Wednesday, July 31, 2002

More on the Dream Theme

Nope, I didn't end up dreaming about naked test-taking while plummeting off a cliff, after all. Instead, my subconscious apparently picked up on an entirely different part of yesterday's ramble, and gave me lots of dreams featuring science fiction characters. (Yep, that's my subconscious, all right!)

The beginning of the first dream was pretty vague (or at least, my memory of it is pretty vague), but it involved a bunch of characters from Blake's 7. I'm not entirely sure which ones, but Blake was definitely there, so presumably it was the first or second season crew. They were out in the woods somewhere, apparently involved in some sort of Surivior-style stay-alive-in-the-woods competition (although apparently not by choice). The main thing I remember from that part of the dream is an image of them all walking along a forested ridge, with Blake, unsurprisingly, in the lead.

And then it turned out that, whatever was actually going on, Scorpius from Farscape (yup, him again!) was behind it all. I honestly have no idea just what he was doing and why, but apparently it involved some extremely complex behind-the-scenes machinations. I don't have a clear sense of what happened next -- indeed, I'm pretty sure I didn't in fact see it happening in the dream at all, and I suspect my brain simply interpolated it in there somewhere to explain the shift from the B7-in-the-woods part of the dream to the Scorpius one -- but it seems the B7 gang did something that accidentally released a huge blast of some kind of radiation. I had the definite impression that it was entirely inadvertant, and that they probably hadn't even realized it had happened. I guess it didn't have an effect on them, for some reason.

But Scorpius, it seems, had built this nifty little secret chamber into the side of a hill, and that particular hillside must've been what got irradiated, because I got this neat little shot of the "camera" panning through a door and coming to rest on Scorpius, lying very, very still, with his normally pasty-white skin all burnt pink. (It was actually kind of gross.) It turned out, though, that that wasn't actually Scorpius at all, it was a clone of him. But Scorpy's girlfriend, Natira[*], was actually in the chamber, and she took a lethal dose of radiation. When the real Scorpius showed up a moment later, she was already dying, though she did find the time to inform him that she'd been pregnant before she expired. Well, Scorpy was really, really pissed off (gee, who knew he even wanted kids?), and immediately got himself psyched up to go off and wreak some terrible vengeance. I suppose I ought to have been worried for the B7 guys at this point, but instead I just felt this overwhelming feeling of heartbreak on poor Scorpy's behalf. And then I woke up, which really annoyed me, because I was enjoying the story! (As I believe we've probably already established, I like angst.) I attemted to force it to continue as I fell back to sleep, but it didn't work.

I did have another dream later, though. I was with a big group of people, and we were going to do some role-playing. I distinctly remember that it started out being some sort of superhero game we were going to play, but somehow, by the end of the dream, it had mutated into Stark Trek. Anyway, during the period when it was still a superheroes game, we for some reason got on the phone and called up Wil Wheaton (?!) and were trying to get him to play. But he didn't want to come, giving us us a whole bunch of reasons and excuses concluding with, "Anyway, I already know how it ends. I've played that module before. Twelve times." But he added that, if he got enough caffeine and sugar, he might change his mind and show up, anyway. I'm not sure whether he meant that if he got hyped up enough on his own caffeine and sugar at home he'd be in the proper gamer mindset and would want to come over and play, or whether he meant that if we were offering enough caffeine and sugar to provide an incentive for him he might come over and play. Either way, we pretty much wrote him off as a no-show. (Disclaimer: I have never met and do not know Wil Wheaton. I sincerely doubt that he is, in fact, a caffeine-and-sugar-junkie gamer in real life. My subconscious appears to have the gentleman in question confused with people that I actually do know. Like myself.)

Anyway, we were going to go ahead and play anway, but I suddenly realized that we didn't have anyone to GM. It looked like I was going to have to run the game myself, and I've never GM'd anything in my life. I was expressing my concerns about this to, of all people, Noranti, that weird old woman from Farscape (maybe she wandered in from the Scorpius dream, I dunno). But she said, "Oh, don't worry, I'm doing it. We're going to run it, Carl and me!" Which just left me kind of speechless, thinking, "What? You're going to GM?" At which point my alarm clock went off. I have absolutely no idea who Carl is, by the way. I don't even know anybody named Carl.

The really interesting thing is that, Carl aside, I can identify where pretty much every single element in those dreams came from in the waking world. The B7-Survivor thing came from something I was thinking about right before I fell asleep, though I couldn't really tell you now just why I was thinking about that. Scorpius, I'm fairly sure, didn't come just from my general obsession with Farscape, or even from talking about him here, but from a specific phone conversation I had the other day, in which I also mentioned Natira and possible resentments over dead girlfriends. The Scorpy-clone doubtless came from a theory I read on the internet trying to explain how he might have gotten out of his latest there's-no-way-he-could-have-survived-that situation. The pregnancy and lethal radiation elements also obviously came from Farscape, but from completely unrelated parts of the show. The Star Trek RPG and possibly the bit about having trouble getting people to show up for games probably came from a different conversation I had over the weekend. And I think Wil Wheaton came from having seen this cartoon yesterday. That Carl thing still has me stumped, though.

Imaginary conversation:

"So, does any of this have any meaning, Dr. Freud?"

"Why, yes. It means that, even in your dreams, you're a great big geek."

"Thanks, Doc, but I already knew that."

Yup. That sounds just about right...

[*] Who I'd actually assumed was already dead, anyway, but then, in Farscape it's generally a bad idea to write anybody off until you've seen the body. And not necessarily even then.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Googlize Me!

OK, now I'm starting to get some interesting search engine hits! Recent search requests which, improbably enough, actually led people here include:

boobs for bathroom and Jimmy Buffett (I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Which is probably a good thing.)

hey it's either one nation under god or bit my ass and just leave [sic] (Ah, bit -- I mean, bite -- mine!)

farscape peacekeeper trenchcoat (Those guys do have cool trenchcoats, don't they?)

lego daleks (What a great idea!)

farscape pulse pistol for sale (Well, sure, we'd all like to have one of those, but I don't think John's ever gonna want to part with Winona...)
Dream On

Greta over at The Memory Burns mentions waking up recently while apparently (and rather disconcertingly) in the middle of having a conversation with a couple of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love hearing things like this, because it makes me feel just a tiny bit more normal.

I mean, at one point or another, I've had dreams featuring: various Blake's 7 characters, Harvey from Farscape (yes, just Harvey!), Tyr Anasazi from Andromeda, the fourth, sixth and seventh Doctors, and, now that I think of it, both the Master and the Cybermen (though not at the same time). Oh, and some members of the original Star Trek crew at some point, but I'm pretty hazy on which ones, because I only very vaguely remember that one. I seem to recall that, for some unfathomable reason, it had characters from The Flintstones in it, too, which has got to make for one of the world's weirdest crossover scenarios.

Actually, the dream featuring Tyr was really interesting. (And, no, not for the reasons you might expect a dream involving the stultifyingly hunky Tyr to be interesting, alas!) I remember getting some way into it and suddenly thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! That was totally out of character for Tyr! And, come to think of it, this, that and the other thing don't match up with the universe he comes from, either. Oh, wait, OK, this must have actually been that, and I can make the other detail fit if I assume this other thing..." At which point, satisfied that the characterization and the TV-show continuity worked (despite the fact that they really didn't), I happily continued on with the dream. Yes, that's right, I actually engaged in the possibly-never-before-documented practice of dream-retconning!

This is probably the closest to a lucid dream I've ever actually come. Well, except maybe for the time I was having a horrible, depressing dream about waiting to die from the fallout after a nuclear war and finally managed to tell myself "This is only a dream! I must wake up!" Usually when that happens (as it has on a few occasions), I just wake up, but this time I instead only dreamed that I'd woken up, and found myself in a safe, happy place surrounded by my family. It was only after that that I woke up for real.

On a similar note, I did once, when I was a teenager, dream that I came home from school, sat down and fell asleep in the living room. I then had a long, involved dream-within-a-dream -- actually, come to think of it, it was the one involving the fourth Doctor -- only to "wake up" afterwards back in the first dream (where I suddenly realized that I'd fallen asleep in the wrong house!). Weird, huh?

Of course, who knows what other kinds of bizarre things I've dreamed about that I don't even remember. The vast majority of the time, even when I wake up thinking "Wow, that was interesting. I'll have to remember that one!", it still fades completely from my mind after a few minutes.

I do have some recurring dreams that stick in my mind, though. Like the one where my teeth are falling out. That one is so frequent and so vivid that sometimes during my waking hours I'm a little surprised to realize that all my teeth are still there, or to remember that, no, I haven't actually lost a tooth since my last adult molars came in sometime in my teens. Usually, that dream is perfectly benign. Indeed, most of the time it turns out that the reason my teeth are falling out is because there are new teeth growing up underneath them, just like when I was a kid. Lately, though, they've gotten more unpleasant. A few times I've gone to pull the tooth out and somehow managed to shatter it into pieces, leaving me a socket full of nasty, jagged tooth-pieces. But that's not nearly as bad as when it comes out intact, but trailing this long silvery wire. In the dream, it doesn't hurt, because you don't really feel pain in dreams, but I always know it's a nerve, and I know that if I touch it or cut it (which I'm going to have to do), it'll hurt like hell. But it's not the anticipation of pain that's really disturbing, so much as the sight of two feet of nerve coming out of this disembodied tooth and disappearing into my jaw. Or the fact that the more I pull on it, the more it keeps coming out...

