Monday, July 13, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Finally saw it. Wasn't expecting much in the first place - after all it's a Michael Bay movie. You shouldn't expect a plot, just explosions. Well, on that last point it delivers. I had a headache after the movie.

This might have even been an okay sequel if any - and I mean ANY - effort had been put into continuity, and the screw-ups are so obvious you notice them DURING the movie, not when you think about it on the drive home.


The one that bothered me the most, as it is the most jarring, is the Arizona airplane graveyard (in the desert) is somehow immediately outside the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. . .in Washington, D.C. Movies are supposed to be about "suspension of disbelief," but this film expects the audience to completely ignore everything that doesn't make sense. In the ruins of the city of Petra the characters bemoan the fact that it's already been thoroughly examined by archaeologists, yet somehow they all missed the "Tomb of the Primes" (as in Optimus Prime) just behind a thin wall in the main temple. And since Petra was literally carved out of the cliff-side, what luck that they just happened to miss that tomb - which the back story indicated had been there since 17,000 B.C. or so. In that same way that every archaeologist missed the "sun killer" weapon inside one of the Giza Pyramids.


The fight scenes are frenetic, and sometimes hard to follow. Most of the Decepticons look too much alike, and the tight shots of "hand to hand" combat between the Autobots and the Decepticons make it very difficult to separate what is a part of which character. But this is a common complaint I have about most action films these days - I think the special effects guys are so used to seeing the CGI fight frame by frame they lose sight of how an audience will see it.

If you're taking kids to it remember it is a PG-13 movie. There's some comical drug use, crude sexual references, and people DO get killed - for example one Decepticon grinds a person under his foot, another gets sucked into "Devastator," and countless military personnel are killed or injured - but it's brief and glossed over, not "Saving Private Ryan" type stuff.

You'd better LOVE that transformers transforming sound. You'll hear it a lot during this movie, right from the "Dreamworks SKG" and "Paramount" slates. You'd also better like the sound of explosions and gunfire. If you like dialog, this isn't your movie. If you don't like low brow humor you probably won't like it either. Also, the "Ghetto Twins" are about as politically incorrect as "Jar-Jar Binks" was in the "Star Wars" prequels.

Perhaps these big, obvious things that make no sense are to distract us from all the little stuff that also doesn't make sense? I don't know, but I'm actually more inclined to think nobody involved in making the movie cared about it enough to bother. Even for a piece of summer popcorn fare it's lazy. But I'm sure if you take any kids (especially boys) to it, they'll fully enjoy it, because the plot just gets in the way of the explosions and kids won't be unsettled by the ludicrous geography. It's just too bad that's the only audience Michael Bay thought about when making it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

John Hodgman Challenges Obama's Geek Cred

This is video of John Hodgman (from the "Daily Show" and the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" Apple commercials) speaking at the press correspondents dinner. In it he challenges President Obama's credibility as a geek/nerd. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I've FINALLY found my new radio station.

I have to wonder how many people actually push the "seek" button on their radio? Radio "presets" have been a staple - especially in car radios - forever. Once you dial in your station(s), there's really no NEED to seek anymore. Which is why, and forgive me if you might think I'm woefully behind the times on this, I didn't know about 89.3 "The Current." It's the closest thing to the old "REV 105" you're likely to find on a Twin Cities radio today.
Back in the 1990's my favorite radio station was "REV 105" - a low-power station at three places on the dial playing eclectic/free-form music, live in-studio sets, and a big supporter of the local music and charitable causes. Then Disney/ABC/Capitol Cities came in, bought the station, changed it's format, and destroyed the best radio station I - or many other loyal listeners - had ever heard.

Hard to believe that was March 11th, 1997 - over 12 years ago. I've been searching for another favorite radio station ever since.

Under the new ownership the station's name was changed to X-105 and the format to hard rock. Oh, and all the REV-105 people were fired. Then some of them were hired back that September when it became ZONE 105 playing "Adult Album Alternative." Until 1999 when they switched to "Classic Alternative," and then 2000 when they just played "Alternative." In 2001 there was yet another name and format change to V105 playing "Rhythmic Oldies." A year later yet ANOTHER name and format change to "Drive 105" once again playing "Adult Album Alternative" until 2004 when it was back to "Alternative." A decade after the initial shot, 2007 put the final nail in the coffin - a name change to "Love 105" and format change to "Soft Adult Contemporary/Oldies."

I tried listening to 93.7 "The Edge" (Disney's "alternative" station, and the reason they wanted to kill REV 105), which I'd best describe as having been "corporate alternative rock." And like most commercial stations they had an official playlist - created no doubt from marketing research data - from which the DJs apparently dared not waver lest they be flogged or something. When 105 went back to Alternative it was only because Disney decided 93.7 needed to be the hard rock station instead. So the swapped formats. But the playlist at the newly minted "Drive 105" gradually got more and more lame as any song even approaching an "edge" was deemed in competition with their other "rock" station.

But for a lot of the time since REV 105 was killed I simply stopped listening to radio and listened to my rather eclectic music collection. Then recently my brother suggested I give JACK FM a listen, saying they at least play a mix of music old and new. I had to admit, most of the time it isn't that bad. But it's certainly no REV 105. Why? Because REV 105 wasn't just about the playlist, a lot of it had to do with the on-air talent, the dedication to the local music scene, and the station's mission to support local charities.

I was trying to recall the exact date "the music died" (that would be when REV 105 was sold) and looked it up online. Which was when I learned that three of the people who made REV 105 what it was are reunited at KCMP 89.3 "The Current" and they would be Mary Lucia, Steve Nelson, and Thorn. Also, some of you may know Mark Wheat from KUOM "Radio K." Yep, he's there too. What made me even less likely to have stumbled upon this station is that it is a part of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). I don't know about you, but when I think of Public Radio I think of boring talk shows and classical music. In fact, a lot of critics of publicly funded radio (coincidentally many of whom are owners of commercial stations) believe MPR should restrict itself to boring programming and not act like a commercial station at all. So about the last thing I'd have expected on an MPR station was "eclectic/free-form" - which is, wow, the same format that REV 105 used to play!
The first time I tuned my home stereo into "The Current" it was like I'd just stepped in a time machine and was transported back to 1996 - there was Mary Lucia as DJ, songs by the Jayhawks, Wilco, Dinosaur Jr., and mixed in some experimental jazz and songs I could neither identify the artist nor (in some cases) pin down the genre. But that was one of the coolest things about REV 105 - the DJ's were free to slip in some really obscure, off-beat - totally NON commercial music. Radio is where you're SUPPOSED to be exposed to new stuff, right? Oh, and another way it's like having REV 105 back from the dead - "The Current" is also on more than one frequency on the dial, depending on where you live:
  • 88.7 in Rochester, MN (plays classical in the morning & switches to "The Current")
  • 89.3 in the Twin Cities
  • 95.3 in Mankato, MN
  • 97.5 in Hinkley, MN
  • Stream It from the web if you can't get it over the air.
I know this is going to sound like an advertisement, but if you loved - or even liked - the old REV 105 go to your stereo and tune into one of the aforementioned frequencies and give "The Current" a listen. I'm sure you'll do what I did and assign it the first preset button.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Terminator: Salvation (as in Save Your Money)

Seriously, save your money for one of the as-yet-unreleased blockbusters due out later this summer. "Terminator: Salvation" was a major disappointment. If you thought this was the movie about how John Connor saves humanity from the dreaded SkyNet and it's army of Terminators - which is what the movies was SUPPOSED to be about right? The big victory over the machines? NOPE! Sorry, it's not that movie. The last scene in the film was so obviously added by a studio executive who realized "Hey, wait! If we show how SkyNet is defeated that will be the end of the franchise!" That's right, folks, they "win the battle, but the war continues."

