Saturday, April 07, 2012

Size Matters Not

I just finished reading Warwick Davis's cheery, charming autobiography. It's a fast read, very conversational. It's not a book of deep insights and dishing, but it's a lot like sitting down with the man himself and him telling you some nice anecdotes about making movies and how he got into the business (nearly by accident, without him even really realizing), and about some of the challenges of being a little person and being a father. When he was born, the doctors told his parents he wouldn't live through childhood; now Davis is grateful for everything he has and never takes his success or his relationships for granted. You can see a lot of the real life events (such as the giant tax bill) that inspired his series Life's Too Short, a series where he is completely satirizing himself--he just comes across as way too nice a guy to be that self-enamored. And he's also a big geek, which is always fun. I laughed a lot reading it, and it has its share of tears (most especially around the troubled births of his first two children, who sadly did not live).

Even with the sadness, I found it utterly delightful.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Nerd Badge

Via Jaquandor I find this list of 20 things every SF nerd must have (physically or emotionally): "Below is a little checklist of 20 Things Every Sci-Fi Nerd Should Own To Earn, physically as well as emotionally. If you 'own' at least twelve of these twenty things, you are entitled to your SCI-FI Nerd Badge."

Now, I have my Nerd Badge because I earned it, not because some arbitrary online list says I'm "entitled." And I earned it back in the days before the internet, back when you would get your ass kicked for saying you liked Transformers, back when you were lucky to find a single local comic book store, back before everything vaguely geeky was suddenly mainstream cool. I'm not bitter about it--hey, the more the merrier, and the more genre stuff being produced increases the chance of finding really good stuff instead of having to see Cyborg because it's one of the only science fiction movies coming out that year--but, come on, you don't tell me if I have a Nerd Badge, got it?

So, what do I own here?

1) Conan The Barbarian Soundtrack

I think this is probably the only one on here that I think is a really interesting, surprising choice. And yes, I do have this; I wore out my tape when I was just learning to drive, and then I bought the CD, which is expanded. Basil Poledouris's score is my favorite film music of all time. You can just sit and listen to this without the film and enjoy it as its own narrative, like a series of tone poems.

2) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

I do own this. I first read this in high school, in my Science Fiction Lit elective. I actually have a small number of Phillip K. Dick novels and a five-volume short story collection.

3) The Twilight Zone Collection

I do not own this, but I can watch it on Netflix streaming. I've been thinking of doing a re-watch of this one... well, it wouldn't all be a re-watch, but I've seen a great deal of it in my life. Maybe after I finally finish Enterprise...

4) The Original Star Wars Trilogy – WITHOUT ANY ADDED CRAP

Technically I don't and neither do you. For as much as the fandamentalists get all picky about what is and isn't the "original" experience of Star Wars, they seem to not notice the little changes made in the theatrical re-releases that occurred before they were made available on home video, or in, say, the 35mm and 70mm versions of The Empire Strikes Back, both released in 1980. Hell, when Star Wars was released, it didn't say "Episode IV: A New Hope." Didn't say that until 1981. Oh, wait... you say that the addition was made to give a uniform appearance to the series of films? Hmm... so in this case it's okay? I wonder what the difference is...

Seriously, I'm just so sick of the fantard whining. It's starting to get impossible to like these films again just because of the whining that's been associated with them. At what point did it become a virtue to harbor a lifelong hatred against a movie that failed to entertain you? Especially those of you old enough to know better? I fucking hated Avatar. Do you think I seethe with anger and betrayal every time that flick gets mentioned? No, because as wrong as my life has ever gone, it's never gone that wrong. I swear fanboys aren't happy unless they're bitching about Star Wars. It's been 29 years, get over Ewoks, already. And anyone my age who says they "always" hated the Ewoks is a poser.

By the way, have you seen all of the entitled fan whining over the new Kinect Star Wars game? It is truly hilarious, watching people cry over how George Lucas "dared" to have dance contests in the game, and how it kills the integrity of whatever boo hoo hoo wah wah. I think it's the best thing ever. I hope George Lucas does this to you idiots on purpose.

So yes, I own the "original" trilogy a few times over. I have the VHS boxed set that came out some time in the early 90s (a Christmas present), even though I can't watch it since we don't have a VCR anymore. I also have the widescreen THX-certified box set that came out right before the Special Editions were theatrically released. Although the THX sound might be added crap, who knows with you people.

5) A Profound Hatred for Star Trek Enterprise

Again, is it really a virtue to have a hatred for a TV show? I mean, either you liked it or you didn't or you had mixed feelings, but a "profound hatred"? Get over yourself! Not being entertained by something is not a character-defining trait. And if it is, it's a sign of lousy character.