The other major recurring dream I have is actually a series of dreams consisting of variations on the theme of falling to my death. Usually I'm going over a cliff or mountainside in a car, which is actually something of a waking phobia of mine. Occasionally I'm in a crashing plane, which is a little more odd, becuase I'm not really afraid of flying at all. Once in while it'll instead involve somie sort of killer elevator that completely defies the laws of physics (and, no, I'm not afraid of elevators, either). Except in the case of the elevators (where I think I mostly remember simply feeling complete and utter terror), those dreams usually focus on me knowing for an absolute, in-the-process-of-happening fact that I am going to die, and desperately trying to think of some appropriate final thoughts to, um, think. I'm sure that says something terribly profound about the human psyche, or possibly just about me, but I'm not 100% sure I honestly want to know what it is.

Other than that, I don't seem to be particularly prone to anything severe enough to be worthy of the name "nightmare." I have had the usual kinds of anxiety dreams. You know, the one where you have to take a final for a class you forgot you were signed up for and haven't attended all semester, or the naked-in-public one. I don't think I've had either of those in quite a while, though. (Oh, great, now I've probably jinxed myself, and tonight I'll have to take a test naked while falling off a cliff or something...)

Monday, July 29, 2002

Perhaps There's Hope for Me Yet

JK's been stealing stuff from this blog again, so I thought I'd steal this from his:


My weblog owns 25 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

I'm not quite sure how to react to that... But, according to the results of the "Are You a Blogoholic" quiz at the same site:

52 points is in the 51 through 80 precent
You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You're the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!

Yay, me!
The Western for People Who Don't Like Westerns

Well, I've finally finished watching the latest round of impulse-purchase DVDs I bought off the discount rack on my most recent trip to Wally-World. Tonight's feature was Unforgiven, and, I gotta say, it was probably one of the better impulse purchases I've made of late. Damn, but that's a good movie.

I remember going to see this one in the theater, actually. My then-boyfriend was a big fan of westerns in general and Clint Eastwood movies in particular, and he practically begged me to go and see it with him, even though I kept telling him I really didn't like westerns.[*] He tried very hard to convert me, though, describing with great enthusiasm how, among other things, the simple black-hat/white-hat morality of westerns appealed to him as an escape from the shades-of-gray complexities of real life. Now, I can understand how that might appeal, but, frankly, it's one of the things that always kind of turned me off about westerns. I generally prefer my drama to have those shades-of-gray complexities. (See earlier post about how the bad guy who thinks he's the good guy is always more interesting than they bad guy who's just bad for the sake of being bad.) There's also something about the way westerns tend to glorify both vigilante justice and what for lack of a better word I can only call "machismo" that... Well, that really fails to resonate for me, let's put it that way.

But I went to the movie, anyway. And afterwards, in the parking lot outside the theater, he turned to me and said, "I am so very, very sorry. That wasn't what I told you it would be at all." And I said, "Are you kidding? I loved it! Thank you so much for talking me into coming!"

Because, of course, Unforgiven very deliberately sets about subverting all those usual western-movie sensibilities that I felt so lukewarm towards. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, no glorification of anything, no justice (vigilante or otherwise), no whitewashing to cover up the true ugliness of violence, no larger-than-life frontier mythos... Just flawed, believable people in tragic, violent circumstances.

It sort of does for cowboy movies what Watchmen did for superhero comics, and, believe me, that's a compliment of the highest order. (I think Watchmen got the only A+ I've ever given out on my book review page...)

[*] Note that that's not meant to be some sort of sweeping critical judgment on the quality of the entire western genre. Frankly, even if I were inclined to make sweeping critical judgments, I doubt I've really seen enough western movies to consider myself qualified to do so. Well, my mother's a huge fan of John Wayne, so I've probably seen at least part of every John Wayne movie ever made. Ditto for the aforementioned ex and his Eastwood movies, actually. But, aside from Unforgiven and (if you want to count it) Blazing Saddles, I've probably never actually seen an entire western start to finish. All I know is that what I have seen of them is enough to give me the distinct impression that it's not a movie genre that, generally speaking, holds a great deal appeal for me personally. Um, end of disclaimer!

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Don't Worry, I've Managed to Put My Brain Back Together

(WARNING! Major spoilers for Farscape episode 4.07, "John Quixote.")

OK, so, after having talked it out with other confused fans on the internet, having read the Journey Log, and having watched the episode a second time (with a great many pauses to hit the "rewind" button), I have to say that, bizarrely enough, that last Farscape episode actually does make almost perfect sense.

The main thing that I was getting hung up on was the characterization of Stark. It seemed to me the first time around -- understandably, I think, because it's really not clear in the episode itself at all -- that Stark had somehow deliberately set this game up to trap Crichton because he blamed Crichton for Zhaan's death. And I simply could not buy that. Sure, Stark might well have good reasons for feeling that way, but all the indications we've had are that he didn't blame John. Indeed, he always seemed to like and respect John. I couldn't imgine why he should suddenly want to do something like this.

Well, the answer for that seems to be that he didn't. Trying to piece things together from what was said in the ep and in the Journey Log, my reconstruction of what actualy happened goes something like this: Game designer Yoti (whoever the frell he is) was interested in creating a VR game based on the adventures of John Crichton. Hey, given Crichton's rep in the UTs, I have no trouble believing that at all. Yoti somehow encountered Stark, realized that Stark had actually known Crichton (indeed, known the Talyn-John version of him in a particularly intimate way possible only for Stark), and arranged to scan his memories for use in the game. Why Stark would have agreed to this, I don't know. Maybe he just needed the money. (It's kind of ironic, though -- or maybe just odd -- when you consider how strenuously he resisted Scorpius poking through his memories for years.) Somehow, possibly by sheer coincidence, Chiana got a hold of a copy of this game. When she took John into it, VR Stark realized who they were and the game reacted by going a little ga-ga.

VR-Stark himself is an interesting entity. He (VR-Zhaan refers to him as "this Stark") does appear to blame Crichton, but that's not a problem, I don't think, because he isn't the real Stark, rather some sort of distorted recreation of him. Perhaps there is a small part of the real Stark that does blame Crichton -- it'd be hard to hold it against him, really -- and that part simply got blown out of proportion in the game-version. The main upshot: the opinions of VR-Stark should not be taken as representative of the opinions of Real Stark. So I can accept that.

It had also occured to me to wonder why anybody would want to market a game full of weird, psychedelic Earth-based references that nobody could possibly understand. On second viewing, the answer seems to be that nobody did. The game itself was probably meant to be a simple adventure-type game, and, indeed, it goes seem to start out that way in the Gammak Base (which is, after all, a perfectly reasonable place to start an adventure game based on the exploits of John Crichton, especially if you're relying on Stark's memories to create it). When John and Chi end up in Super Mario World or whatever the hell it was, VR-Stark tells them that they're in a portion of the game that probably shouldn't even exist. You know what I think it is? I think it's a bunch of extraneous stuff that just wasn't deleted properly. It seems, after all, to consist of a bunch of random images from Talyn-John's mind, held together by odd bits of Stark's psyche. (Yow! How scary is that?) In other words, it's garbage, random stuff Yoti presumably picked up from Stark. Given the bizarre jumble that exists inside Stark's mind, I'm not actually at all surprised if he got some unexpected side effects from poking around in the man's brain.

It also seemed to me initially that there was a huge contradition in this episode, that the scenes that happened on Moya could not possibly have come from either Stark or Talyn-John, but only from John himself, despite the fact that it's made quite clear that the game cannot read his mind. After the second viewing, I have to take that back. When John raises just this point, VR-Stark says "It was crap that you gave me along the way. You talked so much." And you know what? He did. It was John who said -- out loud, inside the game, and repeatedly -- that Scorpius was on Moya. It was John who asked whether Scorpius had escaped -- a clear indication that they'd been holding him prisoner on Moya and that John was worried about him getting loose on the ship. From that point, the nightmare scenario involving Scorpy taking over everybody on the ship was an obvious one, easy to think up. The fact that it hit way too close to John's current fears was simply coincidental (though not a very unlikely coincidence at all). There really was nothing in the VR-Moya scenes that VR-Stark could not have gotten or extrapolated from what John had said. So it wasn't a contradiction at all, just a very, very clever piece of misdirection.

There's just one plot point that I'm still having a problem with, but it's a big one. OK, we know that Stark retains something from each of the souls he helps to "cross over." And he specifically says that he got this stuff from the dead Talyn-John. But we've seen absolutely no indication that Stark actually retains memories from dead people, let alone memories at that level of detail. Whether from the psychic connection or from T-John talking on his deathbed, it seems ridiculously unlikely to me that Stark would now have an in-depth knowledge of Earth fairy tales, Monty Python, and Max Headroom, of all things. I've invented and discarded a number of increasingly whacked-out theories to try and account for this, but it's not exactly easy. At the moment, the best I can come up with is the thought that perhaps the real Stark doesn't have conscious access to this stuff, but that perhaps some subconscious portion of him does, due either to T-John having left it in his mind while passing through (er, over), or via some lingering mystical connection to the soul of T-John, wherever it now is. And the computer game was able to pick some of it up from him. Somehow.

