Friday, February 25, 2011

Wonderful Chap.

Ask me again when I'm 80 and I'll tell you 81 years are not enough. But I'd be content (with reservations- let's face it, I'm not great with contentment) if I was immortalized by fans as devoted as the Doctor Who crowd.

I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Nicholas Courtney is still remembered in 2050 (when his beloved character, the Brigadier, is said to have died in his sleep).

Nor in the year 4000 AD- when Bret Vyon (descendant of the Brig, perhaps?) perished in the eternal struggle with the Daleks.

Will the Face of Boe still dream dreams of UNIT defending the Earth billions of years from now in the decades after the End of the World?

I don't know. But it's a cinch Whovians will remember Nicholas Courtney with great honour and fondness.

Remembered, with hope and the right friends, even beyond the death of time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Remember What We Did Yesterday?

"We saved the world. Again. You don't think THAT has any value? Well think again, pal. The Justice League goes on, with or without you."

Words in Green Arrow's mouth.
Words from Superman's.
Or maybe it was a ticked-off She-Hulk, complaining to Damage Control in 1989?

Where did I enjoy him first, or best? I don't know for sure.

Dwayne McDuffie was a favourite writer of mine and I'm pretty sad about his death right now.

What I can say is that he made plenty of great cartoons and comics. Enough that I'll still have more to discover for a little while yet.

Comic book super-heroes cannot afford to lose a writer like Dwayne McDuffie. They can't. They can't afford to lose a guy who genuinely loved them, and gave back to that strange community in myriad ways.

He made Reed Richards, the Millar-monster of Civil War, a man I could respect again.

His fun-loving Flash, was always ready with the right flippant quip.

His Batman was dark, but had kindness beneath his hard edge.

His Hawkgirl was a vicious killer with deep feelings of tenderness.

His Superman was too good for our world, and bad-ass enough to save it anyway.

"I believe in second chances. I believe in redemption. But mostly I believe in my friends."

Dwayne McDuffie was brave, and bold. He was too honest, he was too young, and I admired him very much.

I say of him what he said of Greg 'Gravity' Willis in the last panel of 'Beyond!'.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Astronaut a l'Orange

He braves the space-ways in the twenty fourth and a half century.

He keeps the people of Earth safe from the insidious Martian scourge.

He is a cartoon duck.

Duck Dodgers is a jerk.
He's a greedy, grasping, cowardly, criminally negligent egomaniac.

Surviving like an avian parasite on the efforts of his devoted underling, the hapless Eager Young Space Cadet.

And those are his good qualities.

Dodgers is a cad with the ladies, cheap as a wooden nickel, and always out for himself.
Only a deluded fool or a bloated military would put him at the helm of a spaceship.
Worse, because he's a cartoon, he is completely un-killable.

Fortunately, he's off the air now, and we can rest easy.

Especially because he is VERY metafictional: a character portrayed by the equally fictional Warner Brothers cartoon star Daffy Duck (the Chuck Jones/Tex Avery creation who is in turn portrayed by Mel Blanc, and in his 2003 Duck Dodgers TV series by gifted mimic Joe Alaskey).

From his first appearance in 1953 to his swan song in 2006 on Cartoon Network (a series I greatly enjoyed but which some criticized as 'playing to the lowest common denominator') I love to hate this guy. Just as I love the lowly Cadet, pompous I.Q. High, sultry Queen Tyr'ahnee, and of course, the ever obsequious Marvin the Martian. But if the duck doesn't get top billing, it's curtains for me with disintegrator pistols, see?

Moreover, I love my wife for bringing them all back to me across the interwebs.

(I'd buy it, of course... if the mucky-mucks ever resolve the rights issues to the DVD, or remember it exists. Hint hint.)

It's a dated sci-fi parody that only someone who's not too particular could love.

And I do! As long as it's not obstructing my view of Venus.

(Dodgers seen here in my favourite episode 'The Green Loontern" pestering classic Green Lantern straight-man Kilowog of Bolovax Vik.)

Finally, thanks to Duck Dodgers, there is someone LESS worthy to be a Green Lantern than G'Nort.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cute Cartoon Couples

For my Valentine's Day event, I bring you a "VD Explosion": the five cutest couples of animation.

5. Ranma Saotome & Akane Tendo of Ranma 1/2 remain the gold standard of cute: affianced against their will and perpetually on each other's nerves, yet always very much in love.
4. Try to resist Owen and Izzy of Total Drama. It can't be done. The fattest cartoon boy and most deranged cartoon girl in all of cartoon Canada are keeping it real.
3. The course of true love across time and space never runs smooth for Philip Fry & Turanga Leela of Futurama...
2. But fates entwine seemingly without any effort at all for Querl "Brainiac 5" Dox & Kara "Supergirl" Zor-El of Justice League Unlimited.
1. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Jessie the Yodelin' Cowgirl of Toy Story 3. Stalwart, dashing man of the future: meet rip-roarin' spitfire gal of the past. It's magical when worlds collide.
There's many millions more and you know who they are.

