Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Anyway, expecting it to be totally dire, I was pleasantly surprised.
I agree with The Entity's primary observations, mind, so don't expect high praise from me.
But it isn't dire dire. After all, it has Todd in it, and he, by himself, is enough to make an episode entertaining. He has a wicked sense of humor and a lovely deep voice in which to deliver those deliberately unsettling lines.
So, no, it isn't the best show ever to come out of the series, not by a long shot, but it is entertaining, it featured mercifully little gunplay, and it had Todd in it.
Also I have the advantage of having seen First Contact already, so I have hope that Something Good may come out of all of this, redeeming the episode's faults.
1 And, since she's already made them and I've linked to them twice now, I'm not going to repeat them--see how much trouble I'm saved by watching the episode after her?
Saturday, September 27, 2008
These two? Hurray! Atlantis is back! I laughed when I was supposed to laugh, was in suspense when I ought to be, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I can't believe it! Jennifer finally got a good episode! All the various limp strings that have been lying around actually got pulled together and crafted into a decent, believable, likable character.
Oh, and TPB actually remembered the almost-kiss with Ronon back in Quarantine. I'm not yet sure I really believe in either potential romantic pairing, but Ronon and Mckay set up a wonderful and believable rivalry that is actually in-character for both, so I look forward to seeing where this goes.
Also a good episode, fun, suspenseful and unpredictable. I haven't been following the Atlantis news of late, so Jackson's arrival was an unexpected joy, the more so because he and McKay are bouncing off of each other very well.
Nice follow-up on the events of The Queen (I said I hadn't watched it yet, not that I didn't know what happened), and a possible new interesting twist to the characters of the Wraith. I mean, Todd has always been a fantastic character, but as The Entity commented, any relationship with the Wraith is pretty much doomed to be one-sided and thus somewhat monotonous. Now that there is a cure(?) that might actually work and that the Wraith might actually use and that Todd has actually brought up the question of "Who would we be?" if not the scourge of the galaxy there's some chance of development, with multiple motivations for the various Wraith and differing points of view among and of them.
Also, new gadgets and--maybe--a new race out there add to the tension and possibilities. Anything might happen.
And it is a to be continued, which means I have to wait! Aaah!
Oh Ugh. I looked at episodes coming up. Kolya's coming back. I was so glad when he finally, really died. He was good up to a point, but had long ago outlived his usefulness and interest as a villain. And here it turns out that he'll be back to continue his now thoroughly pointless vendetta. Bleh.
Oh well. I just watched two really good episodes and I'm not going to let this news spoil my mood (much).
Michael is also coming back, which is not so bad. He's something of a spoiled brat, but at least he's a smart spoiled brat, and he hasn't outlived his arc the way Kolya has.
I'm very happily downloading some of The Mercury Theatre's less famous broadasts now, with one or two from The Campbell Theater (same website) for good measure.
I have to listen to something while I work on my book arts midterm, after all.
Friday, September 26, 2008
My brother just found two marvelous new sites just full of ways to spend your time, spare or otherwise.
There is The Mercury Theatre On the Air website, full of several of their original broadcasts, including the famous War of the Worlds, which I am now downloading.
And there is also LibriVox, a site dedicated to recording and making available all books in the public domain.
So, go ahead, download the books! Put them on your IPod or MP3 player. Listen to them while you bake bread, drive to work, or dig in the garden. Or, volunteer to read for LibriVox.
*Goes back to looking at the lovely list of available books and broadcasts.
And I need hardly add that the dish is even better if they are made with herbs from ones own garden and celery purchased at the farmer's market down town1.
A good green salad and Walnut Bread from 100 Great Breads2 are excellent side dishes, and cheesecake made from Dad's Secret Recipe3 is a fine finish.
1It's even tasty if you happen to run out of chicken broth and have to use beef as a substitute for part of it.
2 I don't unreservedly recommend Hollywood's book; I can't figure out quite why he uses so much salt, for one thing--the only time I tried using his salt amount and temperatures, I ended up with a brick rather than bread. But, using 1 teaspoon of salt instead of one tablespoon, and lowering the temperature by about 100 degrees usually works quite well for me, and I adore the Walnut Bread. Others seem to do fine with his temperatures, so I can't be too didactic. Oh, and if you don' t have 100 Great Breads, get it from the library. Or make some other bread, any other bread. No one should deprive themselves of the joy of making bread.
