Monday, March 31, 2003

Whaddaya Know, I'm a Pro!

The truth is, I was getting tired of dealing with Blogger's little hiccups, foibles, and outright refusals to work. I was getting tired of the mysterious now-you-see-'em/-now-you-don't archive links. I was getting tired of my template not updating when I tried to add links to the sidebar. And I was tired of having zero tech support for any of those problems. And as I was contemplating this, growling over it, cursing Blogger's name over it, it occurred to me that maybe the answer was to just stop being such a damned cheapskate. I've gotten about a zillion hours of entertainment out of this thing, and it'd hardly kill me to throw a few bucks at it to get a superior grade of product. Thus, I am pleased to announce that Maximum Verbosity is now a Blogger Pro blog. I was sincerely hoping that the upgrade would fix the problems I've been having, and, after a small amount of template-tweaking, everything does indeed seem to be working the way it's supposed to... Which is something of a novel feeling, honestly. I also now have access to a number of new and theoretically nifty features, some of which I might actually want to use. The spell-check feature, at least, is definitely welcome, as I'm sure anyone who's read any of my unfortunately typo-laden posts will doubtless agree.

While I was at it, I also got rid of the banner ad at the top, although now I can't help but think that the blog looks oddly naked without it. Oh, well, I suppose I'll get used to it eventually.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Because It Suddenly Occurs to Me That I Don't Have to Wait to See a Buffy Spinoff...

Well, I've now finished watching through the first disc of Angel Season One. Which is to say, the first four episodes. I haven't played the commentary track on the first episode yet, though, as I seem to recall that there were a number of spoilers for later eps on the Buffy commentaries, and I'd just as soon avoid that sort of thing until I've watched through the entire season. I'd previously seen a grand total of about five mintues of this show, so it's still all completely new to me.

I don't want to make any snap judgments based on just the first four episodes, but while what I've seen so far has been worth watching, it nevertheless somehow lacks a lot of the sparkle and originality that Buffy seemed to possess right from the very beginning. I think that's mainly due to the fact that, though there are occasional Whedonesque moments of offbeat humor and witty dialog in Angel, the overall tone of the show is much more somber and serious. Which means that a lot more is riding on the actual plots, in the absence of the kind of vibrant energy that kept my attention engaged by Buffy even when the story itself was more than a bit thin. So far, I think they've mostly succeeded pretty well on that score, but I'm afraid that even after just four episodes the storylines are starting to feel a tiny bit repetitive. I've enjoyed all of them, but at this point one more instance of Angel helping out a woman being terrorized by a demonic stalker boyfriend is going to be one too many. Yes, I do get the fact that Angel is doing for adult relationships exactly what Buffy did for the trials of adolescence: using supernatural metaphors to explore the human condition from a different set of angles. I get that, and, in fact, I quite approve of it. But, come on, there are different kinds of adult relationships worth exploring, you know.

All of which isn't to say that I've found the show disappointing, by any means. As I said, I have enjoyed what I've seen so far and am definitely looking forward to watching the rest of the discs. In any case, I can't say my expectations were hugely high going in, as Angel really never was one of my favorite Buffy characters to begin with. He does have his moments, though, and so far those moments have outnumbered the ones in which I've kind of wanted to slap him, so we're pretty much ahead of the game, there. As for the other characters... Well, Cordelia is still Cordelia. Doyle is vaguely likeable, in a non-threatening kind of way. And, based on admittedly short acquaintance, I've decided I very much like Kate. I do hope she's going to be hanging around for a while.

In fact, at this point, I think I only have two real complaints about the show, and they both come under the category of moderate annoyances, rather than serious sticking points. Number one is that Angel seems to have a remarkably easy time moving around during the daytime. That must be some amazing sewer system they've got in Los Angeles! And, number two, somebody please tell me that they eventually lose those really annoying fancy-schmancy scene transitions? They really don't add much of anything, and they sort of make me feel dizzy.
A Small Correction

A couple of days ago I posted a reminder that the Sci-Fi Channel is going to start showing re-runs of Farscape this week, but I made a small error... It's going to be airing at midnight Eastern/Pacific time from Monday night through Thursday night, not Sunday-Thursday as I originally reported. (Somehow I managed to get a little confused by the schedule grid on their website, but I just looked in TV Guide, and I'm generally inclined to trust TV Guide.) Anyway, that means that the Premiere will be airing at midnight tomorrow, not midnight tonight. Sorry for any confusion that may have caused...

In the meantime, speaking of TV shows and schedule confusions... Anybody get Tuesday's episode of Buffy on tape? I failed to realize that it was a new episode and neglected to set the VCR. Grr.
Perhaps He Should Have Checked the Papers for News About Being Arrested...

Here's a cool little news item somebody just called my attention to: "'Time-Traveler' Busted For Insider Trading". According to the article, a guy who made a killing on Wall Street and was busted for insider trading claims that the reason he knew exactly where to put his money is because he's actually a time-traveller from the year 2256. Unfortunately, the source for this appears to be the Weekly World News (which, for those of you outside the US and thus perhaps not familiar with it, is a notorious tabloid of the "I Had Bigfoot's Baby!" variety), so it's probably not true. (Well, it probably wouldn't have been true that the guy was an actual time-traveller, anyway, but it wouldn't have been too hard to believe that he had claimed to be one.) Pity. It's such a great story, it ought to be true.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

This May Quite Possibly Be The Strangest Online Quiz I've Taken Yet.

I'm Season Three...and I don't care.
You're season three. You're a well-rounded

Which Buffy Season Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, March 28, 2003

Don't Forget to Set Your VCRs!

This is a reminder to those of you -- and you all know who you are! -- who have been cursing my name of late because I induced you to start watching Farscape, you became well and truly hooked on it (naturally!), and then a) the series ended on that brutal cliffhanger we all knew was coming, and b) now you're having trouble finding DVDs for rent so you can catch up on the episodes you missed without spending a couple of hundred dollars. Well, if you do want to watch the series from the beginning, now's your chance, because the Sci-Fi Channel is going to be re-running it starting this Sunday. Season 1 episodes will be running at midnight Eastern/Pacific time Sunday-Thursday nights. (And, again, I'm planning on taping them, myself, so anybody who doesn't get Sci-Fi and wants copies of the episodes can contact me either via e-mail or here in my blog comments, and I'd be more than happy to oblige.) They're also going to be re-running all of Season 4 at 5 AM Eastern/Pacific on Fridays.

Also, if you haven't yet, be sure and stop by the Save Farscape website for lots of news and information on what you can do to help get the show back on the air for a fifth season. (Hey, it could happen!)

In other Farscape-realated news, the end of the fourth season also marks the end of the Society Against Cruelty to Crichton's annual charity drive, which raised $1,585.50 in pledges for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (See, are Farscape fans incredibly cool people, or what?) For the record, the final stats were: 4 episodes in which Crichton didn't get beaten up, at $64.50 in pledges per episode, and 18 in which he did get beaten up, at $73.75 per episode. Poor guy. No wonder he's seemed so stressed-out lately...
Well, It's A Friday Five, Anyway

This week's Friday Five turns out to be all about one's memories of the past week, which, frankly, just isn't something I much want to dwell on right now. But it occurs to me that I never did do last week's, so, hey, why not answer that one instead?

1. If you had the chance to meet someone you've never met, from the past or present, who would it be? I like to meet Farscape's writer/producer David Kemper, and make him explain to me all the stuff that still doesn't make sense from this season and tell me where the story was supposed to have gone next season. And to buy him dinner and thank him for making such a cool show. Alternatively, I'd like to meet a Neanderthal (it hardly matters who) and find out whether they could talk or not. Not that we'd be able to understand each other even if they could, but I bet it'd be interesting, anyway.

2. If you had to live in a different century, past or future, which would it be? The past might be a great place to visit, if and when I ever get my hands on a time machine, but I sincerely doubt I'd actually like to live there. I hate to sound like I'm engaging in some sort of temporal jingoism, but I truthfully do believe that, on the whole, this is the single best time in all of history to be alive, what with modern medicine and the internet and all. So, if I had to live somewhen else, it's definitely the future for me. There's no guarantee, of course, that things will just keep getting better from here, but I like to think they will. And I'm definitely curious about the future. I've read enough 1950's science fiction novels to be utterly confident that, whatever it's like, it'll be nothing like anything anybody's ever predicted.