Happy Valentines Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Hugos: Downbelow Station

'Downbelow Station' by Carolyn J. Cherryh won the 1982 Hugo award for best novel.

That is a given.

All else being equal, how can the BEST SCI-FI novel of the WHOLE year be so astoundingly dull? There's a space war, a space station, a tribe of cute fuzzy aliens, and it STILL manages to be the second worst Hugo (for my taste) of the decade.

I read this on my real-life wonderful amazing trip to Disneyworld in Florida with my lady love and our friends. That trip remains my gold standard of heavenly temperatures, tranquil surroundings, and overall enjoyment. Best trip EVER, is all I'm trying to say.

Meanwhile in hotel room, airport, and airplanes that horrible, boring book droned on in my head for what I believe was seven million pages. It's all bland inactivity far from the battle and third person immersion in the minds of some very unappealing characters unmatched until I read 'Cyteen'.

You can pitch this book to me by pointing out that Pell Station in the 24th Century is a lot like Babylon 5, or that the planet Pell has the Hisa (who are very similar to the Ewoks I loved unequivocally in my youth).

On (where I gave it 2 stars out of five, still willing to give the author an "O.K." for effort) reviewers favorably compared Cherryh (the 'H' is fictional, it's actually Cherry) to fellow Hugo winners Le Guin or Bujold. Some favorably compared her morally bankrupt female starship captain character to Kirk or Picard(!)

Doesn't make it true, I just mention it for comparison: lots of people LIKE this. C.J. is touted as a master of 'hard sf'.

If true, I think the subgenre should be renamed 'Hard-to-take sf'.

I prefer human characters with open minds, kind hearts, and a sense of humor, I guess, at least if I have to invest weeks in the reading.

Bujold is superior, and either Kirk or Picard is preferable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Hi Ho Duke!

"You had me at meat tornado."

My usual focus (some might say myopic obsession) here at Mike's Best Blog Ever is genre fiction, typically the subset once known as scientifiction. Or SYFY, for whatever THAT'S worth.

But of late my PVR is piled high with situation comedies, and I gotta tell ya: I'm fine with that.

Parks & Recreation, somehow entering its third season despite being too awesome for TV, is one I really appreciate. Set in the Pawnee, Indiana Parks & Rec Department, this delightful show (like real life) has only real human beings, few mustache-twirling super-villains. So with some reluctance (they're ALL too damn funny & easy to recognize myself in) I present my favourite character: Ron Swanson.

Libertarian director of the department who wishes all government was miniscule and run like a Chuck E. Cheese, Ron IS greatness. Swanson (portrayed with understated aplomb by Nick Offerman) possesses the insidious qualities of selfishness and indolence in such a relatable proportion that I find it impossible to condemn his evil ways.

After all, well-intentioned people working hard to BETTER the community (case in point, series lead Leslie Knope) are bound to screw it up most of the time.

But he who never tries, never fails.

Also, he's not failing in his secret career as jazz musician Duke Silver.

Moreover, when goaded or coerced with foodstuffs (not unlike a dancing bear) Ron Swanson CAN be made to help others. Grudgingly.

Gruff. Manly. Possessed of a thick torso. Avoids skim milk. Devisor of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness (shown here and everywhere else on the interwebs).

I shit you not: you should be watching Parks and Recreation.

And turning your own pit into a park.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Unspeakable & You

He shares my birthday, my misguided misanthropy, and my fascination with weird, alien creatures.

Nearly one hundred years ago, H.P. Lovecraft began writing his macabre fictions. (Click on that link if you want to see S.T. Joshi gush about his mad scribblings.)

Last week, I finished slogging (shoggoth-ing?) though a batch of them in "The Call of Cthulhu and other Weird Stories". (A worthy book club pick from the worthy Dr. Teeth.)

I am most weary of Cyclopean architecture, adjective laden second-hand reports, and dead gods that stink of fish.

The back cover review from Stephen King declares saucy H.P. "unsurpassed" in twentieth century horror. Lovecraft was surpassed by plenty! Edgar Burroughs and C.L. Moore to name contemporaries I have read. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman to name his (superior) disciples of the creepy. Sour grapes, you say? No doubt about it. I simply couldn't find many juicy thrills in these tales.

Influential? Absolutely. Bookmonkey is quite fond of him, as many are, and I am fond of Bookmonkey, so I don't want to get caught up in a rant.

I think what frightened me most was the worry that the man might infect me from beyond the grave with his clinical, paranoid, hateful attitudes to his fellow hu-mons.

Do ALL unendurable creatures from beyond walk hand in hand with the 'degenerate, mongrel races'?

I don't suppose (upon discovering one is not of PURE white blood) you could maybe... I dunno, NOT set yourself on fire?

I was glad to have read a classic I've heard so much about. I now get an even bigger kick out of the song "The Innsmouth Look" by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. Miscegenation!

For me, probably thanks to Star Trek, the unknown is to be desired, not rooted out.
Integration spells L-O-V-E.

Don't get your advice on outsiders from a shut-in, no matter how scholarly.

Cthulhu was pretty cool, though. This April 2, give him a big hug on his deathday!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sex With Robots: Whaddya Think?

