Friday, July 21, 2006

I love good TV

"Lost" + "Battlestar Galactica" + "The Office" = This.

I love it. Mostly just the fact that it's two of my favorite shows are combined with another one that I very much respect, and - all things considered - should really start watching someday.

Yeah. That's all for now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Phinal Philippic

(warning: do not click on the link below if you haven't seen the Season 2 finale of Battlestar Galactica, and have any intention of doing so. If you do, you will spoil one of the most "Oh. My. God." moments in all of television.)

Oyg. They just released the Season 3 trailer for Battlestar Galactica, and October has never seemed more far off. They show so much and yet so little in the trailer (which is what teasers are supposed to do), and I haven't been more pumped about a premiere in a long time.

But, at the same time I am also incredibly disgusted by the schmuck at the SCI FI network who decided to attach a nickelback song to the trailer. (for those who can't remember why Nickelback sucks, click here). And not only is it a crappy song, but it's also completely opposite of the look and feel of the show. Keep to the instrumental tribal-influenced Bear McCreary orchestrations, guys. geez.

(and yes, I know the name of the guy who writes the music for my favorite science fiction show. I am that much of a nerd.)

And I just realized that my posts have been rather condemning recently. First the Emmys, then Daniel Wheatley, and now the stupid SCI FI channel exec. Oh well, I promise my next post to be cheery and uplifting. Seriously, there may be bunnies involved.

I'm gonna go play some Settlers.

EDIT: Oh yeah. And Dune. I also hate Dune.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My complaint about Daniel Wheatley

I just want a little editorial balance here. Perhaps before going on, I should describe Daniel Wheatley to you. Daniel is obtrusive, inarticulate, and sick. Furthermore, he yearns to drive us into a state of apoplexy. I frequently talk about how we can't just sit around and do nothing. I would drop the subject, except that I have a message for him. My message is that, for the good of us all, he should never lock people up for reading the "wrong" classes of books or listening to the "wrong" kinds of music. He should never even try to do such a snappish thing. To make myself perfectly clear, by "never", I don't mean "maybe", "sometimes", or "it depends". I mean only that we must remove our chains and move towards the light. (In case you didn't understand that analogy, the chains symbolize Daniel's short-sighted litanies, and the light represents the goal of getting all of us to present a noble vision of who we were, who we are, and who we can potentially be.)

When I'm through with Daniel, he'll think twice before attempting to turn me, a typically mild-mannered person, into a moonstruck vat of imperialism. I have this advice to offer: The world has changed, Daniel; get used to it. Are you beginning to get the picture here? Let me mention again that I am tired of listening to his rummy, wrongheaded bilge. But that's not all: There's something fishy about his ventures. I think Daniel's up to something, something satanic and perhaps even drugged-out. Daniel's ploys are a crazy-quilt patchwork of the most offensive types of plagiarism you'll ever see. Although others may disagree with that claim, few would dispute that Daniel is the type of person that turns up his nose at people like you and me. I guess that's because we haven't the faintest notion about the things that really matter, such as why it would be good for him to reduce us to acute penury.

Daniel thinks that his decisions are based on reason. However, his conception of "reason" still remains a good deal less clear than we would wish. He hates people who have huge supplies of the things he lacks. What Daniel lacks the most is common sense, which underlies my point that he yields to the mammalian desire to assert individuality by attracting attention. Unfortunately, for Daniel, "attract attention" usually implies "hijack the word 'theoanthropomorphism' and use it to turn positions of leadership into positions of complacency".

Now, I'm going to be honest here. If anything will free us from the shackles of his longiloquent, homicidal op-ed pieces, it's knowledge of the world as it really is. It's knowledge that Daniel seizes every opportunity to sentence more and more people to poverty, prison, and early death. Just glance at the facts: The impact of Daniel's loathsome dogmas is exactly that predicted by the Book of Revelation. Evil will preside over the land. Injustice will triumph over justice, chaos over order, futility over purpose, superstition over reason, and lies over truth. Only when humanity experiences this Hell on Earth will it fully appreciate that it's easy enough to hate Daniel any day of the week on general principles.

But now I'll tell you about some very specific things that Daniel is up to, things that ought to make a real Daniel-hater out of you. First off, we must understand that by the next full moon, his lies will be exposed and the truth can be spread. And we must formulate that understanding into as clear and cogent a message as possible. The recent outrage at Daniel Wheatley's ideas may point to a brighter future. For now, however, I must leave you knowing that Daniel's plaints are exemplary of the forces minorities must fight in their struggle to achieve equal footing with the rest of the community.