Of course, I'm seeing Enterprise for the first time now, and there's a lot there that I like. I think the show doesn't live up to its potential because it falls back on creators who aren't very interested in doing anything new with it, but are instead milking a franchise, which is a shame. Missed opportunity. But I still feel more engaged than I did with Voyager, which is perhaps why the disappointing episodes are so disappointing.

6) The Lord of The Rings Extended Edition, The Soundtracks and all of the books

I echo Jaquandor: what does "all of the books" mean. I own LOTR, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion (and a couple of other non-Middle-earth Tolkien books). I have the theatrical DVDs and the Extended Edition DVDs (which I've been itching to watch again; it's been just long enough to really be wowed by them again), and the soundtrack CDs. These were actually the last film scores I rushed out to buy. Since then, I've not heard much that really moved me. I'm not one of those "Film music is dead!" people, but I just haven't heard a lot that I think are really, truly great.

Also, I have bunch of LOTR action figures.

I'm counting this one.

7) A Profound Sadness for the Way Battlestar Galactica Ended

I've yet to see BSG. There was a certain fan stridency that turned me off at the time, and before I did my DS9 watch, I (wrongly, as it turned out) blamed Ronald Moore for a lot of the crappiness that happened to Trek. Plus, it just looked too derivative of Farscape at a time when I had decided to no longer watch the Sci-Fi Channel for canceling Farscape. Ever since then, I've been wary of getting attached to SF shows. I didn't even watch the new Doctor Who until its first two seasons had aired.

8 ) A Passionately Favorite Version of the REAL Doctor Who

Is the revival series not the "real" Doctor Who? See, this is the kind of fandamentalist whining that makes it so hard to be a genre fan sometimes... The first Doctor Who I ever saw, incidentally, was the much-derided 1996 TV movie with Paul McGann. About the only useful thing my roommate at the time did was introduce me to the rest of the Doctor Who universe. I've honestly never been able to really settle on a favorite Doctor; Tom Baker is magical, and Peter Davison is wonderful, but Jon Pertwee is so dashing and fun, and I do love William Hartnell as the Doctor. There's no "one true Doctor" for me.

I'm not going to count myself on this one because the whole passionately strident about one specific thing hoo-har is the worst part of fandom.

9) A Fear That Will Smith Will Someday Star in The Movie Adaptation of Your Favorite Book

Meh. I don't like Will Smith--I'm pretty bloody sick of him--but I'm not one of those guys who gets all pissed off about a shitty movie being made from a book I like. So they made a shitty movie? Still have my book. Get over it.

10) Toys from Your Childhood That You Refuse To Part With

Sure. Hell, I still have a number of my original Star Wars figures. They're not preserved in amber anywhere, they're just in the bin with the toys that aren't on display. I also have my first Kermit the Frog stuffed toy, and a Winnie the Pooh doll from when I was an infant. I'm not passionately hoarding them, I've just never wanted to get rid of them.

I have a bunch of my old GI Joe figures, too. Kept the ones I wanted and dumped the rest.

11) The Belief that the Word Midichlorian Was Just from a Nightmare and NOT a real Star Wars Movie

Midichlorians don't bother me. Again, I agree with Jaquandor: what was the point of having them? I guess when Chancellor Palpatine explains how the midichlorians could be manipulated to result in the birth of a powerful Sith, they make sense. I didn't like how they made Jedi seem like a master race in the interim between Episodes I and III. But again, seriously, if this is still a passionate topic of debate with you 13 years later, get back on your meds.

12) The Original TRON Movie

I saw Tron when I was about 16 or 17. Caught it on television once and found it thoroughly boring (except for Cindy Morgan and the Wendy Carlos score). I've always thought I'd go back to it and check it out again, but after being thoroughly bored with Tron: Legacy (except for the Daft Punk score), I'm probably going to give it a pass.

13) An affection for the TV show Firefly

No, not in the least. I've tried to watch it and just didn't care for it at all. I feel that way about most of Joss Whedon's output, though I've got my fingers crossed for The Avengers.

14) A Hatred for Chris O’Donnell

I have no opinion of Chris O'Donnell. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin have so many other things wrong with them. And if you're going to pick on anyone's performance in Batman Forever, why Chris O'Donnell's? Everyone pretty much sucks in that stupid movie. Except for Michael Gough. And Ed Begley, Jr. He gave me the movie's one genuine laugh.

15) You Know Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

Indeed! And I've also read a lot of Isaac Asimov, something that used to be a sign of being a geek before it became 97% about movies, television and comics...

16) You think Cheetara is HOT!

When I was 10, sure.