Last week I read the first chapter of Sherry Turkle's 'Alone Together', a study of the societal sea changes that may be causing us to devalue human relationships in favour of artificial ones.

Just shortly beforehand, I watched the 'Proposition Infinity' episode of Futurama, featuring protests in the year 3010 to legalize human-robot (robosexual) marriage.

They got me thinking WAY too much about this...

Did I ever think robot girls were sexy?

After a day, I could only come up with three, and there were problems.

3. Andrea from 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?', original Star Trek episode. Sure, she's a snappy dresser, but I'd be more worried about snappy necks. (Screw loose!)

2. Andromeda Ascendant 'The Ship Made Flesh' from 'Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda' is the bodiless brain of a spaceship, an intangible hologram, or an android gal pal. The android Rommie, like poor insane Andrea, might be capable of love but quickly became 'The Flesh Made Super-Ninja'. I like tough chicks, but there's limits.

1. Finally, Roberta from 'Not Quite Human II' (before WALL-E it was my favourite robot romance) was safe, sweet, innocent- perfect for safe, sweet robot boyfriend Chip. And VERY high maintenance: get too far from a wall socket and her whole memory would erase. That's not as good as it sounds!

For every three fictional robots I remember with limited sex appeal, there are 100 like the Crushinator, and 'a lady that fine, you gotta ROMANCE first'.

So I fully admit: some lady androids have a pleasing shape. They own the capacity to arouse, like a doll or a statue or a painting. But, ultimately, I was surprised an uber-nerd like me just doesn't think of robots THAT WAY.

No Spark Plugs in my Spank Bank, if you will.

Alien girls... you bet. Bring on the groobies! But robots...

Is it the emotionless, glassy stare?

Maybe it's because robots in fiction tend to have traditionally MALE qualities: they're strong, fast, hard, etc. Often with extra loyalty and obedience, sure, but...

As Howard Wolowitz can attest, there's no expression 'Pleasant as a Robot's Handjob'.

Suck it, robots! (That was not a command! You stay away from my junk, robots.)

So, it's not for me. That said, I'm all for tolerance, especially for things I don't understand.
This link has an elaborate report I skimmed on Technosexuality. (Sorry, I'm both timid about this and kind of lazy.) Dildonics, gynoids, sexual gymnastics equipment, whatever the term: they're here. They've been around since Pygmalion and they're not going anywhere.

And so what? As noted perverts Barnes and Barnes sang: "If you hurt no one, you've done nothing wrong."

Sex requires consent. Everything else has its own word.

I don't want to stand in the way of anyone's right to love.
But until real world robots can consent (meaning, they'd be just as likely to TURN YOU DOWN as anyone else) then no matter how sophisticated the experience we're still talking about a device, not a partner.

And for my money, the finest, most readily available device for the alleviation of loneliness is still the Mark One Hand.
So try a little harder, stretch a little farther, if you want the big rewards reach beyond devices, take the bigger risks and remember what the Eleventh Doctor told Jeff: "Get a girlfriend."

Or (thank the seven pillars of VooLoo!) a wife. Tempting as a totally compliant appliance might SOUND, I believe, for myself, it will NEVER compare with the rush and the ride that is the give and take of a true relationship. Show me a robot that offers that... I'll still choose my wife.

(Because last night was AMAZING, batteries not included.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Favourite Characters: Math Boy

"Give me a break, this is my second spaceship... and my first was yesterday."

Back in 2009, Eli Wallace (portrayed by David Blue) loved science fiction, was a math and computer genius, and had quit MIT before graduating to work at a fast food place.

He'd become a jobless shut-in who learned an imaginary language and cracked a complex code in that language, solving several puzzles in order to defeat the video game called Prometheus.

In short order he met Richard Dean Anderson (I mean General Jack O'Neill of the top secret Stargate project) who revealed the government had released the video game to find guys like Eli to recruit for missions to other planets.

It does sound kind of similar to something that happened to a trailer park repair guy called Alex Rogan back in the '80's...

Anyway, it plays brilliantly into the fantasy of being rewarded for doing the things you enjoy, just as I imagine the Prime Minister will soon be mailing me a giant check for my tireless efforts to see every episode of "Corner Gas".

I love Eli. And the IDEA of Eli. How can I not like a guy who so reminds me of me? Only ten years younger, funny, and possessed of useful skills.

How can I not thrill to his every success, just as I desperately hope I would succeed in dire circumstances rather than collapsing on the floor and bawling for help.

None of the characters on "Stargate Universe" trained to be where they are, but Eli barely trained for ANYTHING. He has the moral compass I admire the most, however. He's the inheritor of the "lovable science nerd" mantle from previous Stargate TV greats Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and Dr. M. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett).

Trapped far out of his comfort zone, Eli makes the ordeal seem more like an adventure. He's the optimist version of his shipmate Dr. Nicholas Rush, not yet crushed by life. Worry over his mother's illness back on Earth, coupled with a dismal, tragic romantic life, have piled many stresses on him and I want him to win through.

If the show stays cancelled, I'll have to assume he did. He may be scared, but he's good.