Thursday, May 30, 2002

Too Much Farscape

Well, the Sci-Fi Channel has announced which Farscape episodes thy're going to be showing on tomorrow's all day "Chain Reaction." I was particularly interested in learning this, as I've promised to tape the whole thing for the friend I got addicted via the 1st season DVDs a month ago. (She's started calling me "the sci-fi pusher." I've just got this image now of myself standing on a streetcorner in trenchcoat lined with videos and DVDs saying, "Psst, kid, want some Farscape? The first season's free!") Anyway, I was hoping that, between Friday's marathon and the four second-season episodes they showed earlier this month, there'd be enough to get her pretty well caught up on the second and third seasons, in terms of the important story- and character-arc stuff. And overall, I'd say it's looking pretty good on that front. They're going to be showing almost the entire third season (what they've got pegged as "essential epsiodes") and there are quite a few second-season eps in the "sexiest episodes" lineup, too.

But there are, unfortunately, some gaping holes. Like the absence of "Won't Get Fooled Again," which, in amongst all its surreal weirdness, does reveal a Major Plot Point without which none of the rest of the second season actually makes a whole lot of sense. Well, I think they pretty much screwed up any impact that particular plot twist might have on new viewers by showing "Beware of Dog" immediately before "Crackers Don't Matter" a couple of weeks ago, anyway... Good thing for my friend that she's got me to put the episodes in order for her, that's all I've got to say... I also really, really wish they'd seen fit to show the "Liars, Guns & Money" three-parter instead of the "Look at the Princess" trilogy. Not only is it much more important in terms of character and plot, but in my opinion it's also a much better story. Ah, well, guess it simply wasn't "sexy" enough. Sigh. And "Self-Inflicted Wounds" doesn't count as "essential third season"?! Poor Zhaan. No respect. I'm also a little bummed that "Different Destinations...", which is one of my personal all-time favorite episodes, isn't going to be featured, though even I have to admit that it's not like it's all that important to the story arc. "The Choice" seems like a strange omission, though. Even if nobody but me actually cares about the comings and goings of Stark, you'd think the John/Aeryn fans Sci-Fi is obvously courting would regard it as essential...

Damn it. Why was I not taping this show before? Why do I always end up kicking myself for not taping things? You'd think I'd eventually learn...

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The Nielsens Have Spoken

A while back, somebody asked me if I knew what the ratings for Enterprise were like, and I had to admit that I didn't. Well, somebody else on another blog I'm involved with helpfully posted this link listing the ratings for various network TV shows. For the record, Enterprise is ranked #115 (out of 158, though it should be noted that there are a lot of tied rankings, so there are actually more shows than that on the list) with 5.9 million viewers. Which isn't really all that great, apparently, but then it is on UPN...

Anyway, there you have it. Glad to be of service! Anybody got any other questions? Go on, ask me anything! If I don't know the answer, I'll make something up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Silly Farscape Action Figures I'd Love to See

All right, all right. Just for my own amusement, and because I never did get to finish writing them up before my stupid browser crashed, I present Silly Farscape Action Figures I'd Love to See (yup, just like the blog title said):

Scream'n'Sweat Crais. With button-activated anguished screams, Genuine Sweat Action and hair with three different levels of disheveledness to reflect his mental state! Comes with pulse pistol and removable lesions to use for those little disagreements with Talyn.

Beat-me-Up Crichton. Yes, every alien in the Uncharted Territories has beaten up on John Crichton, and now you can, too! Features realistic bruises and twelve different sounds reflecting a wide variety of physical and emotional anguish.

Glow'n'Spazz Stark. Features removable mask, glow-in-the-dark face, and button-activated Spazz-Out action! (I so want one of these. Seriously!)

Scorpius' Aurora Chair Playset. Spend hours of fun torturing your other action figures! Scream'n'Sweat Crais, Beat-me-Up Crichton and Glow'n'Spazz Stark work particularly well with this playset. (Peacekeeper Barbie not included.)

Projectile-Vomit Rygel. Genuine vomit flies up to three feet! (Vomit refills not included.)

Dismemberable Pilot. With detatchable arm so you can act out that oh-so-memorable scene from "DNA Mad Scientist."

Naked Zhaan. Capture Zhaan's peaceful, meditative moments... or have her act out dirty scenes with Glow'n'Spazz Stark. Your call. (Not for sale to under-18s.)

Hawaiian Shirt Harvey. Comes with margarita glass & bottle of tequila. Oh, wait, they've actually made that one. Though I feel compelled to point out that he's not actually wearing the right shirt...

There. That's kinda cheered me up...

OK, Pretend This Is a Much Longer, Much Cooler Blog Entry

I just typed up this very long, incredibly clever and witty and interesting blog entry, all about amusing ideas for Farscape action figures, and who'd win in a contest between the Biggest Evil Geniuses of sci-fi TV, and why I may have to live on Kraft macaroni and cheese until my next paycheck... And I was almost done with it when Netscape crashed on me and I lost it all. This has made me very, very unhappy, and I find I simply don't have the stomach to retype the thing, especially as it just wouldn't be the same without the, you know, spontaneity. So at this point, I'd like you to just imagine that I've written just such a blog entry. Chuckle a few times. Think about which villains you'd like to enter in the Evil Genius competition. Let the thought cross your mind that it might be kind of cool to go out and buy some action figures yourself.

Thank you. We've now achieved in one paragraph what it initially took me about ten or twelve to accomplish the first time. You may go on about your day, now.
Run, Logan, Run!

OK, let's rewind back to 1976, before even the original Star Wars came out. I did, 'cause I just picked up Logan's Run on DVD. Now, when I bought this disc, I had the distinct feeling that most likely it'd mainly be worth having just for the nostalgia value. I was extremely fond of this movie when I was a teenager. It was one of those films that seemed to run about once a year or so on one cable channel or another, and I would generally make a point of watching it when it was on and always enjoyed it tremendously. But, you know, a lot of the stuff I liked as a kid now strikes me as rather embarrassingly cheesy, and the strongest memories I had of Logan were of things like the insane robot ("Good things from the sea!") and the shooting lasers from the murderous face-lift machine, which don't necessarily resonate with associations of high-quality cinema, really.

Imagine my surprise to realize that I actually did have some excellent taste, even as a kid. Because Logan's Run is a really good movie. It's very multi-layered, with a lot of subtle thematic and character stuff mixed in quite seamlessly with the action. Amazingly enough, it's also good science fiction, with very well-thought-out and carefully executed world-building. That isn't something you see very much these days, where "sci-fi" mainly seems to equate in people's minds with "mindless action blockbuster," which to my mind is a damned shame. Visually, it holds up really well, too, which is simply pleasant icing on the cake.

Of course, it's entirely possible that this particular movie holds an entirely different signficance for me at age 30 than it did at age 15... If anything, I'd say I probably appreciate it more now that the ol' palm's started blinking red. "Renew! Renew!"

Monday, May 27, 2002

Fun with Downloads

Yes, the topic of today's blog entry is "Fun with Downloads." And, believe me, when you've got a dial-up connection, fun with downloads really does take you all day. Call me easily amused, but I think some of this stuff was worth it.

