Thursday, May 28, 2009

US Who News

For those of you watching Doctor Who in the US, it turns out that BBC America is going to be getting this year's Who specials before that channel that's changing to the silly new name. Looks like they'll be airing the Christmas special on June 27th.

I guess whether that's good news or bad news for US Who viewers depends on what your cable package is like.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fun Things That Come In The Mail

I am pleased to report that this is the most entertaining way of terrorizing your cats ever.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm Sure That Was More Than Seven Percent.

Speaking of re-imaginings of classic characters, the trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes movie looks kind of entertaining, in a complete "What the hell where they smoking when they made this?!" kind of way:

Yayful Things

I have my glasses back! And they are noticeably gouge-free. Three cheers for warranties!

Also, my original -- well, OK, remastered -- Trek discs came in the mail! You know, one thing that has made me happy about the new movie, whatever mixed feelings I might have towards it, is that it does seem to generating a new enthusiasm for Old School Trek in many people, apparently including me. Given that one of my initial sources of hostility towards the film was the heart-sinking possibility that an entire new generation would, say, hear the name "Leonard McCoy" and immediately think of that Urban guy while the world slowly forgot the existence of the lovely DeForrest Kelley, this is a very gratifying and reassuring thing. (And, no, I didn't deliberately set up that sentence so I could make jokes involving the phrase "the Real McCoy," but you can insert your own here if you wish.)

Also, I do not seem to have come down with Pig Flu, after all. Thank you, immune system!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Oh Noes! Pig Flu!

Um... Why is my throat kind of sore? And why is it not going away even when I drink nice, soothing tea?

Oh, no, body. You do not get to be sick this week. I forbid it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back From The Final Frontier

OK, I am now back from seeing the Star Trek movie! I present for you my thoughts/analysis/review, which I have rendered pretty much non-spoilery, although I won't blame anyone for skipping it until they've seen the movie, if they don't want to go into it with my thoughts knocking around in their head.

The verdict? Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Which, considering that up until about a week ago my reaction to the whole idea was pretty much "Abomination! Sacrilege! Why must you rape my childhood?!", is actually a pretty darned positive reaction.

Actually, I partly take that back. I did in fact love the movie during pretty much every second when Spock was on the screen. I am kind of flabbergasted by that. Yes, I thought Zachary Quinto was not at all a bad choice for Spock if anybody had to play him, but until today I might very well have said that "Nobody but Leonard Nimoy ever, ever could or should play Spock" was as close to an article of religious faith as I have. And yet, lo and behold, he's the one character I accepted easily as being the character. Period.

Not only was Quinto entirely believable as Spock, with what appeared to be a full understanding of the incredibly subtle nuances of the character, but from the middle distance, he even looked reasonably like a young Leonard Nimoy. It's a pity that illusion was inevitably shattered a bit when he talked, as no matter how fine his acting skills, he simply does not have Nimoy's distinctive voice. But that's not his fault, and the fact that I looked at him and saw Spock anyway is, frankly, nothing short of amazing. It was also, in a way, enlightening. I walked out of the theater awash in the realization that, simply put, Spock is wonderful. Intrinsically wonderful, whoever might be playing him. For this old Trekkie, that sense of re-connection to a character I've loved since childhood was marvelous, and well worth sitting through the movie for, all by itself.

As for the other characters, well... Sorry, but they weren't them. They were trying to be, but whatever transcendent magic Quinto had, he was the only one who did. Then again, Spock, frankly, is the make-or-break character here, and the fact that he worked means that the movie as a whole worked -- or at least, it worked whenever he was on screen. For the rest of the time, though, if I just let myself think of it as a really good, extremely high-budget fan film, I was OK and could mostly short-circuit the voice in my head going, "Dude, that's not Kirk."

Because, really, he wasn't Kirk, and that was pretty much down to the actor. If you'd summarized for me everything Kirk says and does in the movie, I probably would be nodding my head and saying, "Yeah, that sounds pretty much like him." But while the cockiness is there, Chris Pine just doesn't have Shatner's cheesy charisma, and the result is a character who's less appealing than he really ought to be. Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy worked a bit better for me. We really only got to see a couple of aspects of McCoy's personality in the movie, but they were entertainingly done, and even if I couldn't look at Urban and effortlessly see Leonard McCoy, I could certainly see someone doing and saying the things that McCoy would say and do in something very close to the way he would say and do them.

