Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DVD Tales: Blue Planet to Bourne Supremacy

Following from Blood Simple...

Blue Planet (BBC, 2001)
After a lot of Walking with... documentaries, I was looking for another hot animal series. There are a LOT, but are they any good? The only one I knew by reputation was Blue Planet, which I'd been interested in for a while when I made my move and bought all 8 episodes. Some images from wide across the series will stay with you, like the tuna feeding frenzy, but my favorite has to be The Deep, not only for the first look (ever) at some really weird species, but also for that heavier-than-water "lake" at the bottom of the ocean. It is surreal.

Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
This movie enjoyed an excellent reputation in that contingent of my friends who liked porn a lot, but it's not until PTA's Magnolia became my favorite film of all time that I went ahead and purchased it. Turns out to be good, but an overlong, meandering, anecdotal film, which isn't my cup of tea. Anecdotal stories, whether written or filmed have never really turned me on. Still, it IS interesting, and several set pieces are great fun.


Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)
Got this one the cheap when it was suggested by Amazon as something I'd like. I guess I do own a lot of gangster movies. I didn't even make the connection between Wes Anderson's other work and this one until after I'd seen it.
This Week in Geek had a short review to which I really have nothing to add.

Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
I hadn't seen any of the Bourne movies when I ordered both sometime last year, though I'd heard good things. I wasn't disappointed. You wouldn't think Matt Damon could be an action hero, but it works. It works like Bruce Willis suddenly worked in Die Hard. A great "realistic" spy thriller than has since engendered James Bond Begins, I'm quite sure, and a DVD release that pays hommage to the real CIA and the book's author as much as the film making process.

Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
Changing directors is usually a sign that a sequel won't live up to the original, but Paul Greengrass pulls it off. His grittier style has more intense action, but it's still believable as Jason Bourne's world. That autoduel in Russia is especially kickass. I don't go to the theaters very often, but between these two films and Casino Royale, I've wet such an appetite for The Bourne Ultimatum, that I won't be waiting for the DVD. Wow, that will be the first film I see this summer. I've been a recluse.

But what did YOU think? Next: Bowling for Columbine to Bubba Ho-Tep.

Star Trek 235: Realm of Fear

235. Realm of Fear

FORMULA: Hollow Pursuits + The Enemy Within x Lonely Among Us

WHY WE LIKE IT: Barclay's always fun.

WHY WE DON'T: Ridiculous transporter science.

REVIEW: Barclay episodes have been excellent up until now, which is why Realm of Fear is such a disappointment. We know this guy is full of anxieties, especially in social situations, but does he have to have every phobia under the sun as well? Apparently, he's never used the transporter! Well, that's ok. I guess Pulaski avoided it a lot too. And the episode starts off reasonably well, with Reg coming up with inspired engineering solutions (left over from the Cytherian probe?).

But soon enough, the crew is letting him shirk off orders to have counseling sessions, anxiously tapping the back of his ear, and indulging in hypochondria. Though it's meant as comedy, it falls a little flat amidst the creepy autopsy scene and the wildly stupid science. The latter is a major impediment to enjoying the show. At first, it's interesting to see Reg's POV as he is dematerialized, but once the "matter stream" becomes a place in which you are aware and in which you can move around, we're in la-la land. If the transporter had ever been described as a carrier wave moving through hyperspace or something, it might be acceptable, but even this very episode makes it clear your molecules are being turned into data, then recomposited at your destination, which really doesn't fit with events seen here. So we're just rolling our eyes while we're supposed to care about ugly hand puppets attacking Barclay. (Never mind the bit where those worms are returned to human form...)

There are saving graces. Troi racing after Olympic speed walker Barclay is the one actually funny scene in the episode. It's also good to see that Barclay has earned some brownie points over the course of the series so that Picard takes his word when he describes his "hallucinations" as real. And O'Brien gets some development with the way he overcame his fear of spiders, inadvertently passing it off to Barclay. Miles comes off very well in this.