P.S. I really have no problem with Daniel Wheatley

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Philly, Jesus, Pirates, and Kitler

Went to see half of the family this weekend. Lenee and Ian were at a music camp near Philadelphia, and Mom was working there (really just so they could go for free), so I took a train after work on friday, stayed with them all day Saturday (and saw their concert - pretty sweet), and they drove me back to Messiah today. It really was a good time, and it was nice to see them all, since I may not see them again til thanksgiving (or maybe even Christmas).

I read C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" the other week (inbetween Fahrenheit 451 and Snow Crash), and the last part in the book kinda stuck with me. Pretty much it was how when we put our faith in Christ, there must be a real giving up of the self - to the point of forgetting about yourself in what you do. As he says: "As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self ... will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him."

I've been thinking of this as a guide for normal life, but also - strangely enough - in my writing. I've been struggling to write this summer; I've started two or three projects: a Sci-Fi epic screenplay, a few short stories, and (most recently) trying to write a spec script or two (maybe I'll tell you guys about that sometime). I always seem to falter somewhere along the way, whether creatively or just actually sitting down to write the durned things. Later on in the same passage, Lewis wrote, "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." And that's kind of comforting. Too much in writing (as well as the rest of life) I try to think of how what I'm doing will be recieved, and letting my focus stray from what it is that I'm doing in the first place.

Well, now that the deep part of the post is concluded, I can continue on to books and movies. I saw the new Pirates with Mom (Lenee and Ian were apparently too good for it and chilled at a friends house). I must say, it was amazing, all of the praise it's getting is not unwarranted. More fun than the first, in my opinion, and has a lot more going on. Enough new stuff to keep it interesting, but still enough of what made the first one so enjoyable (read: swashbuckling, Johnny Depp). There's really no reason to not see this movie - unless of course you haven't seen the first one, in which case you should go rent it now, and THEN go see the new one.

I put Snow Crash on hold because Ender's Game arrived on InterLibrary Loan the other day. I read half of it on the train ride to Philly, and I've got tomorrow off so I'll probably be finishing it up then. I'm enjoying it so far, although the children talking like adults thing pushes believability a bit. Meh, I suppose that's what it's supposed to do (it IS sci-fi, after all).

but now for the real reason I posted. I've found an incredibly haunting/amazing website: No joke. Completely real site.

Look at their top Kitler:

May be the creepiest thing I've ever seen.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

rather film-majory post ahead...

As I mentioned before, I had set out at the beginning of the summer to read the so-called "Lord of the Rings of Science-Fiction": Dune by Frank Herbert. Having finished it a few months ago, I can understand the comparison. I don't think it's nearly as good as Lord of the Rings, but there are several things about it that Herbert did well. The level of worldbuilding is almost unparalleled; the entire society was entirely planned out seemingly to the most minute detail. The different sectors of religion, economy, politics and ecology all interacted and played off of one another to an extent that I'd never seen before. There's also a great deal of mysticism in the book - owed mostly to the supernatural spice that seems to fuel everything in the universe. There were other things that I found annoying about the book, but the things it did well, it did very well.

So anyway, I figured I owed it to myself to actually watch the earlier mentioned bad/mediocre sci-fi movie of the same name. If I was going to make my summer reading theme "classic sci-fi novels that were later made into bad/mediocre movies made by directors who have, all things considered, made much better films", then I should probably watch the films before I make such a judgement.

Or so I thought.

Dune came in the mail the other day from Netflix, and I watched it in Parmer along with Heidi and Alicia (who for some reason had a childhood attachment to it, and was bubbling over with joy for every frame of the movie). And honestly, I had expected it to be bad, but I didn't expect it to be as much of a train wreck as it was. I don't think I'm overstating things when I say that this film was one of the worst films I've ever seen. It should stand as a shining example of how NOT to adapt a book to film.

The filmmakers changed some things for no apparent reason, only to contradict themselves and show the way it was in the book. Hey Paul, guess what? You know that really mystical martial art you know? It's now a big blocky techno-weapon that shoots out sound waves (oh, and did I mention how sound waves apparently glow now?). But halfway through the film, We're going to show another character using the same mystical martial art which apparently only consists of grabbing someone by the neck until they scream uncle. But don't worry, we'll promptly switch back to the glowy-sound-wave weapon (which resembles a brown, blinking toaster worn on the wrist) for the final climactic battle scene.