3. If you had to move anywhere else on Earth, where would it be? Vancouver, British Columbia. I paid a brief visit there a couple of years ago and fell instantly in love with the place.

4. If you had to be a fictional character, who would it be? I always hate these kinds of questions, because they make no logical sense. If I were a fictional character, I wouldn't be me, by defintion. It's like saying "if the number two had to be some other number, what number would you like it to be?" If two were three, it wouldn't be two; it'd be three under another name! But I guess I tend to overthink these things. So, OK, I'll say the Doctor. Among other cool things, then I'd have a TARDIS, and I'd be able to visit the past and see the future and meet neaderthals and all kind of interesting things.

5. If you had to live with having someone else's face as your own for the rest of your life, whose would it be? As long as they don't have some sort of horrible skin disease or something, who cares?
Hello, New Readers

Wow. My hit count has suddenly skyrocketed, apparently thanks to a link from Transterrestrial Musings. If you've just surfed in from there (or from anywhere else, for that matter), hello, and welcome! This blog mostly consists of ramblings about the various random personal and pop-cultural junk that floats around in my head, but apparently some people find that interesting. Unfortunately, if you happen to be one of those people, you may have trouble getting into my archives, as Blogger (which has always had a tendency to swallow archive links and spit them back out at random intervals later on) has been giving me even more trouble on this score than usual of late. But if you're desperately curious, you can find links to archived posts here.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Spontaneous Generations

Here's a very cool page of random generators, mostly for RPG-related stuff (e.g. character names, kinds of weapons, random spellbook titles, you name it). The Miscellaneous page is the best, though. Some cool examples:

Random B-Move titles:

The Sleepover of Sexy Pain
The Vengeance of Saturn
Dark Grave Robbers
The Mansion of the Beautiful Skydivers
The Torture of London

A random villanous plot:

Your fiendish plot: create a magical focus, easily allowing you to kidnap a movie star for a huge ransom, easily allowing you to live in luxury!

Some random action movie trailer tags:

In a dark kingdom, in a time of necromancy and danger, two kitsunes try to find a mystic artifact and battle lawlessness.

In a galaxy of technology, a relic hunter and a spy quest for fame.

In a universe of corruption and lost souls, in a time of monsters, eight dancers try to prevent the destruction of mankind.

In a wicked city, six conjurers seek love.

On a forbidden planet, four rangers and a space pirate search for a lost artifact.

(Actually, you know, that one about the dancers sounded kind of interesting...)
2002 Books? But I Haven't Read All the Books Published Before 2002 Yet!

I've just been looking at Locus' 2002 Recommended Reading List, and it highlights for me the mildly depressing fact that I cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself as keeping current in the science fiction and fantasy fields. I'm generally inclined to wait for paperbacks or book club editions of newer works, since my book-buying budget is astronomically high as it is, and then, once I do get my hands on something recently published, my backlog of unread books is so huge that they tend to sit around for years before I finally get around to reading them. Thus, of this rather long list, I've read exactly two books. The first is David Brin's Kiln People, which I do recommend. It's got a nifty central idea whose social implications are well explored, plus it's one of those mixed-genre works I tend to be so fond of (in this case, science fiction mixed with a hard-boiled detective novel). It gets a little weird at the end, and I can't escape the niggling feeling that it could have been an even better book than it was, but I definitely enjoyed it. The other is Terry Pratchett's Night Watch. I adore Pratchett, and am deeply impressed by how consistently high the quality of his Discworld series has been. Few writers could keep a series this fresh for this long, though I suppose it helps that the Discworld books tend to be only fairly loosely connected to each other.

Several more of them are currently sitting on my To-Read Piles, though. Namely, the following:

Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan: It may be a while before I get around to this one, as I've kind of gone off Egan lately. I thought Quarantine, Permutation City, and the short story collection Axiomatic were brilliant. Distress and Diaspora were flawed, but extremely interesting, nonetheless. But Teranesia was extremely disappointing, so I'm really not sensing a good trend here.

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson: I don't think I've read any of Robinson's books, but I've heard good things about this one.

A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane. It may take me a while to get around to this one, too, as I still haven't read the previous book in the series, The Wizard's Dilemma. I've really enjoyed this series, but I'm a bit wary about continuing on with it, as I just recently read To Visit the Queen, which was set in the same universe, and found it boring and difficult to finish. I'm a bit afraid that Duane, unlike Pratchett, may be running out of steam.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I'm really looking forward to this one. I think the only reason I haven't read it yet is because I'd really like to find time to read it uninterrupted in something close to one sitting. Gaiman's writing simply deserves that kind of attention.

If anybody has any other recommendations... Well, actually, you'd probably better keep them to yourself, as I've got more than enough to read as it is! Not that that ever seems to stop anybody, of course...

My New Protection Scheme

I just ran into a co-worker in the hallway, and he stopped me and said "You're a big fan of Buffy, right?" and proceeded to ask me whether I knew that the series was ending soon and that there was talk about doing a spinoff. (Which, of course, I did.) The following conversation thereupon ensued:

Me: "Yeah, all the shows I like get cancelled. I only really got into Buffy in the past year or so, so of course now the series is ending."

Him: "Well, stay away from Smallville, then! I like that one."

Me: "Hey, wow, there's an idea for a racket! I could get people to pay me not to watch their favorite shows!"

Him: "Yeah, you could make a lot of money that way."

So... Bidding is now open! Anybody got any shows they want me and my sure-fire Kiss of Cancellation-viewership to stay away from? I accept payment in cash or chocolate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

It's A Small, Ugly World

It seems that one of the POWs currently being held in Iraq is from Pennsauken, NJ, where I lived for a largish chunk of my childhood. According to the article, the guy is exactly my age and graduated from Pennsauken High, so I probably attended the 9th grade with him. His name doesn't ring a bell, which is odd, because according to the article he's a science fiction fan, and you'd think I'd remember that. Then again, I never really talked to much of anybody when I was in the ninth grade, so maybe it isn't all that surprising.

In the last Gulf War, a guy from Cherry Hill, NJ, where I lived in my late teens, was a POW. I didn't know the guy, but, if I'm remembering rightly, he was a good friend of a friend of mine's brother. I do remember that his badly-battered face was on the cover of Time magazine, and that local businesses refused to display copies out of respect for the fellow's family.

Connections like that really do bring it all home a bit, I suppose...
Another Dumb Quiz

The UFOs. Fnord.
The U.F.O.s:
You're the secret master, and YOU don't even know
what you're up to.

Which Illuminati are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, honestly, what else would you have expected?

And, man, I've gotta get somebody to play Illuminati with me sometime soon. Since I actually went and bought the cards and everything...
...And I'm Back to Talking About Farscape Again

Depressing as its subject matter is for me, I gotta say, reading Danny's Toughpigs review of the last Farscape episode has nevertheless cheered me up immensely. That guy completely cracks me up. Best quote: "Any time something gets beautiful on Farscape for two minutes at a time, that's a red flag that they're about to kill a puppy." It's soooo true...
Note to Self

Note to self: Sarah McLachlan is not appropriate listening material under the current circumstances. I had Fumbling Towards Ecstasy sitting in the stereo from before I left, so I just hit "play" for some music while I was doing the laundry. Got to "Hold On," and discovered I couldn't. Am mostly better now, but have decided to listen to nothing but hard rock -- extremely hard rock -- for the next few days.

Stupid stereo.
Well, I'm Back

Just wanted to let y'all know that I'm now down and safe in Socorro. Had a smooth flight back, which is at least something after the rough time the last couple of weeks had been.

For anybody who may have been wondering just how far I did get through the big ol' stack of books I brought to read, the answer is that I finished The Three Musketeers, Kavalier & Clay, Snow Crash, and Sins of the Father (the Buffy book). And I was about a chapter and a half into Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident when the plane landed. So anybody who said "four and a small fraction," congratulations, you win the pool.

I had about 500 e-mails waiting for me when I got back, so, again, if I owe you e-mail, don't be offended if it takes me a while to get to it. In the meantime, I'd just like to say thanks to all those who offered their sympathies. So: thanks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

A Difficult Post to Write

Apologies for the lack of blog updates over the past few days. Unfortunately, I do have a good excuse.