Update 6/8/09: Just read some background info on the film, and apparently that open-ended finale was the work of the film's director, MCG, who is some guy better known for directing music videos (like anyone watches those anymore).

Of course I didn't know about the total bait-and-switch unsatisfying ending until, well, the end. But that's far from the only thing wrong with this movie - or at least not as advertised. Did you think Christian Bale was the star? WRONG! Terminator/Cyborg Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is the actual star of this movie. He gets all the really good action scenes, and he's actually the hero who saves people (including John Connor). Where's Christian Bale? At home, washing his tights! Oh, no, wait this isn't a Batman movie is it? Well, you'd never know it by watching Bale - he delivers us a John Conn0r a-la-Batman. Seriously, his performance for both characters is the SAME. As for where he is? Back in the bunker, talkin' on his radio - while "Marcus" is saving Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who if you've followed Terminator at all is actually John Connor's father - but in 2018 he's only a punk-ass kid who fashions himself as the Los Angeles resistance.

Which brings me to some of the glaring WTF's in this film. Some of this would be the SPOILER fodder, so if you still plan on seeing this turkey stop reading now.

Correct me if I'm wrong, and I know I'm not because it says so in the opening titles, SkyNet tried to wipe out humanity in a nuclear holocaust. But there doesn't appear to be ANY radiation. None. What isn't in short supply in this post-apocalyptic future, though, are hair products and teeth whiteners. These people should be glowing green in the dark, they should have radiation sores, tufts of hair falling out, teeth falling out - but from the looks of a lot of the ruins and cars SkyNet must have used "Lite" nukes - so weak they couldn't even burn the paint off of most cars near ground zero. But it was those bright white smiles that particularly cheesed me off. Then there's the big question of why on Earth the T-600 Terminators are so often wearing rags of clothing? These are the big, chrome guys. Ok, maybe they put the clothing on to cover up the chrome. But, wait, why is SkyNet chrome plating them in the first place?

Since the story takes place in 2018, SkyNet is still doing R&D on the T-800 "Arnold" Terminators. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to appear in it, so I initially thought that's why they were fighting T-600's through most of the movie. But near the end a T-800 does show up to kick John Connor's ass. They texture mapped Arnold's face onto somebody else - at least up to the point where it get's all the skin blown off. Actually this installment of the Terminator franchise relies heavily on CGI for the terminators, which makes them a little less convincing on screen than in the previous movies - where the limitations of CGI at the time forced them to use a lot more animatronics and props, which interact with the actors far more convincingly. Lastly, back in a Resistance medical tent, John Connor's injuries from the fight with the T-800 send him into heart failure - he needs a heart transplant to survive. The cyborg Marcus says "Take mine." Gee, that's convenient isn't it? Marcus just happens to be a match for the transplant? Yeah, don't worry about tissue rejection or anything! Plus, are we to seriously believe that the Resistance doctor can do a transplant in an open tent in the desert? Where is Connor going to get the anti-rejection drugs if, as was mentioned earlier in the movie, regular anti-biotics are in short supply? Hollywood seriously needs to learn the difference between "suspension of disbelief" and "unbelievable."

This is the only Terminator movie rated "PG-13" instead of "R" which means they intentionally toned the violence down from previous installments to reach a larger (younger) audience. This is also the only Terminator story in which there is NO time travel. That's right, no electric spheres that leave round cut-outs in whatever the touch dropping naked Terminators into Los Angeles. It is unclear whether or not this movie takes place BEFORE SkyNet develops time travel or not. But somehow it just doesn't feel like a Terminator movie without that plot element. Actually that would be my overall complaint about this movie - it simply doesn't feel like a Terminator movie, and it isn't delivered as advertised. But I'm sure they'll probably make another one - they certainly left the door open to it at the end.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Star Trek" ROCKS!

Let me preface this by saying this is coming from someone who has seen every Trek movie and series, is looking at action figures of the TOS crew on her desk right now, has scratch-built Star Trek movie prop-replicas, and - yes - I have a Starfleet Uniform in my closet.

I am exactly the audience this movie wanted to convince, and presumably the most resistant to the new movie's departure from all that came before it. J.J. Abrams - and pretty much everyone involved with the movie - assured fans like me I'd like it, and to just give it a chance. Many fans like me initially bristled at the thought of a Star Trek "reboot" with a CW network-style "pretty kids with problems" cast. To put it bluntly, fandom practically demanded I hate this movie on principle.

You know what? Anyone who refused to see this, that's their loss. I thoroughly enjoyed the new "Star Trek" movie. I went into it skeptical of what sort of bastardization I'd see up on that big screen, and walked away feeling good about it and anticipating the next chapter of a whole NEW Star Trek universe full of possibilities - unbound by the canon which came before it, yet still somehow so familiar.

Ok, for starters I'm going to address one of the biggest things about this movie Trek fans blasted even before the movie was out (because it was in the trailer) - Building the Enterprise on the ground. No, they don't waste any time on screen explaining it but for those who can't accept that it just "is" I've got a potential explanation. That giant canyon in Iowa into which young Kirk sends a classic car isn't explained either, though it looks like some kind of quarry given the straight cuts to the cliff walls.

So, here is as good an explanation as any for building the Enterprise on the ground (courtesy of my brother, who has an Engineering degree and has worked in manufacturing for many years): the materials to build the ship are on Earth - whether we're talking natural resources or manufactured goods and materials used in the construction, that stuff is on Earth. It doesn't make any sense to ship all that materiel into space and construct the ship in orbit. We don't do that today because of the expense in doing so, but you'd also either have to have all the construction workers in space, or be taking construction crews there and back. It makes logistical sense to locate the project on the ground - where the supplies, material, and workers are already available, and what better place to locate such a big project but in the middle of nowhere? Or what we can assume is a central location to the supply lines (which is apparently somewhere in Iowa). What we see is likely a "test fit," and once it's done they'll disassemble it, shuttle all the parts into space, and reassemble it there at an orbiting dock during the portion of the film glossed over with the word "Three Years Later."

As for actual stuff in the movie that matters?

Before seeing the movie I wasn't so sure about Simon Pegg's comic-relief portrayal of Scottie, but now that I've seen the movie I have to say it makes a perverse sort of sense. Scottie is supposed to be a brilliant, and often unorthodox, engineer. He'd argue with his teachers, he'd make enemies of more closed-minded superiors, he'd join Starfleet to get his hands on the inner workings of a starship, but (like a lot of people with an Engineer's or inventor's mindset) he's probably not as good with people. So, in context, the comical, quirky, yet brilliant Scottie worked for me. Zach Quinto was BORN to play Spock, what else can you say? Chris Pine has every ounce of William Shatner's swagger in the role of James T. Kirk. The surprising gem of a performance, though, comes from Karl Ubran as Doctor "Bones" McCoy. He gets to utter at least a couple of DeForest Kelly's classic lines, but he's not mimicing him - somehow he makes Bones his own. Also, the explanation for how Kirk and McCoy end up friends from the academy even though McCoy is obviously older than Kirk now makes sense, as does McCoy's reason or joining Starfleet - even though he doesn't care for space travel or transporters. I know some people expressed disbelief that John Cho (a Korean-American) was cast as Sulu (a Japanese-American), but he does an ok job in the role and gets one good sword fight scene - furthermore George Takei said HE didn't have a problem with Cho playing Sulu because the character represents ALL Asians on the bridge of the Enterprise.