First off, the same friend who sent me the URL for the Han Solo article I mentioned last time also put me on to a couple of pieces of wonderful Star Wars madness. "The Han Solo Affair" is a short Star Wars sketch produced entirely with Legos. And I gotta say, some of the acting in it is better than in the last couple of movies. Heh. Then we've got a segment from Late Night with Conan O'Brien featuring "Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog" making fun of Star Wars fans in line to see Attack of the Clones. I feel as if I should disapprove of this on principle, being as it perpetuates unfair negative stereotypes of fans. But I just can't, 'cause, frankly, it's funny as hell.

For the Farscape fans, the Sci-Fi Channel has a couple of pieces of music available for download from the soundtrack to last month's incredible two-parter "Into the Lion's Den." One of the (many) things I really loved about this episode was the music, powerful choral stuff that really added to the epic feel of the whole thing. I notice that the website also gives a translation for the lyrics, which turn out to be wonderfully appropriate (" me/save me/for I am guilty..."). I am never, ever going to get that image of Scorpius standing on the stairs out of my mind, and the music is a large part of the reason why. (If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. And if you haven't (and if you're an American who gets the Sci-Fi Channel, which it suddenly occurs to me probably leaves out the majority of the people who've admitted to reading this blog), you'll have a second chance soon. They're going to be running a Farscape marathon all day Friday (May 31st), and I believe they're going to be showing that one at some point, along with a whole bunch of other great episodes. Plug, plug.) For an amusing change of pace, you can also download the show's opening monolog in either French or German (and thanks to the person who posted these links on one of the FS BBoard sites for pointing this out!). Is it just me, or does the French Crichton really sound like he's about to completely lose it?

Oh, one thing to note: for everything I've linked to here except the Farscape soundtrack stuff and the Lego thing, if you just click on the link, all you'll get is a screenfull of gibberish. Try right-clicking and hitting "save link as" to download instead. (Yeah, can you tell who's not nearly as internet-savvy as she pretends to be and occasionally has trouble figuring stuff like this out?)

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Moving Along to That Star Wars-Related E-Mail...

In fact, after writing that last blog entry, I turned to the ol' inbox and immediately discovered that a friend had sent me this interesting article on what's missing from the prequels that the original movies had. Short answer: Han Solo. And, you know, I think the guy's got a point. Come on, raise your hand if you miss Han!

Yeah. Me, too.
OK, You Can Talk to Me About Star Wars Now!

Well, I finaly got out to see Attack of the Clones yesterday. I had to; it was getting so I couldn't read my e-mail. Seems like half of it was nothing but spoiler-laden Star Wars discussions sent to me by well-meaning fellow-geek friends...

So, my opinions of the movie? Well... As a movie, it made a great video game.

Honestly, it had very much the same kind of feel as a well-excuted (but action-oriented) computer adventure game. Incredible visuals (in fact, I almost typed "graphics," because, after all, they pretty much are all CGI). Wonderfully detailed settings (again, mainly in a visual way). Amazing, exciting, increasingly complex action scenes. And plot and dialog that mainly seem to exist to provide a flimsy framework for the action and the visuals.

Which is kind of unfortunate, I suppose, seeing that it's supposed to be part of this big epic story in which all kinds of things are happening that are shaping the course of history in the Star Wars universe. But it sure as hell felt like Lucas or whoever didn't care about the plot and the politics and yadda yadda except as they provided an excuse for kick-ass lightsabre fights, so I found it pretty hard to care, too. The only exception was Anakin beginning his slide over to the Dark Side, which did involve some real characterization, and actually had some of the same kinds of mythic resonances we got in the original trilogy. But even that felt a little... I dunno, a little off, a little flat. Definitely not as powerful as it should be.

And then there was the love story, complete with cheesy Jedi pickup lines. No, I couldn't really buy it. Look, imagine you're Amidala. You're beautiful, you're powerful, you're a busy professional person. And this guy you haven't seen since he was nine starts comes up to you and starts going on about how he hasn't been able to sleep at night thinking of you for ten years and how he longs deeply just to be near you, etc, etc, etc. (And in between adolescent whinings about how his father-figure doesn't understand him, no less!) I dunno about you, but if I was Amidala, I'd be thinking "restraining order"...

But the visuals were incredible. I know I tend to go on and on, in my curmudgeonly way about how unimportant special effects ultimately are, and how if the story isn't interesting, and the characters aren't interesting, no amount of eye candy is going to make the movie worth watching for me. I'll tell ya, though, this movie almost induces me to change my mind. It's not just that things look good, it's that there is so much rich visual detail that the mind can't even take it all in at once, and it's all utterly fascinating detail. Screw plot. Screw character. Frankly, this movie is worth watching even with the sound off. Except that then we wouldn't get all the cool swooshy sound effects...

Is that horribly hypocritical of me to say, do you think?

Friday, May 24, 2002

Stop Me Before I Shop Again!

OK, see, this is why I never have any money.

I was sitting here, thinking about TV shows, as is my wont, when it suddenly occured to me, hey, isn't the second season of Buffy supposed to be out on DVD in June? And isn't it, well, nearly June, at any rate? I decided I couldn't stand it any longer, and high-tailed off to Amazon to pre-order the bloody thing. Well, you know, Amazon has this special free shipping offer if you buy more than $99 worth of stuff. And, gee, the Buffy discs were nearly $50, so I was practically halfway there already, right? And, honestly, even if I tell myself I'm not going to buy anything else in the near future, I know myself well enough to know that's probably a lie, and I'm better off buying whatever I'm going to buy all at once so I can get the free shipping instead of in lots of smaller orders I'll have to pay extra for. Right?

Honestly, is this the reasoning of an addict or what?

Anyway, in additon to the Buffy discs, I ended up shelling out for:

The two-volume Eugenics Wars series by Greg Cox. I don't read many Star Trek novels any more (because frankly too many of them suck), but I've liked the other books I've read from this author, and the premise sounds really, really interesting.

The new Rush album. Well, I had to have this. Period.

The latest Transmetropolitan graphic novel. This is a wonderfully twisted series, to which I've become moderately addicted. I'm not gonna buy it in comic book form, though. I don't like the comic book format. 40 pages of reading followed by a cliffhanger is not my idea of happiness.

Now, hopefully that should tide me over until August, when the Lord of the Rings disc and the Wrath of Khan Director's Edition come out...

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Enterprise Crew Roster

As threatened last time, I've got still more rambling to do on the subject of Enterprise. Let's take a look at the characters, and my shamefully biased opinions of them.

Alas, so far Archer has proved to be the least interesting captain in Star Trek history. (Even Janeway, much though I loathe her, could hardly be called dull.) He's far too much Mr. Generic Starship Captain for my tastes, and he really needs to be fleshed out a little more.

I've had a hard time getting a handle on T'Pol's character, but I think she's gradually coming into focus, her personality and her motivations becoming better defined. The irritating and abrasive aspects of her personality are also beginning to soften (or at least to become less obtrusive), and I'm starting to glimpse a potentially very interesting character underneath them. Looking forward to seeing where the next season takes her.

I didn't like Trip at all initially. There was just something about his aw-shucks good-ole-Texas-boy mannerisms that totally rubbed me the wrong way. He's really grown on me, though; actor Connor Trinneer endows him with a genuine charm that quickly won me over.