3 It's not so much secret, really, as constantly in flux. It started out being one recipe, morphed into a combination of two or three, and is perpetually being tweaked from one batch to the next. I think this one had more zest than the last, but I'm not sure.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This doesn't mean it was empty; there were people there, and a quick search since my last entry indicates that at least the dirt bikers have an interest in keeping the place clean and open and more or less as is. I am having trouble finding recent information, however. Partly, I think, this is because there are a lot of Bartlett Parks in the world. Finding one particular Bartlett online is... iffy. I may have to try the library and see what the reference folk can help me dig up.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I finally got together with some friends and explored the non-park, wilderness area I was commenting on earlier.
It's an approximately two-block area wedged in between the back of some stores and two very busy roads.
And it has its good points, like funny, man-shaped trees in front of gas-stations, brilliantly colored dragonflies, a number of small birds, including birds of prey that seem to like it there, and the sheer incongruity of its existence.
They make it seem like maybe Bartlett might actually appreciate having the place named after him.
The part they don't mention in the little city blurbs, and the part the pictures don't show too well, is that the "basically natural condition" of the park, resting as it does on it being "unpatrolled and unsupervised" means that the existing paths are thick with broken glass, and that the one waterway still present after the long dry spell we've had wouldn't tempt anyone to swim, boat, dive, or even touch the stuff, and I'm not sure that the next generation of dragonflies won't be mutants. In addition, there a pervasive smell of dog-poop throughout the area since quite a number of dog-walkers apparently feel no need to pick up after their canine companions. This, plus the glass makes for singularly unpleasant walking.
The last time anyone cleaned up in there was a month ago when the very brave members of the Orange County Conservation Corps went in. I'm not sure how long it was before that--I've been one of a lot of people not paying attention to the place.
And I'm afraid I don't have a solution either: I don' t know if the city has the money to maintain the place the way it does Bolsa Chica (another, more succesful city wilderness).
It's a really great idea having a pocket wilderness out behind the Albertson's store, and there is stuff down there that is worth preserving--mysterious tangles glimpsed from the roadway, funny looking trees, some scary nooks, the aforementioned dragonflies, and even the fact that kids can carry shovels around in there and dig giant holes for no apparent reason beyond the digging itself. I would hate to see the area vanish.
But there are also problems, issues of waste and neglect that threaten to turn the place into a wasteland, a twisted, dystopian blot on the landscape, and I don't want to see that happen, either.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
So, as I mentioned earlier, I am writing for The Broken Hourglass now, and still really excited about it. I'm also working on a quest that involves characters someone else came up with, which means I need to pay close attention to how they talk and act in order to stay true to the established personalities.
And that means I have to read and reread their conversations frequently. And that means printouts (since, believe it or not, I am not always near a computer). They get kind of tattered and torn as I carry them around, so I finally thought, "Well, am I taking a class on making books or am I taking a class on making books?"
And, since anything doing is worth over doing, I cut and covered some nice, stiff cardboard to be the covers and made the above books.
Of course, I also made a lot of mistakes--should've scored the covers before binding them, for example, and bound them more loosely, and glue and I still have a long way to go before being friends, but overall, I'm still quite pleased with the results, even though I don't have red ink and an inkpad with the words "top secret" or anything similarly melodramatic to mark them with.
Now, though, I need to figure out how to unravel the bit I'm working on. The player has to speak to at least four different people, but might end up doing so in any order. It's complicating the conversations.
So, time to get back to work.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I've been turning the list over in my mind, on and off, and as far as I can tell, "inhuman," the only one of the words actually in the single dictionary I consulted,* covers all the territory that "ahuman" or "abhuman" would. Thinking over the prefixes brings me to the same conclusion.
So, can anyone tell me: Is there any actual shade of difference here? Some subtle connotation that I'm missing? Or are the authors using it for the coolness effect rather than for actual meaning?