My stepfather died on Saturday morning. This was neither unexpected nor, in the end, truly unwelcome. We all knew once he was diagnosed with the cancer that it was only a matter of time, and he deteriorated very, very rapidly just during the period I was here. The last two days were difficult ones, as he lost most of his physical and mental facilities, so when the end came, really, it wasn't at all a bad thing. He was not in any great pain, he was well taken care of, and he was prepared. And when he went, he went very peacefully and quietly.

My mother has been holding up amazingly well. I have to say, I am deeply impressed by how well both of them dealt with the whole situation. They handled his illness with a refreshing pragmatism and with great strength of character. They didn't waste time in denial, but instead confronted the reality head-on and set about making the most of the time he had left. And, above all they were unflaggingly honest with each other. The result is that, when the end came, my stepfather knew what to expect and was ready for it, and my mother had already reached the stage of acceptance.

I have to give props, also, to the hospice program and all the people involved. Whenever we needed anything, from supplies to information to reassurance, they got it for us immediately and at no charge. I cannot possibly say enough wonderful things about the hospice nurse, as she consistently provided exactly what was needed in every situation, especially when it came to explaining what to expect and how to do the things that needed to be done. Having to go through this experience without her simply doesn't bear thinking about. And when these people talk about things like "dying with dignity" and "quality of life," it isn't just empty rhetoric. Not only do they believe in it, they see to it that it happens.

As for myself, I'm holding up pretty well, too. To be honest, at this point I'm mainly relieved that it's over. The last few days and weeks haven't been easy on anyone. I've been very worried about my mother, but being here these last couple of weeks has reassured me that, difficult as all this is for her, she can deal.

But I'm definitely going to miss him. My stepfather was one of life's genuine characters, and he was one of the most generous and giving people I've ever known. Although I was already in college when he and my mother married, he treated me as his own daughter. And he made my mother happy, which is far and away the most important thing. Despite my immediate sense of relief, I am deeply sorry that he's gone. But I'm glad I was here at the end.

The funeral isn't until Friday, but I'm not going to stay. I would if Mom needed me, but her mother is flying in today, and my sister is going to be here tomorrow, so she'll have family here for support. I know many people find the closure provided by attending a funeral important or emotionally comforting, but I personally don't, and Mom understands and is OK with that. They way both of us see it, I was here for the part that actually mattered. And I do have other responsibilities I really need to get home to.

So I'll be heading home this afternoon. I'll be getting into Socorro fairly late, and I have to be back at work tomorrow afternoon, so it may be a while before I have the chance to get caught up on my e-mail and get in touch with people personally. Thanks for bearing with me.

And I really am OK. Honest.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Well, the Title Says It All (WARNING: Spoilers for Farscape Episode 4.22: "Bad Timing")

Well, this was it. Barring a last-minute phone call from the governor, we've just seen the last-ever episode of Farscape. Sigh.

In order to talk coherently about this one, I guess I have to come at it on several different levels. First of all, as an individual episode, I enjoyed it quite a bit. If it has one flaw, it's the common Farscape one of trying to cram too much into a single episode, in terms of action, and character stuff, and plot. But the fact that, when it errs, it errs on the side of doing too much rather than too little is one of the things that I've always loved about the show (especially by contrast to, say, Enterprise, where nine tenths of an episode have sometimes been known to go by without anything interesting happening). In any case, whether it's attempting too much or not, the things that it's doing are interesting. There's a number of wonderful, very memorable moments here. I especially liked the reappearance of John's tape recorder as he dicatates the opening monolog, and the site of John walking in his father's footsteps on the moon (even if my knowledge of space history makes it hard for me to suspend disbelief and pretend somebody named Jack Crichton really did walk on the moon).

As a season-ender, it was perhaps a bit less satisfying. There were a zillion loose ends I was hoping would be tied up by this point, and a vast number of little things that I was hoping, even expecting, would come together to form a coherent whole by the end of the season. (And that would have been true, by and large, even if we were still fully expecting a fifth season.) No such luck, though, which means that I'm left with rather mixed feelings about the fourth season's story arc as a whole. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I'll probably post my thoughts on the subject in considerable depth; it's not really something I have the time to get into just at the moment.

As the final episode of the series... Well, it could have been worse. As expected, we did get a cliffhanger, but it was rather less painful that I had feared. The fact that it's sort of tacked on at the end of the episode, rather than arising out of some intrinsic, ongoing plot arc helped a lot with that. If we had to go out on an unresolved cliffhanger, at least this one seems to me to be less frustrating than any of the previous seasons' would have been. There also is a certain sense of closure to a lot of things in this episode. We get John's all-too-appropriate emotional farewell to his father, for instance. It should have served as John's farewell to his old existence, his first step on the next phase of his journey. Instead, it takes on a kind of poignant resonance that I'm sure the writers could never have imagined when they wrote the dialog, but there's something oddly comforting about it. At least John isn't going off on us without some kind of a goodbye. All that isn't to say that seeing the series ending here isn't immensely frustrating, though. For my part, the worst thing about it is that they'd finally brought back my two all-time favorite characters, Stark and Harvey, only to run out of time to do anything with them. I find this particularly annoying in Stark's case, since I'm still deeply curious as to what he's been up to for the last year, as well as because I would have been very, very interested to see where he would have developed as a character from here. And, needless to say, there are still lots and lots of other questions that have been raised in this and previous episodes that it now looks like we'll never be able to get the answers to. Grrrrr.

I'm not going to ramble on with the usual random thoughts about specific things in this episode... Somehow, just at the moment, it feels kind of pointless. I will say, though, that I loved the "previously on..." segment, where essentially the whole series briefly flashes before our eyes. How anybody could look at that and think that this was a series that was ready to be taken out behind the barn and shot, I can't imagine.

By the way, I did get to see the Save Farscape commercial on my mother's satellite service. Very cool, and I for one do still hold out a small amount of hope that enough fan uproar might just stand a chance of making a difference for the future of the show. The Sci-Fi Channel's little "thank you" message, on the other hand, only served to piss me off even more. Don't fucking thank us after bending us over and screwing us, guys. It just adds insult to injury. If you're really grateful, show a little class, stick by your word, and renew the god-damned show. Bloody hypocrites.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

And Another One...

Green - You believe that small economic units
should control the goods, and that the
government should be permissive of
"victimless crimes," respectful of
civil liberties and very strict towards big
business. You also believe in either a
socialist tax structure or more power to local
communities. You think that environmental
policies should be written into law. Your
historical role model is Ralf Nader.

Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, the "victimless crimes" and civil liberties bits are right, anyway. But I'm my usual fence-sitter self on the rest of that...
While Everybody Else Is Taking a Nap, I Did a Stupid Quiz

So which fairy tale archetype are you? Hmm??

made by Michelle at EmptySpace.

Well, I dunno about all of that...

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The, Uh, Tuesday Five

1. Do you like talking on the phone? Why or why not? As a general rule, no. I much prefer e-mail. No awkward pauses, no frustrating moments when you both want to talk at once, no worrying about whether you're interrupting the other person by calling at a bad time or annoyance because they've interrupted you. Having said that, though, there are a couple of specific people I can think of that I do enjoy having long phone conversations with. In both cases, they're people I really enjoy communicating with but who don't tend to keep up long, chatty e-mail discussions, so if I want to have a decent conversation with them I pretty much have to use the phone.

2. Who is the last person you talked to on the phone? My mom. She went out for a few hours to play some bingo, because she desperately needs to get away once in a while, but apparently she's paranoid something's going to happen to my stepfather while she's gone that I won't know how to handle. Poor guy's no trouble at all, though. Mostly all he does is sleep and watch TV these days. Too weak to do much of anything else...

3. About how many telephones do you have at home? Two, one in the kitchen and one in the computer room. The phone jack in the kitchen quit working for no apparent reason right before I left, though, so I'm going to have to call the phone company when I get back.

4. Have you encountered anyone who has really bad phone manners? What happened? I've already done my telemarketer rant. Nobody can compare to those people for rudeness. Nobody.

5. Would you rather pick up the phone and call someone or write them an e-mail or a letter? Why or why not? Whoops, looks like I've already answered this one. But add to the aforementioned reasons the fact that I much prefer writing to speaking. I'm better at it, and it allows me to put my thoughts in order before I go spewing them forth.

