of special features? Including spoofs? What is not to like about this, folks?

Likening the tiny tweaks George makes in EVERY re-release to disasters, rapes, and tragedies galore with accompanying wailing and tooth gnashing seems a bizarre, overwrought reaction.

He's not taking a dump on his "masterpiece". He's adding fun to his awesome space flicks for kids- to make more money. If you don't like it, JUST DON'T BUY IT THIS TIME.

My favourite image in all this is from tweeter Phil Smith which said: "A few years ago George Lucas made and ate a sandwich. To this day he's still throwing pepper and mayonnaise down his throat to 'improve' it."

Granted. But I sincerely ADMIRE these little touches. Or touch-ups. The films (his films, by-the-by, not yours) are among the first to become like living organisms, manifesting something surprising every time they appear. If they come to the big screen again, I'd go. In a heartbeat. Or a Blargg's belch, if you prefer. And you don't.

Instead of wailing 'Nooooo!' just stick with the dusty old version that was your favourite, then pull your Boba Fett helmet over your head and bang on the sides until the new stuff goes away.

Or embrace change for a change.

Speaking of change, have you got any?
I might want a blu-ray player eventually...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Toon Review: Interstella 5555

This is a hidden gem I found on youtube when I was searching for information about Daft Punk. They are awesome, by the by. Their album 'Discovery' is the heart of this film.

Interstella 5555 is a wild SF... narrative, I guess, or maybe more a music video with 105 minute running time. It is anything but a silent movie, but it's the epitome of 2003 animated coolness.

Gassed and kidnapped from a concert appearance on another world, a group of blue humanoid aliens are repurposed as human rock stars. Re-branded as "The Crescendolls" they are drummer Baryl, bassist Stella, keyboardist Octave, and guitarist Arpegius. They reach #1 hit status with 'One More Time' and reach new depths of misery in their earthly enslavement.

The Earl of Darkwood, himself an ancient alien, seeks conquest of the universe by harnessing the musically gifted to an infernal device... as you do.

Will music prevail? Find out.

I call this a beautiful little curiosity. I sometimes think I'm going to run out of sci-fantasy to really like, or that the crustier I become, the less I'll enjoy what remains. Well, that hasn't happened yet, friends.

My robot heart is breaking and my LED display eyes are moist with feeeelings.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ernest Albert McDevitt R.I.P

You wouldn't know him. I knew him a little, and I was glad to.

My Grampa Ernie was not famous, but he was good.

Ernest Albert McDevitt Oct. 28, 1919-Aug. 24, 2011, was born in a farmhouse in Kessler, Alberta to Annie and Albert of Ireland. In the 20's and 30's (great time for it) he was a farmer. And a kid. In the 40's he was a welder for the gas company in Edmonton. In the 50's, 60's, and 70's he raised city kids with his wife Myrtle (married 51 years, how about that?)

In 1983 and for the remainder of his life he was a farmer again in Kessler. If you've eaten any Alberta wheat, rye, and/or canola since then there's a fair to middling chance my Grampa or my uncle Richard made that happen. So, you're welcome.

My grandfather was a business owner & a spiritual leader. He was father and eventually great-grandfather. He was a man of the earth and a lover of the beauty of nature.

He played a mean game of cribbage, he loved Zane Grey western novels, and he endeared himself to me in my selfish teen years by enjoying Babylon 5 beyond all my expectations.

His great Christian faith and his unquenchable work ethic are only to be admired.

Good-bye, Grampa.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Finest Prime Minister We Never Had

Love is Better Than Anger
Hope is Better Than Fear
Optimism is Better Than Despair

Jack Layton of the NDP has died and it's bummed me out: his party is the only one I've ever voted for and the results I saw were incremental, negligible, and at least I reserve the right to complain.

Even if you disagreed with Mr. Layton's politics (treating each other kindly, healing the sick, and saving the world and all) he was quite obviously a good guy in a job that corrupts them fast. He seemed utterly admirable and I therefore admired him greatly.

May Canada see his like again many times in the future. Or we won't have one to speak of.

My deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pretending To Notice: Humans Are Still Pretty Good

I'm 99% sure things could be better, but what the hell:

You guys are great, and as I have no other options- humans it is!

This week I saw a great show at the Edmonton Fringe: Apocalypse Kow: SINGERers. I follow the blog of one of them guys: Dr. Teeth! Check it out, won't you? Also, you can buy the CDs of these charming minstrels for a nominal fee at their show. So... do that. I'll wait.

Oh, you're back already? It's famed dead humanist Gene Roddenberry's 90th birthday! Celebrate by creating groundbreaking SF TV! Or by kissing somebody outside your skin colour! Or just watch ANY random episode of Star Trek: you've got a 40-50% chance of liking it! (Enjoyment not guaranteed.)

I'm pleased to hear my friend Bookmonkey is on the mend after his recent bike accident. We're celebrating our 35th birthdays this weekend, and at 5 days older, I'M supposed to be the one sliding into decrepitude!

Make time this weekend for your families, loved ones, and species in general. Be excellent to each other!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Hugos: Neuromancer

Deep breaths.

Prepare to not be shocked.

Ready? It's not my taste. At all.

'Neuromancer', the 1984 novel by William Gibson that won the 1985 Hugo award (and was the first to win Nebula & Dick awards into the bargain) is VERY highly regarded by many as a pioneering book in the SF sub-genre now referred to as cyberpunk.

It tells a bleak, disjointed story about a dystopian future where various unsavory and damaged characters compete for money and survival, culminating in the activation of a sentient computer which will probably also grow up to be a giant ass-hat.

I gave it 2 stars out of 5, and that was mainly because I was pleased to hear Gibson was a Nam draft-dodger. Also because I prefer to go along with the crowd if I can, and the crowd LOVED this.

I could not find things to like about a single grim character in the humorless septic tank of this morality-free, jargon-crammed future. Probably WORSE is how forgettable the whole affair was: I've been reading Wikipedia and other people's reviews for an hour trying to spark a recollection of any kind! Sadly, what rubbed off was negativity. Although my swiss cheese memory was only backed by my OWN star review, I think I got the gist.

As in-
Lister: Some smegger filled out this 'Have You got a Good Memory' quiz!
Kryten: Yes, sir. YOU did. A week ago.
Lister: Have I?
Kryten: Yes, sir. Nobody else spells Thursday with an 'F'.

Gibson apparently wrote a short story about a character who voluntarily turns his back on 'The Gernsback Continuum' (named for the guy behind the Hugo award), a reality where the futurist visions of the 40s & 50s came true. Granted, a bunch of those visions were racist and/or hollow pie-in-the-sky nonsense, but give me a sexy gal with a jet pack in a shiny utopia above a metal-eyed crack-whore with a spinal plug in a back alley ANY DAMN DAY!

Call me shallow, but I loves me my escapist fiction. That said, I liked 'The Matrix' and even 'Johnny Mneumonic', movies that wouldn't exist without Gibson's unique vision. Also, I'll soon be reading Gibson & Sterling's 'The Difference Engine' for my bookclub, so I better buckle up my big boy steam-powered laser boots!

(I am clearly more cyberdisco than cyberpunk.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's A Habit-Forming Kind of Ecstacy

I have known the name since 1987, read two of Adam Warren's comic trade paperbacks based on the series, and always been curious. But this weekend, I payed through the nose to get them at Animethon- and I have never regretted an anime purchase LESS.

Dirty Pair (buy yours at Rightstuf online, it was cheaper than ebay this morning) on DVD is exhilarating. It's amazing fun!

Based on the novels of sci-fi writer Haruka Takachiho (which I've never read but SURE want to now) and then maybe dumbed down or livened up for a cartoon (like I say, I've never read them, I'm just reading between the lines on the liner notes) it spins a kick-butt yarn of Kei and Yuri, agents for the World Welfare Works Association (sort of a heroes-for-hire) in the year 2140 on planet Esturl.

Codenamed 'Lovely Angels', Agents 234K & 234Y are more commonly referred to as 'Dirty Pair' because of their devastating record of casualties and damage in the pursuit of their eclectic assignments. No two missions are alike: and no two girls cooperate as badly.