LESSON: Fear is the mindkiller.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Ahead of its time in that it could have been a Voyager episode, and I don't mean that in a good way. The science fantasy plot undercuts the tension and undermines Barclay's potential as more than recurring gag.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Macking: Girls You Shouldn't Kiss

Girl you shouldn't kiss #1: Killer Frost
But it's so hot these days... just one little peck to refresh me? No? Aww, come on... The Roar of Comics would let me!

Star Trek 234: Time's Arrow, Part II

234. Time's Arrow, Part II

FORMULA: A Doctor Who episode + The City on the Edge of Forever - anything I like about those two things

WHY WE LIKE IT: Data's head blows off.

WHY WE DON'T: Samuel Clemens' annoying voice.

REVIEW: No really. It's very hard to get over Sam Clemens' voice. In fact, the whole character is a problem in Time's Arrow. He's annoyingly meddlesome, then too accepting of 24th century trappings to be believable. Furthermore, he's played as a caricature with a put-on voice... is this was my UK friends refer to as "panto"? Sadly, Clemens is in a majority of scenes. Throw in the equally caricatured Jack London for extra "pants".

The plot isn't much better than the guest acting. The crew goes into the 19th century willingly, but totally unprepared. No money? Aside from some comedy shenanigans with Mr. Pickerd and the landlady (another totally ridiculous caricature), there's no point to it. Guinan suddenly doesn't want to interfere with events, though she spent the previous episode choosing an away team. In the other timeframe, that she and Clemens are told about the future seems awfully irresponsible. When Clemens runs to the portal, Picard just sits there watching him. And then it turns out he has the skills required to tap a binary message into Data's head... wha? Can he do that? It's a really smart use of time travel, but it doesn't seem right. The message is deciphered in the nick of time before torpedos hit the Devidian site and both kill the captain AND destroy 19th-century Earth. So overwrought, you can tell you're being manipulated. Manufacted tension is not the same as actual tension.

There's still this whole business of Guinan and Picard's relationship being "beyond friendship", etc. Whatever. It's just starting to grate now. I'm kind of glad Data didn't make a "stone knives and bear skins" reference here, since it would have tainted The City on the Edge of Forever.

LESSON: Geniuses have to be played by geniuses.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: The worst "Part 2" in TNG (if not the entire canon) and a terrible way to start Season 6.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This Week in Geek (23-29/07/07)

Buys

Books, books, books. I'm not a huge fan of the new line of Doctor Who books, but I might as well be a completist while that's possible. Chasing after New Adventures now when I remember them being in book stores at the time has taught me a lesson. So I needed to stock up after finishing the 9th one last month. Everything else that was out makes 7 books: The Nightmare of Black Island, The Art of Destruction, The Price of Paradise, Made of Steel (one of those "quick reads", as if the others weren't), The Last Dodo (if Jackie Rayner offers yet another stinker, I'm gonna revise that completist policy), Sting of the Zygons, and Wooden Heart.

As for comics, my store disappointed me again this week with no Martian Manhunter Showcase (among other new books I wanted). What gives? So instead, I got Fables volumes 4 through 6. But I would have gotten those in addition, so they still lost a sale.

"Accomplishments"

We're in the middle of a heatwave over here, so working at my computer can be painful and tiring. That should explain why I only made one card for the WhoCCG, and only went up one level on World of Warcraft (still, 60 to 61 is a long one). No, this week, I was all about crashing in front of the tv or in my bed with a good book.

To start with movies, I flipped Thank You For Smoking since it was a gift and I didn't want to wait too long. I thought it was excellent and the blackest comedy I've seen in a good long while. Warning however: Though there are two commentaries on the DVD, the one with only the director is total balls. He spends the whole time apologizing for doing a crappy commentary and repeats all the information he gave in the commentary with the actors. But the movie itself is unimpeachable.