I'm hoping the real Stark will show up again at some point and maybe explain some of this. In the meantime... Part of me is kinda frustrated at how much work I'm having to put into this show just to manage a basic understanding of what's going on. But part of me really, really likes the challenge of having to figure stuff like this out. And another part of me just thinks I'm stupid for not understanding it the first time, but, hey, I try not to listen to that part...

Friday, July 26, 2002

OK, This is the Point in My Week Where I Usually Discuss the Latest Farscape Episode...

...only I can't, because I'm still busy picking bits of brain matter off the walls from when it made my head explode.


What the HELL was that?
Well, All the Other Blogs Are Doing It...

Hmm, the first time I decide to actually do the Friday Five, and the questions turn out to be kind of boring. Oh, well. Here goes:

1. How long have you had a weblog? Since April. (Which you could have figured out for yourself, because that's as far back as the archives go.)

2. What was your first post about? TV commercials, mostly.

3. How many changes (name, location, etc.) of your weblog have there been, if more than one? None. For a while, I kept thinking about moving it off of blogspot and onto the server where the rest of my personal webpages live, but a) I'm too damned lazy to do it, and b) why confuse people by changing the URL? Since Blogger keeps the ad space to just the one banner ad at the top of the page, I really don't find it that annoying.

4. What CMS (content management system) do you use? Do you like it or do you want to try something else? I like Blogger OK, though they've been having a lot of problems lately. If it doesn't get any worse, I'll doubtless stick with them. Again, I'm far too lazy to bother moving.

5. Do you read people who have both a journal and a weblog? Or do you prefer to read people who have all of their writing in one central place? I'll read anything, anywhere. If it's someone who's a friend of mine, I'll bop around and check all their blog-type pages on a regular basis. Other people's stuff, I tend to encounter when randomly surfing around trying to pass the night shift, and if I'm bored enough, I'll click on anything.
Bad Guys, Bad Guys, What You Gonna Do?

Got my Farscape t-shirt on today, so I've been thinking about the show a bit (not that I need the stimulus of a t-shirt to prompt me in that direction!). And, given current events on the show (no, don't worry, I'm not planning on giving away any major spoilers), I find myself in particular thinking a lot about Scorpius, and about the fact that pretty much every time he appears on the screen, it only reinforces my belief that he is one of the all-time coolest SF TV bad guys, if not, indeed, a serious contender for #1. Which leads me to think about things like just what makes a good TV villain, and why Scorpius has it, and exactly who his competition for the Number One slot actually is. Thus, the subject of tonight's ramble.

First, the competition. All-time best SF TV bad guys, besides Scorpius? Let's see... I'd say, the Master and Davros from Doctor Who. Star Trek's Khan. Perhaps the Borg (in their earlier stages, at least, though in a very different way than the rest of these guys). Maybe Gul Dukat of Deep Space 9. Maybe the Master (no relation!) from Buffy. LaCroix of Forever Knight. And, come to think of it, Lexx's Prince, at least during the third season, before his characterization started to suffer. I'll admit to a certain strange fondness for Data's evil twin, Lore, too, but I suspect that may be just me. And I'm sure there are others that I'm either blanking on or that are from shows I just haven't watched enough of to say.

So, what do these guys have? What does Scorpius have? Actually, that latter question is really easy to answer. Scorpy's got three obvious things: charisma, intelligence, and three-dimensionality. And I think those three things are highly relevant to the question of what makes a good bad guy in general. Let's consider them in turn.

1) Charisma. Scorpy's definitely got it: the cultured, erudite way of speaking; the sly, ironic sense of humor; the sheer force of personality that sends underlings scrambling to do his bidding. Most of the others on that list have it, too. The Master (especially when played by Roger Delgado), often displays a certain kind of arrogant charm. Khan is, well, Khan, and 'nuff said. Buffy's Master possesses a truly wicked sense of humor. Both of Nigel Bennet's characters simply ooze with evil magnetism. Even Dukat has a certain smarmy charisma. And, while Davros may be utterly grotesque, mentally and physically, he, too, is at least capable of the occasional inspired bit of speech-making.

And charisma is definitely important in a bad guy. To begin with, it helps to make the character interesting (which is particularly important if they lack depth in other ways (see point #3)). It can also make them scarier. After all, which are you going to be more afraid of: the witty, urbane, forceful, supremely self-confident guy with the proven ability to win friends and influence people, or the nervous, stammering social misfit nobody ever listens to? OK, in real life, maybe they might both be equally dangerous, but if you're a TV hero, you need an epic, larger-than-life sort of villain. J. Random Psycho opening up with an uzi in the post office because nobody ever gave him any respect might make a reasonable villain-of-the-week, but as a serious nemesis, he's a dud.

I'm sure there's also a psychological element to it, too. You know, the usual stuff about the seductiveness of evil, the secret place in each of us that envies and admires people who can get away with being bad. If we like our villains charismatic and cool, maybe there's a tiny element of wish-fufillment in there somewhere. Or maybe it's just that the "cool factor" makes the difference between the character you love to hate and the character you simply hate.

2) Intelligence. The old Scorpster is definitely in the Evil Genius category of bad guy, and maybe it's just me, but I've always found those to be far and away the most fun and interesting kind. I mean, come on, what kind of satisfaction can you get out of watching your heroes outwit someone who's dumb? Actually, I think this is the category where Scorpius really shines, because (so far, at least), Farscape has done a primo job of avoiding the single most common pitfall with recurring bad guy characters: the Dumb Villain Syndrome.

Consider one of the most classic victims of Dumb Villain Syndrome: Davros. When he first appeared on Doctor Who, Davros was an Evil Genius of the highest order. Not only was he a brilliant mad scientist, but he was also a brilliant schemer and manipulator, an intellect who was, for once, more than a fair match for the Doctor. And yet, in every subsequent story in which he appeared, he got stupider and stupider, falling into obvious traps, making the same mistakes over and over, and coming up with increasingly ridiculous and complicated plans. (OK, you could instead say that he was becoming more and more insane, rather than stupider. Either way, the result is the same: he did a lot of irrational and counterproductive stuff.)

It's easy to see why Dumb Villain Syndrome happens. If the bad guy were really that smart, how would the good guys be able to defeat him episode after episode? Even if he starts out smart, even if he's generally portrayed as intelligent, eventually he has to do something dumb, otherwise he's probably going to win! And we simply can't have the bad guy win, can we? (Well, OK, sometimes you can, but, needless to say, it doesn't happen often.)

It's interesting to consider how Scorpius manages to avoid this fate. One factor that helps is that, even when he is defeated, he always seems to have a brilliant contigency plan ready to deal with the possibility. (Which immediately gives him a huge advantage over all those bad guys who simply refuse to believe they can ever possibly fail!) Another is that even when he does things that ultimately backfire on him, it's easy to see that he had good reasons to do them, that there was a genuine necessity for him to take a calculated risk. And, of course, there's also the fact that, in the continuing chess match between the good guys and the bad guys, he does, indeed, win his share of the games.

Of course, it's a lot easier to just write the kind of bad guy who throws his enemies in the death trap and walks away, or who is prone to saying things like "No, stay away from that button! It controls my life support/the self-destruct/the only means of launching my doomsday weapon." (Yes, in other words, a bad guy who hasn't read the Evil Overlord List.)

(Star Trek's Borg, by the way, suffered from an interesting variation of the Dumb Villain Syndrome, which was the Wimpy Villain Syndrome. They were set up, initially, as all but unstoppable... but, of course, every time they came back, they had to end up being stopped. Eventually, they were rendered almost completely devoid of the menace that made them such wonderful bad guys in the first place. Sad, really.)

3) Three-Dimensionality. Complex, multi-layered characters with believable motivations and well-developed backstories are always more interesting than flat, cardboard characters, and this is no less true of villains than of anybody else. Unfortunately, bad guys are often more accurately viewed as plot devices than as characters. They're there to present an obstacle to the good guys, and their own motivation is often nonsensical or even nonexistent. They're evil simply for the sake of being evil.

Let's look at Davros again. Yes, he's a brillaint scientist and politician, and, yes, he has that wonderful speech in "Genesis of the Daleks" (about whether he'd crush the hypothetical germ-filled vial) that can send chills up your spine with the realization of just how ohmigod crazy he is. But once you've gotten to that point, you pretty much know everything there is to know about him. Yeah, he's a crazed, power-hungry megalomaniac who'd be happy to destroy the entire universe just because he can... but that's all he ever is or is ever going to be. The Master isn't much better, either. Apparently, he wants to rule the universe, but you never get much of a sense of just what it is he'd do with it if he got it. (Note, however, that I'm not actually criticising Doctor Who for its cardboard villains. Doctor Who, as I've mentioned before, has a grand tradition of taking comic booky/melodramatic/pulp-fiction cliches, embracing them joyfully, and doing wonderful, fun stuff with them. The show may have cardboard villains, but they're the best damned cardboard villains the human imagination can come up with, and they're utterly unashamed in their two-dimensionality. Which is why they still make my All-Time Best Bad Guys List, with no hesitation whatsoever.)