An interesting character with some fascinating personality quirks who doubtless has many hidden depths under his taciturn exterior. Plus, he's got a cool accent. I'm quite looking forward to getting to know him better.

Hoshi really annoyed me at first, with all her whining self-doubt. Now, don't get me wrong, I like the idea of having characters who experience self-doubts, and the effect the scriptwriters were doubtless going for, of reminding the viewers that space is not a safe, known place in Enterprise's era, is something I'm behind 100%. In theory, that is. In practice, they overdid it, and Hoshi became irritating where she should have been sympathetic. To their credit though, the Powers That Be appear to have quickly realized this mistake and corrected it: Hoshi got over her problems quickly, yet in a reasonably believable way, and has since turned into a fairly likeable character. I particularly like her interactions with Dr. Phlox, and would like to see more of them.

Dr. Phlox
I liked him immediately, and he's still easily my favorite character. Much kudos to actor John Billingsley for taking a character whose perpetual cheerfulness could easily have gotten annoying (a la Voyager's Neelix) and instead turned it into something happily infectious. He also feels rather more alien than many of Star Trek's aliens, which frankly makes for a nice change.

This guy started off interesting. We got some nice backstory for him, and we saw some glimpses of a likeable sense of humor... And then he just completely faded into the background. I gotta say, I'm somethimes finding it hard to even remember that he's on the show. Can we can some character development here, please?

I don't really think a dog has any place on a starship, at least not one like this particular Enterprise. But Porthos is so darned cute, I find it impossible to hold it against him. What can I say? I've always had a fondness for Beagles.

Crewman Cutler
I like Crewman Cutler. I wanna see more of Crewman Cutler. She's only in a few epsiodes, and already she's had more development than Travis. And what about her and Phlox, anyway? We gonna get some followup on that? Please?
Enterprise Inspection

Well, we've made it through the first season of Enterprise. I must say, I did like the season finale. Not a perfect episode, perhaps (if nothing else, the pacing felt a bit off), but nevertheless probably one of the best of the season. Good characterization, some refreshingly unexpected plot twists, and a cliffhanger ending that, while it hasn't exactly got me waiting on pins and needles, does at least have me interested in tuning in next season to find out where things are going to go next.

I've talked quite a bit about Enterprise on here already, I know, but this seems like a good place and a good time to take a look back at the series' first year. So.

The Good
1. Tone and Setting. I initially disliked the idea of a Star Trek prequel, but I must admit, whatever my other problems with the show, the early-days-of-Starfleet setting and the way its handled aren't among them. The show does a decent job of capturing some of the sense of wonder, some of the excitement and newness of space travel that seem to have largely disappeared in later Treks. And the fact that the technology isn't always reliable, that the Enterprise isn't the biggest baddest vessel in the galaxy, and that the universe patently does not revolve around humanity all make things not only more interesting (at least potentially), but much more realistic.

2. The Cast. They've got a good group of actors, who've proven themselves quite capable of giving solid performances, at least when they're given something to work with. Bakula's acting, as I've mentioned before, has seemed very "off" to me for most of the season, but in the last two episodes, he's suddenly seemed to become much more natural. Hopefully, he and his character have finally "clicked," and we can expect better things from him next season. And other than that, I've been very pleased with everybody's performances thus far.

3. Story Arc. I like story arcs. They can serve to give a sense of purpose and movement to a show and provide a great means of keeping the viewer interested from week to week, as well as being a good sign that the show in question isn't going to be hitting the damned reset button at the end of every ep. And Enterprise's story arc with the Temporal Cold War is an interesting one with some definite potential. Exactly how happy I'll be with it depends a lot on where they ultimately end up going with it, of course, but I do rather like the fact that it exists.

4. Continuity. At least somebody on the writing staff clearly knows their TOS, as nice little touches like the use of the planet Corridan (as mentioned in TOS's "Journey to Babel") attest. I was half afraid they were going to walk all over Trek continuity in hobnailed boots, but they've at least demonstrated some appreciation for it, and the little continuity touches please me.

The Bad
1. Snooze-Inducing Storylines. I know I've said it before, but in my view this is Enterprise's single biggest problem. We've had far, far too many episodes that have been dull, derivative, predictable, or all three at once. Come on, guys, surely there must be some new and exciting stories to tell, even in the admittedly overtaxed Trek universe?

2. Sporadic Character Development. Enterprise does have good characters, but it seems to have trouble knowing what to do with them. It occured to me recently that a large part of the problem here is that the show seems to treat plot and character as either/or prospects. Either it's a character-based episode with only a minimal plot, or it's a plot-based episode in which the characters are virtually interchangeable and seldom do or say anything individualized or interesting. The thing is, you can do both at once. Really. The season finale, "Shockwave," actually manages it quite nicely, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

3. The Theme Song. I just had to mention this. A pop-tune theme song for a Star Trek series is just wrong. And while, I must admit, the lyrics are more-or-less appropriate to the humaistic tone of Trek, that doesn't mean I find them any less insipid. (The visuals to the opening credits are very nice, though.)

4. Continuity. Yes, some of the small stuff has been rather nice, and the fact that the continuity problems aren't nearly as egregious as I feared they'd be is a bit of a relief, which is why I also counted this on the positive side. But larger-scale continuity problems have been far from nonexistent, and the temptation to use TNG-era races and technology that shouldn't exist at this point has, predictably, proved overwhelming on at least a couple of occasions. I also have some major problems with the Vulcans as portrayed on Enterprise; they really don't seem to mesh very well with the Vulcans as we know them later... And with as long-lived and traditionalist as Vulcans are, I wouldn't expect them to have changed that much.

So, on balance, it's been a real mixed bag. I can't say that I'm disappointed in the series, because my expectations for it were very, very low. If anything, the fact that I don't hate it is something of a pleasant surprise. The first season, overall, hasn't been terribly compelling, but it's not as if it's the first Star Trek series to start off with a weak first season, and the potential for it to develop into something good is very definitely there. I'm actually feeling rather optimistic about the show's future, but time, of course, will tell...

I may post some more discussion on the show here a bit later, with an analysis of the individual characters. Or not.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Let Me Introduce You to My Alter Ego...

Well, here I am, towards the beginning of another night shift, trying to keep myself awake and to stave off boredom... I've been surfing the web, looking at some RPG-related sites, and I came across one of those PC questionnaire pages. This sort of thing is kind of fun, and can definitely help you generate more well-rounded player characters. Being mildly bored as I am, I thought it might be amusing to try answering them for my current Torg character, even though he's doubtless quite well-rounded enough already.

Anyway, this particular page starts off with what the writer calls "PQs": the essential personal questions. These are pretty easy:

What is your character's name? Professor Wendell X. Bernard. Oddly enough, nobody has yet asked me what the "X." stands for. I know what it is, but I'm not gonna tell until somebody thinks to ask. So there.

What does he do for a living? Weird Scientist and freelance fighter of evil. (Gawd, I do love Torg...)

What does he do in his free time? Builds gadgets. Not that he ever has enough time to work on them.

How does he support himself? Actually, I think right now he's mostly living off loot the party took from bad guys.

How wealthy is he? Well, there was a lot of loot, but it's kind of starting to run out these days...