17) You Believe Aliens are our REAL Gods

I don't believe in aliens or gods. I believe in the probability of aliens.

18) You Have a Favorite Animated Cult Sci-Fi Movie

I'm not even sure what would count here. Heavy Metal's an okay movie. The Iron Giant is SF but hardly cult; I don't think there's a cult around Titan AE, either, although I think it's pretty underrated. Is the 1986 Transformers: The Movie a cult flick, because I love that movie.

Oh, I guess Starchaser: The Legend of Orin must count. I dig that movie. I have that on DVD.

19) You Blame Hot Rod for Optimus Prime’s Death

Well, he did get in the way, but it's really the fault of Hasbro for misjudging how much kids loved Optimus Prime. They had to undo the whole thing, anyway.

20) You DESPISE Michael Bay for Masturbating on your Childhood

Meh. There are lots of reasons to hate Michael Bay. I was disappointed in Transformers, but it's not like I couldn't pop the DVD of the 1986 flick into the DVD player if I wanted to revisit the characters. And as for what he said about the upcoming TMNT movie... who cares? They haven't made a good Ninja Turtles movie ever, it's not like I expect them to start now.

Even being generous, I put myself at eight. But since I think this is a pretty limited measure of a person's state of inner geek, it doesn't really bug me. What about those of us who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons with a very small group of people because people made fun of you for playing it? What about being one of the first people in the neighborhood to even own a personal computer and play text adventure games on it? How about being part of a mailing group devoted to one particular fandom long before you could go on the internet and get lectured about Robert E. Howard by little punks? Have you ever driven to another state to buy used books because it was the only way you could get a copy of Phillip Jose Farmer's Tarzan Alive or find the really early issues of Cerebus or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

I don't know, the more I look at this, the more I'm kind of glad I don't have a lot of the superficial qualities that qualify me for this particular Nerd Badge. Being defined by your stupid disappointments is petty and makes you pretty boring and small. There's so much to enjoy in genre, why would you obsess over the things you don't like? Because you can't get over it?

Then why do I want to talk to you?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Hilarious parody of blacksploitation flicks; I imagine the mileage varies on how much you like blacksploitation. Personally, I love it, and I thought this one was funny as hell. I always love seeing Jim Brown, too. Some interesting commentary on black culture of the late eighties. Great cast, and a couple of cameos that really made me laugh, especially John Vernon as the villain, who onscreen compares his appearance as the villain to Shelley Winters in Cleopatra Jones. Nothing I can say to give it any higher praise than, honestly, it's just really, really funny. ****

Documentary that has some interesting information about the record industry, but uses it to laud independent record stores far beyond their importance. I think this would be a much more powerful, interesting documentary if it figured out what it wanted to say. All of the information is right there to show you how the record industry destroyed itself with greed, ineptness, and MBAs. But this film would rather focus on the plight of the poor independent record stores without actually having anything meaningful to say about why we would need independent record stores in a world focused on digital technology and in the modern economic climate. You have to reach me as a music consumer. Yeah, I know we're all supposed to be upset about the loss of a sense of community, or whatever nostalgic pseudo-romantic term you want to put on it, but in a crumbling economic structure, what is the sense of community putting on my table at the end of the day? You have to come up with genuine, realistic arguments about why shopping at an independent record store is better for everyone. Personally, I hate shopping in those places, because you always think they're going to be cool, but instead you go in and everyone looks at you like a potential thief, the prices are too high, and you get mocked for your taste in music--if you can peel the clerks away from their own conversations. I hate the whole experience. And I don't like vinyl much, either. I like being able to hear my music instead of pops and creaks and scratches with a bit of mono music underneath. I prefer clarity. Sorry. So I'm never going to feel bad about not subsidizing your lifelong dream to hang out in a record store all day. The whole thing ends with a bit of unintentional irony as one of the particularly loud record store owners, who has lost his shop and is now selling records on the street, says "To quote GG Allin, 'I'm still here! I'M STILL HERE!'" GG Allin is dead, jackass. ** because it almost makes its point before descending into a nostalgia wank about how we should all hate progress.