*I've not exactly done exhaustive research here. Nor, by the way, am I protesting the invention of new words, or the use of words not currently in the dictionary. I'm skeptical, in this case, but also curious.
Yes, yes I did. Only that time the book's title was The Man with the Golden Torc and the hero's name was Edwin Drood.
And, therefore, retrospectively my opinion of that book also has gone down a few notches.
Both books rely on Really Tough heroes looking for Something Important which they find by visiting a series of enclaves full of nasty people doing nasty things which Hero and Heroine disrupt before moving on, eventually finding what they're looking for as much by accident as anything else.
This one, too, had a Big Reveal at the end that was something less than a revelation, though I suppose it is possible that it wasn't really meant to come as a surprise to the reader. It surprised Taylor, though, and absolutely should not have. He's a detective and he works with the supernatural all the time: Why is he stunned when Jude, the man who has asked him to find the cup Judas drank from at the Last Supper (the Unholy Grail), finally gets around to giving his real name?
The book isn't totally hopeless. The absolute, inhuman focus of the angels is chillingly portrayed, the character of Jude steals the relatively few pages he gets, and there are some odd and interesting beings peaking out of the shadows every so often.
Both this and The Man with the Golden Torc leave me thinking that Green could craft a much better world if he could stop tearing it apart for long enough to let it come into focus and/or if he'd let go of the notion that more is better. I'd really rather have one or two well developed creepy characters than the raft of barely glimpsed nasties who fall by the wayside. A few ordinary people scattered here and there wouldn't hurt.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
A singing cowboy
An underground empire
An imperious queen
A treacherous high chancellor
An unsolved murder
And did I mention the singing cowboy? Or his horses?
Didn't play out quite the way I expected--for one thing, there were more plotlines and less singing than anticipated. It is a pity no one has done anything about the sound being so fuzzy [Edit: I see that there is a remastered version available; it just isn't the one Netflix sends out]. Any fan of old Westerns, old SF shows, or both really should watch it.
And I'm feeling quite disappointed because no one nearby seems to have Cliffhangers available for rental/borrowing: Not Netflix, not any of the four libraries I have cards for. Alas!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
I'm about halfway through, and I won't get to see the rest until the second disk comes in.
*It's only fair to add that my brother's reply to this is "You do?"
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Last week, the SF reading group proposed reading the something by Simon Green. Many of us had never heard of him, so went to the shelves to see what he'd written. The Man with the Golden Torc caught my eye because of the hero's name: Edwin Drood.
The Man with the Golden Torc isn't actually part of the series the group settled on, but everyone else in the group beat me to the library (sensible people), and this is the one I was most curious about anyway.
Overall, I thought it was a decent, entertaining, but not spectacular read.
The main character is a fairly stereotypical tough-guy. He blows things up, makes things go splat, drinks, has sex with someone fairly early on in the book so as to ensure us of his essential masculinity, the usual routine. The book relies--a lot--on Really Cool Gadgets, Atmosphere, and Strange Creepy Supernatural Things.
In short, it's not really my style.
But--I actually liked the Tough Guy despite his stereotype qualities. The gadgets really were cool, and I still wanted to know What Happens Next, there were some neat twists, and, when he's not committing sentence fragments, Green has a good grasp of the English language.
It's worth reading once, and I probably will read at least Shadows Fall--a library copy, of course.Edited to add the words "Book review" to the entry. I hadn't quite grasped search engines when I wrote this (Maybe still haven't, but I'm working on it).
Friday, September 12, 2008
There's a good movie in there, somewhere--maybe two or three scripts down the line. That makes it more frustrating, really. I kept wanting to like it and not quite managing.
Part of the problem is it tries to retell the first, third, and fourth books as one, mashed together story; I think there are bits of book 5 floating around in there as well, but I'm not sure about that; I've only read that one once and long ago. The odd mix actually might almost work since the books carry a number of the same themes and share some of the same plot concerns, and a really thorough, careful script job could tie them together. However, insufficient thought has gone into merging the books, and Goro Miyakazi has thrown in a couple of extra touches that only add to the confusion.
Or rather, one big extra touch: Shortly after the movie begins, Arren, one of the heroes, kills his father and runs off to join Ged. This is not mentioned again until 3/4 through the movie when he tells his new friend, Therru, "I killed my father. Why would I do such a terrible thing?"