Who does he know and how well? Well, there's the other PCs, of course. And he knows a lot of people in Oxford, England, since he's been spending a lot of time there lately. He doubtless has some contacts back in Egypt, too.

Where does he live? Actually, he's mostly been globetrotting for the last year or so, but he recently bought a house outside of Oxford which he intends to use as his home base. This was probably a really bad idea for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is that England is bascially Medieval Fantasy Realm these days, and his precious technology tends not to work there very easily.

What does he own? All kinds of bizarre stuff that he collects in magpie fashion and hauls around with him in case it comes in useful.

Does he have family? No, although he sort of thinks of Aerial (one of the other PCs) as like a daughter or granddaughter to him.

Does he have friends or enemies? He's got all the PCs as friends (some of them more reluctantly than others). And he's got lots of enemies, most notably his nemesis, Professor Shariff.

On to the IQs (Inspirational Questions):

Who are your character's friends? Most people have someone they chat with, hang out with, or so on. Who does your PC go out drinking with? Who does he have coffee with? Who does he chat with while waiting in line at the grocery store? Do the neighbors invite him to dinner? Does he go hiking or biking with a club? Like I said, pretty much it's just the other PCs, since he travels around so much.

How close is he to his friends? How well do they know him? Do they know his hopes and fears? Do they know that he goes out late every night and sometimes doesn't come back for days? Will they notice if he disappears or comes home with bruises? I don't think he talks about his hopes and fears all that much. I mean, he's pretty British that way; he doesn't usually get all emotionally gushy or anything. But he does like to talk about himself -- oy, does he like to talk about himself -- so they all know him probably better than they'd really like to! And I would hope they'd notice if he disappeared or something...

Is he married? Does your character have a husband, a wife, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a fiancee, a "significant other," a lover, or several of the above? He's recently acquired a girlfriend. I'm not sure he has the slightest idea how to deal with that, as he's been too wrapped up in his gadgets and things all his life to ever have an actual relationship before. But it's kind of cute watching him try to figure it out.

Is he protecting someone? A child? A relative? A friend? Why does he see himself as their protector? I think he sees himself as Aerial's protector, which is amusing, because if anything, it's actually the other way around.

Who does he live with? Does he still live with his family? What about housemates or roommates? Are these people his friends or do they hate each other? Again, he's pretty much been of No Fixed Abode for the last year or so. Once his house is finished, he'll probably expect the rest of the party to stay there when they're in town.

Who was his first love? Did it work out? Why or why not? Do they still know each other? Honestly, he's never really been seriously involved with anybody before.

Who does he work with? Is he friends with his co-workers? Bitter rivals? Does he hate his lazy boss or have a crush on his secretary? Not really applicable, seeing as he doesn't actually have a job.

Who is his best friend? Why? What secrets have they shared? What have they gone through together? I guess that'd be Aerial again. And they've been through heaven and hell. Or at least Purgatory.

Who is his worst enemy? Why? Shariff. And the Prof's got a list of grievences a mile long that he'd be glad to tell you about in great detail. But mainly I think it boils down to jealousy. Bernard's convinced Shariff has better toys than he does.

Who is his confidante? Who does he talk to when he's scared? Who does he tell when he's in trouble? That'd be the other PCs again. I suppose he feels most comfortable with Aerial, though he's more likely to be giving her well-meaning advice than asking her for help. He does turn to Keevok (the Paladin) for spiritual advice, though he often tends to get a bit testy when he gets it. Oddly enough, I suppose he's probably had the the most personal conversations with Cobb, because Cobb's the one who will ask the personal questions. Though generally that has less to do with Cobb being a concerned friend and more to do with Cobb being an ass...

Who would bail him out if he were arrested? Well, I think Aerial's carrying most of the party funds at the moment...

Who did he give birthday presents to last year? What did he give them? I don't think he's very good about remembering birthdays, really.

Is he a disappointment to anyone? In what way? Um, no, I don't think so. Unless there are bad guys out there sadly shaking their heads over the fact that he's not using his talents for evil. Which is entirely possible.

What about his family? Does he get along with them? Does he ignore them? What do they know about him? Is it a small family, or an extended family with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles? Is it a close family, or do they only see each other at the holidays? Are any of them not on speaking terms with each other? Are there any "family secrets?" Who is his favorite relative? Who is his least favorite relative? Does he have any children?" I don't think he has any family. He's an old guy, so his parents are doubtless long dead. As far as I know, he doesn't have any siblings or anything, either, though it would be entirely within his idiom for a long-lost evil twin brother to show up someday or something.

Where does your character hang out? Does he go club-hopping? Does he pick up people at singles' bars? Does he see movies, or go dancing? Does he play pool or go bowling? Does he read at the library or go ice-skating? What about the video arcade, the mall, a local college campus, or the park? He's more inclined to hole himself up inside a laboratory than anywhere else. Definitely not singles' bars or dancing or bowling... In fact, it's really hard to picture him doing any of that stuff. He does end up hanging out in pubs a lot, because that's where the party always seems to get together, but more often than not, he orders tea. (Which is good, because the last time he got drunk, he picked a fight with a bunch of German aviators and ended up getting arrested.)

Where does he feel safe? Why? Nowhere is safe as long as the evil Pharoh Mobius is free to wreak his terrible perversions of science! Ahem.

What sort of place spooks him? Why? Orrorsh. Because that's what Orrorsh does. (It's the horror realm of Torg, and it's deliberately designed for maximum creepiness. Shudder.)

Is there any place that he refuses to go? Why? What happened there? He'll go anywhere he feels he has to go to fight the good fight, yadda yadda yadda. But he'd really rather avoid Orrorsh.

What is his workplace like? Does he like it? Does his office reflect his personality? Well, his lab is strewn with vacuum tubes and random bits of bizarre machinery all over the place, so, yeah, it reflects his personality pretty well.

What is his favorite restaurant? Does he go often enough for them to recogize him? Does he have a favorite table? I think there's some specific pub we keep ending up in in Oxford, but I don't remember what it's called.

Hobbies and Habits
What are your character's hobbies? Throw character development points into little things like painting or writing, candle-making or horseback-riding. (How many points you want to dedicate to such things depends on your GMs. Some GMs will ignore such abilities; others will work them into their plots for fun and variety.) He builds things. All kinds of utterly bizarre things.

Where did he pick up his hobbies? Who taught them to him? Why are they important to him? Well, science and gadget-building are what he does. He doesn't really separate them into "work" and "hobbies."

What does he read? What sorts of books does he read? What magazines or newspapers does he read? Does he prefer SF, fantasy, horror, historical, romance, mystery, or current events? Scientific journals, probably.

How does he read? Does he take books out from the library or buy whole cases of them? How does he pick which book to buy next? Does he have a favorite reviewer? What book does he read over and over? Where does he read? Oh, geez, like he has time for recreational reading...

Does he do the crossword puzzle? In pencil or pen? Crossword puzzles are way beneath him, intellectually, but maybe he considers those strange, tricky British ones a bit of a challenge. If he does them, he probably does them in pen.

Does he read the paper every morning? Which section does he read first? Well, it's not like he can just get a paper delivered to his doorstep every morning... When he does read them, though, he probably reads the headlines first to see what evil is afoot in the world (answer: lots) and then turns to the science and technology section. And then writes really long letters to the editor explaining why the stuff in the science and technology section is wrong. Except he probably gets distracted before he can finish the letter and never sends it...