But what's even worse, there are some things that they take directly from the book that unnecessarily muddied up the film. There were several places where the film would have greatly benefitted from NOT following the book so closely. Almost the whole first HOUR is spent on exposition. And when I say exposition, I don't even mean awkward explainlines clumsily placed in normal conversation. I mean entire scenes of actors only looking at each other and uninspiredly quoting lines from the book at each other. It makes the first hour incredibly tedious and laborious to sit through.

But once all of the exposition is out of the way, the filmmakers switch gears, and spend the other half of the movie just falling all over themselves. Instead of formulating a flowing storyline of scenes logically following one from another, they obviously decided that causality is for pussies, and it would be much more fun to just treat us to an hour of random scenes instead. The one thing I heard people say to me beforehand is that "if you haven't read the book, you won't know what's going on", and this is true. This is because they choose to take only the scenes from the book that were "filmable", show you those, and let you fill in the rest with your mind. And even after reading the book, I was pretty lost.

Having no concept of foreshadowing or "setup-payoff", the filmmakers seem to wait until the last possible second to introduce anything. They would introduce seemingly major characters in one scene, only to have them killed two scenes later. You find out how precious water is on Dune five minutes before you see a huge pool of it underground. Any sort of emotional weight is robbed by poor timing and poor writing.

But hey, the sets look pretty cool. Also, there's an impressive cast, including Patrick Stewart, Brad Dourif, Max Von Sydow, Dean Stockwell, Virginia Madsen, et al. One wonders how actors of their caliber were roped into doing something like this.

But anyway, yeah. Dune sucks.

On another note, I went to check out the Princess Bride from the Library the other day, only to find that it had been checked out, even though I had just looked up the Call number on my computer. Somewhere between the time that it took me to walk from my room to the library, someone had beaten me to the ONLY book I was trying to get. Pfhhh. Stupid books.

I got Snow Crash instead, and I'm enjoying it immensely so far. Pfhhh. Wonderful, wonderful books!

And I'm actually thinking that it would make an amazing movie. Granted, I've only been reading it for one day, and I'm not that far into it, but my film-major gears are working overtime from seeing such a terrible movie the other night. I feel like I need to make up for the downright injustice of Dune by someday making an incredibly awesome sci-fi movie of Snow Crash. So far, I'm imagining it as Blade Runner meets the Matrix meets Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Eh? any takers?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

In other news...

Homestarrunner updated.

'Bout freaking time. tells me that Goosestepping Morons such as yourself...

...should try reading books instead of BURNING them!

In other words, yes I am reading Fahrenheit 451. Or, more accurately, I have read Fahrenheit 451, seeing how I am now finished with it, and am ready to start the next book of the summer. Somehow Ray Bradbury's classic had escaped my High School reading curriculum, which I think ended up being for the best, because I would not have enjoyed that book nearly as much in High School. For anyone who's not read it: do yourself a favor, and do so as soon as possible. It's a very short book, at only 150 pages, and can be knocked out in an afternoon if you try hard enough.

Many wouldn't actually classify it as sci-fi, but I think that's mostly just because it's well written. To some, the idea that something as well written and engaging as Fahrenheit 451 could be in the same type of fiction as Battlefield Earth, completely blows their mind. At the risk of being cliched, the best advice is probably to not judge a book by it's cover (both figuratively and literally). I think Theodore Sturgeon said it best: "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud.”

While I'm on the subject of the 10% of Science Fiction that's not crud, I realized a couple of months ago that, despite having talked about it conversation all the freaking time, I'd never blogged about Battlestar Galactica. Well, I suppose now's as good a time as any. Basically, It's the best show on television. And the Emmy nominations are coming up in a couple of days, and I'm getting preemptively dissappointed, because I can already tell you who will be on the list.

(Oh, and before I go any further, just be warned, this IS a rant, so beware.)

There was a lot of buzz surrounding a new voting system for the Emmys, where the top 10 vote-getters for best program, and the top 15 for best actor/actress would be screened in front of a panel who would then decide the top 5 to be voted on by the academy as a whole. It was implemented to give smaller shows a chance, and mixing it up so you didn't have a contest between the same five shows every single year. Shows like "The West Wing", "The Sopranos", and "Six Feet Under" would now have to fight for their spot on the Outstanding Drama ticket, where before they were almost guaranteed the nod.