As for misfires with the cast? Only minor things really. I was a bit disappointed with Zoe Saldana as Uhuru, but not through any fault of hers. Her performance was fine, and despite more than one scene extolling her capabilities as an officer, she came off as little more than a sexy woman sleeping her way to the top. I mean, really, what are we to think of her relationship with Spock - especially when she clearly leverages it for favors? Yes, the relationship is supposed to remind us (and Spock) that he's half human, but it just felt out of place. Anton Yelchin as Chekov is the biggest disappointment of this new crew. He's trying to do Walter Koenig's pseudo-Russian accent and it's so labored it's almost painful to listen to it. He'd either best fix his performance before a next movie, recast the character, or they should take a cue from the "Star Trek Phase II" fan-film "To Serve All My Days" and kill him off.

In supporting roles, obviously Leonard Nimoy as the "Spock Prime" was everything you could expect him to be. You actually get quite a ways into the film before you actually get to see him "in person" on screen, but it's a good entrance. As is his exit - the only scene in which he performs with Zach Quinto, also a very satisfying fan moment. Bruce Greenwood makes a great Captain Pike, and though he DOES end up in a wheelchair it isn't that lame one with the light and beeps for "yes" or "no." Assuming they do more movies with this cast I'd look forward to his return as a father-figure/mentor for the young Kirk. Speaking of father-figures, Ben Cross is quite good as Sarek, Spock's father. Cross also had big shoes to fill in a role so very much defined by Mark Lenard. Eric Bana also has to be given props for his job playing the villian, Nero. Unlike a lot of Trek films, where the bad guy gets all the best lines, Nero speaks with his actions more than his words. But when he does speak it's either with a tsunami of anger or a casual and familiar flippancy that betrays the Romulan's non-military background as the Captain of the commercial mining-ship-turned-weapon.

This is a fast-paced, action-packed movie. Those are some things that have been missing from Trek films on the big screen, which more often have opted for pacing similar to (or even slower) than the various television series. All too often in the past we were treated to descriptions of the action in a battle, rather than seeing it on screen. You know, stuff like "sensors show he's turning with us and closing rapidly, Captain." Which is a LOT cheaper to film than actually SHOWING us. Well, if anything this new Star Trek film has the noisy, chaotic CGI battles we've come to expect in any blockbuster sci-fi film. Finally, after all these years of hearing Science Officers and Helmsman narrate the battle while the camera shakes, we get a view from the gallery OUTSIDE the ship.

I walked away from this film anxious for them to make a sequel, convinced the "curse" on odd-numbered Trek films has been countermanded, and with a serious contender which - given time and more viewings - may yet unseat "Wrath of Khan" as my all-time favorite Trek film.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shows on Life Support

A while ago I did a list on this blog of 20 shows I thought had been canceled before their time. I may need to add three more to that list if the networks have their way.

Terminator: The Sara Connor Chronicles
At the end of LAST season the rumors where flying the show had been canceled. Thankfully it hadn't and we got some of the best episodes yet. I had low expectations for this series before it aired, but it quickly became one of my "must see" shows each week. So, of course, this show is once again rumored to be on FOX's chopping block. I was a bit reluctant to get too into the show simply BECAUSE it airs on FOX, given their piss-poor track record when it comes to science-fiction shows. I seriously wonder why anyone even pitches sci-fi to that network anymore, it's equivalent to putting a target on a show. I'm also starting to think that anyone who was involved with "Firefly" and gets a subsequent show also airing on FOX shouldn't get too comfortable. Why, oh why, couldn't all those asshat FOX Broadcasting executives get Swine Flu and be replaced by people who have an f---ing clue what good television is?

Ok, this show wasn't "must see TV" for me, I really didn't care if I missed an episode - but that was mostly because the title character's "geek cred" was unconvincing. Putting sideburns and a short sleeve button shirt with a pen protector in the front pocket does not a geek nor nerd make. But the series had it's moments and was better than they usual network offerings. But it has spent this entire season with a sword dangling over its head and may not get renewed. I have mixed feelings about that given the way the last episode went - Chuck "downloads" the ability to go Kung Fu on the bad guys. If he has "super powers" (something even alluded to earlier in the episode) they don't really have much of a show anymore. The whole point was that he wasn't a spy, he was supposed to be a nerd who couldn't fight or fire a gun. If they turn him into a competent spy the show would suck anyway. Which is why I'd have to think if the show DOES get renewed the new abilities would have to have some major downside (like they'll make his brain hemmorage or something) or he was only able to do it that once because he'd JUST downloaded it.

I also have to wonder why Joss Whedon pitches shows to FOX anymore. I don't think the executives there like him very much given how eagerly they'll cancel his shows. Consider what Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote: "that [Joss Whedon's] most devoted fans will debate and embrace [Dollhouse], and a mass audience just won't get." That, right there, is the problem. The "mass audience." Those guys SUCK! The network execs want shows that more people will watch so they can sell more expensive advertising time slots. As was said in "Men in Black," a person can be smart, people are stupid. The networks WANT those stupid viewers, especially the ones so easily manipulated by advertisers they'll actually be convinced to by the sponsor's products. That doesn't bode well for ANY show that is intelligent. Actually it probably doesn't bode well for our nation that the stupidest among us apparently have the most valued opinion about what shows should be renewed. Though I'm torn between deciding if the stupidest are WATCHING the shows or sitting in the executive offices of the networks? Either way, I've resisted the urge to get too into "Dollhouse" simply because I was fairly certain (right from episode 1) that FOX was going to cancel it without even showing all the episodes. Last I heard episode 13 isn't going to air. Sayonara, Echo.

EDIT: May 18th, 2009
Just heard today that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has been canceled. Dollhouse got a stay of execution, mostly because of fan support.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Commodore: The Undead Computer Company

My first computer was a Commodore64. Well, it wasn't exactly mine - it was the "family computer" and we got it at Christmas (after months of begging) in the early 1980s. As it belonged to everyone it lived in a corner of the living room where the noisy dot-matrix printer was sometimes printing out a term paper or the 13" portable color television used as a monitor would be emitting MIDI music from some arcade game or another. Dad never seemed to really understand what it was or how to use it, Mom would occasionally join in for a game of M.U.L.E or Wizard of Wor.

By high school it had moved into my bedroom and had a better dot-matrix printer attached, and a word processor that supported 80 columns (without any special add-ons and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called or who published it). The sound chip started going bad by early 1988 and the computer died entirely that summer. I was headed off to college in the Fall and bought a Commodore64C to replace it, so I could continue using all my software and peripherals. It came bundled with GEOS, and so I was introduced to a new world known as the Graphic User Interface. Obviously I was aware that the Apple MacIntosh and Amiga had a GUI, but nobody I knew could afford either of them, so imagine my joy to receive a GUI bundled with my 64C! I recall that I had an old joystick that had the "stick" part broken off, but the base - with the bottom chunk of the stick - still worked. It may not have been a mouse or a trackball, but with a couple of fingers on the "stub" to tilt it and my thumb on the "fire" button it wasn't the worst pointing device in the world.