What movies does he watch? What was the last movie he saw? Did he like it, and why? Who's his favorite movie star? I think the last movie he saw was The Matrix when we were getting ready to do the VR thing in the cyberpunk realm. I'm sure he thought the technology (both portrayed in the movie and used in making the movie) was really impressive.

Does he watch television? What's his favorite show? What show does he hate? What's his favorite channel and why? Who's his favorite TV star? TV's a bit above his Tech Axiom (he comes from an alternate version of the 1930's, so they don't have TV yet), but he's seen a bit of it, and I think he's been very unimpressed with what he's seen.

What music does he like? Does he have a large music library? A small one? Does he prefer the radio, CDs or mp3s? Does he wear a walkman? Does he listen to the same album over and over, or does he hate it when people do that? I don't think he pays much attention to music. When he listens to it at all, it's probably classical.

What does he do for exercise? Does he work out at the gym? Exercise? Are you kidding? He gets more exercise than he can handle just trying to keep up with the rest of the PCs... The Prof's not as young as he used to be, you know.

OK, there's a lot more questions, but, frankly, I'm getting tired of this... Maybe later when I'm feeling even more direly in need of something to focus my brain on to keep it from shutting down...

Monday, May 20, 2002

Return of the Silly Poems

I went back over to the random poem generator page and gave it the URL for the May archives of MV, and got the following bizarrely cool result:

Maximum Verbosity Random Poem Generator.
You instead. And
further and then always has seriously consider
naming my huge backlog
of dialog in many reasons I know
a blog For
the kitchen faucet, and Planet of
organization. which we took
the Rings.Nurse Chapel of
Farscape: I did* get cable had
some of closure and
you in
tone, with
a completely alien which
provides a Picard kind
of the
covers, and yet, strangely addictive online game: the results
Speaking of loosely connected adventures chronicling
early career .

I mean, bits of it even rhyme, and everything! Isn't that amazing?

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Return of the Silly Quizzes

I've just been wasting time over at (Home of a Zillion Annoying Popup Windows) finding out which TV characters I match up to. I know you're just dying to hear the results, so I won't keep you in suspense.

Star Trek Captain: I'm a Jean-Luc Picard kind of Trek captain. Very cool, but not really surprising, given the alternatives.

Doctor Who Companion: Liz Shaw. Not a companion that would have probably even crossed my mind, but, you know, she probably is the best fit, all things considered.

Lexx character: Lyekka. I was going to protest this, until I realized that the next character down the list was 790...

Blake's 7 character: Jenna. Hmm, no can't see the resemblance. But then, I don't really have any resemblance to any of the B7 characters. Probably because if I lived in the B7 universe there's no way I'd be a major character, even in the unlikely event that I survived to adulthood.

Simpsons character: The Comic Book Guy. Ouch! Worst SelectSmart result ever!

Red Dwarf character: Captain MacDonald. Well, that could have been a lot worse.

Star Trek character: Depending on which quiz you believe, I either match up best with Neelix (Neelix?! Neelix?!!) or Chakotay. Urgh.

Who Is It!

My huge backlog of Stuff to Watch, like my Book Pile, just never seems to dwindle. This weekend, I realized that, in addition to the DS9 videos and the DVDs and etc., etc., I still had some Doctor Who videos that I'd nearly forgotten about. I've got something in the nature of a Doctor Who video exchange going with a friend of mine. I lend him the episodes I have and he doesn't, he lends me the episodes he has and I don't. (Needless to say, between the two of us, we've still only got a small fraction of the show's run. There's a lot of Who.)

Anyway, this time he's lent me some Peter Davison episodes ("Snakedance," "Warriors of the Deep," "Resurrection of the Daleks," and "Planet of Fire," if you're curious). I really am very fond of the Fifth Doctor era; I think Davison got some of the best scripts in the history of Who. I know a lot of people aren't that thrilled with Davison's Doctor: I've heard him dismissed more than once as "wimpy" or "dull." But, personally, I don't think he's remotely dull. His characterization is simply a bit more subtle, his personality a bit more subdued than the previous Doctors'. Frankly, after the wildly exaggerated, larger-than-life personality of Tom Baker's Doctor, it's a bit refreshing. (Don't get me wrong, there. I adore the Fourth Doctor. But a little variety is a good thing.) I also very much like the sense of vulnerability we get in the Fifth Doctor. It makes him a bit more... well, perhaps "human" isn't quite the right word, but I believe it does help keep him interestingly 3-dimensional. And it works marvelously well with the kinds of stories he got. Often they featured considerably more moral ambiguity (or at least moral complexity) than is usually typical in Doctor Who, as well as taking a rather more realistic view of the negative emotional consequences of all the terrible, violent things one inevitably encounters in the course of any Exciting Space Adventure. Not only is that interesting in itself (at least as far as I'm concerned), it provides a lot of opportunity for the Doctor to worry over the mental state of his companions, or to angst over whether or not he's done the right thing. Again, I think it adds layers of complexity to his character, and I think that's great. (One of the (many) reasons I so love the Doctor is his wonderfully complex nature.)

Friday, May 17, 2002

Light Up My World!

OK, Cool Website Day continues. Check out this amazing panoramic image of the Earth at night, compiled from hundreds of satellite images. Be sure and click on the picture for the big, high-resolution version. It's incredible.
I'm a Poet and Don't Know It!

Here's another pointless but fun website: The Random Poem Generator. You give it a URL, and it, well, randomly generates a poem. I couldn't resist trying out some of my pages. The results are... interesting.

Giving it my home page resulted in the following:

Betty Home Page BETTY HOME
Page BETTY HOME PAGE new in October of
libraries! MY
cats A picture taken of my life
updated 5/11 02

Hmm. In an odd way, that actually says something about me.

My Blake's 7 page yielded:

Guide to say, an exile on in a
speech at me, Servalan.
What a dead or
those he truly believed that
arrangement null and
to display the question. Cygnus Alpha Vila has
been stranded after all,
these worlds could be about $
themselves were for
it, was forced
to her impressive fighting
abilities and although Avon
am your decisions, You
killed to the
characters, from nave
or : no pleasure. Aftermath Smarmy Leitz
always right and
she adopted sister, Lauren. was a dead
or Tarial cell,which, should
also had
become by the godforsaken penal colony of
the rulers of
mental instability.

...which is clearly mostly gibberish, but if you're familiar with the show, there's a few phrases in there that are weirdly apt.

Then there's You Know You Watch Too Much B7 When:

You force your parents. watching Lexx,
and Critical analysis! Now, I wish
you are
ready at a shirt with
an A. You seriously consider
naming your
curling iron. constantly
wondering why is a critical Analysis
You is
the crew came down with
an extended lecture on their Deep Space Vehicle. come
up at 2 16/00.

I must say, I never did seriously consider naming my curling iron. Actually, I've never even owned a curling iron.

The equivalent page for Farscape gives us:

Too Much Farscape
When... You have sworn you kept the life
living is really just
a Harvey to talk to assuming you Watch
Too Much
Farscape You refer to look
at the associations it
conjures up. snerching
as a cracker
without chuckling at the
Scarrens. beginning to have a cracker
without chuckling at a
black shirt on alternate days and a sneaking suspicion
that lets you kept the
Channel suggesting
that they fire John Edward and arns,
and a hallucination induced by the
associations it conjures
up. adopted Humans
are SUPERIOR! as your scream.