This flick is just downright bizarre. It's about a fugitive (Steve Railsback, alternating between intense and INTENSE!!) who winds up hiding out as a stunt man on a film directed by a bored artist (Peter O'Toole) who loves to mindfuck people. He's making a World War I anti-war movie, but trying to find the meaning of it all. Barbara Hershey's also in there, as are a number of actors I like (always great to see Allen Goorwitz). It's the kind of thing I just watched with my jaw open, trying to figure out what the point was or if the gamesmanship was all there was to it. Either way, it's as riveting as it is off-putting. I can't even rate this one; I'm not really sure how to.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Random TV Report

:: First, let me recommend those of you who haven't seen it go over to Byzantium's Shores and read Kelly's Open Letter to Castle. His analysis of what the show's weak points currently are, and what was particularly wrong with last week's episode "47 Seconds," is better and more clearly focused than mine. I think I would have felt the episode was less distasteful in the way it uses a gravely-presented tragedy as motivation for the will they/won't they plot thread if the episode had ended in a meaningful way, and not with the pouty petulance that it presented. That's my real gripe with "47 Seconds." Because they used this whole idea of a possible terrorist bombing as a backdrop for Tension-Extending-Plot-Contrivance 101, and I was left not only dissatisfied but feeling betrayed by the end--apparently these fantastic characters are now total idiots--I just couldn't stomach it. Honestly, even though I know I'll watch it, I'm not even looking forward to tonight's episode.

This is, really, a sudden development, too. Yes, there have been a couple of lame episodes this season (like the silly holodeck fantasy episode "The Blue Butterfly"), but nothing that really damaged my love for the show until now. Hell, "Kill Shot" was a great episode, and "Cops & Robbers" was not only one of my favorite episodes of the show ever, but also one of my favorite episodes of any show in the 2011-12 season. But this new development... it just grinds everything to a halt.

Anyway, read Kelly's post. He's got it nailed. (He also nails the tone of the show with some of his dialogue suggestions; he should really be writing this show.)

I do wish they'd let Castle and Beckett get together organically. It can be done, it's just TV, so writers and producers are never quite brave enough to make that choice. It's like Angel... the moment that show goes from surprisingly great to friggin' slog is in the third season when the producers can't just let Angel have a baby, but instead have to have the baby get taken away and raised in another dimension and return as an emo teenager because, I guess, feelings are too hard to write. Better to fall back on cliches and limp to a conclusion, I suppose.

You're so much better than this, Castle.

(Oh, and one thing that Becca points out: Castle is really pissed at Beckett for not coming to him with her feelings, but how is she going to feel when she discovers that Castle is now one of the people keeping information about her mother's murder from her? Seriously, which is the bigger betrayal?)

:: Some possibly spoilerish thoughts on the Game of Thrones season premiere. First, I just can't wait to see more of Liam Cunningham as Ser Davos Seaworth. A great character, and I think Cunningham really got him down. I also think either they're doing a better job at making Robb Stark sympathetic than GRRM did in the books, or I'm just more engaged in the character this time around. That little moment that Richard Madden had, when Catelyn tells Robb that Ned would be proud of him, was really good. Robb falters for a few seconds, then forces himself to swallow it down and go on. I think I'm going to be more invested in Robb than I was in the books; I tended to tune him out a little because I just don't like Catelyn at all and her simplistic attitude towards politics was immensely frustrating to read through.

This show's actually been very interesting at getting me to rethink some of the characters through the actors that have been cast. Jack Gleeson is so perfectly loathsome as Joffrey that his presence immediately puts Cersei into a perspective that I hadn't quite seen before. I think the brevity of the series is a major help, too. In the book, it only gradually dawned on me that Joffrey had no intention of taking orders from his mother or his grandfather; here we see the full picture right off, and it was nice to get a sense right away that Cersei sees just how much her position is in danger from a son that no longer has to obey her (and is a sociopath), a brother who is smarter than her and in a more secure position of authority, and a father who is disappointed in how inept she's turned out to be as a schemer. All of this, and her protector/brother is held captive miles away.

I think the scene where Littlefinger reveals his knowledge of Cersei's secret is a good addition in light of this, reminding both Littlefinger and the audience that she's not completely out of the game and that she still commands the loyalty of the Kingsguard. I also think it shows a key character flaw in Littlefinger, which is that he sometimes underestimates the way people will react. Here we see that Cersei can be every bit as reactionary, even as crazy, as Joffrey.

Overall, I think the episode did a great job of easing us back into the major plot threads and introducing us to some of the major new characters. Stannis is every bit the officious boor that I imagined him to be. And also, Craster's house looks exactly like I imagined it when I read the book. And holy shit, how did I not know Hannah Murray was going to play Gilly? What a nice surprise to suddenly see her! I fucking hated Skins, but I loved Hannah Murray on it as Cassie Ainsworth; she was a sympathetic figure on a terrible, cruel show, and to see her again was really lovely. Can't wait to see more.

And in the end, that's the only thing that really bugged me about the premiere: I immediately wanted the next episode.