One day, while I was buying some art supplies for class at a local hobby shop I noticed a C64 sitting on top of a box behind the counter with a repair tag on it. I inquired about it and the owner of the store said he had a sideline business repairing Commodore computers. I brought my old, dead C64 to him and after a week and $30 it worked like new. I kept it on hand just in case I needed it some night when I was printing a term paper and my 64C died or something (which, thankfully, it never did). There was this pawn shop near campus I would sometimes check out, just to see if they had anything cool for not much money, and one day I saw an Plus/4. The shop only wanted $5 for it, and even though I knew it wasn't compatible with the C64 my curiosity could afford to be satisfied - additionally it was in brand new condition in the original box with everything that came with it, and I doubt it was ever actually used and possibly never even plugged in. The thought crossed my mind that such an obscure flop might someday be of interest to collectors or curiosity seekers, and for five bucks I could forgo pizza for one night. I only ever hooked it up once, just to see if it actually did work. As I suspected the built-in software was crap, but in some ways it felt like finding a C64 from a parallel universe. It was familiar, but just. . .wrong.

I kept trying to get my hands on an Amiga while I was in college. Being the typical poor college student I couldn't buy a new one, so I kept an eye on the bulletin boards around campus for the occasional posting for an Amiga 500, 1200, or 1000 - only to find out my "best offer" wasn't enough or that it had already been sold. I lusted after an Amiga 2000, 3000, or 4000 with a NewTek "Video Toaster." I eventually did get enough money together by the time I was finished with college, but just one month before I graduated Commodore went bankrupt, so that was the end for Amiga. . .or so I thought. It was about another two years before I bought my first Mac. It wasn't the one I wanted, but various expenses in the interim again tied my hands regarding what system I could afford to buy.

The original C64, 64C, and Plus/4 all ended up in boxes in my parents' attic, where I basically forgot about them until the winter of 1998. Someone at the company I was working for expressed interest in buying vintage computers and I volunteered that I had three fully functional Commodore computers. The three computers, 1541 and 1541-II disk drives, two sets of joysticks, a 1530 Datasette Drive, 1650 Modem (300 baud - ack!), an MPS-802 dot-matrix printer, a third-party dot-matrix printer (don't recall the brand), a bunch of cartridges, and 100+ 5.25" floppy disks with all sorts of software were all loaded into the trunk of my '87 Mustang and I took them to work anticipating a quick sale. The guy, though, had spent his money on something else and was no longer interested. I didn't feel like lugging it all up to my apartment again when I got home so I left it all in the trunk and forgot about it. The car started giving me a lot of problems shortly thereafter, and it wasn't a nice car - it was pretty beat up (it was rusty and dented before I got it). I bought another used vehicle and, because the apartment complex would only let me have one car, I had to get rid of the Mustang. Nobody would buy it because it was beat up and didn't run by that point. I ended up calling a scrap dealer who hauled it away to be crushed. Unfortunately I remembered too late that a veritable treasure trove of Commodore Computer equipment was in the trunk. Maybe someone at the junk yard found it, but most likely it all got crushed with the car. The ending for my C64's was just as unhappy as the company that had made them.

But for Commodore the company, 1994 was NOT where their story ended! In fact, what happened after almost reads like a cyber soap opera. When then company went into bankruptcy its assets - including trademarks and technology - were liquidated and ended up in the hands of various other companies. Little did they know they were also purchasing the "curse" as well.

The Commodore Semiconductor Group (a.k.a. MOS Technologies) produced the chips at the heart of the Commodore computers up to the Amiga 1000. In 1995, after Commodore International collapsed, the management bought the semiconductor company and continued to produce chips under the name GMT in a plant Commodore had closed in 1992. By 1999 the company was actually quite profitable, but in 2001 the EPA shut the plant down for pollution violations. GMT was forced into liquidation.

The UK branch of Commodore wasn't part of the bankruptcy, but was unsuccessful in its bid to buy the failed parent company's assets. They limped along selling back-stock until they also found themselves in financial distress. A company called Escom bought the Commodore brand name and Amiga trademark but didn't fare much better, declaring bankruptcy itself in 1996. The next year Tulip Computers NV acquired the Commodore brand name. A pre-existing licensing deal Escom made with Web Computers International allowed the release of the Commodore 64 computer in 1998. The wasn't a bad looking internet-enabled device, but it wasn't based on Commodore hardware at all, it was standard PC components and came with Windows CE and some other rather uninspiring software plus a C64 emulator built in. It was basically a flop.
Meanwhile the Amiga brand was sold off separately, passing to Escom in 1995 and then to Gateway (yes, THAT Gateway) in 1997. Gateway had plans to release a Linux multimedia system under the name, but it never came to fruition - probably because Linux's multimedia support at the time sucked. Amiga, Inc. was formed in 2000 by two former Gateway employees who obtained an exclusive license from Gateway. In 2003 Amiga, Inc. transferred its rights to the AmigaOS (but not anything else Amiga-related) to a company called Itec, which was itself acquired by another company called KMOS.

In 2003 the Commodore name appeared on some MP3 players made in China, though it's unclear if those were licensed products or not. Tulip Computers relaunched Commodore International as a subsidiary and threatened legal action against those using the trademark without permission. In 2004 Tulip released the DTV - a Commodore 64 built into a joystick, preloaded with popular classic games, which you could connect to your TV. Later in 2004, Tulip sold the Commodore brand name, assets, and patents to Yeahronimo Media Ventures. In 2005 YMV changed its name to Commodore International Corporation and with that Commodore, as a company, was raised from the dead.

In 2005 "Commodore Gaming" was formed as a partnership between CIC and Amsterdam's "The Content Factory" to produce custom gaming computers. In 2007 they introduced their first line at CeBIT in Germany. The systems are high-end off the shelf components in custom tower cases featuring customized graphics. But the computers themselves have nothing to do with the old Commodore systems.

On the Amiga side of things KMOS changed its name to Amiga, Inc. in 2005 and continued development of AmigaOS with another company called Hyperion Entertainment. Amiga, Inc. licensed a manufacturer called Eyetech to produce the AmigaOne - the first new Amiga hardware since the death of Commodore. Eyetech had been working on the project since 2001, but didn't release an ATX format board until 2004, but the full version of the new OS wasn't ready until 2007 so the earlier models were bundled with Linux distributions. AmigaOS 4.1 was released in 2008, however AmigaOne production had already stopped by 2006. Another hardware manufacturer, ACube Systems, has since been licensed to produce Amiga boards and currently offers three different models, including the "Minimig" - a full hardware emulation of an Amiga 500. The other two boards (the Sam440's) offer more modern PowerPC hardware. ACube's boards are currently the only Amiga-compatible boards in production.

While Commodore was dead and the vultures were picking over the remains in the late 1990's a company named Genesi was formed to develop "power architectures" (PPC-based hardware) and also began developing the Amiga-compatible MorphOS operating system in 1999. Genesi produced the Pegasos I & II desktops to run MorphOS. However, AmigaOS was not supported on Pegasos computers because of some sort of disagreement between Genesi and Amiga, Inc./Hyperion. Hyperion announced support for Pegasos in January 2009 - too bad Genesi discontinued the systems in 2006. There was also a rift between Genesi and the MorphOS development community, which I gather led some developers to create the open source AROS operating system.

But despite all the legal wrangling and financial problems that means, quite literally, the Amiga is STILL being developed - both as hardware and as an operating system.

The resurrected Commodore company announced in 2009 a line of four new Commodore branded netbook computers based on the Intel Atom processor and running Windows XP. However, at the time of this writing, they don't appear to actually be for sale yet but - if they are in the price range of other netbooks on the market - these new Commodore computers will probably be in about the same price range that the C64 and Amiga 500 were in the early 1990s ($300 - $500), which would nicely continue the Commodore tradition of affordable computers.