Well, it looks like war with Iraq is now pretty much inevitable, not that this really suprises me very much. I feel like I should say something about the whole situation, but, in my usual wishy-washy, fence-sitting way, I find it difficult to actually form a coherent opinion.

I mean, I hate war. I hate the idea of war... the reality of war... the consequences of war. I'd love to believe, as I rather naively did when I was a teenager, that it would be enough to just say "Why can't we all just get along?" and mean it. It isn't, of course, and as I get older I find myself increasingly forced to acknowledge the sad truth that sometimes violence does solve problems.

Whether it will solve anything in this case, though, I honestly don't know. There's no denying that Saddam is an awful person, and that it'd be no bad thing for anyone if he were to be removed from power. And I do understand why Bush considers him a threat to the U.S. Regardless of what I might think of the President's decisions (which, as I've said, isn't something I've made my mind up about one way or another), I'm definitely not one of those conspiracy-theorist types who thinks he's acting on some sinister agenda of his own.

I'll tell you what really does worry me, though. What worries me is the degree to which my country's handling of this situation contributes to the not-entirely-inaccurate perception among the rest of the world of the US as a sort of global-schoolyard bully: dangerously powerful, completely self-absorbed, and inclined to throw its weight around with more force than discrimination. This bothers me because I loathe bullies, of any sort, and I hate the thought of being, in a sense, part of one.

On the other hand...

Aw, shit, never mind. I think I've long since run out of hands. Let's put it this way. I don't know whether going to war is a good idea or not, I don't know whether it's necessary or not. I just hope it's over with quickly and the outcome is as good as can be hoped for. To be honest, I'm more than a little afraid that even if things go swimmingly in Iraq the net result might just be to make the rest of the world hate us even more... Which isn't going to do much of anything to increase our security from terrorism, is it?

Anyway, that's my political blogging for a while. I think you can probably understand by this point why I don't discuss profound world affairs much...

Sunday, March 16, 2003

I Can't Escape My Addictions Anywhere

I've scarcely left the house since I've been here, but today I took a walk down the street to the Wal-Mart to buy tampons (and, not incidentally, to get a tiny bit of badly-needed fresh air and exercise). I walked home carrying Season One of Angel on DVD. This seems to be something of a trend for me. A few months ago when I was in New Jersey visiting my dad, I managed to come home with the extended-edition Fellowship of the Ring discs in my suitcase. (The deluxe edition, even, with the bookends and everything.) And when I was at my sister's place over Christmas, I think I must have spent about $80 on books. I'm starting to think I should just lock my debit card up somewhere while I'm travelling...

Sadly, Mom doesn't have a DVD player, so I'm going to have to wait until I get home to watch my latest purchase. Oh, well. Somehow, I doubt she'd care much for Angel, anyway.

Oh, by the way, just for the record, I've now finished The Three Musketeers and am a bit over 100 pages into Kavalier & Clay. Definitely no danger of running out of reading material. I blame the distraction of having the dog-gonned TV on pretty much all the time.

Friday, March 14, 2003

This Show Is Da Bomb! (WARNING: Spoilers for Farscape Episode 4.21, "We're So Screwed, Pt. 3: La Bomba")

You know something... This episode was very, very cool, and I enjoyed the heck out of it, but it many ways it leaves me feeling more frustrated than ever. So very, very many unanswered questions and, barring a miraculous eleventh-hour reprieve, so very, very little time left for the series. I'm left with a rather disturbing urge to go "Wow!" and "Urgh!" pretty much simultaneously...

Right. On to the usual random thought-spewage:

  • You gotta love the layers upon layers of intrigue here. I've always said that Scorpius never limits himself to plans A, B, and C, but tends to keep right on going through a huge chunk of the alphabet, yet even I never dreamed that he'd gone so far as to have a backup plan for bringing down the Scarrans. Silly me. Major points also have to go to Harvey here. I suspected he might have been lying in Part One, but it hadn't occured to me that he'd come up with that ruse entirely on his own. And I never for a moment doubted that he actually was communicating with Scorpius, which seems not to have been true. Very clever, Harve!

  • There were a few elements of the story that kind of left me thinking something along the lines of "Oooo-kay. Whatever." Sikozu's glowing trick, for one. And the notion that blowing up one flower is going to set the Scarran empire back as much as or more than using wormhole tech on them would. Although, to give the writers due credit, at least if they had to use the cliche of "destroy the mother organism and all the others will die, too," they gave the bad guys enough brains to have that one plant really well defended. Also, the idea that it's basically the equivalent of Scarran royal jelly does make a certain amount of sense.

  • See, I knew Scorpius wasn't really working for the Scarrans! But I'm more confused than ever about his relationship with the Scarran emperor. How did this supposed alliance come about? Why did the emperor trust him? Why did the emperor take such great pains to conceal their relationship from the other Scarrans? If the emperor was on Katratzi, and Scorpius was working for (or rather, pretending to work for) the emperor, why didn't he know where Katratzi was in the first place? I have the feeling that these may be questions that would have been explored in the fifth season and that now we'll never get to know the answers to.

  • Although (sadly enough), I don't think it would have been especially out of character for Stark to torture Scorpius like that (particularly if you caught him on a really bad day), I'm glad that it wasn't really him. I hate to see poor Stark giving in to his dark side. Zhaan would never have approved. It was, however, great to see the real Stark again, if only for a few minutes, and it was also nice to see how warmly Pilot welcomed him. Even Rygel seemed pleased to see him, which is a bit surprising. And did you see they way he and Granny kept smiling at each other? I think they're going to make a really interesting team. Or would, if the series hadn't just been cancelled. Aaaargh.

  • Speaking of Stark, there are even more unanswered questions revolving around him than there are around Scorpius. OK, so now we know what Scorpius was trying to get out of him with the Chair. Or do we? If you ask me, nothing seems to add up. OK, maybe Katratzi was the "place he saw as a boy." But what was he doing there? The Baniks were slaves of the Peacekeepers, not the Scarrans, yes? And if it was information on Katratzi that he was hiding from Scorpius, why? Stark never seemed to bear much love for the Scarrans, so why would he fight so hard to keep their secrets? And if it was Stark's personal knowledge Scorpius was after, why was he interested in the possibility of replacing him with another Stykera in "Liars, Guns, and Money"? It's possible that Stark gave him such information on the Scarrans as he had (and, indeed, Scorpy does say Stark told him some things) and that Scorpy kept at him afterwards primarily out of interest in his abilities. Or else there were a lot of Stykera at Katratzi, and Scorpy was hoping to get lucky twice in his selection of Banik prisoners, but that seems far-fetched to me.

  • John worries me more and more all the time. When he dropped the bomb down the elevator shaft, I found myself thinking, "Man, that's it. He's now dangerously insane. Well, I suppose it's been building to this point for quite some time..." In a way, I guess it's a bit of a relief that his conscience bothers him (in the same way that it was a relief that he couldn't actually pull the trigger on Aeryn-Chi in "Prayer"), but that final scene of him agonizing over what he'd done really ripped me apart. I'm kind of wondering, by the way, if the reason he didn't take that vote until the deed was done was so all the moral responsibility would rest on him alone. Still. Ouch.

  • I did like the bit in the elevator, with not one but three couples clinging together waiting for the bomb to go off. Aww. Not to mention the three separate shippy bits at the end. I still think D'Argo and Chi getting together again is probably a mistake, but I can't help but feel happy for them just at that moment, anyway. And, hmm, so Sikozu is biologically engineered to kill Scarrans? Suddenly Scorpy's attraction to her makes perfect sense...

  • Hey, Braca has a first name! And a pair of mivonks! Go, Braca! You rock, dude, and I take back every uncomplimentary thing I've ever said about you (of which, I admit, there were many).

  • Hmm, three guesses what Aeryn went into the medical center for. Somehow, I don't think it was her annual checkup. Either she went to confirm what we already knew -- the paternity -- or else she actually had the pregnancy activated. If it was the latter, I dunno, it doesn't seem like the world's best timing to me, but I guess we'll see. Or else, of course, we won't. Did I say "aaargh" enough times yet? In either case, here's hoping they didn't get much of a dose of radiation when Crichton's little toy went bang, 'cause that could spell really bad news for Crichton, Jr. I wonder if John even thought of that?