The plot continues to muddle its way toward the end, and it emerges that Arren gave in to despair, leaving his "light" side to follow him around (and give him nightmares, for some crazy reason) eventually reminding him of the importance of life and death. So I guess he murdered his dad because he was having a really bad day? Or something... Arren gets his selves together and triumphantly tells Therru that he's going to go back to his home to pay for his crime but will come see her later. Much smiling and waving and happy music, since patricide and regicide are such minor things and everyone will understand and it will all be ok now that Arren has (finally, mercifully) grown up a bit.
This is decidedly the most annoying bit of the film. The rest--I was busy filling in gaps from my memory of the books, which is patchy because it's been a while and I've only read book 4 once (It is not my favorite, for several reasons). There's a bit about the dragon-human relationship that never gets developed, a lot about the Balance and man's place in it, which does actually get some screen time, a whole lot about the relationship between life and death which gets said over and over again but which needed better grounding in the characters--Cob embodies it, but he's a one-dimensional villain (albeit a really creepy one); Arren is supposed to be the hero struggling with the issue, but unfortunately what emerges on screen are some sermonettes, his peculiar murder, and a lot of falling unconscious.
The frustrating part is, the movie clearly is a labor of love; one or all of the people involved in making it have actually read the books--really read them, thought about them, and loved them. There are moments when everything really does work: Sparrowhawk and Tenar greeting one another for the first time, talking around the fireside, Tehanu's haunting solo, Cob's decay from a polished villain to a witless creature with only one focus, pathetic and terrifying at once, some of the views of Hort... It keeps wanting to be a good movie--maybe even a great movie--and then falling back into confusion.
I wish that Miyakazi (one or both) had been a bit more patient and perhaps a bit less ambitious: Had taken time for those further rewrites or had lowered his sights a bit and filmed just one of the books instead of trying for all of them at once.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Not a bad episode--a good, solid mid-level one. Great atmosphere & overall good character interaction, and clearly the Michael arc is *not* over.
Flaws: "Let's split up so we can cover more ground." That has never struck me as an extremely intelligent approach, and it looks even less so when the team is being hunted by a team of nasty predators on a foggy night. Now, not only can they be picked off one by one, they can pick each other off since all they can see is shapes in the dark.
A lesser irritant was the "all girl" team--or rather, the reaction to it. One of the the things I particularly appreciate about the Stargate shows (both series) is the way they take the existence of competent women for granted. Bar one or two slight slips (say Hathor), the women are competent in the same way the men are, without flourish, stress, or special emphasis. So that initial confrontation was something of a step back for them--an unusual over-stress on "HEY LOOK! We've GOT COMPETENT WOMEN HERE!" It's more impressive when it's not impressive (if that makes sense). Fortunately, they pretty much dropped the matter after that, and even more fortunately, the fact that the team was an all-female team wasn't a major point of the show (No "Oh no! The creatures-in-the-dark want mates!" or other such nonsense). Oh, and Sheppard really should have known about the team. Joseph Mallozzi has a kind of explanation up here on his blog, but I'm rather uneasy with having to go outside the story for an explanation, and I don't really find it satisfactory anyway--Sheppard may spend a lot of time on the field, but one would think that, as ranking military officer, he would at least skim reports and personnel files.
Good points: I liked the new team; the writers did a good job of showing them as a team and giving a sense that they knew each other and had an established working relationship. They showed both camaraderie and some of the same sort of common irritating character flaws that make the regular Atlantis team so much fun to watch.
The atmosphere and creepiness worked well, and the reason the monsters got loose was plausible.
So, overall, a good, solid, watchable episode. Not deathless, but worth watching.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Shrine was character-driven, had something at stake, will probably have repercussions later,featured only one gun fired by our heroes (though they had to sneak in some gunfire from the Wraith earlier), and it had Rodney's sister in it. Jennifer got to come into focus as a character a bit more, and Woolsey got to make a decision. What more could one ask?