In the middle of the week, I had a little time so I popped in Bride of the Monster from my Ed Wood boxed set since it was only 70 minutes long. You know what? Despite some terrible acting, sets, direction, editing and story-telling, it's still pretty watchable. Bela Lugosi's "Home? I have no home" speech is as engaging here as it is in the Ed Wood biopic. Gotta get through that boxed set somehow, right?



  


This weekend, I flipped Good Will Hunting, which I hadn't watched in years. Excellent as always, and I find myself appreciating everyone's naturalistic performances a heck of a lot. The DVD comes with a lot of deleted scenes and an interesting commentary by Gus Van Sant, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The boys aren't as foul-mouthed as they are when commenting on a Kevin Smith release, but still pretty entertaining.





After that, I was still in the mood for math, so I flipped Stranger Than Fiction, something I was putting off because I saw it so recently. Well, it's as charming and effective today as it was when I saw it in a theater last fall. I'm always up for a piece of postmodernism, and Stranger Than Fiction could so easily have been one of those stupid high-concept comedies instead of an almost-tragedy with interesting and quirky characters. No commentary, but plenty of informative featurettes. My favorite thing to come out in 2006.

Speaking of postmodernism, let's get into books. I finished Douglas Coupland's Hey, Nostradamus yesterday morning and it touched me deeply. No clever postmodern tricks à la JPod in this one, but they're not needed or wanted. The novel deal with the after effects of a high school massacre on the lives of four protagonists, but it's not depressing. Sad at times, sure, clever, funny, irreverant, but not depressing. Maybe I'm still reeling from it, but it may be my favorite book of his.





I also finished Fables vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers, in which an army of Pinnochios attacks Fabletown, and you also learn whatever happened to Little Red Riding Hood. I devoured it like the Big Bad Wold did her granny. I have to pace myself with the others, because it'll all be over too soon!

Website finds

I don't often recommend blogs under this category because, well, the ones I read are all in the sidebar, check 'em out, but I've got to mention a specific post on the Absorbascon this week: The Shape of Things to Come. That is the best theory on how the DC multiverse might be constructed. It's just lovely and I hope Scipio is tapping into Grant Morrison's mind, or that Morrison accepts Scip's invitation to steal it as his own for Final Crisis. It's too perfect.

The LEGO Gallery features some really cool customized Legos (and not just superheroes either) by artiste David J. Oakes.

And speaking of Legos, the William Shatner Lego bust is only one of many, many William Shatner portraits featured at The Shatner Show. You can see it live at the Uppercase Gallery in Calgary, Alberta, or online via this link.

The Concrete Stream

With the end of my Brave&the Bold/Marvel 2-in-1 series, I'm faced once again with how to approach the comics portion of this here blog. Dig into another Showcase Presents? Hm, not much color there, even if the stories are blogger gold. Open up one of those long white boxes lining my bedroom walls? Yeah, for the time being, how about if I dig out the truly memorable things from my collection. To be eligible, I must remember you no matter how long it's been since I read the story. Box #1 reveals...

"I Strive for Realism" in Concrete: Eclectica #2 (Dark Horse, May 1993)

I've been a Concrete fan since the early 90s, but the one image crafted Paul Chadwick that haunts me to this day isn't even in continuity. It's from a short (imaginary) story in which Concrete meets his maker, a postmodern bit I've liked since Animal Man #26. The centerpiece of Concrete and Paul's conversation is a fantasy in which Concrete's body occupies every space it's ever been in.
It's a nice way to quickly retell Concrete's adventures to date, but also a meditation on time and space. The final punch shows humanity's trail:
So why has this idea so haunted me? I don't know. Maybe because I've never come across anything like it. Or if I have, not visually represented. Maybe it's the audacity to experiment with concepts like this without it being a function of plot. Concrete had this thoughtful realism to it, but Chadwick was really good at these flights of fancy as well (some of his 100 Horrors also linger in my mind).