Once again, contrast this with Scorpius. In my view, one of the most fascinating things about Scorpius is that, if you tilt your head the right way, it's entirely possible to see him as the good guy. Certainly, that's how he sees himself. Here's a character with perfectly good reasons for everything he believes and thinks and does. Even if you disagree with his methods (utterly amoral as they are), it's possible to agree that his overall goal may be correct, and his motivations for pursuing it noble ones. And even if you don't agree with that, it's still possible to feel sympathy for him, based on what we know of his background. It almost goes without saying that not only is this far more believable than "evil for evil's sake," but it also makes for a much wider range of possibilites in how the character chooses to act and how he responds to the "good guys." As I think we're probably going to be seeing this season.

There are other good examples of three-dimensional characters from the above list, too. Dukat, for instance. It may be possible to argue (with some justification) that his characterization was inconsistent, but there's no way one could possibly regard it as flat. Then there's LaCroix, who manages to be both complex and three-dimensional, and "evil for the sake of being evil." (The vampires on Buffy often seem to manage this, too.)

I wish I had some conclusions to draw from all this, beyond "Scorpius rocks!" or "if you're going to write SF bad guys, here's some stuff that's worth thinking about." But mainly, it was all just me rambling again, so, um, I don't.

It was a decent way to kill an hour or so, though. (Well, OK, actually, I didn't kill it. I put it in the death trap, and it escaped while I had my back turned!)

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Not Exactly the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

So, I was in grocery store earlier today, where they had proudly displayed the latest exciting new consumer good: white bread for kids, with the crusts already cut off. You know, I've always been inclined to dismiss the doomsayers who go around whining that western civilization is becoming dangerously decadent, but I'm wondering if maybe it's not time to rethink that...
And the Quizzes Just Keep On Coming

Because, man, this night shift is realllly dragging...

I have got to stop giving honest answers on these things...

Sam is the faithful servant of Frodo Baggins. He cares an awful lot about his master and would probably give his life for him. Though Sam meets many marvelous people as he journeys with Frodo, he still wishes he was back home in the Shire.

Take the "Which Hobbit are you?" quiz created by Cora Black!

That's nice. I like Sam.

Which cartoon character are you?? Find out @ blackhole

Urgh. I don't think so. If we're talking Scooby-Doo, I am definitely Velma. In fact, I seem to remember taking that quiz...

You are Spaceman Spiff!
Zounds! You are the intrepid Spaceman Spiff, the engaging explorer ensconsed in an unending universe of exotic and evil extraterrestrials! You're brave, but you should give that dictionary a rest.
Take the What Calvin are You? Quiz by!

Yeah!! I totally am!
Final Word on the Flood

In case you're curious, here's a local newspaper article on the flooding from last weekend's storm. I notice they refer to the Florida trailer park, which is actually the one next to mine, but whatever. "What didn't make it into the drainage system made it into the trailer park," says the fire chief. Yeah, that sounds just about right.

Fortunately, the standing water is pretty much all gone now, and the mud is finally beginning to dry. But, oy, what a rotten, mucky mess. Let's not do that again, 'kay?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

That's Right, Get Yer Naked Blue People Right Here!

You know you've really become a part of the internet when your website starts getting search engine hits from people looking for naked pictures. Thus, I am pleased and proud to announce that, thanks to some random anonymous surfer, I have discovered that this blog is in fact choice number 21 for people googling for farscape zhaan naked. I must admit to a mild sense of disappointment though. I mean, it's not like looking for a naked Zhaan is anything particularly shocking or weird or amusingly perverted or anything. Farscape's Delvians don't have a nudity taboo, and Zhaan was perfectly happy to take her clothes off on camera. Indeed, on one rather memorable occasion, she was interrupted while meditating in the buff and calmly and casually proceeded to have an entire, exposition-laden conversation before bothering to put her clothes back on. (Mind you, Stark didn't seem to be complaining...)

Now, when people start showing up looking for naked pictures of Janet Reno or something, I'll know I've arrived. Of course, I'd have to mention Janet Reno first... (Oh, wait! I just did! Uh-oh...)
I Really Ought to Talk More About Books...

I'm currently reading Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. Bradbury's writing always impresses the hell out of me. He does a lot of things that just shouldn't work (or, even if they worked when they were first written, shouldn't still work now that we know there are no canals on Mars or jungles on Venus), and yet he writes so lyrically and with such emotional conviction that you can't help but be sucked right in to the story on whatever terms it offers you. Well, at least, I can't. I have no idea how a writer can manage to create a feeling of nostalgia for something that hasn't happened yet and couldn't ever really happen anyway, but he does it. Consistently.

What I find really interesting, though, is that, for a writer who obviously cares a lot more about emotional tone than about scientific realism, some of Bradbury's stories really were amazingly prescient. "The Veldt," for instance -- the first story in The Illustrated Man -- has been described as possibly the first virtual reality story ever. Indeed, it anticipates Star Trek's holodeck almost exactly... by about forty years.

My favorite example of this, though, is the story "The Murderer" (from the collection The Golden Apples of the Sun). It's about a future where you can never get away from things, never get any peace and quiet, because everybody carries personal phones that constantly interrupt them everywhere and they're constantly bombarded by advertising and annoyingly happy music being broadcast at them in public places and machines constantly talk to them in cheerful instructions-for-idiots voices, and it never, ever stops, until the protagonist goes completely nuts and starts smashing Muzak machines and talking kitchen applicances. It was written in 1953. As far as I can tell, the only inaccuracy is that Bradbury has everyone wearing Dick Tracy-style communicators on their wrists instead of carrying cell phones. Well, that and I've never seen a talking oven. (Talking cars, of course, are another matter.) Frankly, it kind of creeps me out to think that I'm actually living, right now, in some 1950's SF writer's improbable future nightmare scenario. I am doing my part to fight it, though. I still don't own a cell phone.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Here, Have Some More Interesting Links

Metaphilm: "We don't review films," says this website, "we interpret them." And their interpretations definitely tend to the... bizarre. (Apparently, Powerpuff Girls is a religious allegory. Who knew?)

Koko and Michael's Art: Paintings by sign-language-using gorillas. Actually, some of these aren't at all bad, if you're into abstract art. Which I'm not, but whatever. There's a lot of other stuff about the gorillas at this site, too, but so far I've only checked out the art.

Babes in Space: Unsurprisingly, perhaps, this one was sent to me by a male friend, but I found it kind of amusing.

Monday, July 22, 2002

And People Think My Life is Boring...

I was awakened at 11:00 this morning[*] by a very loud, very mechanical rumbling sound located about four feet from my bed. Could that possibly be what I thought it was, I wondered, or would that be too much to hope for? I decided I really ought to get up and investigate, so I grabbed my glasses... and immediately met with one of those little signs that tell you "today is a good day to just stay curled up under the covers." Namely, the lens popped out of my eyeglasses. OK, I thought to myself, no problem, I'll just fix this real quick and then... wait, where's the screw? Yes, you guessed it, no screw. And, of course, by the same prodigous lack of foresight that leads to things like me not buying flood insurance, I didn't have any spare eyeglass screws in the house. Lovely.

So, one-eyed, bleary, and bathrobe-clad, I poked my head out the front door to see what was going on. And, hallelujah, that noise was what I thought it was. For various fairly obvious reasons, I didn't get a good look at it, but there was definitely some kind of very large truck-mounted pumping device in what passes for my driveway, and someone[**] was busily sucking the water out of my front yard. Which was good, because it was starting to sprinkle again.

At this point, I did the only reasonable thing I could do. I went back to bed. Not that it was easy getting back to sleep with that noise going on, but sleeping is one of the things I'm good at, so I managed it. I woke up again about 3:30, still semi-blind, but at least well rested, and took another monocular gander out the door. And, yes, for the first time in two days, I could actually see the ground in front of my front steps! Or at least, the mud that used to be the ground in front of my front steps. There's still quite a bit of water, but it's now at least possible to walk from the door to the car without actually getting your feet submerged, which is a major improvement.

Somewhat cheered, I fortified myself with some coffee (which, fortunately for me, I could make blindfolded if I had to), threw on some clothes, and went out to the store to buy an eyeglass repair kit. This was actually rather more problematical than it sounds, since I can't drive without my glasses, couldn't find a way to reliably hold the frame together without the screw, and was extremely reluctant to drive with one eye shut. (Indeed, the lack of depth perception proved disturbing enough that I spent most of the "morning" walking around with both eyes open and the glasses off. The familiar freakiness of the world being a great big blur was actually marginally preferable to this strange new form of freakiness.) Fortunately, being the resourceful and independent person that I am, I easily found a solution: I walked. I may not be able to recognize friends and family members at a distance of five feet without my glasses on, but I can at least see well enough to avoid being hit by a car. I was able to get the kit and make the repair right there at the store, using the little table so thoughtfully provided by Smith's for those who wish to savor their freshly-baked pastries while soaking in that incomparable grocery-store ambiance. Or whatever.