  • I actually had what is possibly my first real moment of sympathy for Grayza here, when she's losing it to John over having all her (apparently sincere) peace plans frelled up. Fortunately, it passed quickly, in large part due to John's too-perfectly ouchy reply.

  • Hey, I wonder how they made the Stark bioloid glow like that? Artificial lighting?
  • Thursday, March 13, 2003

    Mom's Place, Day Three

    Not a whole lot new to say, but I thought I'd check in and say "hi." Things are going OK here. Taking care of the family patient isn't any trouble at all (although I suppose I'd probably feel differently if I were the one who had to wake up when he needed something in the middle of the night), and neither are any of the little things I've been doing around the house to help out my mom. Living in the same house with smokers is a somewhat different matter; I think I'm just going to have to get used to having all the linings in my respiratory system in a more-or-less constant state of irritation. And living in the same house with anybody leads me to suddenly realize just how long it is that I've been living alone. I'm just not used to having people around talking to me all the time. (I'm also totally not used to having the TV on all the time... If I'm less eloquent than usual (ha!), blame it on the auditory distraction. I have great difficulty hearing the words I want to say in my head when the radio or the TV is trying to force its own words through my ears and into my skull.)

    Speaking of words, if anybody remotely cares, the state of my reading list currently looks like this: I did finish Tricky Business before I left. An entertaining enough book, that but not anywhere near as good as Big Trouble, in my view. I'm now about 3/5ths of the way through The Three Musketeers, which, by the way, I can recommend as an excellent "travelling" book. Absorbing enough to pass the time well on, say, long plane flights, but fairly leisurely-paced, so it's easy enough to sit it aside when you need to go and do stuff. Fun book, too. A bit less swashbuckling action that I'd expected, but a bit more intrigue to make up for it, along with a delightfully sly sense of humor that I totally hadn't expected. Ah, there is something to be said for catching up on the classics...

    Wednesday, March 12, 2003

    California Bloggin'

    Well, I've made it to my Mom's place without much difficulty. I had a pretty smooth and uneventful flight, except for getting stopped at security because I'd forgotten to remove my swiss army knife from my pocketbook. Oops. Fortunately, I was able to stick it in the backpack I was carrying and check it onto the plane, because I am not parting with that knife. I like that knife.

    I got into the Las Vegas airport around 3:30, and then we drove to a casino on the state line my mom and stepdad like to go to all the time. They've got all kinds of points saved up for free meals and stuff, so we stopped there for lunch. Then my stepfather was feeling well enough that he wanted to stay and play the slot machines for a while, so we just got rooms there and stayed the night. You know something... He's very weak and frail now, which really kind of hurts to see, but it actually makes me feel a whole lot better to know that he's still able to get out and do the things he enjoys (at least a little bit), rather than languishing in a hospital room somewhere. There's really a great deal to be said for this whole "quality of life" philosophy. Anyway, then this morning we drove the rest of the way to their place in Barstow, CA. At the moment, Mom's off at work for a few hours, and he's asleep, thus I am free to do stuff like updating this blog.

    Oh, by the way, on a different subject... I did get hold of the vet immediately before I left Socorro, and she said that Happiness' lab results had come back. As they'd sort of expected, her mouth infection is due to an autoimmune problem, which meant she needed to get a steroid shot. Because I have such wonderful, accomodating vets, I was able to get her in and get the shot for her before I had to leave to catch my plane. She'll need at least one more shot before she's done, but at least we now know what the problem is and have gotten her started on the treatment she needs, so that's kind of a load off my mind.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2003

    Well, I'm Off!

    I'll be leaving for my Mom's place in California in a few hours... Amazingly enough, my mother has recently entered the 21st century (or at least the late 20th) and actually has internet access these days, so it's quite possible that I'll be updating this blog from time to time during the two weeks I'll be gone.

    In the meantime, y'all take care, and try not to have too much fun without me, 'kay?

    Monday, March 10, 2003

    Speaking of Extraterrestrials...

    JK just posted this, um, interesting news tidbit over at Fanbytes, and there's no way I could possibly resist passing it on. Apparently my adopted home state of New Mexico is proposing instituting a state-wide day of celebration honoring extraterrestrial visitors. I am not making this up. Some representantive from Roswell came up with the idea. He wants to call it Extraterrestrial Culture Day and hold it on the second Thursday of February. Now, as cool as I think it is to have a statewide holiday honoring E.T. and Mr. Spock and all our other illustrious alien visitors, I'm really of two minds about this whole thing. Roswell's made a great deal of money out of this silly crashed-saucer thing, and the rest of New Mexico may be understandably eager to capitalize on it, but the truth is the whole thing's a complete sham, and I really hate to encourage people to take it seriously. (If you're looking for an excellent expose-type book on the subject which explains just why the "Roswell incident" wasn't really much of an incident, I recommend Philip Klass' The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup.) On the other hand, Extraterrestrial Culture Day does have a fun ring to it, I have to admit...
    Looking for Aliens in All The Most Likely Places

    I just got an interesting news release from the Planetary Society in my e-mail. Apparently they're going to be using some time on the Arecibo telescope this month to make reobservations on the most promising radio sources detected by the SETI@home project (which I've always thought was an exceedingly nifty idea). To quote:
    Werthimer, who will head for the Arecibo observatory on March 16, said, "I believe that we will likely discover extraterrestrial civilizations in the next hundred years. Even if we don't find a signal from ET this time, I'm optimistic in the long run, since our search capabilities are doubling every year."

    SETI@home is the largest computation in human history, logging a staggering 1.3 million years of computer time. The screensaver program runs on computers in homes, offices and schools worldwide, and volunteers range in age from school children to retirees.

    "Whether or not SETI@home succeeds in finding evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence at this early date," said Bruce Murray, Chairman of the Society's Board of Directors, "this project has already made history. SETI@home has performed the most sensitive and detailed SETI sky survey to date, has demonstrated the power of the Internet for doing scientific distributed computing, and has allowed the general public to participate directly in an exciting research project."

    Man, how cool would it be if they actually found something, huh?

    (If you want more information than is in the news release, by the way, there's also a good full-length article on the Society's website.)
    Obligatory Nattering About the Weather

    The sun is shining, warm breezes are blowing, the trees are budding... and my nose is itching like crazy. Yep, I guess it must be spring!

    Sunday, March 09, 2003

    Stupid Blogger

    My archive links resurfaced briefly a couple of days ago, vanished again within minutes, and have shown no inclination to come back since. Every time I try republishing them, I get a supremely unhelpful error message. ("Archive Error," huh? Do you think you could possibly be a little more specific, there? Still, it's better than the complete lack of an error message that comes up when I hit publish. I just get a bunch of blank space and a little link for "[more information]", which doesn't take you to any. Or rather, it takes you to lots of information, none of it useful.) I actually tried putting my own links to the archives in the sidebar, and thus discovered that my template won't republish, either. Grrrrr. Something is seriously messed up here, and I have no idea how to fix it. I'm really hoping this Google buy-out thing is going to result in better tech support...

    In any case, if you have a desperate desire to go looking through my archives, here's the links to them:

    April '02
    May '02
    June '02
    July '02
    Aug '02
    Sept '02
    Oct '02
    Nov '02
    Dec '02
    Jan '03
    Feb '03
    March '03

    Of course, that only does you any good until this post scrolls off into the archives, but let it not be said that I didn't at least make the effort for my Loyal Readers.

    Saturday, March 08, 2003

    Well, I've Done the Important Part of the Packing!

    The last time I talked to my mother on the phone, she mentioned that it's pretty likely that while I'm out there there's not going to be a whole heck of a lot to do much of the time, and that I should, and I quote, "bring a book." To which I replied, "Mom, it's me. I'll probably bring about a dozen. Don't I usually do that anyway?"