Most of the other characters I don't have much to say about, mainly because they didn't have loads of characterization on the original series, or in the movie, or both. Chekov, for example, is pretty easy. "Excitable young guy with a silly accent" is pretty close to the extent of his characterization, and since Anton Yelchin had the silly accent nailed -- to the extent that I could almost mistake him for a young Walter Koenig if I close my eyes -- he pretty much works. I had more of a problem with Uhura. Again, the character was badly under-served in the original series, so I understand that there's not a whole lot there to work with, but, well, Uhura always had a certain... I'm not even sure how to describe it. A certain graceful, self-possessed quality. But my general sense of her character is the movie is closer to "spunky" than "self-possessed," and for much of the movie it was hard to see any of the Uhura I knew in her, xenolinguistics skill aside.

As for the plot... Well, I did find some of the action sequences a little tedious, the storyline was a bit silly and contrived, perhaps, and the science was terrible. But really, I can't say that any of that isn't Star Trek. A bit less easy to shrug off, perhaps, is the slightly annoyed sense that I was watching a bunch of kids playing at being starship officers with insufficient adult supervision, but it bothered me much less than I would have expected. Seriously. Much less. I've thought the whole "Starfleet Academy" prequel idea was painfully, vomit-inducingly bad since the first time it was ever proposed, umpteen years ago. So the simple fact that I was feeling neither pain nor nausea is, in fact, pretty incredible.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the gazillion lovely little continuity touches, which were fun without being unnecessarily obtrusive. Unfortunately, such careful attention to continuity just made their one big continuity lapse all the more annoying. Actually, there are several things that initially look like continuity errors in this, but they pretty much all shake themselves out as the story unfolds... leaving just one thing to bug the nitpicky crap out of me. Sigh. (People who've seen the movie and have a good knowledge of Original Trek, you may feel free to try to guess what it is.)

I also wish that they'd paid as much attention to making the other non-human character in Star Trek -- the Enterprise herself -- look and feel familiar as they did the characters with speaking lines. The exteriors were lovely, but the interiors? Look, I really wouldn't expect them to entirely re-create the 1960's aesthetic, because that would be... bizarre. But the bridge of the Enterprise should at least look and feel a little like the bridge of the Enterprise, in more than just the placement of the chairs.

But, anyway, again, I didn't hate it. It's not the Trekpocalypse. I can't really accuse it of raping my childhood. It was... a pretty good fan film, into which, astonishingly, a real-feeling Spock happened to wander. Hey, I'll take it!

Actually, I'm thinking I may very well want to see it again, just so I can give myself a chance to experience it on its own merits, instead of obsessively analyzing and drawing comparisons, as I was inevitably doing this time.

By the way, I'll be happy to discuss the movie at even greater length in the comments, and to hear what the rest of you think, but I ask that people please use spoiler warnings on anything that gets more spoilery than this review.

Star Trekkin' Across The Universe (Or At Least Up I-25)

All right. I've done the grocery shopping and the laundry and all the other crap I really needed to do today. (Well, OK, maybe not the vacuuming, but that can wait.) In about half an hour or so, I'm gonna go see this new Star Trek thing, doggone it, if only so it will be possible for me to participate in the internet again.

That means you've all got until I get home tonight to place your bets on what my reaction will be. Will I return shouting "Abomination!" or "Frell me, THAT WAS COOL!"? Anything is possible! Stay tuned!

Big Batch O' Random Links

We Didn't Start The Flamewar: This pretty much sums up the entire internet, right here. (Warning: NSFW.)

The Biology of B-Movies: Just how plausible are all those shrinking men and giant bugs? (Yeah, I think you can probably guess the answer to that one.)

Study: Why Cute Overload is Critical to Your Work: I am thoroughly convinced, and will now make a point of stopping whatever productive activities I may be engaged in to look at cute animals several times a day. For the good of my work.

Why Space Repairs Aren't Easy: Astronaut John Grunsfeld (mentioned in this article) has some ties with NRAO, and a few years back he came and gave us a talk about repairing the Hubble telescope, which was very cool indeed. The main thing I remember about it is thinking that I cannot possibly imagine having that job. It once took me the better part of an hour to change a car battery, never mind servicing a delicate, multi-million-dollar scientific instrument. In microgravity. While wearing giant space gloves.