So there you have it, the first in a series of Memorable Moments(TM) though my boxes and shelves. Anyone else enough of a Concrete fan to have gotten the wholly unessential Eclectica?

Star Trek 233: Time's Arrow, Part I

233. Time's Arrow, Part I

FORMULA: Data - head + The Voyage Home - 100 years

WHY WE LIKE IT: Data beats the locals at poker.

WHY WE DON'T: Hardly worthy of being a season finale.

REVIEW: After The Best of Both Worlds and Redemption, expectations are high for season finales, so Time's Arrow fails even more miserably. In fact, every TNG two-parter has a better cliffhanger than Time's Arrow, even when they fall into the middle of the season. It would have been so simple to move the discovery of Data's head to the end to create a tense twist, but no, the shock of that image is long gone, and the characters just file into the Devidian portal, la la la, and it's to be continued. No tension, nothing to really look forward to during the summer. Now, of course, we don't really have to wait months to see Part 2, so shouldn't I be reviewing the episode regardless of its place in the 1992 schedule?

Well, that doesn't really help it. The teaser with Data's head is appropriately shocking yes, and the discussion on predestination generates some interest. It's fun to see everyone treat Data as if he was terminally ill, and his lack of emotion regarding his own demise. Oh, and once you see them, the Devidians are pretty cool and creepy. But otherwise, the show has some serious problems.

First, about that predestination paradox. It just doesn't make sense. Either people have a choice or they don't. Seems like Data has no choice but to go down to the planet and get warped to the 19th century. He's the only one that can "see" the Devidians. Except that Geordi finds a way for everyone to see the Devidians later, so that's a big cheat. But what about Picard? Guinan remembers him from the 19th century, so she tells him he has to go. But he doesn't need to until she said this, so "in the original history" (to use a phrase), he probably didn't go, so then, Guinan never saw him there. See, she's taking the choice away, it's ridiculous. "If you don't go, we may never meet." What? Why? Did she seek him out later BECAUSE she met him in the 19th century? Has her life been one predestination paradox? Is this why she knows Yesterday's Enterprise to be "wrong"? Nothing is really explained to satisfaction and it just seems contrived to give Picard a role in the season opener.

The 19th century itself is replete with problems. It's a hoot seeing Data win a fortune at poker, but the entire century is filled with rather talkative clichés. Jack is an especially annoying mouthpiece for the writers, and while Samuel Clemens has some really well-written dialogue (possibly cribbed from his writings), the put-on voice is a little grating. The presence of Madam Guinan is probably not a good idea, even though I don't dislike the notion that this race of "listeners" routinely collects information on other planets. However, this is once again an obvious contrivance, doesn't actually shed light on the mysterious Picard-Guinan relationship and creates a noticeable anachronism. A rich, famous black woman in 19th century America holding literary receptions everyone wants to attend, and she didn't make the history books? It doesn't work.

LESSON: It's no use losing your head over... ah just forget it.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: It's a mess, but it's got some good scenes here and there, mostly where Data is concerned. But it's the only irrelevant TNG season finale (excluding Shades of Gray which we should always exclude).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

RPGs that time forgot... Deluxe INWO

Deluxe Illuminati New World Order
Tag line: The struggle for world domination...
Makers: Steve Jackson Games

What is it?
Based on the Illuminati card game and collecting every card from the CCG's basic set, this boxed set includes all that and more: Assassins booster packs, dice, wooden pyramid markers, glass tokens and a full-color strategy guide.

Neat stuff
-There's a rules variant for using the whole collection that's pretty cool. I've thought about using it to set up shifting conspiracies for my illuminated rpgs.
-The art is, for the most part, as cheeky and funny as the concepts and occasional flavor text.
-The game itself is pretty original when compared to other CCGs, though the whole use of tokens and dice is initially off-putting.
-Any game that can establish a conspiracy that includes the Boy Scouts, Barney, Flat-Earthers, Congressional Wives and Vampires (some names changed to protect the wealthy) is fine in my book. Steve Jackson Games also inserts a couple of their other projects like an American Autoduel Association.