Anyway, all in all, I guess I've come out ahead today, even if I do have the strong urge to listen to that little voice that spoke to me this morning and just curl back up under the covers. Not that all is sweetness and light, of course. Instead of having a front yard that is completely underwater, I now have a front yard composed of stinking, sucking mud. And I use those adjectives advisedly. The stuff really does stink, a disgusting low-tide reek that is, in some ways, the worst aspect of the whole thing. And as for the sucking part, we are definitely talking about the kind of mud that tries its damnedest to pull your shoes off. I realized yesterday, in fact, that guaging the water level by comparing it to the bottom front step, as I had been doing, wasn't really terribly useful because the stairs (which aren't actually attached to the body of the trailer) were themselves sinking into the mud. I hadn't realized just how much, though, until the water was gone. The bottom step itself is only just above the mud, at least on one side. It's going to be lots fun trying to pull them out, I'm sure.

Once I could see again, I was intending to check under the trailer to make sure everything there was OK. But I found when I got home that I simply could not face the idea of wading through all that muck in order to do a thorough inspection. For the moment, all I can say is that the floor is still level and there's no mud showing up in my drinking water, so I'm regarding those as positive signs.

Meanwhile, I now need to wash out all the bowls and buckets I was using to catch those leaks from the ceiling, and all the rags and towels I used to mop water off the floor, and all the...

Ah, forget it. I think I'd rather go curl up under the covers.

[*] You may think that's an awfully late hour to complain about being woken up at (not that I am complaining!), but, if so, you obviously don't work nights.

[**] I was unable to ascertain whether they were sent by the city or by my landlord, but, really, who cares?

Sunday, July 21, 2002

They're Laboratory Mice, Their Genes Have Been Spliced...

A friend just forwarded me the URL to this article, with the comment, "Now all we need is Pinky." Yes, apparently, by changing a single gene, scientists have caused lab mice to grow oversized brains. They're not sure whether the mice are actually any smarter or not, because, doubtless fearing a bid for world domination, the scientists killed and dissected them all shortly after birth. "I know the most interesting question was whether they learned to play Mozart but we don't know," says the guy in charge of the study.

Man, I love living in the future.
Update on the Deluge (just in case anybody's been worried)

Well, when I left home last night around 7-ish to go play Torg, my bottom step was completely submerged, which was, to say the least, alarming. There were also a number of emergency-type vehicles making a half-hearted attempt to block off my street, and a couple of guys situated pretty much directly across from my house with what appeared to be an extra-large sized Shop-Vac, so at least somebody was doing something. I was still a little nervous as to what I'd find when I got home late last night, but the water was back down to 3 or 4 inches and I could actually find a halfway dry place to park, so at least whatever they were doing seemed to have some effect.

At this point, the flood waters are definitely receding. I can see large swaths of mud where there used to be water. Unfortunately, my front yard (which, as far as I can tell is quite probably the lowest spot in the trailer park) is still underwater, almost up to the lower step.

The ceiling, which continued leaking for an amazingly long time after the rain actually stopped, is now mostly dry, except that those aforementioned blood-oozing blisters are still oozing. Fortunately, those are over the kitchen, so I can wipe the stuff off the floor easily enough when it drips. I just really hope that red stuff isn't anything important. Or toxic.

Other than that, I don't seem to have had any real damage, mericifully. Some of my books did get a little bit wet, which, as you can imagine, really pisses me off, but they're not too bad, and I think they'll be OK. They were sitting pretty much underneath the opening for the swamp cooler, which, like everything else, leaked during the storm. I'll let you know how the outside of the trailer is doing when I can see it again, but I'm afraid that might be a while... At least today is looking to be pretty sunny. So far.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Hurry Up with That Gopher Wood, Will Ya?

It's raining again. The flood in my front yard, which was down to about 3 inches or so, is now working its way back up to mid-calf level. It's already beginning to spill over the top of my bottom front step. My roof is leaking in places it has never, ever leaked before, and there are rather alarming fluid-filled blisters forming on the ceiling. It must surely be mud, or rust from the roof, or something, but I'd swear some of them are oozing blood. I'm living in the Amityville Trailer!

Remember how, earlier this month, I said that I couldn't imagine anybody here in the Southwest turning their noses up at precipitation of any type this summer? I was wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

If you live in Socorro, be sure to look out your front window and wave to me when my house goes floating by.

OK, I went back and rewound the tape a little ways and watched the end of the episode again, because I wanted to review what the final tally of the voting was. (I'm a little bit curious as to who cast the vote for Aeryn. I'm inclined to suspect it was Pilot, but it might have been D'Argo.)

Anyway, I also ended up watching the final scene again, and, of course, it's perfectly clear why Aeryn doesn't appear to be pregnant. It's because the fetus isn't growing -- and won't, unless she does something about it. Which suddenly makes a lot of things make a lot more sense, and turns out to be a very neat little not-exactly-a-resolution to the whole looming "baby problem." The only thing I can figure for why I missed that teeny little plot point the first time is that in a rather emotionally intense scene like that one I sometimes (rather stupidly) find myself paying more attention to how the characters are saying things than to what they're actually saying.

I still have a number of questions, including a timing issue that's still kind of bugging me (namely the fact that, whatever the opening credits say, it seems to me that it must be more than three years since Crichton fell down the rabbit hole). But six or seven things just very neatly went "click." See, I said this was the Season of Episodes You Have to Watch Twice. At least, it is if you're as oblivious as I am, apparently...
If It's Friday, It Must Be Farscape

Well, OK, by the time I get this written up and posted, it'll technically be Saturday, but why quibble?

As usual, Spoilers Ahoy!

Man, every time I think I can't possibly get more hooked on this show, I turn out to be wrong. I love these characters, I love watching them interact, I love watching the relationships between them change and develop and take steps forwards and backwards. It's not just the soap opera kind of stuff, either, the "is she really pregnant, and who's the father, and who on the ship knows about it?" and yadda yadda yadda, although I have to admit that I do take an almost guilty sort of pleasure in that kind of thing, when it's presented to me in the right sort of context. But, no, it's the way they talk to each other, the way they crack jokes, the way they pull together to work as a team or fall apart under stress. It's all so very believable, in a wonderfully messy, utterly "human" sort of way. These weird, funky aliens are just so much more real than 99.9% of the characters on television. It's great.

And then there's the story. Actually, you know, it's interesting: the plot of this particular episode was absolutely bog-standard for TV sci-fi. Yeah, there's a giant space plant eating the ship. We've seen that a zillion times, right? But although if, say, Enterprise pulled that kind of a plot I'd probably be yawning, with Farscape it had me hanging on the edge of my seat. And the reason for that, to me, is obvious: Farscape has proven, time and time again, that it is simply not a safe, predictable kind of show. I find myself completely convinced that absoutely anything can happen at any time. The characters really can die. The heroes can fail. Horrible things, things that shake the foundations of the characters' universe, can happen, and those things will have consequences. Moya could have been eaten by the plant. John could have dropped Chiana into the fan. Realistically, it may not have been very likely, but deep in my gut I believed that it was possible. It's amazing what a difference that makes. And how very unfamiliar a feeling it is.

OK, the usual random, disconnected thoughts here:

At least they've finally started to clear up the mystery surrounding Aeryn's pregnancy. I definitely still have questions though (and not necessarily just the questions that Aeryn and John have). My biggest confusion has to do with the fact that she doesn't look pregnant. OK, they've been pretty fuzzy on exactly what the time factor is here, but I figure it has to have been several months since the command carrier, at least. I dunno what the gestation period is for Sebaceans, but shouldn't she really be showing by now?

It occurs to me that, given what Aeryn has told us, Velorek may be the father. I actually think that would be kind of nice, though John may not see it that way.

There's still the other big mystery, of course. With every passing episode, I become more and more convinced that something seriously strange happened to Pilot and Moya inside that wormhole. But I have no frelling idea what. I suspect it wasn't anything good, though.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but that old woman is really starting to grow on me. This ep, she was funny, she was useful, and she was actually a somewhat sympathetic character. Wow. And Sikozu... Sikozu is still annoying, but she's annoying in an interesting, even likeable way. I wasn't at all sure what to make of her at first -- heck, I'm still not sure what to make of her -- but I'm beginning to think that her addition to the character mix has definite merit. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the relationship between her and Scorpius goes... She certainly seems quite smitten with him. Personally, I think they'd make kind of a cute couple! OK, scary, but cute. In a freaky sort of way.

Speaking of Scorpius, I wonder what he's going to do now that they've spilled all his coolant juice? Or is Noranti going to be able to whip him up a new batch? By the way, catch the look on his face when the wormhole opens up. He hasn't given up that obsession any more than Crichton has.

So, D'Argo is the new captain? Hmm, that's really not a result I would have expected (and definitely not the way I would have voted if I were one of Moya's crew), but the more I think about it, the more I think he's a good choice. (Interesting that nobody voted for Chiana. If the writers were going for a non-obvious choice, she would have been the one I'd have expected. Then again, she did seem to be having some trouble keeping it together this ep. Poor Pip.)