If Commodore hadn't spent over a decade dead while its tomb was being robbed I have a suspicion the company would be in about the same place anyway. Taking a look at the reasons Apple abandoned the PowerPC chips I have to think Commodore (had they stayed in business and continued producing Amigas) would have made the same decision - though maybe they would have gone with AMD processors instead, hard to say. It also would have been nice to see Commodore port the AmigaOS to an x86-architecture, though if Amiga, Inc. continues trying to develop an operating system for virtually non-existent hardware they'll probably find themselves in a financially vulnerable position where Commodore could buy them - which would nicely bring the family back together under one roof, wouldn't it? But I'd also have to say "why bother" when Commodore could just throw development money at the AROS project, which is an open-source implementation of AmigaOS 3.1 already ported to both the 32-bit and 64-bit x-86 platforms. Meaning you could buy one of those Commodore-branded computers and run AROS as your operating system and pretend like all those tumultuous years in between never happened.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Life On Mars Finale

In some ways it is a shame that the US adaptation of the BBC series "Life on Mars" has come to an end. On the other hand, it would have been more annoying had it gone on for season after season, only to ultimately be canceled without resolution. As it is I'm still a bit unclear as to whether it was conceived of as a 13 episode run or if they simply got word in time of its cancellation to tie it up.

I generally found the US version more satisfying than the British one. I picked up the BBC version when I had on-demand cable and frankly had a hard time sticking with it. While I applaud the Beeb for NOT doing a "Hollywood ending" (Sam Tyler commits suicide by jumping off of a building), they also leave it ambiguous as to what, exactly, his status was (crazy? coma? dead? time traveler? We never really find out).

The US version ends on quite a different note, though I suppose some people will find it a bit too "literal" an ending for a series titled "Life on Mars." Sam turns out to be part of a manned mission in 2035 to the Red Planet (the mysterious "Project Aries" referenced during the series) to search for life, or a "gene hunt" (which is the name of Sam's boss in 1973). "Gene" turns out to actually be Sam's father in the 2035 reality, his neighbor "Windy" is the ship's computer, "Annie" is a mission Colonel. They also threw in a tidbit that President Obama wanted to be there at Mission Control to communicate with them (making you ask "Obama?! But. . .but, it's 2035! How can he still be President?) then Mission Control tells them that President Obama couldn't be there because SHE had to visit her father, who is very ill.

I guess I liked it because it was completely outside anything I was guessing throughout the series - it had been set up at the beginning of every episode that Sam was a cop in 2008, hit by a car, woke up in 1973 that the scenarios the character had presented (crazy? coma? dead? time travel?) seemed like the only solutions. Who could have guessed, especially given the ending of the BBC series, that Sam was not only NOT a cop, but that his present was 2035, and BOTH his realities (2008 and 1973) were just computer simulations/entertainment while he was in suspended animation for transport?

As you may have guessed, given my previous post about TV shows that were killed before their prime, one of my pet peeves with TV networks is canceling shows without at least giving them a chance to resolve the mysteries they present, so it was a nice change of pace to FINALLY get a short-lived series all wrapped up with a tidy bow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dead TV: Canceled Before Their Time

So I saw this list online recently of TV series which were canceled before their time. There were a bunch of shows on that list I never watched, so I thought I'd put together my own list of shows I think got "the quick hook" too soon!

My criteria was simple: I had to have actually watched the series AND it had to have lasted one season (26 episodes) or less.

1. Andy Richter Controls the Universe (2002-2003, 19 episodes, 4 unaired)
Andy Richter is one of those comedians whose humor, I think, escapes some people (especially television executives). His jokes tend to be delivered in a dry, unassuming way and, once fully processed by your brain, explode with a funniness which wasn't immediately apparent.

2. Andy Barker, P.I. (2007, 6 episodes)
Andy Richter also gets the second entry on my list. What do you do when your control of the Universe slips? Become a Private Investigator. By accident. Because someone mistakes you for one. At least you can watch the episodes online at

3. Wonderfalls (2004, 13 episodes, 9 unaired)
This is one of the few shows that, when it was canceled, I actually signed a petition urging FOX Broadcasting to reconsider. Someone at FOX had it in for the show, though, because they kept moving it around in the schedule or pre-empting it until even those of us who were eager for the next episode weren't always sure when it would air. I've since caught "Joan of Arcadia" on Sci-Fi Channel, which originally hit the air around the same time with a similar "I think God is talking to me" premise, "Wonderfalls" did it SO MUCH BETTER! The 13 episodes are available on DVD thanks to a fan-driven effort to get it released.

4. Firefly (2002-2003, 14 episodes, 3 originally unaired)
What can I say? This is one of the best (some would vehemently argue THE best) science-fiction shows ever. Even though FOX Broadcasting didn't give it a fair shake (and forced them to air the episodes out of order), it has spawned comic books, a feature film, soundtrack album, action figures, devoted fans who dress in costume and replicate props for their own conventions and fan films. . .etc., etc. Everything a sci-fi phenomenon is expected to inspire, and absolute proof that FOX television executives have their heads up their asses. You can watch episoes online at

5. Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-1994, 27 episodes)
If "Firefly" dramatically combined Science-Fiction and Cowboy Western genres, "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." successfully did so comically (though there was an underlying serious plot revolving around Brisco capturing members of the gang that killed his father - a staple plotline of MANY a series). Which is fitting because a firearms prop used in "Brisco County, Jr." was later reused in "Firefly." Really! Enjoyment of the series probably helps if you're already a fan of Bruce Campbell, but the cross-genre dramedy (drama+comedy) nature of the show means there's something in it for just about everyone. The series has been released on DVD:

6. Q.E.D. [titled "Mastermind" in UK] (1982, 6 episodes)
Most people probably don't even remember this short-lived series. But I found it fun and imaginative - combining Sherlock Holmes and something far ahead of its time which is now known as "Steampunk." To this day I remember the main character's name: Quentin E. Deverill, and the phrase "Quite Easily Done." (Q.E.D. is a Latin phrase, quod erat demonstrandum, meaning "which was to be demonstrated"). The show later aired in the United Kingdom (which was fitting since it was set in Edwardian England) but was retitled "Mastermind" because there was already a science program called "Q.E.D." More information is online at:

7. Dresden Files (2007, 12 episodes)
This was based on a series of novels, which I've never read, so I don't know how it compares to the source material. The basic premise is "magical private investigator." When it was airing I described it as "What Harry Potter does when he grows up and becomes a detective." Sci-Fi Channel axed the show after only 12 episodes, which was a shame because like so many series killed before their time, it died just as it was getting good. There are rumors, though, it may be revived - possibly as a series of TV movies. You can watch it online at

8. Jack of All Trades (2000, 22 episodes)
If you ever liked the "Wild, Wild West" TV series, you'll like "Jack of All Trades." Same goes if you're already a Bruce Campbell fan. The series takes place in the 19th century featuring Campbell as "Jack Stiles," an American secret agent dispatched by President Jefferson. Along with a British agent they try to neutralize the Napoleonic threat. But the history and geography is purposely inaccurate, creating a fantasy loosely BASED on the 19th century rather than a "period piece." You can watch it online at

9. John Doe (2002-2003 ,21 episodes)
This is yet another show that was really getting good - at least close to answering the major mysteries raised in the series - when it got canceled. I despise TV networks that don't, at least, let shows like this do a wrap-up episode. It's like buying a mystery novel and finding out the publisher never printed the last chapter so you NEVER find out "who done it." Though there's plenty of speculation online as to what the deal was, we'll never truly know. You can get sucked into the mysteries, and be left to imagine your own resolutions, at:

10. Journeyman (2007, 13 episodes)
Ok, I'm a long-time Doctor Who fan, so I'm a sucker for pretty much any show with time travel in it. Again, this show was pulled after introducing a lot of question marks, but never giving the apparently few of us who were watching it any answers. Time travel back to before it was canceled by watching it online at:

11. The Tick (2001-2002, 9 episodes - 1 unaired )
Granted, this comic-book-based series probably was better suited to an animated series than live action (and the animated series WAS more successful). But you just can't beat Patrick Warburton as the big blue superhero - he was born for that role. If you like spoof super hero stories (think "Mystery Men") you'll enjoy helping the Tick protect the local bus station at:

12. Total Recall 2070 (1999, 22 episodes)
I caught some of this series in late-night syndication. If people were even generally aware of it, they probably thought it was a crappy TV-adaptation of the movie "Total Recall" with some Arnold Swartzenegger knock-off in the title roll. Well, thankfully it isn't. "Total Recall" was loosely based on the Philip K. Dick story "We can remember it for you wholesale," and this TV series drew from some of his other writings as well. I'd actually describe it as more of a mix between "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall" as it had elements of both. Though, again, questions about the truth were raised and the series never got an opportunity to answer them. Which, in a round-about way is sort of like the big question mark at the end of the Arnold action-flick: was he still stuck in the "blue skies on Mars" scenario, or did it really happen? Maybe you can figure it out at:

13. Tremors (2003, 13 episodes)
Considering the movie was rather, shall we say, light in the plot department I didn't have great expectations for a series based on "Tremors." Well, it somehow actually worked. You get to better know some of the quirky people in the valley who stubbornly refuse to be run off their land by a giant worm-thing that eats people. . .and trucks. . .and, well, anything that makes vibrations really. Add in a bumbling beaurocracy Hell-bent on protecting the "endangered species" and you've got a set up for friction. 11 episodes are available online at

14. Otherworld (1985, 8 episodes)
I'm also a sucker for "parallel universe" stories. This very short-lived series from long-ago is about a family who visit the pyramids in Egypt and are accidently transported through a portal to a parallel earth (though it might also be another earth-like planet connected to the pyramids somewhere in the same universe, it's hard to tell). The technology in this other world is different, as are the social norms and political powers. The family follows a series of obalisks in a quest to find their way back home. But 8 episodes is obviously insufficent time in which to accomplish that task. By today's standards the special effects, sets, costumes, and props are laughable, but that can also be part of the fun. More about it at

15. Logan's Run (1977, 14 episodes)
Not that long ago I watched the "Logan's Run" movie after many years of not having seen it. It was only then that I realized some of what I thought I remembered actually is from the TV series. Frankly, I think the TV series is a better interpretation of the story. I just wish we could have seen a lot more of the ruined cities on the surface. Pilot episode in parts at

16. Wizards & Warriors (1983, 8 episodes)
This was about as close as you'll get to a live-action "Dungeons & Dragons" series. It's a shame it only lasted eight episodes, because the fantasy genre as a series seems like a pretty tough sell to TV networks. Think about it, how many knights, wizards, fair maidens, and dragons have you seen in the primetime lineup over your lifetime? Not many. Video clips at

17. Lone Gunmen (2001, 13 episodes - 1 unaired)
I always like the trio of conspiracy nuts from "X-Files" and really enjoyed the short-lived series based on their paranoid investigations. Especially because the "X-Files" season at the time was kind of a disappointment. Series star Dean Haglund has actually published a comic book chronicling the circumstances surrounding the cancelation of the show. They never got a chance to actually wrap up the series within the series itself, which is why it's probably the only series I can think of that had it's finale within an entirely different series (the "Jump the Shark" episode of the "X-Files."), which I found unsatisfying because it all but ensured the Lone Gunmen series would never be revived.

18. Drive (2007, 6 episodes - 2 unaired)
You wouldn't think a series built around the premise of an illegal, underground road race would have much more to offer than Cannonball Run or Deathrace, but they managed to cram some interesting back stories for the characters into the short-lived show (but we never get the full picture because they canceled it). Considering how heavily FOX Broadcasting hyped this show before it premeired it was a bit of a shock they so readily gave it the axe. Or maybe they just hate any show with Nathan Fillion in it? Oh, and it actually won an Emmy Award - so "critically acclaimed" and "award winning" mean NOTHING to the longevity of a show.

19.Mission Hill (1999-2002, 13 episodes)
Ever since "The Simpsons" became a hit there has been an effort to create the next successful animated series. Well, it looks like "Family Guy" may have ultimately won that fight, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of other shows. "Mission Hill" is one of the few good ones which shouldn't have been canceled, but it is also very much a product of the late-1990s which makes it either feel "dated" or "nostalgic," depending on your perspective. There were a bunch of episodes in progress when it got canceled, for which "animatics" and scripts exist. You can find out more about that at and about the DVD release.

20. Surface (2005-2006, 15 episodes)
Originally intended as a mini-series, ok ratings caused NBC to expand it. Which sucks because, had it been left as a mini-series we'd probably have a self-contained story instead of the cliff-hanger ending we got that will NEVER be resolved. As noted, the ratings were ok and NBC heavily promoted this show, even re-aired episodes on the Sci-Fi Channel so people could catch up on episodes they'd missed. But they ultimately killed it anyway. It would be nice if they'd at least tie it up with a TV movie or a Sci-Fi "original picture," but for now all we've got is the DVD release.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Went and saw the "Watchmen" movie yesterday. While I'd heard of the "Watchmen" comic a long time ago, and was aware of the basic story, it was one of those "must reads" that I never got around to reading. So I can't really compare the movie to comic, but it is my understanding that both the film's director (Zack Snyder) and the comic creator (Alan Moore) agree there are things that could only be done in the comic art form, so the movie HAD to be different. Frankly, when a film is an adaptation of a book I'd prefer to see the movie FIRST. Why? Well, a movie has a finite amount of time to tell the story, which means things need to be cut in editing. Time and again I've heard people who've read the book first complain that this or that scene or element was missing from the movie. It's like they've set themselves up to be disappointed. Conversely, if you see the movie first and then read the book, the book is like "DVD Extras" fleshing out things in more details, giving more back-story, introducing scenes and/or characters absent from the movie version. If you ask me, that's the better way to experience the story - you can enjoy the movie for what it is, and then enjoy the book for how it expands the story beyond what you saw in the movie. I kind of consider the different media like "parallel universes" anyway, so it doesn't bother me all that much if they don't agree on the details.

Speaking of parallel universes, that's exactly where "Watchmen" takes place. We're exposed to a mid-1980's landscape where Nixon is still President of the United States and the Cold War "Doomsday Clock" is only 4 minutes from midnight. But, hey, the US won the Vietnam War with the help of two super heroes, so it can't be all bad, right? Except that one of those so-called heroes (known as "The Comedian") is such a total bastard one has to wonder why he didn't become a super villain instead (he's even described in the movie as a "Nazi"). Dr. Manhattan is the glowing blue guy who goes "clothing optional" through much of the movie. But he's so super-powerful he doesn't really relate to humanity - or a single reality - anymore.

As an aside, at MarsCon 2009 I heard numerous people talking about "Watchmen" as the film had just been released prior to the convention. Those conversations inevitably included the words "big blue penis," usually from guys who were clearly disgusted or uncomfortable with the fact Dr. Manhattan is often naked as a blue bird. Now, given how much focus was being paid to that aspect of the film I had expected the nudity to be a lot more "in your face" than it was. When Dr. Manhattan is al fresco I often hardly noticed because there's other stuff going on in the scenes, and he's unclothed through so much of the movie you reach a point where you're just like "Ok, whatever." Which means you start taking more note of the occasions in the movie when he DOES put on clothes.