Bad stuff
-The black borders of the 450 basic cards don't fit well with the more colorful collectible cards, though it's still better than the differently cut corners other games have employed.
-The guide features the game text and pics of every card in the set, but since we have the cards already, it's pretty much redundant (though easier to flip through certainly). I'd have liked more strategy instead!
-Now, I have absolutely no problem with this, but some people might not get how much of a parody of the real world this game presents and won't like the fact that the KKK or Shroud of Turin get cards, or the pics of the World Trade Center exploding (pre 9/11, but still) or Princess Di surrounded by paparazzi (again, before anything bad happened). You might also object to the gore (not just Al Gore).

Quote
"For every reaction, there's an equal and opposite governmental program." - from Democrats group card.

How I've used it
I've played now and again, but not a lot, and not since I have this big set. My idea was to set up a conspiracy game with the players initially playing big conspiracies and creating the baseline hierarchy, then have those same players operate as foot soldiers or victims of the resultant conspiracy. Or maybe totally different players. Or something. It's on a need-to-know basis entirely. Fnord.

In conclusion
Hey, I really like this game and always have. For armchair collectors, a set with everything in it is always great, plus they included a way to use it all without too much trouble.

Star Trek 232: The Inner Light

232. The Inner Light

FORMULA: The Paradise Syndrome + The Nth Degree

WHY WE LIKE IT: The acting. A beautiful concept.

WHY WE DON'T: The make-up gets in the way.

REVIEW: The notion behind The Inner Light is a beautiful one. A dying planet has sent out a life experience into space to preserve its culture and way of life. Instead of deciphering writings and artifacts, a would-be archaeologist experiences 40+ years in the life of a man. (Let us hope the program is adaptable to your decisions and that it can be "turned on" and directed at will, or else Picard is the last ever repository of K'taan culture.)

It's a beautiful idea, but it matters to us because it's changing Picard's life. Sure, we know from the beginning that it's all in his head - no final twist or reset button to cheapen this one - but it gives him the chance to have what he never has, what he never allowed himself to have, i.e. a family. Picard thus lives a full, rich, but simple life, and the bonds he forges there are as real to him as any on the Enterprise. As we'll see, this has subtly transformed the character forever, leading us to Generations and perhaps even Insurrection and beyond. The end of the episode has Picard return to the ship, now a hazy memory (did he have to retrain or did it all come back to him?), and we hear the haunting Ressikan flute melody one more time, leading us to the credits instead of the usual horns. Very beautiful and a sign that this will stay with the captain.

The success of The Inner Light relies a lot on the acting, but it's Patrick Stewart, so you're in good hands. He has to give us a Picard that's in a totally other environment now, and a few years from now, and 10 years from now, 20, 40. He has to play age, and the depth and variety of emotion: resigned to his new life, he asks Eline if he can build a nursery; interacting with his children; the sudden death of his wife; his heart breaking at the idea that his grandson won't have a rich, full life. It's beautifully done, and in large part because Margot Rose is so effective as Eline as well.

The episode has long been considered one of the best TNG had to offer, usually placing 1st or 2nd overall, but I do think it hasn't aged as well as it should have, and that's because of the ageing make-up. The performances are very strong, but the last two acts have to be played under tons of latex. At the time remarkable, I'm sure, but they seem very stiff now. A small nitpick, but it did bother me.