    I have nothing else packed and pretty much haven't done a damn thing to get ready to go, otherwise, but I did go through the Book Piles and pick out some reading to take with me. Here's my list as it stands at the moment: Tricky Business by Dave Barry (assuming I don't finish it before I leave, which it's fairly likely I will), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, Sins of the Father (a Buffy novel) by Christopher Golden, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, Farscape: The Illustrated Season 2 Companion by Paul Simpson and Ruth Thomas, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, and The End of Time by Julian Barbour. I was thinking I might bring a Blake's 7 fanzine with me, too, but for once I'm not sure I'll actually be up for the usual B7 angst levels.

    I hope that's enough. Of course, it's probably way more than enough; I'm usually very bad at guesstimating how long any particular book is going to take for me to read. Anybody want to place any bets on how far I'm actually going to get through this stack?
    Gentlemen, Start Your Quicktime!

    Check out the trailer for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie! I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, myself. Looks kind of cool, but it's hard to judge. If you ask me, the comic could adapt over very well into a movie, or it could turn into something moderately painful. Time, I suppose, will tell...

    Friday, March 07, 2003

    Am I Getting Spoilers in My Search Engine Hits Now?

    I've just had three google hits on "Farscape bioloid" (or some variation thereof) in the last hour. There must have been something terribly important involving bioloids in tonight's episode. Not that that's exactly a huge, shocking revelation, but still...

    Aaaargh! I want to get home and watch my show, dammit!

    Yep, it's time for this thing again!

    Current clothes: A pair of jeans, rolled up a little at the bottoms. Gray pocket T-shirt with a largish short-sleeved denim shirt unbuttoned over it. Black sneakers. White socks.

    Current mood: A little bit restless.

    Current music: In the stereo right now is Disc II of Queen's Greatest Hits.

    Current hair: Just got it cut today, so it's all nice and short and happy.

    Current annoyance: Being stuck here at work when I should be watching Farscape right now.

    Current thing: Holding conversations with fictional characters, apparently. No, don't ask.

    Current desktop picture: I'm back to Farscape screen caps. Right now it's this lovely little picture of Stark & Zhaan.

    Current song stuck in head: "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" has been bothering me off and on ever since answering the Friday Five questions forced me to think about it. Thanks a lot, Friday Five...

    Current book: Tricky Business by Dave Barry.

    Current video in player: The tape I stuck in to record Farscape, of course.

    Current refreshment: Green tea. Or at least, it will be in a minute. It's still steeping.

    Current worry: Oh, hell, where to begin? I'm worried whether Happiness will be OK while I'm gone. And I'm worried, well, no, I'm not exactly worried for my stepfather. Concerned, yes, but worry is pretty much pointless at this stage. I am worried about my mom, though.

    Current thought: I want to go home!
    OK, This Is Getting Annoying

    My archives are down again, and this time they seem to be screwed up but good. Is anybody else getting an "archive error" from Blogger when they try to republish theirs?
    Friday Five

    1. What was the last song you heard? "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?" by Chicago. And is it just me, or is that really kind of an annoying song?

    2. What were the last two movies you saw? Oh, wow, it's been so long since I've been to the movies that it's hard to even remember. I think it would be The Two Towers and Catch Me If You Can, but I might be forgetting something.

    3. What were the last three things you purchased? Well, the last thing that I purchased was a haircut. But that's a service, not a thing, I suppose, so let's see... I just got some books in the mail yesterday: The Onion Ad Nauseum and The Years of Rice and Salt. Oh, yeah, and today at lunch I bough a BBQ sandwich and some fries. I guess that counts.

    4. What four things do you need to do this weekend? Do laundry. Pack. Send out e-mails to people letting them know where I'm going to be for the next couple of weeks. Make sure I've got enough propane to last while I'm gone this time. Actually, a lot of that stuff I'll be doing on Monday, but we'll call Monday an Honorary Weekend for me, since I have to work on Sunday but not on Mon.

    5. Who are the last five people you talked to? Um. My hairdresser. The other hairdresser who works with her. The person who took my order at Lotaburger. The manager at Lotaburger, who I used to work under. Stark on Farscape, because I just finished watching "Liars, Guns, & Money Pt. 3" and had to vocally express my appreciation for how well he dealt with the mercenaries, in his own inimitable nutty way. (What? You didn't say they had to be real people!)

    Thursday, March 06, 2003

    More Google Goodies

    Yes, boys and girls, it's that time again. The time when I share some of the more, er, interesting search requests that have brought people to this blog (whether you're actually interested in them or not). The latest batch of googlie goodies:

  • free clips castrate the man: One word: wince.

  • Andrew the Funnel Cake Slayer: Oh, man, isn't that just the cutest nickname for the guy? You wanna know something? If they did a spinoff called Andrew the Funnel Cake Slayer, I'd watch. Seriously.

  • fetish for women in wellies: Man, people have some odd fetishes, that's all I have to say.

  • The Sims: Make My Males Have Dics! Gee, who'd have thought somebody would get this upset over the lack of dictionaries on their Sims' bookshelves? (She said, looking innocent.)

  • baby astronuats: Sorry, I think NASA has a minimum age limit. (And I still can't believe I misspelled "astronauts.")

  • telemarketer mindgames: Ooh, sounds like fun! I wanna play!

  • fish tatoos: Yeah, I know, they were probably looking for tattoos of fish, but I find it much more amusing to imagine the tattoos on fish. And I think we've already established that I can't spelll.

  • maximum risk nude photos: For maximum risk, I recommend looking at them on your work computer while the boss is lurking around the office. Hope that helps.

  • "peter jackson" piercings photo: I have no photos, no information, and exactly zero interest in any piercings the good Mr. Jackson may or may not have. (Note how I am tastefully avoiding making any jokes whatsoever about rings.)

  • what special characteristic must one have to become an astronuats: Better hope that grammar and spelling aren't on the list...

  • naked giles huge boobs: Oh, man, you do not want to know about the mental image I just got. Whoa. Shudder.

  • nude klingons in bondage: Hey, I think that's the way Klingons usually like it...

  • www.maximum granny boobs: Ever get the feeling that you've maybe picked an unfortunate URL?

  • harveys plumbers putty: I'm sure I was talking about Harvey from Farscape... Now I'm imagining him in a plumber's outfit, complete with plunger, and it's cute. (Apparently I was the only search result on MSN for this one, by the way.)

  • 60's catwalk: Erm, sorry, wrong sort of catwalk, I think.

  • scorpius bastards mp3: Well, Scorpius definitely is a bastard, in every sense of the word, but as far as I know, he hasn't cut any mp3s. (Pity. I'd pay good money to hear him singing, say, "Fever.")

  • stark raving planet of Torg: Ah, that would have to be Gaia. (Sorry. Really obscure joke, there!)

  • sexy nude bodes: Hmm, do you think they were looking for sexy nude pictures of the guy who came up with Bode's Law and his family, or for information on what kinds of omens and portents can be divined from sexy nudes?

  • Wednesday, March 05, 2003

    Ah, It Does My Skeptical Little Heart Good!

    Here's a very nice little article on scientific skepticism, "psychic" frauds, and Penn & Teller's new TV show, in which they debunk all kinds of things that need debunking. I tell ya, in the midst of all my I'm-gonna-cancel-my-cable-real-soon snarking, this is almost enough to make me want to subscribe to Showtime, all by itself. After sitting through umpteen-zillion advertisements for the John Edward show, the mere existence of this kind of program is like a breath of fresh air. Plus, Penn & Teller are cool. I'm still kicking myself for missing their show the last time I spent any time in Las Vegas. (Link via Naked Writing)
    Reading List

    Here's a list from The Science Fiction Book Club (where large percentages of my pay checks have been known to go running off to) purporting to offer us the 50 most significant science fiction and fantasy books of the last 50 years. I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind the selection of these particular titles over dozens or hundreds of others that might be deemed equally worthy, but as a reading list you could do a whole heck of a lot worse. For the record, I've read 36 of the 50 titles, with another 7 of them still hanging around on my To-Read Pile. Does that mean I get to consider myself well-read?
    State of the Cat Report

    Well, I just got Happiness back from the vet. She seems to be doing pretty well, despite having to have two teeth removed, poor kitty. The lab work from the biopsy isn't going to be in for about a week, which means they probably won't get it before I leave, but the vet said that if Happiness does end up needing a steroid shot, it's probably OK if I don't get her in for it for a couple of weeks. If it's just an infection (which it very well may be), then all she needs to do is keep taking the antibiotics.