It's blasters and bikinis, cowgirls and computers, somewhere between Charlie's Angels and Star Trek. High energy and fun writing even more to my personal taste than the delightful Captain Tylor. Top-notch animation reminiscent of the best Robotech had to offer, but I've yet to see the quality taper off: and I watched 13 out of 26 episodes YESTERDAY.

Am I wasting them watching them so fast? Yes.

Can I stop? No.

The Japanese audio track with subtitles is how I prefer things: I feel like it's usually closest to the original emotional intent. Of course, this DVD set has NO other option- and some prefer English dubbing. It's the only 'flaw' I've found here.

When I noticed it was made in 1985 it only served to reinforce my affection for that particular year. It SHRIEKS eighties: headbands, disco, materialism, and pop music that's never been topped. I tend to skip title music after the first few episodes: I watched this title ALL 13 TIMES because the song is so infectious!

I'm pretty sure "Dirty Pair"'s target audience is teen boys, which is my emotional skill level, also. But anyone who gets a thrill from action comedies might like it, too. Ideal summer Saturday fare.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Waning Interest in Falling Skies

I tried, you guys. I did.

What's worse, I just read a great blog from Renaissance Dork. Read it, won't you? He's good!

I particularly liked the idea of negative reviews being no fun to read in the long term. As he put it: Nobody FORCED me to get a degree in geekology which I use merely to write scathing complaint dumps!

That said, I'm only watching 'Falling Skies' anymore because it happens to be on and has more lasers than General Hospital. When my wife cancels Superchannel I won't miss it. It's not as exciting as 'The Walking Dead' or 'Battleglum Galacticglum', which it resembles.

I only tend to perk up when the aliens are on screen or stomping about in their robotsuits. I should really be rooting for the poor humans- but I'm just not feeling them. Why does this look more like a subdued gun nut camping trip than the Apocalypse? A lotta stuff still looks intact and a lotta people still look clean and well fed. If all the real military has died, and all life is at stake, why aren't MORE people taking the initiative to become soldiers? I'm not sure a rebel militia would put up with hundreds of non-contributing leeches for SIX MONTHS. I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but STILL... you have to adapt!

Particularly jarring for me was adopting the leader of a rape gang of murderous thugs... and letting him be the cook on his first day! I want to believe in second chances, but REALLY? Put a bullet in this guy and let's get back to choking down the canned beans. So sorry, very sad, but NOW is not the time.

So I guess it provokes a reaction: frustration. What's it all about? Are we supposed to be rooting for the alien child enslavers? Or the bible thumpers who torture their prisoners? I know I'm supposed to like Pretty Widow Doctor and Pretty Widower Professor, but the only human I liked so far was Steven Weber, and he's dead already.

Aw, what the hell do I know? It's back next season.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Favourite Characters: A Perfectly Good White Boy

If you've never willingly seen (or been forced to watch by me) 1985's absurdist teen romance/skiing/angst film 'Better Off Dead', then you've missed out. I mean it. I really mean it. You can get it on Blu-Ray now or watch my ordinary DVD at my place, because it's, well,...

This movie blew my face off just like Ricky's horrible mother.

It is a long term personal favourite movie of mine, and if it touches you the way it touches me, then I'm deeply, deeply sorry, for we are the same person and I gotta say... I've never really liked myself all that much.

When I tell you that in 2010 I apparently ranked it my 99th favourite film out of 100 favourites, it's important to remember that I've seen THOUSANDS of films, and a favourite is still a favourite...

No matter how awkward, no matter how mawkish, I identified VERY strongly with this weird little movie and it will cheer me out of most doldrums to this very day. It's got a killer eighties soundtrack mostly by Rupert Hine. It's got a solid, eccentric cast, with a lead that I love very much: John Cusack as Lane Meyer. As written by 'Savage' Steve Holland, who I am also required to love very much. (Even though this movie ruined whatever friendship they had, I guess. (At least, that's what this neat interview Bookmonkey sent me says.)

Lane is the saddest sack in Greendale; for Beth, the girl on whom he has pinned all his hopes (and her face on all his hangers), has dumped him. And if he weren't such an abject failure in every aspect of his life including suicide, he'd have no reason to go on living.