LESSON: Time flies when you're under the influence of an alien probe.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Still one of the best by virtue of its acting and original concept. The DVD offers a small treat, using the Ressikan melody on the episode's menu screen, and I can't wait to hear it again in Lessons.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Night Fight First Hits

Bahlactus commands and Siskoid obeys! Here then is, according to Secret Origins #6, and courtesy of Roy Thomas, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, the first blow Batman ever landed:Bonus: From that same issue, this time by Mike Barr and Dick Giordano, the first blow that suckhole Halo ever landed... and it's ON BATMAN!
So Halo trumps Batman, huh? Why do I trust Thomas & Rogers' vision of Batman than Barr and Giordano's? Oh yeah, because the former team includes the greatest Golden Age historian ever and a legendary Batman artist, while the latter includes the man responsible for the Outsiders.

Hergé's Head Trauma Fetish

Geekrant subject: So You Think You Can Dance
Thesis: Bullshit appologies to American patriots

(As accompanied by images from Objectif Lune)I make no secret about it, I like So You Think You Can Dance. It's the only talent show I watch, and I've been known to be emotionally affected by dancing. Also, I've got the major hots for Cat Deeley. Now that I've properly lost all my street cred, on to the ranting.
Last night, the show opened with two of the "joodges" appologizing for things that had gone on the night before. First, about a fashion jacket that had some symbol upside down on it which apparently insulted the U.S. Marines to a great degree.
Mmm, ok... Sure, I'll buy that. I guess. Of course, don't these guys have other things to do than nitpick a dance choreographer's choice of clothes? Like maybe, fight a war/insurrection/rebuilding initiative?
But then, the series producer had to appologize because of an anti-war/pro-peace routine from the previous night.
He actually appologized to patriots for a dance routine where the participants wore a peace sign and a word such as "love", "humility" or "compassion".
He made those points, as well as the usual "anti-war doesn't mean anti-troop" argument, but he still ended with "we're sorry".
If he wanted to appologize for something, how about the fact that we had to sit through that same cheesy solo routine 10 times? Offended, I was not, but bored? Yeah, a little.
But now I'm trying to figure out just who the hell wrote in with those complaints? Who are these pro-war militants who would cut grants for the arts in a nanosecond if given the chance, who nonetheless follow a fucking dance contest on tv?
I have vague visions of some survivalist nutcase in Waco with Cedric's "save me!" number on his speed dial...
But they probably don't exist, do they, these complainers. Fact of the matter is, the show airs on Fox. Starting to see the light?
It's no secret that Fox is hardcore right-wing, especially if you enjoy its Fox News distortions.
I get the feeling THEY're the ones who came down with an edict to appologize to their viewers (all those screaming teenage girls with shotguns in their closets).
Either way, appologizing here is INSANE! "Gee, sorry I can't get behind violence! I hope my peacenik attitudes don't offend you, but I'M A FUCKING DANCER!!!"
(Not to say a dancer can't fight the good fight. I wouldn't want to offend any dancers out there. From everyone at Siskoid's Blog, I deeply, deeply appologize.)
See how stupid that sounded? This is a show that brings weekly doses of hip-hop routines based on anal sex, and people are coming down hard on its peace message? Kill me now.
Then, the two people I'd figured to go went, and all was right with the world.
But you know... it still bugs me that someone, somewhere is so dense as to miss the point entirely and that tv is still catering to them.

All I got left to say is: Protect yourself, kids.
(Dedicated to all the troops everywhere in the world. No matter which side you're on, you shouldn't be dying out there.)

Star Trek 231: The Next Phase

231. The Next Phase

FORMULA: Wink of an Eye x regular speed + Contagion

WHY WE LIKE IT: Fun idea.

WHY WE DON'T: It's all a little ridiculous, isn't it?

REVIEW: While it may be fun to see a couple characters run through wall "phased", it just doesn't make any sense. What keeps them on the floor? How can they breathe? Ride a turbolift? How can a disruptor beam also be "phased"? Even within the rules set by the episode, Ro touches her helm panel and chair, and the phased Romulan sits in a chair that rocks when he rises. And then, there's the contrived delay until a phased character tries to touch someone who's ignoring them. But that's all just a high concept premise. Suspend your disbelief because 1) it's pretty neat to see Geordi and Ro walk through walls and 2) it's not really what the story is about.