    I feel kind of bad about having to leave her alone tonight after she's just got out of dental surgery, but no work = no money to pay vet bills, so I don't have a whole lot of choice. (And why is it that I only go to the eye doctor about once every three years because my insurance doesn't cover it and I resent spending the cash, but I'll drop $300 on health care for the cats without blinking?) I did put her in the bedroom and closed the door, so at least Nova won't be harrassing her. Well, not until he figures out how to open the door, which he usually does, but maybe by that time she'll be feeling better.
    "Did That Work For You? I Thought It Worked."

    Hey, I finally got the last batch of Farscape Season Two discs in the mail! So I just sat down and watched "A Clockwork Nebari" again. Hadn't seen that one since my first watch-through of the series, having been too stupid at the time to actually tape it. I'd mostly remembered this one as being a so-so filler ep before the big plunge into the season-ending action stuff, but it really holds up remarkably well on second viewing. Lots of fun stuff in there: John's blissed-out stoner-dude impression is pretty darned amusing. There's some great scenes for the oft-neglected Pilot (including what I believe is the one and only time I've ever heard him swear, not to mention the revelation that he's clearly missed his true calling as a designer of 3-D motion rides). Some good interaction between John and Rygel, too, including what is quite possibly my all-time favorite exchange between them:
    JOHN: "I'm sick of you selling us out every chance you get!"
    RYGEL: "I don't do it every chance!"
    Heh. You don't get dialog like that on Star Trek.

    There's also some rather significant revelations in here about the characters and the universe they inhabit, specifically the details (or at least, some of the details) about Chiana's backstory, and the alarming discovery of what the Nebari are up to. It seems to me that nearly every element in this episode is ripe for revisiting. No, it's not just ripe for it, it's practically demanding of it. Really, we need to find out what's happened to Chiana's brother. We need to see more of the Nebari and to get a followup on this little time bomb of a plot thread that's been ticking away for the last two years.

    It would have been a great storyline to bring up in Season Five, and I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised to learn that it was on the writers' agenda. Sob. But as Crichton puts it here, "Since when do people like us get what we want?" (And John, sci-fi geek that he is, definitely counts as "people like us" in this context!)

    I will say this, though. I could really have done without the eyeball-extrusion. I gather that when this episode aired in England, the BBC cut all the nasty eyeball-pulling stuff out. They're notorius for doing things like that (from what I hear, the hatchet job they did on "Prayer" is positively criminal), and normally I deeply and heartily disapprove. But in this case, man, I think I almost envy the BBC viewers. I literally cannot watch the eyeball scenes. I sort of tried this time, and the only result was that my own eyes started watering fiercely in sympathy. Urgh. Eyeballs! Why does it have to be eyeballs?
    "...You Horrid Little Man!"

    In response to my last post, somebody asked just what my thoughts were on why the second Blackadder series was better than the first one (which I think most people would probably agree that it was). Well, you guys should know better than to ask me questions like that unless you want me to start rambling on like... Well, like this, I suppose!

    So, these are the thoughts I was having yesterday as I began making my way through my recently-purchased Blackadder DVDs. For the record, I'm currently four episodes into season one, but I've certainly seen all the rest of them enough times to have formed an opinion, and Blackadder I has always been far and away my least favorite of the series. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy it. It's entertaining and occasionally very funny, indeed. The jokes are good, the writing is fine, and Rowan Atkinson (who I personally believe is a comic/acting genius) gets to display both his amazing range of facial expressions and his impeccable sense of comic timing. So, why does it leave me comparatively unmoved?

    I think there's one simple explanation for it: the main character is a jerk. An unmitigated, irredeemable, annoying, slimy git with absolutely no sympathetic qualities whatsoever. And to make it worse, he's a jerk with power. Oh, he might not think so, but if people walk all over him, it's only because he lets them, and frankly it's nothing more than he deserves. Now, OK, it may be more entertaining to watch somebody like this on TV than it would be to actually have to put up with him in real life, but the impulse to smack him silly is kind of hard to ignore. The second Edmund Blackadder, on the other hand, may be a thorough-going bastard -- that never does change -- but he's actually got some remarkably attractive characteristics: wit, intelligence, a certain roguish charm. More than that, he's a witty, intelligent, charming guy who's surrounded by idiots, and worse still, by idiots who have disturbing amounts of power over him. OK, seriously, who can't sympathize with that (secretly or otherwise)?

    This trend is taken even further in the next two series, as Edmund's descendents fall even further down in the world (from prince to noble to butler to common solider). The third Blackadder is as intelligent and witty as his predecessor, is even lower in status, and is surrounded by even bigger idiots. In my view, though, he's not nearly as sympathetic as Number Two, in part because the idiots in question are generally very genial and accomodating idiots who don't really deserve the kind of treatment they get from him, and in part because his problems tend to come more from his own tendency to mess things up than from anything external. So whereas I'm generally rooting for Blackadder the Second, no matter how dastardly the deeds he may be perpetrating, I frequently find myself wanting to smack Number Three on the head, not unlike his medieval anscestor. I suspect this accounts for why Blackadder III is my second favorite of the series, well after Blackadder II.

    As for Blackadder Goes Forth, the character (to some extent) and his situation (to a great extent) are easy to sympathize with. Here's a person who's not just surrounded by idiots, but by insane idiots against whom he is completely powerless and who are almost certain to eventually get him killed. The fact is, though, that this is so much the case that it almost ventures beyond the sympathetic and into the pathetic, making this series #3 in my Blackadder rankings. I mean, never mind smacking him on the head, sometimes you just want to shoot the poor guy and put him out of his misery. You never get the sense that his cleverness might, under the right circumstances, lead him to triumph. He's just doomed, and he knows it, too, poor bastard.

    I hasten to note, by the way, that I think all four series are brilliant. I also want to point out that I don't think (as Americans, or at least American TV producers are often accused of doing) that a totally likeable protagonist is essential for a TV show to be enjoyable. Personally, I like anti-heroes (and Edmund Blackadder, in any incarnation, surely qualifies). But any story is more fun, I think, if the main character is someone you actually enjoy spending time with, and if there's at least something in the character or story that strikes a sympatheic chord and lets you enter into the story at (or on) the protagonist's side.

    Or, then again, maybe it's just that Atkinson looks astonishingly dashing in that beard...

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003


    Monday, March 03, 2003

    A Zillion Last-Minute Changes of Plan

    It looks like I'm going to be heading out to California the middle of next week... You may remember that I mentioned here a while ago that my stepfather is very sick with cancer. He and my mother have been bearing up about as well as can be expected, I think, but he's definitely deteriorating rapidly. My grandmother's been staying with them and helping my mom take care of him, but she's got to go back East for a couple of weeks to take care of some business that really just can't be put off any longer. The original plan was that she was going to leave the end of March, and I was going to come and stay with Mom while she was gone. (Or at least for most of the period she'd be gone, since there was some problem with me getting time off of work until the beginning of April.)

    Well, Mom just called me here at work tonight and asked me if I could come sooner. Apparently he's getting worse faster than expected, and it's looking like a really good idea if my grandmother can get out and back sooner rather than later. Needless to say, I immediately said I'd come, but I have to admit, I was feeling really, really stressed about it there for a bit. Truth to tell, I really don't deal well with abrupt changes of plan, especially when they accompany situations that are already emotionally difficult. So there was a somewhat panicked moment there where I found myself thinking, "Oh, god, what if the boss has a problem with rescheduling my vacation time? What if I have problem getting plane tickets so close to the last minute? What if Grandmom can't change her own plane reservations? What if Happiness turns out to be really sick and needs me to be around to give her medicine?"

    I shouldn't stress so much. Within half an hour, I'd gotten an e-mail back from my supervisor saying it was OK and he'd add my time off to the schedule tomorrow, I'd gotten a phone call back from my mother saying that Grandmom had successfully altered her reservations, I'd booked my own reservations online (with cheap fares at convenient times, even -- I love Southwest!), and I'd talked to a co-worker who assured me that she'd look after the cats and make sure that Happiness got whatever medication she needed. What a blessing it is to live in the Information Age, when these kinds of emergency changes of plans can be dealt with almost as soon as they come up. (Not to mention having understanding co-workers!)