I have never, ever, been that excited in all my life by a preview. I think I actually screamed. Oh, OK, I did scream. Several times. But it was definitely a happy scream. Despite the fact that I really do agree with the logic that says dead characters should stay dead lest it cheapen the drama, I really want Zhaan back, for a whole host of reasons. I'd even love just to see her again, however briefly. I have a weird, paranoid suspicion, though, that perhaps that "return of one of Farscape's most popular characters" thing, Zhaan's voice notwithstanding, is actually a clever bit of misdirection and they're going to bring back Crais or something instead. Nahhh... Rumour and speculation has it that the next episode will feature the return of Stark, though there's no way he's the character being referred to, because, face it, he was never that popular. But if Zhaan is back, alive or dead, that would seem to be a pretty good indication that rumor has it right. Yep, the logical conclusion would be that he found her! Yay, Stark! I always believed the voices in his head were real! Of course, if Stark is coming back, that opens up the verrrry interesting question of how he's going to react to finding Scorpius on Moya. My guess would be "homicidally."

OK, I could go on and on and on... Actually, I did go on and on and on, didn't I? But I believe I will stop now. This is me, calmly making an effort to be patient and wait for next week...

Friday, July 19, 2002

Find Me Some Gopher Wood, It's Time to Build an Ark!

We had a major rainstorm today. I mean major. I was at work, and I can't see the windows from where I usually sit, so when my co-worker announced that "Man, it's really coming down out there!" I got up, glanced out the window, said "Yeah, it is. Well, that's a good thing," went back to work (or, OK, back to surfing the net), and thought little more of it.

Then I got home and discovered I couldn't park in my usual place because, well, it's under water. No exaggeration, I mean under water. I had to wade through water halfway up my shins to get to my front door. It's unbelievable. And here's the really weird thing: my couch is wet. OK, that probably doesn't sound terribly weird in and of itself. The thing is, the couch itself isn't actually all that bad: there's a pillow on one side that's a little wet around the edges, and the sofa cushions are very slightly damp, but that's it. But I had a couple of blankets folded up at the other end of the couch. The one that was on top is a bit damp around the edges. The one underneath it is sopping wet. The floor is dry. The ceiling is dry. Everything else around the sofa is, you guessed it, dry. It's utterly bizarre.

And now there's all these frogs making really loud frog noises outside my window. You know, I can see why Aristotle and his contemporaries believed in spontaneous generation. Every time it rains, these legions of frogs just seem to miraculously spring into existence. I suppose they must hibernate under the ground or something when it's dry. Now if only that could explain my wet couch...
Oh, Look! More Quizzes!

Because I'm still suck here at work with nothing better to do...

Which Alan Rickman Character Are You?

I don't think the characterization really fits, but who cares? I'm a Galaxy Quest character! Whoo-hoo!

Find your Role-Playing Stereotype at [Angel.]

Apparently this is because my most likely reaction when confronted with rampaging dragons, zombie livestock, and being offered a throne is to whimper a lot. Which seemed like a perfectly reasonable response to me...

What Type of Villain are You? / <ยบ>

Man, I really need to get more practice at being evil or something...
A Musical Interlude

OK, let's see, recently I've nattered on about people, places, websites, TV shows, books, games... What's left? Music? OK, sure. That sounds good.

Currently in the CD player at home is R.E.M.'s Out of Time, which, as I recall, I was listening to while doing the dishes the other day. R.E.M. isn't exactly going to make the list of my all-time top favorite bands -- Out of Time is the only album of theirs that I own -- but I do quite like some of their songs.

I didn't always, though. I had a great tendency in my teenage years to enjoy bashing my sister's tastes in music (which, oddly enough, are really quite close to my own these days), and I have a fairly strong memory of her listening to R.E.M.'s "Stand" (which I now regard as being one of their better songs) while I mocked it for having lyrics which didn't make any sense. I tended to do that a lot, I must admit. I was always very big on lyrics -- and still am, for that matter -- but I was also incredibly literal-minded as a kid. I've since come to realize that song lyrics, like poetry (which I also tended to diss) don't necessarily need to express simple, concrete thoughts, or to take the form of complete sentences, or even to make perfect literal sense. They can also work if they're emotionally evocative or involve clever wordplay or poetic allusions, or whatever. (Of course, even a song with stupid, inane lyrics can be worth listening to if the tune's good enough to make up for it, but that's a different matter.)

So, anyway, if you're reading this, Kath, I hereby apologize for all the times I made fun of your tastes in music when we were kids. You were right, and I was wrong! (There, how many times do ya hear that?) And it's absolutely typical of me, really, that I didn't start to develop an appreciation for the music of the 80's until they had already turned into the 90's. Perpetually behind the times, that's me.

Where was I? R.E.M., right. I particularly like "Losing My Religion," because it always reminds me of the final episode of Blake's 7. OK, admittedly, lots of things remind me of Blake's 7 in general, and the final episode in particular, because, hey, that's just how my brain is wired. But that song really does it: "Oh no I've said too much/I set it up..." If you're familiar with the episode in question, you really should be nodding at this point. And if not, well, you've missed out. It's hands-down the most memorable single episode of an SF TV show, ever. (Well, OK, I suppose the final episode of Babylon 5 might count as an exception. I, rather surprisingly, haven't actually seen it, but I've repeatedly been given the impression that it could reduce grown, emotionally-repressed men to tears. The final episode of B7 is more likely to inspire stunned shock or copious amounts of swearing (or both). But I guarantee you, love it or hate it, nobody who's seen it has ever forgotten it.)

Hmm, maybe I just shouldn't set out by deciding that it's time to talk about music. I seem pretty much incapable of actually staying on that topic. Oh, well...

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Well, I'm Disturbed

OK, I always knew people put some weird shit up for auction on ebay. But some of the stuff at this site is really just... disturbing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Nerds of a Feather

Thinking over the subject of my last post, it occurs to me that, while in many ways I'm not at all thrilled about Socorro -- there's that whole being stuck out in the middle of the desert thing, for starters -- it's actually rather difficult for me to imagine living anywhere else. After all, my people are here. Yes, being home to my alma mater, New Mexico Tech, Socorro is packed full of nerds. And, I admit it, nerds are the only people I really can comfortably relate to. I don't know what I'd possibly find to talk about with the guys at work if it wasn't Star Trek, or what I'd do with my friends on the weekends if we weren't playing role-playing games or watching bad science fiction movies.

I was just thinking about this the other day, in fact. I was playing Pictionary with a couple of friends, and at one point I had to draw "greenhouse effect." I drew a picture of the sun, the curve of the Earth, another curve to represent the planet's atmosphere, little wiggly lines to represent the sun's rays coming in through the atmosphere and more wiggly lines to represent the Earth's radiated heat not being able to escape the atmosphere. They got it. Later, I was trying to get someone to say "water," and the usual wavey lines weren't quite cutting it ("um, sea? ocean? boat?") , so I drew a water molecule. They got it immediately. Afterwards, I said something like, "Man, it's nice to be playing this game with people who get that that's supposed to represent water." To which Friend #1 replied, "Of course it's water! How else would you draw water?" And Friend #2 said, "Well, the relative sizes are a little off, but the angle's right." Yes, these are my people.

Friend #2, by the way, is the same guy who, upon being asked in a game of Trivial Pursuit for the name of the first person to fly solo around the Earth said, "Yuri Gagarin." Personally, I think we should have given it to him.
Finding My Spot

In my continual quest to keep myself entertained via the World Wide Web, I came upon a mildly interesting site called Find Your Spot, which asks you a bunch of questions about your preferences and then tells you which places in the US it thinks you'd be most likely to want to live in. (It insists on asking you for your name and address before it'll tell you, which is annoying, but, hey, if you're feeling paranoid about it, you can always lie.)

Not that I'm planning on relocating soon. Or at all, really. I was just idly curious. For the record, my number one choice appears to be Seattle, Washington. I'm not really sure about that. From what I've heard, Seattle is in many ways a nice city. But I've been through there once, and while I know that the view from the highway really isn't a fair basis upon which to judge any city, my impression of the place mainly involved lots and lots of hideous, horrible, unbelievably bad traffic. Now, I know this makes me completely impossible to satisfy, but the thing is, while I actually quite like cities, I hate traffic. Plus Seattle apparently gets about 15" of snow a year, and I don't much like snow, either.

Choice #2 was Bellingham, WA, way up on the Washington coast, near the Candian border. Sounds like a nice town from their description, and they get a lot less snow than Seattle, so, hey, maybe I'll keep it in mind if I ever get a desperate desire to move to Washington. As for the other recommendations... I dunno, not all of them sound all that attractive. I mean, Cincinatti? Tulsa? Boring!

It's not too surprising that both of the top choices were in Washington, I suppose, since when it asked me if I had a preference for a particular area of the country, I clicked on the Pacific Northwest. Based on my visit there last year, it seemed like a really nice place. Actually, if we're talking about places I'd genuinely like to live, I must say that I fell absolutely in love with Vancouver, just on my very short acquaintance with it. (Um, yes, that's Vancouver, British Columbia, not Vancouver, WA.) Very attractive, very pleasant city. And, as cities go, the traffic didn't seem all that bad, either (though apparently it requires copius amounts of red tape to get a permit if you actually want to park). Come to that, I don't think they get very much snow, either. If I ever do get throroughly sick and tired of living in Socorro, it may well be the first place on my list, foreign country or no.