When the universe throws unhinged paper boy armies, sneering jocks, and every possible form of work, school and family banality your way, look to Lane. There are inspirations everywhere, second chances (they might be named Monique), and outlets in your art whether drawing, music, or being a terrible skiier.

Lane's best and perhaps only friend, the not-even-cool-enough-to-be-a-real-drug-addict Charles De Mar offers advice to help Lane (and perhaps you and I) ski the K-12 that is life:

"Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way... turn."

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Land in Turmoil Cries Out For a Hero!

To call me an aficionado of escapist fiction would be... a nice way of putting it. Just don't call me a twitchy nut job to my face and we can surely be fast friends. Friends just like Xena the Warrior Princess and Gabrielle the Battling Bard!

In 1995, as most of you will surely be aware, New Zealand gave us the first of what would become SIX seasons of a spin-off program from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. It was, and ever shall be, known as Xena: Warrior Princess. It features the motley adventures of the titular Xena (Lucy Lawless), a notorious baddun-turned-good by a close encounter with hunky Hercules (Kevin Sorbo), and her jocular, endlessly talkative companion Gabrielle of Potidea (the lovely Renee O'Connor whose poster adorned my chambers from 1996-2002. *Sigh*).

X:WP takes place in a fantasy version of mytho-historical Greece, where one might encounter the Trojan Horse (1184 BC), blind Homer (800 BC), and noble young Hippocrates (440 BC) all in the space of a few months. Not to mention Pandora's granddaughter, sleeping giants, hungry cyclopses, and shrieking "vintage" CGI harpies.

Xena is somehow a superhuman, with limitless abilities dictated only by the tale in which she finds herself. Horsemaster, weaponer, martial artist, medic, and able to literally leap thatched three-story buildings in a single bound. She was the beloved of Ares, God of War, due to her formerly wicked ways, and he ever seeks to reclaim her heart. A woman of wry wit who prefers to speak with her bladed chakram or a boot in the face of evil.

Gabby is anything but ordinary, the anachronistic scholar/farmgirl who attaches herself to Xena for story material, extolling her more powerful chum's many virtues to anybody unable to get out of earshot fast enough. Amateur pan flautist, honorary Amazon, and wielder of the staff (so to speak), Gabrielle can out-talk Euripides and dodge arranged marriages with style (even one to Morpheus, God of Dreams).

Together with long-suffering mare Argo, they roam the beautiful countryside spoiling for a fight with tyranny and bullying brigands. Crossovers and cameos abound, cross-pollinating with sister series Herc at every opportunity.


"Sins of The Past" by producer Robert Tapert & R. J. Stewart
Everything you need to know about X, G and the world they kick butts in.

"The Titans" by R. J. Stewart
Yup, it's X & G vs the sleeping giants who should never have been awoken... awaked... roused.

"The Royal Couple of Thieves" by Steven L. Sears
There is nothing so good Bruce Campbell cannot make it ten times as awesome. Appearing here as sleazy Autolycus, self-proclaimed King of Thieves.

"Callisto" by R. J. Stewart
It's two-for-one with the menace of Xena's arch-nemesis the hissing lunatic Callisto out for entirely justified vengrance, and the first appearance of Ted Raimi as Joxer the Mighty, inept warlord from a line of warlords who would really be much better off in ANY other profession. Fishmonger, for example.
O.K., so it's Cheesy Cheesecake from Cheeselog Junction, but I enjoy it ever so much. I prefer my mythology like my history: a string of horrible nonsense and lies with corny jokes, strange costumes and occasional sex. (Suitable for television circa 1995.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Almost Heroes

Battleglum Galactiglum's dead presidential aide Billy wound up on a wacky Canadian comedy series airing now on Showcase that likely won't last as long as I wish it would: Almost Heroes.

Terry (Paul Campbell) returns home from business school upon the death of his father to run a floundering comic book store in a strip mall. Run it on the strength of his looks and charm alone, since, in truth, he flunked out.