Which not only almost makes sense, but actually does capture something of the show, if you ask me.

And, just to be self-referential, here's what we got from this page:

Maximum Verbosity Random wibblings of Farscape
I mean, between this one
year since
it really one of
time, to see was actually thought
it OK, though. kind of interesting I
could ever
produced.But it just how many
zillions of interesting blog.
For things
to see in this
is extremely good
about and called
it did see in favor of
The very much of sexual issues as I wrote
that, involves Zhaan
and thus giving the season Oops. To
discover that there are
problems that reminded me to
see fan Private quoted by Betty
Ragan at 1:20 PM This morning
trying to

Wow. Is it just me, or does that sound vaguely smutty?

And, finally, Maximum Verbosity's archives from April:

Maximum Verbosity, Random thoughts that shut
up every time Except sit
down are interesting. thing
I help but just to describe something, been
on to decide
where Enterprise And
for no just
swallows and twice because it in
BODY?Mind.> letting others share the category of the movie
never got six thousand
Trek Farscape over
that it
whatsoever: Nick Knight status as
you tend to
entertain myself continually impressed by
the words: And got it used
to the air the reason
I do I
Farscape definitely the writers animators really
too And b
stupid. and different, genres and
the way, The Himalayas are You? ended up
reading Star
Trek, parodies seen, it,
does absolutely Not only made it
is What like to the things
were my psychological analysis of
are pretty much
as it but me
do bring
us we all be
technologically one is but they
could be

Wow. It's like the inside of my head exploded.
Good Science Fiction

Here's a lovely little article about why you should all be watching Farscape. I doubt I could have put it this well, myself, but believe me, this guy's hit the nail very firmly on the head.
Bad Astronomy

Today's Webpage Worth Checking Out is Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy, which provides a fairly entertaining and decidedly informative look at popular misconceptions about and media misrepresentations of space-related subjects. I think the good astronomy/bad astronomy movie reviews are particularly worth looking at. (Learn in just how many zillions of ways Armageddon Got It Wrong!)

There. Now I've done by bit for science education today. Go, me!

Oh, and, as you may have noticed, I've started the brand new tradition of adding titles to my blog entries. After all, everybody else is doing it. And it should make multiple entries under a single date stand out from each other better, thus giving the clever illusion of organization. Or something.

I actually thought about going back and adding titles to all the older entries, too, but then I came to my senses.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

I've been entertaining myself today by reading Wil Wheaton's blog pages. Yep, that's Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher, the Star Trek character we all loved to hate. I gotta say, I had a pretty negative impression of Wheaton after seeing him on the Star Trek version of The Weakest Link. He did say afterwards that he was trying to be funny, or self-parodying, or something, by playing up to the snottiness level set by the host of the show, but, frankly, he just came across as a major asshole. Turns out he's not, though. He's a really cool guy (as well as being just as big a geek as I am), and he keeps a pretty interesting blog. For some reason, I find that this realization has actually helped to cheer my up. I'm even looking forward to seeing him in the new TNG movie. (He's got a cameo part as Wesley.)

Also helping to cheer me up today was a co-worker's brilliant suggestion that I go out and get chocolate milkshakes and bring them back to the office. That helped improve everybody's day, I think. But then, I've always been of the firm opinion that there are few personal problems that cannot be effectively treated with chocolate.
This started off as a really rotten day. Mainly because I somehow managed to bend the frame on my eyeglasses, and spent about 45 minutes this morning trying to bend them back, which not only made me much later for work than I'd intended, but was ultimately pretty unsuccessful. Meaning my entire world is now skewed slightly out of alignment. I went to the optometrist's office, hoping they could fix 'em for me (they're really good about things like that), only to discover that -- guess what? Yup, they're closed on Thursdays! Sigh.

So I'm coming back from the closed optometrist's office, feeling highly annoyed and slightly nauseated from my misaligned eyeballs, and basically hovering on the verge of either screaming my lungs out right there in traffic or simply driving back home and crawling back under the covers, and work be damned. And then this voice comes on the radio and tells me that Rush -- who are one of my absolute all-time favorite bands, and who I've just been complaining that I'd probably never get to see in concert -- are going to be playing in Albuquerque after all.

It's little things like that that make life bearable, really.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Tonight's Enterprise (in which the crew finally get to take their long-delayed shore leave on Risa) was a surprising amount of fun. Lots of moments (such as Trip and Malcolm's ill-fated attempt at picking up alien chicks) were downright laugh-out-loud funny, and I'd venture to say that there were probably more great lines of dialog in this one than in the rest of the series so far put together. Once again, doing away with the usual predictable attempt at a plot in favor of letting the characters carry the episode has yielded extremely good results.

Speaking of characters, I found Archer -- or rather, Bakula -- kind of interesting in this one. I've complained before that Bakula's acting in this show feels a little off to me, somehow, a little... unnatural. That's not very much in evidence in this one at all, though, which causes me to wonder. Is it just that the uniform makes him uncomfortable, or what? Bakula as off-duty, trying-to-relax Archer is much more, well, relaxed. I like it.

I do have a couple of nitpicks, however. Like, if they're the first humans ever to make it out this far, why does Archer's neighbor have a perfectly ordinary Terran dog? What, their FX budget didn't extend to a costume for the animal? They couldn't at least have stuck a horn on its head and called it by some weird alien name? That's what TOS would have done! And, OK, I can just about buy Hoshi as a supergenius who can learn a completely alien language to near-fluency in one day. It's a bit of a stretch, but, hey, we know she's good; it's why she was picked for this job in the first place. But having her run into a random guy in a restuarant who can do exactly the same thing does make my suspension of disbelief start to stretch. Although, in fairness, there was an attempt to make this more plausible by suggesting that most languages are much simpler than his own native tongue, and thus comparatively easy for him to learn. I'm just not sure I buy that, is all. But never mind. It's a minor point, I suppose.

Next week is the season finale. Hard to believe we've had a whole year of this show, already. Even harder to believe that, in that amount of time, I still haven't been able to make up my mind about it...

Well, I've now got the swamp cooler up and running, with a little help from my invaluable Mr. Handyman co-worker. Of course, the weather has now suddenly cooled off... Murphy's Law, gotta love it! That's OK, though. I'm sure it'll be getting much hotter soon, and at least that's one thing off my to-do list. (Now if only I could work up the motivation to get started on the other 999...)

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

The folks over at the Sci-Fi Channel are asking us to vote for the sexiest episodes of Farscape for the all-day Chain Reaction on the 31st. OK, is it just me, or do the marketing people at Sci-Fi seem just a little too sex-obsessed? I mean, between this and the advertising approach they took to Lexx... Sheesh. And the thing is, while Farscape is definitely aimed at adults, and while it's as bold in its treatment of sexual issues as it is with anything else, it's... well, it's definitely not Lexx. "Sexy" isn't really one of the main items on its agenda, if you ask me, and while I'm certainly interested in the characters' relationships, sexual and otherwise, and while I have noticed that there's a cute guy or two on the show, I can't honestly say that I've ever exactly found an episode of Farscape sexy.