Interestingly, none of the places that came up are in the area of the country where I do currently live. This isn't actually very surprising, as I quickly realized as I was taking the quiz that that was going to be the case. Do I like long, hot summers? Hmm, you know, I don't really think I do. Do I find being cold in the winter more acceptable than being hot in the summer? As long as there's not much of that damned snow, uh... yeah. You can bundle up in the cold, but there ain't a whole lot you can do about the heat. (As is being amply demonstrated here this summer, unfortunately.)

Not that New Mexico doesn't have its compensations, notably in the aforementioned lack-of-snow and lack-of-traffic departments. Throw in the good Mexican food, the fact that you almost never have to worry about being rained on (even though I quite like rain), and the fact that there are lots of great places to hike and camp and get away from people, and it shapes up as an acceptable place to live. Anyway, much as I miss the cheesesteaks and the convenience of being no more than a 15-minute drive from pretty much any store, restaurant, or entertainment facility you'd care to name, it still beats the horrible suburban sprawl of my native New Jersey...

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Still More Cool Links

Because I've got a zillion of 'em.

Logophilia: a site dedicated to newly coined words and phrases. Today's word: "slacktivism."

Useless Facts: Exactly what it sounds like. More stuff you never wanted to know than you ever wanted to know!

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest: The worst opening lines for novels. So bad they're good. Because all the wisdom of the world is to be found in rock lyrics.

Demented Lyrics: Speaking of lyrics, here's a site featuring lyrics to all your favorite novelty classics. Get the latest weather reports... for outer space.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Hypothetical Questions Don't Come Much More Hypothetical Than This.

Somebody forwarded this list of rather thought-provoking questions to a mailing list I'm on (under the heading "What Do You Really Value"?). I thought it might be interesting to try answering them, so here goes...

1) If an all-powerful alien offered you the chance to live forever (young and healthy, barring being run over by cars or plane crashes) BUT you could never have children, would you accept the offer? (Assume you hadn't yet had children.)

Oh, hell yeah. That's a complete no-brainer. I wasn't planning on having kids, anyway.

2) You have been found guilty of some terrible crime and sentenced to lose one of your senses forever. Do you give up:
-Your eyesight?
-Your hearing?
-Your sense of smell/taste?
-Your sense of touch?

Now, this one's a lot tougher. I guess I'd have to go with smell/taste, because, while that would really suck, it'd be the least incapacitating loss.

3) An elderly, eccentric zillionaire wants to adopt you, and will make you his sole heir IF you will agree to never communicate again by any means (visits, phone calls, letters, email) with any member of your real family. Do you accept his offer?

Somebody on the mailing list answered this with "I'd tell him to fuck off." I can do no better than to echo that.

4) Your fairy godmother, who somehow missed attending your birth, has belatedly shown up. To atone, she offers you your choice of the following gifts. Which do you pick?
-Intelligence increased by 30 points
-Appearance enhanced to qualify for the 10 Most Beautiful Men/Women in the World
-Body enhanced to make you among the strongest/fittest/healthiest people on earth
-Great talent in your choice of artistic field
-A trust fund paying you a million dollars a year

The advanced IQ is mildly tempting, but I'm not really doing all that much with the IQ I've got now. Fitness/healthiess is also slightly tempting, but with my lifestyle, it'd hardly last. Nah, I'm gonna have to take the money. I think I'd rather alter my circumstances than myself, anyway.

5) Having won the Magical Lottery, you are to be given one of these supernatural power. Which do you want?
-The power to read minds
-The power to heal others with a touch
-The power to predict the future
-The power to become invisible
-The power to teleport yourself anywhere instantly

Aw, now this one's really unfair. I want the teleport power. I love going places, but loathe car trips and plane rides. And air travel is too damned expensive. But I'd feel morally compelled to pick the healing power. And then I'd feel morally compelled to spend as much time as possible using it. Which would probably involve a lot of travelling. Damn.

6) You have been found guilty of a horrendous crime. There is no chance you will ever be set free again. You will not be allowed visitors or contact with the outside world ever again. Under the circumstances, would you prefer:
-Lifetime solitary confinement
-Painless execution

As long as they leave me a lifetime's supply of reading material, I'll take the solitary confinment.

7) Another all-powerful alien offers you a choice: would you trade away the last twenty years of your life in exchange for being made physically ten years younger now? That is, suppose you are now 35 and would normally live to be 85. Would you choose instead instead to have your physical body reset to the condition you were in at age 20 BUT know you would then die at age 65 (at which point you would physically 'be' 55)?
-Yes, I would take the deal
-No, I'll stick with a normal life

Normal life, definitely. Why would I want to exchange twenty years for ten? I wasn't that much better off, physically, at 21 than I am at 31.

8) Would you rather have the talent/ability to:
-Paint masterpieces
-Invent new machines/devices
-Write great poetry
-Discover scientific breakthroughs
-Compose glorious music
-Write great novels
-Give Oscar quality acting performances
-Play an instrument at concert soloist skill
-Sing more beautifully than anyone else alive

Um. This one's a toughie. Inventing new machines would be kind of cool, but that would have to involve a major change to the way my brain works, given my utter mechanical ineptitude. And that's kind of a scary thought, so no. There was a time when my fondest desire was to discover scientific breakthroughs, but as interested as I've always been in science, I realized some time ago that, as a career, it's not really for me (except of course in the peripheral way that I'm currently involved in it). I think maybe I'll go for the novels. I actually enjoy writing.

9) You are going to be stricken with an incurable disease. Would you rather it be
-One that has no symptoms, except you drop dead in ten years
-One that causes constant, moderate pain but doesn't disable you or shorten your life.
-One that disables you in some major way, but causes no pain and doesn't shorten your life.
-One that causes no pain, disability, or death, BUT makes other people reluctant to be around you

Ick! Talk about a horrible choice! None of the above, please! Oh, OK, if I have to pick one, I think I'd go with the one that makes other people reluctant to be around me. I guess that'd be like a horrible deformity or overwhelming body odor or something? Doesn't sound like fun, but, hey, anything that doesn't involve pain, disability, or death is head and shoulders above the other options. Besides, anybody who'd refuse to be around me because of my horrible deforming body odor (or whatever it is) probably isn't anybody I really need in my life, anyway.

10) Yet another alien pops by and informs you that you have been chosen to be Mr. (Ms.) Power of Life and Death. Each day you can "shift" one death from the person who is "scheduled" to die to any other person you feel more deserves death. The people you can choose to spare are innocent young children who will die from diseases or in accidents. Which kind of people do you select to die instead?
-People "famous" for having done awful things that aren't being dealt with by the legal system, such as dictators who have fled their countries or unknown terrorist bombers
-People you have personal cause to hate
-Hopelessly insane people
-People in jail for terrible crimes
-People so senile they don't know who they are
-People in comas who aren't expected to recover
-Drug dealers
-Nobody -- I'd refuse to act and let the child die as scheduled

Yikes! I don't want that kind of power. I don't think those sorts of decisions should be mine to make, and I'm quite sure I couldn't handle the responsibility. If I was forced to take it, I'd probably do nothing. But I'd doubtless feel terribly guilty about that, too. Hmm, maybe if I threatened to make the alien my first victim, he'd reconsider making me take it, and I could walk away with something vaguely resembling a clear conscience...
Looks Like I Spoke Too Soon...

No, not about the blog-publishing working. I hope. About the sad lack of any odd and interesting google results leading people to my blog. In that past day or so, I've had several more google hits, including "glow in the dark legos," and, my personal favorite, "projectile vomit." Thank you, googlers! You've made me so happy! Sniff.

In other bloggish news, my comments seemed to have disappeared again a moment ago, but they're back now. This wacky blog! You just never know what'll happen next!

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Whoo-hoo! It works!

I've been trying to post that last post since... well, according to the time stamp, since about 10:30. (OK, I haven't been sitting here the entire time continually attempting to repost the thing, but you get the idea.) I kept getting that stupid "503: unable to load template file" error that seems to have been cropping up for lots of people using Blogger over the past few days. This was the first time I'd had a problem with it, though. Weird.

Anyway, somebody on the Blogger discussion forum actually seems to have come up with a solution. If you're getting this error message, try saving your blog template and your archive template, then republish all your archives and try republishing the blog. It worked for me! At least, it has so far. We'll know whether it was just a fluke when I hit "publish" for this one. I'd say "wish me luck!", but of course, if you're reading this, I didn't need it, did I?

Saturday, July 13, 2002

For Those Who've Just Googled In...

It's always interesting to find out which google results bring people in to your pages. I've noticed that a few people have apparently come here looking for downloads of Farscape episodes (since I've used the word "download" at least once, and Farscape approximately six thousand times in this blog). I haven't actually seen that show up in the past couple of weeks, but on the off chance that you, Gentle Reader, have surfed in here looking for Farscape episodes to download, I've been informed that you can find them here. You'll have to register at the site and download their software, apparently, but I'm told the result is worthwhile. (I haven't used it, myself. Dial-up access makes that sort of thing highly impractical.)

I've also noticed a lot of people coming here recently looking for downloads of "Triumph the Comic Insult Dog" segments. Well, you can find the Star Wars one here, if that's what you're looking for. Don't say I never did anything for you, O random web surfer!