Ten Things You Don't Know About Hubble: Speaking of Hubble, here's the latest in the Bad Astronomer's "Ten Things You Don't Know" series.

Open-mindedness: Interesting video exploring what it actually means to be "open-minded," and why it doesn't involve accepting every ghost story you come across at face value.

The Internet as Imagined in 1969: I'm not sure which tickles me more about this video. The truly impressive way they managed to get the broad details right, or the chuckle-inducing ways in which the hardware and the social aspects are just plain wrong.

Pregnancy Myths BUSTED!: Mythbuster Kari Byron, currently expecting a baby geeklet, punctures a few myths about pregnancy. Pretty much a fluff piece, but some of her comments are great. She really does have an entirely unique set of pregnancy-related concerns.

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes: Well, I feel inspired! Though I'm not exactly sure to what.

International Space Station comes Together: And just to end on another space link, here's a cool flash animation showing the progress of the ISS's construction.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Lost Lost.

Dear TiVo:

Is there a reason you only saw fit to record two minutes of the Lost season finale? Was it due to some sort of magnetic anomaly? Or is it because you hate me?

Contemplating feeding you to the smoke monster,

[ETA: I have managed to see it now. And, lo, it was awesome.]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Upside, Downside

Bad: I went to bed about 2 AM yesterday after getting off work at midnight... and was woken up by the mailman ringing my door at 8:30. Sigh. Why does the world conspire to keep me from getting a decent eight hours of sleep? On the upside, he was bringing me a box full of books and some more Pretender DVDs, and if you have to get woken up an hour or two too early, at least that's a nice thing to be awakened by.

Good: Turns out the warranty on my eyeglasses covers my giant lens scratch even though it's purely due to my own clumsiness. They're going to replace the lens, and it'll cost me zip. Considering that I was afraid I might have to buy another pair of $400+ glasses, or at least pay a good percentage of that for repair, this is excellent news. On the downside, it's going to take a week or so, during which I have to go back to wearing my old pair. The prescription's barely changed at all, so that's mostly OK, but I find any change in eyewear at least mildly disorienting.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Even My Furniture Is Out To Get Me.

Today's major annoyance: I was bending over to pick something up off the floor, managed to slip in some fashion I still do not remotely understand, and ended up smashing my eyeglasses directly into the sharp corner of a metal desk. I suppose it would have been a lot worse if I weren't wearing glasses and it had been my eye smashing into the desk, but still. I now have a giant gouge in one lens, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to replace the damned glasses.

OK, it may only be Monday, but at this point I really want a do-over on the whole week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

On, Second Thought, Scotty, I'll Just Stay Down Here.

I fell asleep last night about about 2 AM -- a reasonable hour for my current work schedule -- and then woke up at 6:30 and could not get back to sleep. Bah. As a consequence, I'm pretty sure this is a "lie around on the sofa drinking tea and reading, with occasional breaks for DVDs and comfort food" kind of a day, not a "drive an hour and a half round trip through the desert to see a movie that's doubtless going to get me all worked up one way or another" kind of day.

In other words, no Star Trek for me. Next weekend, probably.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Currently: The Brains And Feet Edition

Current clothes: Khaki-colored shorts. A t-shirt from The Planetary Society; it's black, and features a false-color picture of a spiral galaxy, with an upward-looking human silhouetted against it and the words "Is Anyone Out There?" across it. White socks. No shoes.

Current mood: Not bad. Sort of mellow. I'd say "sleepy," but given how late I slept today, I refuse to believe I can be sleepy right now, so "mellow" it is.

Current music: Not much music lately, really. I've mostly been listening to a bunch of podcasts.

Current annoyance: My stupid human body. Not only am I suffering from Little Mermaid Foot Syndrome, but while I was cooking dinner earlier, my cornea apparently tried to fall off again. I've had that suddenly happen when I first open my eyes in the morning, but never randomly between blinks like that. Fortunately, the pain didn't last long once I got some liquid flowing over my eyeball. Unfortunately, that is some capital-P Pain, let me tell you.

Current thing: I don't know. I may be sort of thing-less at the moment. Or maybe I have many small and uninteresting things.