Well, that's easy: I want the other shows after this to also be as good, or preferably, better. See, I like Woolsey, and he's shown a whole lot more character in his role than Sam did, but...he needs to develop. Jennifer is still pretty much a non-entity (thus The Seed was not as effective as it might have been), and they have very little time left to do this. And, while this is a solid episode, it's not a spectacular one. Still, I'd have been fully satisfied with the episode if it weren't one-of-the-last-ever. I hate knowing there is a clock ticking!
It's hard having the show come to an end since it means no new, long arcs can be established and they seem to have put an end to Michael while they were at it. Still, this one gives me hope.
As, for that matter, did Search and Rescue, both for its solid storyline, its characterization, and the satisfying way it brought the Missing Person's story arc to an end. I also appreciate the fact that they saved Kanaan and the baby. It's true that I find their sudden appearance in the show somewhat jarring--the only even slightly romantic relationship I ever saw Teyla in was with Sheppard--but I would find it much more jarring and a complete copout for both baby and boy to die conveniently in the firefight (or for Michael to kidnap kid and lead to an endless babyhunt, and there was a moment when I thought they might do that).
So for a moment the TV-viewing corner of my world is once again in order and I am looking forward to watching Whispers tonight and finishing with my catching up.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Still catching up on Atlantis Season 5. The Crystaline Entity has already written an overview of the first few episodes, and since I mostly agree with it--which is a pity as it isn't really a glowing assessment--I
won't do too much more commenting here. will also go ahead and rant because what else does one do when a show one loves stumbles so badly?
So, my mini-reviews:
The Daedalus Variations: In which our intrepid crew gets lost in space and meets the Borg. At least Teyla actually kept her uniform top zipped this time.
Sheppard's conversation with himself was, I suppose, meant to be funny, but struck me as more gag-inducing than anything else, and really (fortunately) OOC. Rodney might have such a talk. Sheppard? And why bother meeting a really powerful, nasty enemy if we don't learn who they are and no on even stops to say "Hey, wonder if these folk are in our reality, too?" Sloppy, sloppy dialog ("I feel like someone's just walked over my grave" says Teyla, viewing her own dead body. No, really?) And that is far more analysis than this total stinker deserves.
Ghost in the Machine. A great improvement, but not great enough. For starters, I watched it and The Daedelus Variations on the same night so the bad taste lingered. On the plus side, it was good to see Weir again, it is nice to know she's not forgotten, and sort of good to have a followup on that final scene.
The problems arise after viewing (well, one or two arose during, but I sat on them): Why *can't* Replicators ascend? It's all about the mind/spirit and leaving the material and mortal world behind. That they are machines seems an odd reason, especially since they are machines that move back and forth across the borderline between nanobot-based bodies and regular-old-meat bodies.
A bigger problem is that the plot as a whole didn't really do anything for the Weir-Replicator storyline that hadn't already been done--in fact, I think that it was actually step backward: Weir's last sacrifice was noble & necessary. This one--I'm not as convinced about, and isn't one Noble Last Stand enough? Also, in going for the shock value of that final scene, the writers/directors/producers/whoever made the decision did the story & the audience a huge disservice: The scene is only shocking once. The discussion leading up to that decision could have given us some good character moments and shown Woolsey actually facing this very nasty situation and thus making a definite command decision, something he has yet to do.
That and the float in space solution is really a cop out: Replicators can come back from being left out in space, even after a very, very long time. All Atlantis has done is put them into suspended animation until some poor soul stumbles across one or the other of them, and brings it back to life--and anger, and a desire for revenge etc etc etc. If they're going to kill the Replicators, they need to completely destroy them. If not, then sticking them on an isolated planet and letting them create human bodies is probably the best option available. Postponing the decision indefinitely makes for a pretty cool camera shot and a very bad plan.
*sigh. I miss adoring Atlantis, I really do. Maybe the next ep?
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
This traveler came to shore the other day.
It is covered with seaweed and has a barnacle or two growing inside.
Or had. The lifeguard ruled that it wasn't really quite officially habitat and thus should be removed from the shore.
So, I brought it home with me. It is currently sitting on our porch. Later, I shall soak it in fresh water for a time and set it in our garden, perhaps with a fern in it.
A world traveler has found a home at last.