It's really about character. Being invisible allows Geordi and Ro to have one-way conversations with characters they would normally not talk to, and even attend their own funeral. Ro, as usual, is the star here. How intimidated she is by Picard even though he can't see or hear her. The great comic bits as she wonders what words Riker found to say at her funeral (these two are still going at it in the opening scenes). And she gives us a look into Bajoran spiritual beliefs and practices, though nothing quite matches what we'll find out in DS9. On Geordi's side, we have Data's funeral arrangements and Worf being happy for him. I have a hard time believing Geordi would be among the honored dead. It's not like he died in battle. Seems like a Klingon would find a transporter accident to be one of the worst ways to go.

And of course, you do have the adventure story with the Romulans planning to blow up the Enterprise, a chase scene through various quarters (including a look at Ensign Gates' intimate life - nice to see what is basically an extra get some small development), and an evil Romulan who'll end up a floater. Geordi finding a way to communicate with Data is a fun bit of business, but he could have been smarter about it (like creating a pattern or even shaping his fields like words). And finally, I think the episode features the best "laugh" ending in all of Trek. Played pitch perfect as to be convincing.

LESSON: When walking around phased, stay well clear of the hull.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Some silliness and gonzo physics keep this episode from being an absolute gem, but fans of Ensign Ro should find something to like. It's at least fun and exciting.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mantra of Two Worlds

Like on every thursday, worlds live and worlds die and heroes cross over to the great beyond or a new Earth. Have we checked in with Earth-U yet?This week, the Mantra of Earth-U is shocked to see the Mantra of Earth-U90 has an impossible bust size. Ironically, she's fine with the "broken back" posture she's already exhibiting.

Multiversal truism: The Monitors can tell which Earth's Power Girl they're looking at by bust size alone.

Star Trek 230: I, Borg

230. I, Borg

FORMULA: The Best of Both Worlds Part 2 + The Masterpiece Society

WHY WE LIKE IT: Hugh is sweet...

WHY WE DON'T: ...but his story emasculates the Borg.

REVIEW: After The Best of Both Worlds, the show's creators were faced with the nigh impossible task of bringing back the Borg. You want to bring them back because they're popular and want to reuse expensive costumes, etc., but each time they turn up, it's the damned apocalypse. So what do you do? You start weakening them.

I, Borg is a step in that direction, but a good one. Fact is, the Borg are a hard-to-use force of nature, so giving them a human face in Hugh was at least interesting. It's the usual Trek dogma about individuals having the right to follow their own pursuits no matter what the "state" says, but it's not really about Hugh or his (somewhat homoerotic) friendship with Geordi. It's about Picard. This is in many ways a precursor to First Contact.

Picard is already on the path to revenge and willing to do anything to destroy the Borg for what they've done (to him). The optical virus is a really interesting way to do that, and you want Picard to succeed too (so shut up, Beverly). When he meets the individualized Hugh and starts talking as Locutus, it's a chilling moment because you inevitably start thinking that maybe he's remained in contact with the Collective all along. Is this a build-up to this year's finale? Is Picard still Borg? Have we been lied to for two years? It's really creepy and effective.

The moral center of the story, however, is Guinan who, through her relationships with Geordi and Picard makes some interesting points on both sides of the issue. The fencing trick is a good gambit, but forcing Picard to meet Hugh, previously kept at arm's length, is the big scene. So do they do the right thing? I'm sure Starfleet wouldn't think so. But it's the right thing for these characters. They wouldn't condone genocide, and we're with them on that point.

LESSON: Individuality good, teamwork bad! (Borg spin doctors have manipulated my words.)

REWATCHABILITY - High: A moral tale with some fine character moments, especially for Picard, and a must for understanding his character in relation to the Borg.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Woo-Hoo!