Current desktop picture: The stars in Orion's Belt. I've been having trouble settling on one I want to keep lately, though. I might change it again.

Current book: Day One: Before Hiroshima and After by Peter Wyden. It's a book about colorful people doing fascinating things with incredibly important global implications, so I don't know why it keeps sort of making my eyes glaze over, but it does.

Current song in head: "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton. I've been on something of a zombie kick lately, I think.

Current DVD in player: Disc two of season 4 of The Pretender. Yes, I am still slowly watching through this series, and still enjoying it beyond all rationality or reason. Even if the last episode I watched did have some images that I suspect may have scarred me for life. I also have the first disc of season ten of South Park in the other DVD player, because it was my on-the-treadmill show until I had to stop due to aforementioned Mermaid Foot.

Current refreshment: Just finished some tea.

Current worry: Mostly that this stupid foot isn't going to improve as quickly as I would like. Also that zombies will eat my brains, because that's a lot more fun to worry about.

Current thought: I've been trying to decide whether I want to go and see the Star Trek movie tomorrow. It seems like everybody and their pet sehlat is rushing out to see it this weekend, which means I'm already feeling left out of a lot of conversations. And it's been getting astonishingly positive responses, which is making me curious to see it and form my own opinion. (I'm still kind of secretly hoping that I'll hate it, but that's looking less and less likely.) I really don't know if I feel like driving all the way up to the theater in Los Lunas, though. Sometimes it's deeply annoying, living in the middle of nowhere.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why I Sometimes Long To Be The Last Person On Earth

Dear person who apparently walked up my driveway, found my already-nearly-full trash bin parked out of sight between a shed and a length of fence and dumped your giant-ass bags of yard debris into it two days after trash-pickup day,


Bewildered annoyance,

[ETA: Except that, on further reflection and investigation, I think those giant bags may instead have come from the guys I had out here working on my swamp cooler yesterday. Damn it. There's a great head of righteous indignation, wasted.]

Not-So-Random Links: Star Trek Edition

People keep sending me Star Trek-related links lately for some strange, unknown reason. So I figured I'd pass on a few of the more interesting or fun ones:

The Conversations: Star Trek: A fascinating discussion of the first six Trek movies from a couple of non-Trekkie film buffs. I'm used to seeing this level of analysis from Trek fans, but it's unusual and interesting to see it from an outsider's perspective, so to speak, particularly when it's as thoughtful as this. I don't agree with all of their opinions, but they do have some insightful things to say, and while they're perfectly willing to mock the movies' faults, I never once felt that they were mocking the movies' fans.

Star Trek Week: Which was the one with the whales? A mercifully quick guide to past Trek movies: If the long analysis at the previous link was too much for you, maybe this extremely brief, tongue-in-cheek guide will be more your speed.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As "Fun, Watchable": All right, this one mocks. But it mocks knowingly, and with a certain degree of "funny 'cause it's true."

I'm not sure, by the way, when I'll be getting out to see the new movie. I wasn't feeling enthusiastic up 'til now, because I thoroughly expected to hate it. Now, having read a bunch of glowingly positive reviews, I'm feeling trepidatious because I might not hate it, and I kind of want to. Ah, the Trekkie purist's life is a difficult, difficult thing.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

If The Human Body Were Made By A Designer, There'd Be So Many Customer Complaints That They'd Have To Issue A Recall.

You know the story of the Little Mermaid, and how she was given legs to walk around on, but at the cost of feeling with every step as if knives were being shoved into her feet? I'm pretty sure she just had plantar fasciitis.

Yep, mine is back, and that first step out of bed in the morning is a doozy.

Sigh. All my life, I've been kind to my feet. Sure, I walk on them a lot. That's their job. But I've never made them mince around in high heels. I don't cram them into dainty little shoes with pointy toes or make them walk barefoot over pointy rocks. And yet they pay me back with nothing but cruelty.

Come the cyborg revolution, I am so trading them in for robotic feet.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

How Much Is That In Gold-Pressed Latinum?

It would be, like, horribly frivolous and irresponsible of me to spend $255 on the complete Deep Space 9 boxed set, wouldn't it? Even if that is an excellent sale price? Aargh, I am seriously tempted, anyway.

By comparison, the remastered Original Series boxed set seems downright affordable...

Damn this science fictional monkey on my back!