You know, though, I'm actually a little bit disappointed at how boring all my Google search results have been. I mean, JK's gotten amusingly goofy search requests, like "Pamela Anderson's teeth." The most amusing (or at least, the most irrelevant) one I've had so far was something like "drop shippers that don't cost a lot of money." Only they hadn't put it in quotes. I can only imagine how confused that poor soul must have been to discover a bunch of sites devoted to relationships between TV characters. Ah, the perils of not knowing fannish terminology... Speaking of which, lately I've gotten a buch of hits from people searching for things like "T'Pol Archer shippers." (Hmm, and that's probably just guaranteed I'll get still more of them, huh?) Personally, I don't see a whole lot of chemistry in that relationship, myself, but, hey, whatever floats your boat. You won't find anything about it here, though. Sorry! Stark/Zhaan, shippers, on the other hand, are extremely welcome, and are invited to send me e-mail expressing solidarity for my championing of aforementioned Downtrodden and Neglected Characters and their tragic love lives.
Writerly Words of Wisdom

I'm still reading Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Television, and still enjoying it muchly. I thought I'd share a couple of what I thought were highly amusing quotes.

Paul Donovan of Lexx, upon being asked whether he was insulated from charges of sexism concerning the character of Zev due to the fact that she starts out as "fat and unattractive" and is, after all, still exactly the same person after her transformation into the beautiful love slave:

We're not that inclined to defend that position because I just think, 'What would I like to watch on television?' I'm more inclined to put the remote down when I see a cute girl on screen. I looked at a number of television shows at that time, and I was thinking, what are they doing? Didn't they learn anything from Hugh Hefner? I find it humorous that other filmmakers deny that they do this on purpose, but yes, every time we do a shower scene, there's a naked girl in it. That's what we do. It's gratuitous; all our shower scenes are gratuitious, but I don't have a problem with that. We're pandering! It's the same with Kai. He is a very cute guy, and he is a female fantasy and very much constructed as that. We chose Michael McManus to play Kai in part because I've worked with him before, but he's also suffered perversely in Canada. He'd be cast as a lawyer and the people in charge would say, 'No, he's too good looking to be a lawyer, he's not believable,' and I'm thinking, 'Are these people retarded?' They don't care, because their money doesn't come from ratings.

You've got to appreciate that kind of honesty! And, OK, I admit it, Kai's sheer eye-candy value was probably a large part of the reason why I didn't pick the remote up, myself, during some of the stupider Lexx episodes.

Ahem. Moving right along.

Here's Star Trek's D.C. Fontana on the subject of technobabble:

One of the classic examples when I go back to the first show -- and people have told this story before and so have I, because it's true -- was when Theodore Sturgeon, bless his heart, had written an entire page of dialogue for... I think it was 'Amok Time', to turn the ship about so that we could go back to Vulcan. Ted was doing it out of technical expertise, because he had been a merchant marine sailor, and he knew what was involved. So he literally wrote an entire page of dialogue to turn the ship around. Gene [Roddenberry] looked at it, and he struck out the whole thing -- I was standing there next to him when he did it -- and wrote in one line: 'Reverse course!' That's all you need to do, so I don't necessarily agree with techno-babble, because most of the time you really, really do not need it.

Ah, if only some of the people who worked on certain later Trek shows had just followed Gene's lead...

Friday, July 12, 2002

The Usual Farscape Post-Mortem (WARNING: SPOILERS!)

Except this isn't going to be the usual "here's all the random thoughts I had about this episode" kind of thing, quite. Yes, there are a lot of things I could talk about. I could talk about how the unanswered questions are continuing to pile up to the point where it appears that the true shape of this season is forming in the gaps between what we know, rather than in what we actually see on the screen. I could mention how this episode reflects that fact on many different levels, being all about missing information, about things that people don't know or won't talk about. I could mention how fascinated I am by the changing relationships and shifting alliances we're seeing, by questions like: How much can Scorpius be trusted? How much can Sikozu be trusted? Where do John and Aeryn go from here? And how is Moya's request for an actual captain going to affect the crew dynamics? (Chiana's reassurances to the contray, I can only imagine that that suggestion's going to go over like a lead balloon.) I could do my usual random wibbling about things like how cool the alien spaceship looked and how great it was to see Braca screwing up.

I could go into all that. But, frankly, the main thing that I want to say about this particular episode is simply this: Oh my god, they killed Harvey! You bastards! Damn it, Harvey was my other favorite Downtrodden and Neglected Character, and I liked him immensely. Truly, despite his fixation on self-preservation at all costs and his rather unconvincing diatribes on the desireability of revenge, post-chip Harvey was not at all an evil being. Indeed, he had a certain sweet, childlike quality that I found quite endearing. I'm really very unhappy with Crichton for destroying him.

OK, true, it's easy enough to see Crichton's side of things. If there's anywhere one has a right to privacy, surely it's the inside of one's own head. Harvey was an uninvited guest in John's mind, and, from one point of view, John had the perfect right to evict him with extreme prejudice. It's also understandable if John was feeling something of an impulse towards revenge, himself, if you think back on the things that Harvey did, back when he was still in the chip. Personally, I don't think it's entirely reasonable to take all that out on post-chip Harvey, who seems to me different enough from chip-Harvey to no longer qualify as being the same person, but I do find it understandable.

Still. When Harvey protests that he has been John's friend and ally, I believe he's telling the simple truth. Post-chip Harvey has been nothing but friendly and helpful, and he's saved John's life on a number of occasions. For John to turn on him like that at the first opportunity, however understandable, nevertheless seems to me to constitute a rather ugly kind of betrayal, particularly after the close comrades-in-arms partnership they seemed to form during the assault on the command carrier.

On a practical level, too, I think getting rid of Harvey at this point was a big, big mistake. Say what you will about the neural clone, it's clear to me that he did have John's best interests at heart, if only because their interests inevitably coincided. And John needs all the help he can get. In particular, dealing with Scorpius is going to be very, very difficult. Personally, I tend to believe his stated motives, as far as they go, but Scorpius is a slick and dangerous customer who needs to be handled with extreme care. Harvey, of course, knew Scorpius and Scorpius' thought processes better than anyone... which is doubtless why Scorpius was so eager to assist John in removing him. I've heard it suggested that if Talyn-John hadn't killed his Harvey, he might have been able to call on his assistance in dealing with the radioactive gadget and might not have died. Impossible to say, of course, but it strikes me as an entirely plausible speculation. I only hope this John's decision to follow in his doppelganger's footsteps doesn't come back to bite him in the butt. Or maybe I do, because, irrational as it is, I'd really like an excuse to say "I told you so."

As unhappy as I am about Harvey's demise, I do have to admit that, in dramatic, TV-production terms, it makes perfect sense. If Scorpius really is going to hang around for a while, and if he has taken upon himself the task of preserving John and his precious wormhole information, then Harvey's become pretty much extraneous. Beyond which, it may well be too much to ask that Wayne Pygram play both roles on a regular basis.

Still. Poor, poor, pathetic Harvey. "I'll go back into the dumpster." Sniffle. I feel so bad for him. And I'm really gonna miss him and his goofy smiles and his funny little outfits and his unwanted advice.

I wonder if neural clones do go to heaven?
Bought the T-Shirt

I'm sitting here wearing what, I suppose, counts as my birthday present to myself. Yes, it's a Farscape t-shirt (the fourth one down on the page if you follow the link). T-shirt buying appears to be one of the final phases in my obsessive addiction to a TV show. Expect to see me in a Buffy one soon. (Although perhaps not until I've actually seen most of the rest of the series... The t-shirt is practically an invitation for people to come up to you and start talking about the show, and any Buffy-related conversation concerning anything later than the second season is probably going to leave me with a blank stare and a meek request not to mention too many spoilers.)

Anyway, It's a very cool shirt, well-designed, with good pictures of the characters. And it has Stark, which was a major selling point for me, Champion of the Neglected and Downtrodden Character as I am. (No Zhaan, alas, but you can't have everything.) I do, however, have one problem with it. Not with the image, but with the words. Right up at the top, the shirt bears the phrase "Lost in some distant universe..." Which is kinda poetic, I guess, but it's also wrong. It's "Lost in some distant part of the universe." The shirt's version is not only an inaccurate rendition of the phrase from the show's opening monologue, it's just inaccurate, period. Crichton isn't lost in a distant universe. He never left this one. (Well, OK, maybe briefly while he was in the wormhole, but never mind that.) Indeed, we've recently learned that he's only 60 cycles (years) away from Earth at maximum speed. Now, I don't know how fast those hetch drives can go, but regardless, that's still a pretty small distance, in cosmic terms.

Oh, and it says "The Offical Farscape Convention" on the back, which I didn't know when I bought it, because the ad didn't show the back of the shirt. I've never been to a Farscape convention, official or otherwise, so I can't help but feel guilty of some small bit of false advertising as I walk around wearing it. But I think about this kind of thing far too much.

It's still a really cool shirt, though.

Speaking of Farscape... New episode on tonight! We'll finally get to find out about Aeryn! Yay! I'll doubtless natter on about that later, too, even if I am probably the only one reading this blog who actually cares...