'nuff said!Or if more be said, many thanks to Rob! at the Aquaman Shrine, my favorite Aquaman-related blog!

Star Trek 229: Imaginary Friend

229. Imaginary Friend

FORMULA: (And the Children Shall Lead / The Bonding) + Lonely Among Us

WHY WE LIKE IT: Is that a stuffed Gorn in Clara's hands?

WHY WE DON'T: Dull, dull, dull.

REVIEW: Everything in Imaginary Friend is so drawn out and slow that it feels like nothing more than a piece of padding. Troi looking for monsters under Clara's bed, Clara and Alexander working on clay sculptures, Guinan talking about her imaginary razorbeast (twice!)... it's all told in real time or something. And while I'm fine with giving Ogawa a little back story, that turns into a totally irrelevant piece of dialogue, doesn't it?

Now, the idea of showing a child's eye view of the ship is an interesting one, with Worf as the big boogeyman and plenty of restricted areas. To Geordi, it was a grand adventure. To Clara, perhaps not so much. The little girl playing her's fine, but it's all so dull that I can't muster more enthusiasm for her character. Perhaps part of the problem is Isabella herself. When you're doing the creepy child shtick, you better make sure that child is damn creepy. And we've seen all the sentient cloud stuff before...

LESSON: There is a Santa Claus... an alien doppelganger Santa, but a Santa Claus nonetheless.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: A slow-paced snoozefest. The show's creators have to stop manufacturing these kiddie episodes, they only call attention to the idea that a starship is too dangerous a place for them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Your Hergé Head Trauma Moment

You know, I rant a heck of a lot in life, but I'm not really one of those bloggers. Which is surprising. But if I combine my ability to rant and my desire to provide you fine folks with Tintin getting it in the head, maybe I can come up with a post!

(Images selected from Le Sceptre d'Ottokar by Hergé.)

Geekrant subject: Computer trouble
Thesis: That shit is my fucking kryptoniteThere is nothing - NOTHING - that kills me more than computer trouble. I use computers all the time. At work. At home. At other people's homes when they're not in the room. But I don't know jackshit about them. Oh, I can get around a lot of software, and I'm good at troubleshooting most of the time. But hardware? No way. And when the damn machine doesn't want to do what I want it to...
No it's not my kryptonite (thesis discarded), it's my reason for hulking out. Forget the Superman metaphor and cast me as the Hulk. For Bruce Banner, it's getting slapped around by frycooks in a dirty kitchen (tv version) or Tony Stark (comics version). For Green Lantern, it's destroying Coast City (oh no, you di'n't!). For Batman, it's digging up his parents' graves. And for me, it's computer problems.
Case in point, the day before I was supposed to go on vacation, my job's technical services changed my account to accommodate their new email address policies.
For whatever reason, they didn't plan on any kind of crossover time when both the old accounts and new accounts were active together so that one account could, so to speak, give the other account the keys to everything. So guess what happened?
If you said I couldn't start my vacation on time because it took a whole day to get everything (and I work in communications, so that's a lot of everything) back in order, I'll send you something nice*.
That's exactly what happened.
Add a screw-up with my employee number...
...the fact half of everyone is on vacation and unavailable to help...
...and the deep impression that I ignored some email sometime, which means it was ALL MY FAULT**...
...and you've got a recipe for Hulk-level frustration.
But listen, you might as well ask Bruce Banner to calm down when he's getting the bejeezus kicked out of him. You can't. Just 10 minutes ago, PhotoShop crashed.
Just find that vibrating string of rage inside yourself and make it be still. One day at a time. One day at a time.

BONUS: Your Hergé Ass Trauma Moment

Protect yourselves, kids.

*I will most definitely not send you anything for your deductive skills. I was telegraphing the answer the whole time.
**It totally was, and if anyone who works at tech services reads this - like my webspace provider - much thanks for helping me get it all working again.