His younger brother and business partner Peter (series creator Peter Belleville) is a Geek Supreme with life skills similar to my own. For example, he can write a Klingon Haiku but his attempts to manage anything from a coffee machine to a clogged toilet results in fire.

Bernie (Lauren Ash) next door in a demeaning dead-end job at trendy clothing store Sassitude is crushing on Terry big time, all unnoticed just as she'd been back in high school. I find her hilarious.

The comic geek should be my favourite by a mile, but I enjoy the interplay of all three, each uncool in their own unique way . A trio of superfriends like DC's Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, except powerless failures with only their sense of humor to defend themselves.

Add the landlord love interest who's not interested, Bernie's bitchy boss, the jock jerk from the sports store, and the security guard Boyd (Colin Mochrie) nobody remembers hiring, and you've got a hit*.

(*Hit not guaranteed. But it sure makes me happy.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things I Pretend To Notice: I'm A Grown Up

It's not like I watch 'The Mentalist' or anything, but for better or worse, mostly for worse (?), I'm an adult now.

I hold down two low-paying jobs, I'm married (that's the sweetest part, actually), and last weekend I read a dull Soviet SF book by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky. No, I don't want to talk about it, I want to talk about being a grown-up. Damn it.

Because, in dog years, I'm a rapidly aging human man. With a human man-sized mortgage. And my own sets of keys to things.

My BFF's daughter turns 19 tomorrow (yay!) and that just can't be, since I'M still nineteen!

I think I'm in a state of shock that apparently retroactively turned my temples grey over the previous couple of years. (And gave me one pernicious white ear-hair.)

Long ago, I genuinely believed that, (one future day) I would wake up and KNOW I was a responsible adult. Everything (well, maybe not EVERYTHING) would make sense and I'd have a clear idea of how to run all my affairs alone. I'm thankful beyond the telling for my amazing spouse, who usually makes that unnecessary.

But, with my lovely Trish away for a time, I noticed that I am still a relatively functional guy.

Granted, I've let my body go. (I'm a nice guy, I let it go where it wants!) Plus, I was weak and scrawny before I was weak and porky. (I only need this meat sack to carry my brain in, anyway.)

I do my dishes and laundry (well, machines do them). I got myself to the dentist (well, Trish made the appointments and paid the nice people to give us a going over with the cleaning pick). I even get groceries and haircuts and stuff.

And when I have no inspiration or interest I force myself to write drivel at you because that's what I do. It's the kind of guy I am.

So here's to looking after myself.

Keep looking after yourselves, too.

Now to make some dinner.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Review: Rango

For a change of pace, my wife and I went to the cheap movie theater this weekend, and we had a blast! Trish's choice was inspired, let me tell y'all about it...

I was really impressed with Rango, one of those classic old CG cartoon animal western comedies with fantasy adventure quest elements. Yahoo! (Yes, I'm a giant child, but don't call Manchild Protective Services just yet: go see this movie first!)

These are stunningly rendered critters, beautiful in their hyper-realistically detailed repugnance. They're so fugly they've gone round to adorable again! The film brings to mind the anarchistic spirit of the Muppets, with twitchy anthropomorphic oddities clutching desperately to their dreams in a dust bowl town on the edge of collapse.

The voice cast is very talented and the 'emotion capture' unit outdid themselves- you'd have to see it to believe in it. I cared a great deal about the characters throughout, riveted to the tried and true tale but surprised a fair number of times, too.

There's a particular chase sequence towards the middle so SATURATED with sheer elaborate creativity that it overloaded my sense of wonder and delight.

It was amazing! And that's kind of rare for me at the movies, nowadays.

It's a bit on the violent side for a kid's movie, but... well, it serves the story. This is not a nice, safe situation this world is in, and it's not a sane, qualified bunch of folks who need to save it. It's a swift-moving action tale with a rollicking spirit and a lot of heart. Yeah, I'd see this again and I reckon I'd most likely buy it, too, sure as shootin'.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ALPOCALYPSE: My Own Personal Rapture Is Here

Why take up your time with bandwidth hogging, virus-laden bloggery? I'll tell you. Every so often I get to rave about something I have ABSOLUTELY ADORED. And you get to come along for the tedious, never-ending jungle cruise ride!