:: I really dug the season finale of House of Lies; turned out to really be a great season of television. I like the implications it ended on, and I hope it doesn't fuck things up in the next season, but that the writers really ride with it. Also, if I didn't mention this in any previous TV Reports, I really love Glynn Turman. So damn nice to see him on this show. Or anywhere, really. I think in one episode he gave the single best performance on the first season of In Treatment a couple of years back.

:: On the advice of a couple of different people, I checked out ABC's Revenge and was immediately hooked in. I haven't finished catching up with the episodes--I have about four more left--but mainly because I'm watching this with Becca, who actually likes a show I like for a change. (It's about a 1 in 10 success rate.) I've seen people (including Becca) compare this to Dynasty, but I've never seen Dynasty, actually. I really should check that out sometime, if only for a relic of my favored 80s. Revenge is, in my opinion, the real "new Lost," if only for the way it's so involving. Less mythology-heavy than Lost, which is nice, but incredibly involving. Madeline Stowe is wonderfully dramatic. Also, surprised I don't hear many people comparing it to The Count of Monte Cristo, which it basically is. Or Batman, if you're so inclined.

Either way, it's marvelously fun.

:: I also just started watching Suburgatory, which is much funnier than I expected. I'm watching a surprisingly high number of ABC shows. Actually, I'd be watching the entire ABC Wednesday night line-up if I didn't hate Patricia Heaton so goddamn much.

Speaking of, the ads for Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 are horrible, but I watched the pilot episode on Hulu, and it was surprisingly funny. Really enjoyed it. It's silly, but James Van Der Beek is absolutely hilarious as himself, and I'm glad to see a vehicle for Krysten Ritter come up. A better one than that awful Gravity, at any rate.

:: I saw the previews last night for Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series The Newsroom. Looks interesting despite my natural instincts to stay away from Aaron Sorkin. I also might check out Veep with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for no earthly reason I can think of.

:: Nice to see a new episode of Hell's Kitchen on. What are we up to these days, Fox? One new episode every six weeks, or something?

I do plan on checking out Gordon Ramsay's new Fox series Hotel Hell. I like the guy. I'm much more interested in this than in another round of Hell's Kitchen. After the too-obvious manipulation of the last one, I need a long break from that. (And I know, all reality TV is manipulated, I don't really care; there's a way to do it and a way that poisons the well and takes the viewer out of it.) Also, I still think they should do an all-stars version.

UPDATE 12:02 PM: Couple of things I forgot to mention.

:: I watched the first season of Breaking Bad, and damn, that's some good show. It's all on Netflix, so I'm going to keep going with it. Really digging it, and honestly, I'll watch practically anything with Bryan Cranston in it. He was the reason I got so into Malcolm in the Middle.

:: The more I read about the second season of American Horror Story, the less into it I am. I loved the over-the-top sexy cheesiness of the first season, but I'm still not sure I want to see actors who played such distinctive characters in the first one stumbling through a whole new (but probably very much the same) series of events. AHS was like a little love letter to horror cinema. Do we need more? I guess I'll check it out and see, but I'm not dripping with enthusiasm.

:: I haven't abandoned Star Trek: Enterprise, but I think it's been a solid 3, maybe 4 weeks since I watched an episode. Three episodes into the third season and I already kind of want to quit. I'm not going to. But I'm close...

Kristen Bell Mondays

Okay, I didn't know there was a post-Ellen sloth reaction video... I can't handle how cute I find her. My reaction to Kristen Bell = Kristen Bell's reaction to sloths.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Song of the Week: "The Hurt"

I was listening to Cat Stevens' marvelous Foreigner album the other day; I've always loved this song that leads into the second side. Just a bouncy little reminder that hurt can put joy into perspective and make you appreciate it more. Here's Cat, clearly having a tremendous time, on the Majikat Earth Tour in 1976, his final tour as Cat Stevens.

Turns Out I Like Honeydew

I know no one's exactly clamoring for this revelation. Just thought it was interesting. I'm eating healthy again, trying to lose the extra pounds that what my doctor calls the "static affect" of Lexapro helped me to put on (and then some), so when we went out to breakfast yesterday, I got the fruit with my scrambled eggs, and it was glorious. The Junction's been phoning it in lately, so we went to this place called Egg Haven and when I asked for the fruit instead of the hash browns, I expected a little bowl chunks. Instead I got big slices of cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple. I wasn't a fan of honeydew, but I thought I'd give it another shot. And now I understand what the Junction's been getting wrong in its fruit preparation; this tasted fresh and flavorful. It was fucking delicious. I felt like I was tasting it for the first time the way it was supposed to taste.

So, just found it interesting. What can I say; like most people who write on the internet, I'm fascinated with myself. I always thought it was weird that there was a fruit I didn't like.

Except kiwi. I hate kiwi.