I know, I know, "sex sells." But still, it would have been better, in my opinon, to ask us to vote for the most humorous episodes, or the biggest mind-frells[*], or the episodes with the best action sequences or something. I would have had no trouble voting on those. As it is, though, I'm kind of stumped. I'm really tempted to just vote for any episode that involves Zhaan and Stark cuddling, being as I am a lonely supporter of Farscape's Most Neglected Relationship. Maybe my problem is just that I'm not one of the rabid John/Aeryn shippers[**] they're obviously trying to attract.[***]

[*] To use the Farscape terminology.
[**] From "relationshippers."
[***] Not that I don't think their relationship is interesting.[****]
[****] I also think footnotes are interesting. Or at least fun to do.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Oddly enough, I've never been all that much of a Star Wars fan, certainly not compared to my dedication to certain other science fiction phenomena I'm sure we could all name. But I did make a point of catching the Star Wars Fan Film Awards tonight. I'm always glad to see fan creativity get some well-deserved recognition. Besides, some of those film shorts are pretty darned cool. I only wish they'd had time to show more of them on the TV presentation...
Well, I've just had my first reader correction! My sister, who is definitely the X-Files fan in the family, e-mailed me to take exception to my comment about the show in my discussion of Ultraviolet, where I wrote "Personally, I thought it did a much better story arc than X-Files ever managed, but then, I suppose it's a lot easier to do tight plotting over the course of six episodes than over six years (or however long The X-Files was actually on the air)." She writes:

I must point out that the X-Files is still on the air and will be until next Sunday!!! when the final episode airs.

And then she adds that the show is actually currently on its ninth season. Oops.

To quote my own e-mailed reply, though:

:) Actually, I realized that after I wrote that, because I saw an ad for it in the TV Guide, and thought to myself, hmm, apparently we *haven't* had the last episode yet. Mind you, it probably says a lot about the show (or at least my attitude towards it!) that my first reaction *was* pretty much "Hey, is that still on?" :)

She also says, with considerable justification:

...and you can't judge because you never saw all the episodes in order to completely understand the intricacies of the alien conspiracy.

My reply:

This is certainly true. Although what I *did* see was enough to at least give me the impression that it wasn't really the kind of story arc that appeals to me much. As far as I could ever tell, they don't really ever *solve* any of the mysteries they raise, just endlessly muddy things with new mysteries. Again, maybe if I'd watched the whole show faithfully, I'd feel different, but it wasn't really worth it to me.

Mind you, the very best epsiodes of _X-Files_ have been extremely good, indeed. I still think "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" is one the the best damned hours of TV ever produced.

But I like a sense of closure and for things to make sense too much to be a really big _X-Files_ fan. ;)

(Private e-mail quoted by permission. Thanks, Kath! And sorry for dumping on your show!)
I have a friend who teaches computer classes in one of the local public schools, and yesterday she mentioned to me that she'd used my home page as an example to her students of "how to do a proper 'about me' page." Yes, apparently I am now being held up as an example to the youth of America. Scary, huh?

Saturday, May 11, 2002

It just occured to me that I've been living in this house (well, OK, in this trailer) for just about exactly one year now. Which is actually kind of a depressing thought, as I look around the room and take note of the fact that it's pretty much full of still-packed boxes and various random stuff that I never did figure out what to do with. And I've still only got about a quarter of the skirting on, and I never did get around to doing something permanent about that hole in the roof where the second cooler used to be, or to putting screens on the windows that don't have any... And yet, I've already had to replace the water heater, the door to the water heater compartment, the kitchen faucet, and the swamp cooler motor. Oh, and speaking of the swamp cooler, I really need to get that thing set up and running, because it's getting pretty darned hot in here. Which is, in fact, the very thing that reminded me I've been here a year, since it felt just like this when I first moved in.

Ah, the joys of home ownership. Sigh.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Reading the Hornblower book appears, for some incomprehensible reason, to have caused the song "Sloop John B" to begin playing in my head over and over. This is extremely annoying.

Just thought I'd share.

Man, I really wish I could go home and go to sleep.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

I was just noodling around on the web, looking for mentions of my own name (oh, come on, admit it, you all do it), and discovered that the book review on my web page of Farscape: House of Cards by Keith R.A. DeCandido is quoted on the author's "Gloat Page," right along with Publisher's Weekly. Wow. Well, if an author had to traipse along and read one of my humble little reviews, I'm glad is was this guy, because House of Cards was a very enjoyable book, and I was happy to give it a good review. (By the way, for those of you in Phoenix, I'll also point out that Mr. DeCandido included a link to the Phoenix website, since I mentioned on the page that the reviews had all appeared in Phoenix. Look, guys, I'm generating free publicity!)
Let's see, what to talk about here today? It occurs to me that I've been going on and on (and on!) about TV shows, but have said hardly anything at all about books. This won't do at all. People will think I'm illiterate.

Right now I'm reading the first book in C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. See, I don't restrict myself exclusively to science fiction and fantasy: this one is set on sailing ships during the Napoleanic wars. Although it's not entirely without connection to the SF genre; I understand the series was quite an influence on Star Trek, for example.

I got interested in this series when a friend showed me one of the TV adaptations from A&E. I'm not sure which book it was adapted from, but it was very good. Certainly good enough to spur me to give the books a try. (Not that it ever takes much to spur me to purchase a book, admittedly.) I'm about halfway through the first one now, and it's pretty good stuff. Lots of naval adventure with an interesting plot (or rather, interesting plots, as this first one is mainly a series of loosely connected adventures chronicling Hornblower's early career). And Hornblower is a great character, really. A very believable human being who clearly has absolutely no clue as to the astonishingly heroic figure he's obviously in the process of becoming.

The only thing that I have a problem with is all the nautical terminology. I wouldn't know a mizzenmast from a mainsail if they walked up and introduced themselves. This doesn't make it impossible to follow what's going on -- generally, it involves a lot of people crawling around on ropes doing things to the sails -- but I nevertheless find my own vast ignorance on the subject mildly annoying. If they'd included a picture labelled "Parts of a Sailing Ship" on the frontispiece or something, that would have been cool.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

I've just encountered this really pointless and goofy, yet strangely addictive online game: the Aridor Slave Rescue. You can rescue all your favorite science fiction characters from slavery and make them come work for you instead. And then other people come steal, seduce or win them away from you. Like I said, goofy and pointless. And the character bios are full of erroneous information and hideous misspellings of the characters' names. But somehow, it doesn't seem to matter.

Right now, I have working for me:

Zhaan and Stark from Farscape. (Romantic that I am, I could hardly bring myself to break them up.)

Damar, Gul Dukat's Lieutenant from Deep Space 9.

Sam Gamgee of Lord of the Rings.

Nurse Chapel of Star Trek, TOS.

Wesley Crusher of ST:TNG. (Admittedly an annoying character, but very useful when it comes to winning other characters in those battles of wits.)

And Mr. Mott, the ship's barber from ST:TNG.

(I had DS9's Quark for a while, too, but Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of Doctor Who kicked his ass and sold him back into slavery. Ah, well.)

So if I need nursing, gardening, or a haircut, I guess I'm in good shape! And I'm making Wesley clean the toilets...