'Weird' Al Yankovic is a pastiche maestro, foremost satirist in the land, indeed, a PARODY LORD if such a title exists. And it does, now.

To my great regret, I haven't bought a brand new CD for years, but spare no expense and get yourself the deluxe edition of 'Alpocalypse' with the 10 music video DVD included. LIKE ME! Or download it from itunes. Or, yes, borrow it from me and nod along politely.

You get 'Polka Face', which despite what you've heard is not a horrible disease! Make sweet love to a manatee with Charles Nelson Reilly. Torment others with 'Ringtone', maybe even use it against regimes you disapprove at a 'Party in the CIA'! You even get to writhe along to the almost-didn't-get-to-be-released 'Perform This Way' which was apparently saved by an outstanding Twitter response. Yay, tweeps!

I was already a huge fan of the previously digitally released 'Whatever You Like' for it's wise-acre approach to low-budget romance, and now I can't stop listening to 'If That Isn't Love'.

Mrs. 'Weird Al' is a SAINT, I tell you!
As usual, my favourite album is whatever one Al is currently promoting.

I give you my word- it's so beautiful it makes a glorious sunset look like a big, fat turd.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Comic Review: Freefall by Mark Stanley

Granted, you've never heard of it, and I haven't actually read all of it, either.

Still worth reviewing? Sure. I have nothing BUT spare time since becoming addicted to Twitter. Joke. Deadpan mode.

I recently spent an evening reading several years worth of the sci-fi webcomic Freefall, liked it fine, and thought I'd recommend it to those searching high and low for funny SF.

Freefall features (as of the last stuff I read) the mostly planet-locked crew of the not-yet-spaceworthy vessel Savage Chicken. They are the dodgy, chronically indolent merchant Captain Sam Starfall, his dogsbody robot Helix, and the new engineer (I should have saved the term dogsbody for her): an artificially created humanoid wolf called Florence. As you might imagine, the girl does all the actual work.
I'm no expert on REAL WORLD applications of artificial intelligence, or even how to use a computer beyond rudimentary nudity acquisition skills. So, if you're the sort of nerd who understands that technical stuff you'll probably get EVEN more out of this than I did.

I think my favourite gag so far was a pair of corporate stooge robots trying to find a way around the Asimov laws so that by their inaction they might get their terrible boss killed.

Wikipedia deleted Freefall's description page, citing lack of evidence that it exists. Well, it won a couple of something called the Web Cartoonists Choice awards, and the 2046th strip posted today, so, yeah, it exists. Worth checking out, too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favourite Characters: The Heretic Monkey

Justy Ueki Tylor (age 20) is a callow youth of uncertain ability in the distant year UC 6999.

As the animated series known as "The Most Irresponsible Man in Space" or "The Irresponsible Captain Tylor" begins, Justy abandons his life of vagrancy for a cushy job with the military. The United Planets Space Force is only too happy to have him, as they are at war with the Holy Raalgon Empire (brutish pointy-eared aliens up to no good).

Tylor speaks his mind (such as it is). He's far too laid back. He has no regard for rules or protocol, breaks the computer assigned to classify him, and is, in short, deeply unsuited to the military life. So he is rapidly promoted.

After an unorthodox defusing of a hostage crisis, Tylor sort of earns his way, sort of falls upward into command of the aging battleship 'Gentle Breeze'. His command crew are rule-bound types who find him baffling, maddening, or amazing (in straight-laced female Commander Star's case, all three). Tylor's band of cut-throat marines, high-strung pilots, and drunken ship's surgeon quickly galvanize into an unstoppable force beneath his total lack of discipline. Tylor's superiors grow to despise him as much as the enemy, and arrange for his certain death in space battle. And that's before the spoiled teen empress of the Raalgon sets her sights on him...
I got quite a fair few chuckles out of this show. It's a space opera in the style of Star Trek, but with more than a hint of irreverence. Tylor is virtually impossible to dislike: he treats EVERYBODY fairly. He's relaxed to a degree I cannot achieve personally without chemical assistance. He MIGHT be defined as irresponsible, but it may also be right to call him carefree. Tylor has a live-and-let-live outlook, it's such a delight to me when retired old Admiral Hanner takes a liking to the guy.