    Anyway, I'm feeling much calmer now. I can't say that I'm looking forward to going out there, exactly... I know things are going to be a bit difficult to deal with. But I actually really feel much, much better just knowing that there's something, anything, that I can do to help.

    And that's your State of My Real Life Update for the moment... Back to science-fictional wibblings again soon, I imagine.

    Sunday, March 02, 2003

    Saturday, March 01, 2003

    Hey, It Really Is Good News! Well, More or Less.

    I just checked the Sci-Fi Channel's schedule listings again, and it looks like they are going to be re-running Farscape at least through the month of April. The bad news is that they're going to be showing it at midnight and at 5 AM on weekdays (Eastern/Pacific time), which a) is mighty inconvenient, b) is hardly going to be bringing in new viewers, and c) doesn't speak well of Sci-Fi's opinion of the show and thus for any chance that they might change their minds and renew it. But it's something, anyway, and, hey, inconvenient TV shedules are part of what they make VCRs for.

    It looks, by the way, like they're going to be showing 1st season episodes in the midnight slot and 4th season ones in the 5 AM one. They appear to actually be showing them in the right order, too (except for "Dream a Little Dream," which, oddly, seems to have slipped back into being the second-season opener somehow).
    I Hate to Say "I Told You So," But... (WARNING: Spoilers for Farscape Episode 4.19: "We're So Screwed, Pt. 1: Fetal Attraction")

    Interesting reaction I had to this episode. I was watching along, and I was certainly enjoying it, but lurking in the back of my brain was this slight feeling of dissatisfaction, a vague sense of disappointment that the episode wasn't quite delivering what I really wanted of it... whatever that might be, exactly. More tension, I suppose. More suspense. More emotion. More... weight. It's a totally unfair expectation, I know, but I just can't silence the little voice in the back of my mind that cries out "But there's only three episodes left, probably forever!" and wants every moment of Farscape remaining to be as packed full as it possibly can be of absolutely everything I've ever loved about the show. My rational side was saying, "Wait, it's Farscape. Nothing is ever as easy as this seems to be. Just wait, there's gonna be a payoff." But the whiny irrational side didn't want to wait. After all, it'd been waiting a whole week since the last episode already!

    Yeah, well, that whiny irrational side should just learn to shut up, because damn but those last five minutes completely turned the entire episode around. They immediately metamorphosed the whole thing into something tense and suspenseful and signficant and really exciting. Oh, yeah, what a payoff! In retrospect, the oddly dampened feel of the rest of the episode suddenly seems like the calm before the storm, the silence while waiting for the other shoe to drop, and probably a whole host of other cliches that I'm too brain-fried to come up with right now. The result is that as a whole (or rather, as the first part of a three-parter), it becomes very satisfying indeed.

    OK, the usual spew of random thoughts (and they're likely to be even more random and rambling than usual, as it's now very late, and my brain is seriously starting to shut down):

  • Man, is "We're So Screwed" as a title just quintessentially Farscape, or what? Mind you, it takes on a little bit of a new (and highly unpleasant) association given the current situation... Yep, Farscape's been screwed, all right...

  • I never know quite how to react to Noranti (something that I suspect is highly intentional). One moment, I'm thinking "Wow, she's really being on the ball this episode!" and the next I'm quite literally smacking myself on the forehead and going "She did what?!" Yes, Noranti, you did something egregiously dangerous (some might even say stupid), and while ultimately it worked, in the process people died. That often tends to happen when you go spreading lethal, contagious diseases, oddly enough. You know, you might want to stop and think about that sort of thing once in a while, preferably before you act. Sheesh, she's just really not good with that whole grasping the consequences of her actions thing, isn't she? Rygel's reaction to her was cool, though. Once in a while (OK, once in a great while), he can be quite unexpectedly noble. Occasionally, you even realize that this guy did make difficult moral decisions involving the direction of an entire empire, and may not actually have done too bad a job at it. Then again, maybe he just really likes Noranti because she cooks for him and he wants to keep her buttered up.

  • I'm still not remotely sure how or why the Scarrans think they can get wormhole technology from Crichton's baby's DNA. I mean, OK, I can concoct a theory about how Crichton's DNA might somehow contain information about wormholes, if I wave my hands a lot and invoke large quantities of suspension-of-disbelief and speculate up a storm about what the Ancients might have actually done when they stuck the info in his head in the first place. But even so, how would the Scarrans know about it?

  • While it doesn't surprise me that they'd all (well except for Sikozu) be willing to starburst away and quite happily leave Scorpius twisting in the wind, I must admit that I was muttering something along the lines of "ungrateful bastards" in their general direction at that point. But, you know, he'd certainly do the same to them, so I really can't hold it against them.

  • OK, what is up with Sikozu?! I've never subscibed to the theory that she was a Scarran spy, but now I'm starting to wonder. Whatever the case, there is clearly something very strange going on with her. There've been a lot of little things about her that have seemed odd, but all of them, I think, could easily be dismissed as having perfectly innocent explanations. But whatever it is that she did with that control panel... just didn't look very dismissible.

  • Words cannot say how delighted I was to see Harvey again! (Even if his Dracula impression really is kind of annoying.) My delight softened a bit, though, when he talked about how Scorpius had tampered with him. Oh, poor Harvey, he frelled with your mind, too? Doesn't seem to have changed his personality much, though, so that at least makes me happy. I liked Harvey. A lot. But, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny... I'll say it once again: I told ya so! It was a bad move to agree to have Harvey removed, and it was a really stupid move to allow Scorpy to stick another spike into your head. Come on, don't you know the guy better than that by now? Silly boy, trusting him on the big, dangerous things and then getting all paranoid about the small stuff he's got no reason to screw you on.... Tsk, tsk, tsk.

  • It does occur to me to wonder if Harvey was actually telling the truth about having uploaded big chunks of John's mind to the Scorpster, but I'm willing to bet that he was, just because, well, that kind of thoroughness is completely typical of Scorpius. Oh, yeah, that's the Scorpy I know and love! Not to mention respect and fear. Then again, Harvey may well have been fibbing just a tad, because if he's not, then Scorpius already has the wormwhole knowledge, so what's he been hanging around for? Hmm. In any case, Harvey's reappearance and revelation make for one hell of a plot twist, one that fulfills all my expections while somehow simultaneously being totally unexpected. And it leaves the characters in a situation that... well, let's just say that the epsiode title suddenly seems entirely justified. Heh.

  • Hey, speaking of Scorpius, is anybody but me wondering how he got Scarran spy codes? OK, I don't have any trouble believing that he has them, I'm just kind of curious as to how he got them.

  • As has often been pointed out, this season has had a lot of resonances with various things from back in Season Two. And I think we've finally discovered more or less what they were all pointing towards. Once again, John is being driven by a neural clone in his head... Oh, yeah, we were here this time season-before-last, too. Even the story structure is the same: three-parter followed by a season finale. I'm almost positive that this is not coincidental, and now I'm really afraid to see what other parallels are going to crop up. In case it's not clear, by the way, this is praise not criticism. They're definitely not simply re-hashing the second season, here, rather they're building on what has gone before and playing with the associations they've already created in the audience's mind in really interesting ways. There's probably some kind of literary term for this, and if there's not, there should be. Whatever you call it, I do very much like it.

  • So, how 'bout those Scenes from Next Week, huh? Stark! My man! I've missed you so much! Welcome back! Looks like it's really him this time, too, rather than a VR simulation or a freaky alternate-universe version or whatever the hell that talking head in "Unrealized Reality" was supposed to be. It also looks like he's going to get to do the brutal-interrogation deal on Scorpius, and I find that I really just can't begrudge him the opportunity. Turnabout is fair play, and all that. (You know, come to think of it, there've been a lot of these kinds of symmetries and "turnabouts" lately. I don't think that's accidental, either.) I can't for the life of me imagine what he's doing with the Scarrans, though.

  • Oh, wait. Several things just clicked into place. Oh, wow. If the Scenes from Next Week are to be believed... Suddenly I think I can understand how the Scarrans would know about Crichton and about the wormholes and about any funkiness there might be in his DNA... Oh, Stark, Stark... What have you been telling them? And just how much of Talyn-John's memories have you got in that frelled-up little brain of yours? And... Well, why? Man, I am really looking forward to finding out the answers.