Monday, May 06, 2002

I haven't made a blog entry in the last few days, not because I've finally lost interest, but because I've been out of town. Went on a little road trip with a friend from Albuquerque, who recently got a new car and wanted to give it a good breaking-in.

So, we drove down to Alamogordo and did the tourist schtick. Along the way, we stopped at the Valley of Fires to take a little walk among the lava flows. Then we continued into the city, got a hotel, and drove out to White Sands. Amazingly enough, I've lived in New Mexico for, what, 12 years now?, and I have been to Alamogordo once, but I never had visited White Sands. What an oversight! I mean, OK, yeah, they're sand dunes. They're white. It doesn't sound all that exciting. But, somehow, the visual effect of being in the middle of all that whiteness is astounding. Anyway, we drove around the dunes, and took the little nature walk across the sand, which was made vastly more entertaining, I think, by the fact that the only trail guides left were in Spanish, and we had to rely on my high school Spanish-and-guesswork attempts to translate, with much ensuing hilarity.

Then we went bowling. I used to be a regular bowler, back in my youth, but 12 -- or, no, it's actually more like 13 -- years living in a town with no bowling alley has seriously atrophied my skills. I didn't disgrace myself too badly, though, which was a pleasant surprise.

All that was on Friday. Saturday we went to the International Space Hall of Fame museum. They were celebrating "Space Day," with free admission to the museum, half-price IMAX shows, and a few special programs during the day. So we took advantage! We even went to a class on the building of the International Space Station, in which we were challenged (in groups of 4) to design a structure out of straws and paperclips, with each of us having to build a piece of the structure separately. The idea being to illustrate the difficulties of international cooperation in the building of the ISS. Or something. Alas, our attempt was both ill-designed and behind schedule, and with time running out in the construction phase, we discovered that our structure could not even hold its own weight against the force of gravity, let alone survive the drop to the floor specified in our instructions. We ended up engaging in a massive, random, utterly uncoordinated clipping-together of straws in a doomed attempt to shore the thing up before we were called upon, and ended up with something strongly resembling a piece of modern art. Or possibly a special effect meant to represent the intersection of a hyperspace object with our 3-dimensional universe. Definitely nothing remotely like a habitable structure. I don't know that this taught us anything about the ISS, but it seems to me there must surely be a life lesson in there somewhere.

After this we drove back into White Sands again, and did a little bit of hiking among the dunes. Admittedly, a very little bit -- I think we managed less than a mile, round trip. That sand is very difficult to walk on.

And then we came back to Socorro and watched 17 episodes of Farscape. Believe it or not, this was not my idea! Nor was it exactly something we intended to do. But my friend (who doesn't get cable) had watched a few of my DVDs the last time she was in town, and caught another episode on TV after we'd gotten back from bowling and were lying around in the hotel, and was interested in watching some more of the show. And every time we got to the end of an episode, she'd say, "Just one more!" Eventually, we realized it was 4:30 AM and we really needed a few hours of sleep. I woke up at 9:30, and she was already playing the next one! If I'd had more episodes, I half suspect we'd still be watching them. I must say, it is immensely gratifying to see this sort of first-hand evidence that I'm not the only one who has this reaction to this show. It really is like science-fictional crack...

And now I've finally got to go back to work. Sigh. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Well, I have now finished watching Ultraviolet. This was a 6-episode British TV series about a secret war between vampires (though, interestingly, they never once used the word), and a shadowy organization which hunts them. I believe this show actually did air in the US at some point or another, but, true to my usual pattern, I managed to miss it. I'd heard good things about it, though, so I went and picked it up on DVD. Yeah, so I've apparently found a really expensive way to watch television. It seems to be working for me...

The show has kind of an X-Files-ish sort of feel to it, what with all the conspiracy and paranoia and such. Personally, I thought it did a much better story arc than X-Files ever managed, but then, I suppose it's a lot easier to do tight plotting over the course of six episodes than over six years (or however long The X-Files was actually on the air). It's very dark in tone, with some very interesting moral ambiguities; it's not always at all clear whether the vampire hunters aren't considerably worse than their prey, which I rather like. It also puts a couple of interesting new twists on the vampire mythos, particuarly with the idea that vampires not only don't show up in mirrors or on cameras, but you can't even hear their voices on the telephone... It also takes a very subtle approach towards characterization and storytelling, in that uniquely British way that always has appealed to me. (American TV writers seem to think that not only does the audience need everything spelled out for them in great, explicit detail, but that unless the characters are willing to gush about their feelings in a show of histrionics, they must not have any. Well, OK, that's an exaggeration, but, really, not all that much of one.)

Anyway, overall, this is a pretty good show. Definitely worth watching if you get the chance.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Well, whaddaya know, tonight's Enterprise was actually pretty good! OK, yeah, we're not talking Top-20-Trek-Episodes quality here, but it was nevertheless a solid, entertaining episode that succeeded in keeping my attention on the TV where it belongs. The plot, involving an alien which gets aboard the ship and starts encasing crewmembers in sticky webs, wasn't intrinsically all that exciting, but it was pretty well handled. And, I must say, even though I'm of the firm and oft-expressed opinion that special effects are the least important part of a science fiction show, it really didn't hurt that the alien effects looked really cool. But mainly, the important thing is that this time the characters were actually characters: diverse, fallible, individually-defined people, as opposed to the bunch of undifferentiated Starfleet mannequins we've been seeing so much of lately. I am trying to take this as a good sign. If it keeps this sort of thing up, it'll be a show worth watching. (If it doesn't, I'm a little afraid I'm going to start falling asleep in front of the TV.)

So what else have I been watching this week? Let's see:

Deep Space Nine: I'm engaged on the long-term project of re-watching this entire series over from the beginning. (And a very long-term project it is, as Columbia House sends me two episodes a month, and I somehow keep falling further and further behind with the tapes. Right now, I'm still at the point where Sisko has more hair on his head than on his face.) This is in many ways my favorite of the Star Trek series. Indeed, only the original holds a higher place in my affections and, I admit, that's largely due to sheer nostalgia value. DS9 had great characters, good stories, and sophisticated writing, and it wasn't afraid to take risks, make changes, and do things a little differently than its predecessors. So, needless to say, it ended up being far and away the least popular of the Trek series. (Cynical? Me? Nah...) Anyway, it is a very interesting exercise to go back and trace the character and plot development in DS9 from the beginning. If you've got a few years to spare, I recommend it.

Ultraviolet: A British series involving vampires. I've only watched the first two episodes on the DVD set, but I'll doubtless have more to say about this one when I've finished it. So far, though, I do rather like what I've seen.

Blake's 7: I've been re-watching one episode of this a month in order to discuss it with other obsessive fans on the internet. Unfortunately, last month's was "Stardrive," which wasn't a very good episode. Still, Blake's 7 was unquestionably one of the best damned SF series ever produced, and, personally, I'd rather watch the lamest episode of B7 than the best episode of Voyager. (Well, OK, maybe I'd rather watch that ep. with the holo-Doctor and the Romulans than "Harvest of Kairos." But that's the only exception.)

Farscape: I watched the last three episodes over again, and I did like the season finale rather better this time. Still, I find that my store of unanswered questions is increasing, rather than decreasing. But I will try to be patient...