So the new system was basically to make sure that the eyeballs of the voters actually find themselves on the shows that end up being nominated. The majority of Emmy voters are working professionals, and since they're working so hard in their own little corner of Television, they very rarely have the opportunity to watch OTHER people's shows. In the end, they wind up voting based on buzz and/or ratings, and not actually viewing the shows that they vote for.

So the intentions of the new system are in the right place, although the implementation definitely leaves something to be desired. Instead of the 100-120 person panels they were expecting, many had only 30-40 members show up. And after being shown three of the nominated episodes one after another, they were asked to vote on the overall quality of each, not comparing them to the others. How on earth can you expect them NOT to compare one to the other two when you've just sat through all three of them? This is of course made worse by the fact that the only choices are "A" Excellent, "B" Superior, or "C" Fair. That's right, the scale is 1-3. Quite a wide margin of error, if you ask me.

But ultimately, I think that the most defeating aspect of the new system is that it still decides the top 10 by total popular votes. Even though I can't think of a better alternative, it certainly is a shame that some shows that are on Emmy-unfriendly networks (such as WB, UPN, or ...wait for it.... the Sci-Fi Channel) will still have a hard time breaking the top 10. Emmy voters need to wake up and realize that the "netlets" as they're called aren't just for crap anymore. There is some very high-quality and well-made programs on the smaller networks that will never see the light of Emmy day.

But despite their impressive emmy campaign, my own beloved Battlestar Galactica failed to crack the top 10 (at least according to teh internets), as did Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell in the acting categories. Adding insult to injury, "Boston Legal" - one of the most unengaging, uninspired shows I've ever seen (and has no excuse for existence apart from William Shatner) - is in the top 10. The fact that Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls) and Kristen Bell (of Veronica Mars, which - by the way - is my new obsession. Feel free to mock me endlessly), and even "Rescue Me" made their respective ballots shows some glimmer of hope. If they make any of the ballots come thursday, I'd be extremely happy for them (who doesn't like the underdog?).

So basically my opinion is about the new system: not perfect, but a step in the right direction. Maybe the Emmys don't honor the quality of the work so much as the ratings/buzz of a particular show, but maybe, someday (with a couple more nudges in the right direction) we'll see real quality being honored.

And by "quality", I of course mean Sci-Fi.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

there are a lot of parentheses in this post

I said I'd post in a month. This'll have to do.

Work is...okay. Or at least as okay as one could expect for cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming halls. I'm a dorm worker in the wonderful little abode of Grantham Dorm, where I can be found from 7:30am-4:15pm most days (with a 45 minute break for lunch). I also get two 15-minute breaks that are good for going back to the room and having some bible-reading time, and plus the job is lax enough that I can bring a book along and read during work if it's slow that day. I've fallen into a pretty good schedule, where the time from work until dinner at 5 is used watching downloaded TV, then I go to dinner, and then I come back to the room, where I usually piddle around on the internet before I get around to writing.

Although I have to confess that I haven't been incredibly consistent at using the writing time to actually write and not just to extend my internet piddling time (or downloaded TV time, or [more rarely] reading time). But I've gotten a good amount written, mostly on random things. Nothing so great to be able share with anybody, but I'll keep working on them and see what comes of them.

I've read 4 books so far, 2 novels and 2 non-fiction, and I seem to have themes running in both. My theme for non-fiction is TV writing, because I read a book of interviews with "TV's top show creators", and a book about the art, mechanics and the business of TV writing. If I haven't told you before, I think that's what I want to do. Write for TV. I like the medium, and I like the way it's created (stories decided by a small group of people, given to specific person to write a draft, and then read-over and critiqued by the same small group of people).

As for novels, my theme (unintentionally) turned out to be "Classic Sci-Fi novels that were later made into bad/mediocre movies by directors who have, all things considered, made much better films". Thus far, these have been Dune by Frank Herbert (made into the 1984 movie by David Lynch - Dir. Mulholland Drive, The Elephant Man, etc.), and Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (made into the 1997 movie by Paul Verhoven - Dir. Robocop, etc. [yeah, it's not a masterpiece but is it BETTER?]). I've started reading a third selection in this series, and I will give a cookie to whoever can guess what it is.

Just to clarify: 1) Classic Sci-Fi novel 2) Made into a movie by a 3) director who has, all things considered, made much better films. Fire away.

EDIT: Oh yeah, the Haloscan comments were giving me trouble, and I couldn't figure out how to fix them (after several tries), so I just opted for a whole new design, and normal blogger comments again. The old picture of my eyes at the top always seemed a bit egotistical anyway.