For his was a genius no rule could contain!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde

'Shades of Grey' is the first book in a yet-to-be written trilogy set 600 (or maybe 1600) years in the future, in Jade-Under-Lime, a small community in what was once Wales.

The inhabitants are trapped under an expanding collection of stifling and nonsensical rules which (seemingly by the intention of Munsell the founder) hold back all advancement and enforce a strict caste system based on the ability to perceive colour.

Colour has become a cultural obsession. Firmly entrenched in his backward society mild Eddie Russett quietly questions some of the wherefores of the world and attempts romance with volatile Jane, a servant girl from the Grey underclass.

Possibly unique in my reading experience, I did not know what to think. Ever.

At first, I DESPISED it. Every ten minutes I was groaning aloud with abject confusion and frustration. "What the hell is this insufferable twee gibberish? Spoons? Swans? You're TRYING to prevent me from understanding a lick of this, aren't you, Fforde?"

Look at you, lording it over me with your brilliant ability to leave me out of the joke.

I DREADED going back to it every time I put it down. I thought the story was going to continue to throw up irrelevancies, kill the leads, and never make the slightest sense. On purpose. To taunt me.

In the downhill end of things, I think it started to be easier. I had MANY questions left unanswered, but I had grown curious for more. In fact, I LIKED Eddie. And Jane.

I enjoyed the humor (rare for a dystopia), though I always expected it to turn on me.

What a weird experience! I flip flopped so completely that I think in time I'll probably think back on it fondly.

Thanks, Ron, for bringing it to book club. I never would have read this on my own- and for once I think that's a compliment.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thorsday 2011

(Thorsday Night Fever by john taylor christopher of deviantart.)

All right, I'll admit it. I'm not the biggest Thor booster. I did read the Stan, Larry & Jack stuff from the sixties as reprints, and some modern stuff, too. But mostly I know Thor from the Avengers and other guest appearances where his biggest problem is: he's a god.

He doesn't fit in. He's too powerful. How do you have a compelling story if the god of lightning with the all-powerful magic hammer can saunter in and solve all your problems at once? With a hammer, I might add.

Well, surprise! Thor is a good flick.

My wife, generally, enjoys action and shirtless guys.
Chris Hemsworth fits the bill. Oh, my!
I, myself, enjoy an apparatus that hurtles one across space to distant worlds and robots with death ray faces. To each his/her own.

Good story, top-notch performances, and a writing credit for my idol J. Michael Straczynski. Go see it if ya got the time. 3D is all very well, but not essential. In fact, as my buddy Wayne said: why not charge the same or LESS if you're putting that crap on everything? (I'm paraphrasing.) Also, stay to the end of the credits. It's a MARVEL movie, True Believers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Strummin' Sitter

Everybody who's ANYBODY knows that Greg Garcia makes a funny sitcom. Yeah, the 'My Name is Earl' guy!

My lovely wife and I just finished catching up to the latest in low-low-low middle class Americans making an honest effort to better themselves: season one of Raising Hope.

It's so good, you guys, that picking a favourite character is a study in nonsense... they're ALL great!

Hope of the title is the baby of an executed serial murderess and her hapless one-time hook-up, well-intentioned 23 year old Jimmy Chance of Natesville. Jimmy's tired young folks don't let menial jobs and lack of education stand in the way of a 'do-over' for (another mistake) baby, simultaneously riding herd on a rarely lucid Maw Maw. Meanwhile, Jimmy only has eyes for sarcastic (and engaged) grocery clerk Sabrina Collins.
Which brings me to Sabrina's cousin Shelly, the guest character rather similar to Stephanie Gooch, a ukulele player who appeared on Scrubs. Or perhaps it's better to say both are strikingly like famed musical performer/songwriter Kate Micucci. Which is not to say that Kate Micucci has a dead tooth or OCD, or that Kate Micucci's house should be considered a location for you to drop off your infants, elders, or dogs for day care. But she just might be the source of many delightful short ditties such as those my wife bought on itunes, and which I enjoyed all day today.