All of the "heroes" are deeply, psychologically damaged people. Which makes sense, really. What normal, well-adjusted person would put on a costume and place themselves in life-threatening situations? I'm not going to break down their break downs, there are plenty of "Watchmen" sites and pages that can fill you in on that if you're interested. Or you could just go see the movie.

Special-effects in this movie are good, but not jaw-droppingly spectacular. There's nothing ground-breaking or even anything you haven't seen done before. In fact, near the end there's a "crane shot" of Ozymandeous through a broken glass roof and, if you look at his feet, he is very obviously composited into the scene. One thing I do like about Zack Snyder's directing style is that he likes to show fight scenes (or at least key "hits" in them) in slow motion. I absolutely HATE movies with frenetic fight scenes with lots of inter-cutting, close-ups, and hyper-fast blows to the point where the audience can't even follow the action.

It was refreshing to finally see a "comic book movie" that wasn't dumbed down or cleaned up for a PG rating, especially when the original source material wasn't "kid stuff." Which makes me wonder what the hell some people are thinking when they bring their children - young children - into an R-rated film like that?!? Oh yeah, that's excellent parenting. Hire a f---ing sitter or drop the kids at daycare, morons, because I'm sick of hearing your kids crying because the bloody murder on screen scared them or of seeing you herding said children to and from numerous bathroom breaks in my line of sight to the screen.

Oh, and too the guy that decided he HAD to sit in the seat in front of me, despite probably 100 other open seats he could have picked in the matinee showing, which forced me to take me feet down from their comfy perch on that seat's armrest, and consequently my legs hurt from having no room to stretch out during the THREE HOUR show: Dude, you suck.

Which is exactly why I prefer to watch movies at home on DVD.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Series Finale

* WARNING: If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading *

Ok, so I've had almost four hours to digest my first viewing of the series finale of "Battlestar Galactica." This was something I, like most fans, was both eager to see -but also wished wished wasn't happening because it meant the end of a great show!

However, the more time that passes after watching it the more pissed off I'm becoming. They touted this as the episode where we'd finally know the truth. Silly me, I expected ANSWERS. The writers didn't deliver. At least not the sorts of answers I'm willing to accept as a science-fiction fan.

The biggest one for me? What the Hell was Kara Thrace? Nothing about her story makes sense after she died chasing the alleged Raider in the nebula. Lee Adama saw her Viper destroyed. Then she mysteriously re-appears far, far away from where she "died" in perfect health with a spiffy new Viper. The questions are raised:

Is Kara a Cylon? Everyone says "No" because it's too obvious an explanation. Some cite her examination by the doctor specifically looking for evidence she was a Cylon, but we all know only Baltar's "Cylon Detector" seemed to be able to make that distinction - and it seems it didn't get much use after Baltar stopped running those tests.

Did she go through a space-time warp? That would make sense for how she got to/from Earth and why only several hours have passed for her. But we don't get anything to back that up.

Where did she get the "brand new" Viper? Again, if she were a resurrected Cylon that might be explained if the Cylons had a Colonial Viper stowed in a crate somewhere. But, again, we're given nothing to back that up.

Is the body on Earth hers? They did definitively answer that as "Yes" because the blood on the dog-tags matched her DNA. But if she CRASHED on Earth, even if she went through a space-time warp, how did she show up alive again? Initially I thought maybe there was Cylon resurrection tech somewhere on the planet, and maybe humans and Cylons were so similar it could actually resurrect a human? But that still wouldn't explain the spiffy new Viper.

Why did Kara know the "Watchtower" song? The song was linked to the Final Five and Hera. If Kara knew the song, that would bolster the argument that she's a Cylon.

Where did Kara go at the end? She just disappears! What a frackin' RIP OFF. At first I thought, "Wait! Was she an apparition like Baltar's Six?" But that didn't make sense because too many people interacted with her and she was clearly a physical being. But POP! She's gone, just like Baltar and Six's "angels." So, Kara was supposed to be an angel? That's a stupid answer, but it's the only one I seem to be hearing now. Talk about a major plot-point disappointment. It just seemed like lazy, cop-out writing. Like the writers killed her off and brought her back without really thinking it through and wrote themselves into a corner - oh gee, how to get out of this one? A Miracle! Boo, hiss, boo!

I'd have been happier if it had turned out she WAS a Cylon, which would have worked actually because everyone assumed it was TOO obvious and ruled it out only for that reason. Or if her dead-beat Dad had been a Cylon so Kara was really the FIRST Human-Cylon Hybrid (which might explain her connection with Hera). But you'd still need to insert a Cylon resurrection and a crated Viper to make it make sense. Maybe they'll give us a better answer in "The Plan" movie? I doubt it, but here's hoping. And we certainly won't find out anything new about Kara Thrace in "Caprica."

Ok, enough about that thorn in my side. On to other annoyances, like Earth 2.0. Really? We're actually doing the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" ending? Yeah, it was so bloody obvious I made a joke about "declaring leaves currency" when they were watching the indigenous tribe. If Admiral Adama's remark about the distance wasn't a figure of speech that too doesn't make any sense - 1 million light years?!? That puts the Colonies outside the Milky Way Galaxy (which is estimated at 100,000 lightyears), but not far enough to be in the next nearest galaxy (Andromeda is about 2.5 million lightyears away). Um, and there's nothing in between but empty space. So where, exactly, were these colonies supposed to have been? Also, they made quite a big deal in the series about great distances requiring multiple FTL jumps, so how could a wounded Galactica have made such a phenomenal leap at all? Speaking of FTL jumps, remember when Boomer jumped too close to Galactica and caused a hull breach? So why does a Raptor jumping from the hangar deck NOT cause damage? Also, why didn't the Galactica jumping out (while still crashed into the Cylon Colony) NOT cause space warping damage to that as well? I guess they were hoping nobody would notice. Which is stupid because sci-fi fans notice EVERY DETAIL. We pay good money to go to conventions and sit in hotel conference rooms and ARGUE about those details for FUN.

At first I wasn't sure what to think about Cavil eating his own gun. I initially thought he was too egotistical to do that, but on further reflection I guess Hitler killed himself too, rather than be taken prisoner. It was certainly a sudden and inglorious end - which I suppose was the point.

This arrival on Earth 2.0 all apparently happened 150,000 years ago. That puts it in the right time frame for a mitochondrial DNA common ancestor (as they claim Hera was at the end of the series), but I've already seen message boards ablaze with posts questioning "Mitochondrial Eve" being a child of Eurasian appearance, rather than African. That's a can of worms I don't even want to get into, especially since even the experts can't really agree on what defines "race" in the fossil record of early humans.

Instead, I'd rather question Lee Adama's notion that they not build cities, and dump all the technology they brought with them - and everyone in the fleet (EVERYONE) just agrees with him! A group of people who have been bickering, arguing, double-dealing, and back-stabbing just suddenly agrees they all want to scuttle the fleet and go native? PU-LEASE! That would never happen. Even if you wanted a "clean slate" why destroy the ships? Maybe just park them on a nearby planet (like Mars) and figure by the time they build up a civilization with technology that can GET to them, they deserve the damned things? Nope, into the sun they go!

Then they drop people all over the planet. I can only assume some or all of those camps (except maybe the ones in Africa) fail. Why? They specifically pointed to putting people in Australia. Australia didn't have humans in it 150,000 years ago, they arrived less than 50,000 years ago! Conclusion? The Colonials die out long before Human-Cylon-Indigenous people move into Australia to stay. Either that, or the writers couldn't be bothered to do a quick Wikipedia search. I'm going to let the "locals don't have language" bit slide since nobody is sure when language developed (estimates are between 50,000 and 2 million years ago).