In a roundabout way, what I mean to get across about Shelley, is that she's remarkably upbeat, and most vitally, optimistic. From the world's most awkward second break-up with Jimmy to the put-upon world of an overburdened day care worker, she channels her uncomfortable feelings into brilliant song, and what's not to like about that?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Someone Amongst Us Here is Under the Control of the Weed

It's a quote from The Second Doctor in 'Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep' episode 5, from 1968. And I think even Victoria knows THAT can be taken TWO ways.

While seeking ways to waste time and avoid reading 'Shades of Grey' by Jasper Fforde, let me tell you how I devoted many hours in recent months to watching shades of grey 'telesnaps' and surviving footage from the Patrick Troughton episodes of Missing Doctor Who which no longer exist in video form. Why? Shut up.

'The Space Pirates' may scorch the ears with terrible American accents, but the spaceship model work was probably top-notch, plus a cracking good Robert Holmes script and one cliffhanger that had me laughing out loud. (Hint: don't carry tacks in your pants, Doctor!)

'The Web of Fear' has one surviving episode, and it looked Hammer-horror good. Maybe the Yetis weren't THAT goofy after all...? The Doctor and the Brigadier in their first appearance together... and it's missing, damn it!

'The Moonbase' sounded lame, maybe the dullest of the bunch, but 'The Macra Terror' with its giant crabs sounded like so much fun I don't CARE if it WAS lame: make a cartoon of it, somebody!

Make cartoons of ALL of them! What, do you have LIVES or JOBS or something? Give me back 'The Enemy of the World' or give me DEATH!

Sorry, sounds like priggish balderdash now I say it.

Thanks to Graham Strong and others, devoted young nerds who preserved the audio by tape recording it for their own enjoyment at home instead of finding human friends. Thanks to Mark Ayers and the Doctor Who Restoration team, the original actors who recorded descriptive narration, and all the folks who posted their ramshackle recreations on youtube. Thanks to you guys I've met cocky Ben & dolly Polly, heard madmen shrieking, heard Atlantis crumble once more, and grown mightily sick of the sound of a chirping control sphere. Worth it.

When I heard the final episode of 'The Faceless Ones', that was the reality of it. Thanks, for giving me my last new sounds of Patrick Troughton's wonderful Doctor, silenced forever.

You've done a great service to fandom that I, at least, cannot possibly repay.

As a cosmic hobo myself, can I offer you the bits of fluff that I have in my pockets?

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Hugos: Startide Rising

Oh, you guys and gals and uplifted mammals, it's so good!

This a Hugo winner (and Locus and Nebula) I really liked.

Startide Rising won in 1984, and this reading project gave me the chance to get around to reading the first three books in David Brin's Uplift Saga. They take place nearly 500 years in the future, while the people of Earth are newcomers to a rigidly codified galactic culture where status is based on your sapience lineage.

Every other space culture knows who engineered, taught, and otherwise cajoled them into the world of thought. Not humans. Their foundling status is in dispute: who uplifted them? No one claims credit or blame- is humankind the first since the Progenitors to smarten themselves up? Who made who? Who made YOU?
(Heh. AC/DC'd!)

Whatever the case, humans are not the popular kids, but they have a couple of 'kids' of their own: genetically engineered intelligent apes, dolphins, and dogs have become Earth races on their own quest for rights and respect in a wider community.

Startide Rising is the tale of the Streaker, the first dolphin crewed starship, and the startling discovery they stumble upon that makes them the most wanted fugitives in space.

Intrigue, mutiny, moon-sized derelict ships, and a talking chimp. What's not to love? Why did the movie fail to happen, I ask you? I'd go see that. Is it because dolphins are well-known 'slappers'? Couldn't keep their fins off themselves long enough to make a serious movie?

I've got a bunch of unread Brin on my shelves I'd like to get back to.
Also, check out David Brin's blog under his name highlight above: he had much to say about the recent Rapture Fail.

Seems like a cool guy. I'm glad he didn't vanish up to heaven yet. In fact, everybody I like is still here: I guess we'd better get used to uplifting each other.