For a show that seemed to pride itself on the "intelligence" of their audience, this finale felt like an insult to mine. "God did it." "They were angels." I'm sorry, but the I feel that the "science" part of "science-fiction" demands a better explanation than a mystical miracle even when a central theme of the series is faith/religion. As motives? Fine. As explanations? Lazy.

This could have been my all-time favorite science fiction series if only it hadn't ended like this! I frankly didn't care if they EVER found Earth or a new home. I just wanted answers. They should have:
  • revealed Kara to be a Cylon
  • that Baltar DID have a chip in his head or was just crazy,
  • that the Final Five DID program religion into the Cylons,
  • that the Earth that was nuked was OUR Earth
  • that there really was no longer any major difference between Humans and Cylons
  • that the story takes place in the far, far future rather than a "long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away"

They should have ended the series with the big battle by the black hole and left us to just wonder about the fleet. Whatever fate I might have imagined for them would have been a more satisfying end than the last act they showed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SyFy: Imagine Greater (Stupidity)

So, according to the news over at Sci-FiWire the Sci-Fi Channel is changing its name, next summer, to "SyFy" with the tagline "Imagine Greater."

Well, I guess this proves that even in a turd of an economy like this one Marketing types are still working. Ok, fine, I've worked in a Marketing Department before myself and I understand their reasons for wanting to do this. Primarily that the name of their network basically couldn't be trademarked because it was a generic term for a genre.

Not that they seemed to restricted to that genre in their programming anyway - I ask again, "What the HELL is wrestling doing on this channel?!?" Yes, wrestling is fiction and a degree of science likely created the wrestlers but PLEASE keep that crap on USA where it belongs! I remember when I first heard of an executive at Sci-Fi Channel talking about "broadening the brand" to include programming that was definitely NOT science fiction. Yeah, WTF?! Well, that's how TV executives and marketing types think (if you can call that random neuron firing they experience "thinking." Most of us call it a "brain fart").

Here's an excerpt from the wire:
the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure
. . .In other words, embraces the wider range of programming seen on every other entertainment channel. They say "broadens" but I say "dilutes."

I have to wonder if the people running this channel have any idea who their core audience actually is? You'd have thought that the name of the channel itself - the current name - would have been clue enough, but apparently not. So we end up with the aforementioned wrestling abomination, idiotic game shows, and amateur ghost-busting (both domestic and international) by night-vision camera.

Once the series finale of "Battlestar Galactica" airs I don't have much reason to keep the basic cable TV package that includes Sci-Fi Channel anyway. . .especially if they're going to keep "broadening" (diluting) their programming with more and more non-science fiction.

Monday, March 9, 2009

MarsCon 2009

Well, MarsCon 2009 is over. I had a free pre-reg this year because of all the volunteer hours I pulled last year, which was nice.

I didn't get out to the Con on Friday at all. Friday is my busy day - I've got classes all day (9 AM - 8 PM). I did manage to get out of there earlier (7-ish), but I'd been awake since 5:30 AM, had a splitting headache, so I didn't feel much like hitting the Friday night parties. I also had some sewing to finish on my Jedi Robe for Saturday, and had also been looking forward to a new "Battlestar Galactica" all week so I decided to forego Con Friday.

Then, on Saturday, I overslept and realized I'd forgotten to hem the sleeves on my Jedi Tunic so I had to do that quickly. Which meant I didn't actually get to the Con until 1:00 PM on Saturday. Ack! I joined a couple of my friends in the "Panel About Nothing," which - contrary to the name - is about a LOT of things. It just doesn't have a set agenda.

After that I had to go up and see the Propatorium. Lots of cool stuff this year again, plus a full size remote control R2-D2! It ocurred to me, since I was going as a Jedi this year I probably should have put my scratch-built Star Trek Assault Phaser on display. Oh well, maybe next time.

Made a turn through the Dealers Room, which is pretty much always the same stuff - and you know damned well you could find it online for less. Seriously, does anyone buy anything at the Con? Poked my head into the Dementia Music Track once. Not sure who was on stage, but I didn't stick around long. Not that it wasn't good, but I wanted to get up to the ConSuite and see if I could get in on some of the REAL food. Which I did - a small bowl of Chili and some Nachos, but it wasn't enough to fill me up, so I joined friends for dinner and drinks in the Hotel Lounge.

After eating I went to the Web Comics panel. I don't follow that many web comics. I should probably bookmark more of them. Actually I should subscribe to the feeds so I just, you know, GET them when they update. Except some people don't have feeds for their comics, which I totally don't understand. Maybe they just don't know what it is or how to set it up. I should do a post about that actually. . .

Then came Masquerade. This year I actually knew one of the judges, and I'd put in major effort on my Jedi costume - I probably should have entered, but I felt I'd rushed the costume (I didn't feel my "workmanship" was anything to brag about). I'm also not really comfortable being up on a stage in front of people - not that I haven't been pulled up there before, but that's why I know I'm not comfortable with it. As is typical of every Masquerade I've attended, there are always more (and sometimes better) costumes on people in the audience. Anyway, with so few contestants at least the event went by quickly - unlike some previous years where they not only had many people in it, but disorganization made it run long (even excruciatingly long). Besides, once Masquerade is done it's PARTY TIME!

Parties were pretty good this year. Thanks to the "TARDIS Tea Society" and "No Brand Con" for having actual bottles and cans of BEER! I can only stand so much "Vodka+Fruity Drink" that seems the staple of Con parties. I don't like not knowing fully what's in it, or how strong it is, and I've never been a fan of hard liquor - I'd much rather enjoy a beer, ale, or cider. Also, kudos to the ConSuite for continuing to have REAL FOOD even during the parties. It was sweet to take a break, have a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a hot dog - and recharge before heading back into the parties.

The coolest party room this year, though, had to be the Green Lantern Corps party - I have NEVER been in a room bathed in such intense green light!! Thier lime-flavored drink was actually pretty damned good too. I spent about an hour hanging out there, the only downside was when I left all that green light had red-shifted my vision for a good 20 minutes afterward - which is extra wierd when you've had a few drinks. LOL

Since the clocks were also being changed for Daylight Savings it was kind of fun/funny that the Con schedule had a bunch of panels listed as running from 2:01 AM - 2:59 AM. They were things like "A Practical Guide to Traveling Forward in Time" or something like that. I stuck around until the end of the parties and then some. I didn't actually get home and into bed until about 5 AM (well, 4 AM if you take the clock change out of the equation).

Consequently I slept right through my alarm on Sunday morning and by the time I finally stopped being a total Con Zombie it was after noon. Since Closing Ceremonies were around 3PM I didn't see much point in going back out to the convention. So, like so many MarsCons before it, I only experienced Saturday afternoon and evening. If I hadn't had the volunteer pre-reg thing I'd probably have taken advantage of the "day pass" (which I did one other year they offered it). Which makes me wonder why/when CONvergence is going to do that - as it stands now I doubt I'll be going to CONvergence this year because I probably won't be able to do, nor afford, 4 days! It's all too easy, when you're sitting at home, to think to yourself "do I really want to drive back out there?" I really do believe you get a LOT more out of the conventions if you can stay AT the hotel (or at least within walking distance of it). I had an absolute blast last year staying at the hotel and doing the Con front to back. But hotel rooms aren't cheap, and if I was going to do that regularly for a Con I'd feel better about the expense if it was somewhere far away from where I live and couldn't just run home with the car anyway. Which, for now, is out of the question.