Archive for September, 2011

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Darth Lumbergh

September 29, 2011

Um, yeah, I guess you’ll come in to work on Saturday, right?

“And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…”

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This is how it starts…

September 28, 2011

I put a piece up on Keep Americans Free! about North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue’s recent comment about how perhaps we should postpone elections until the current economic crisis has passed. I think she’s just dumb enough to say what a lot of far leftists are thinking as the last-ditch plan. That puts us on the really greasy part of the slippery slope to totalitarianism. But she was just joking, right?

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“Firefly” and free speech

September 27, 2011

Nathan Fillon owes me. Two posts about TV shows of his in two days! In this case, a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout placed the following poster of Malcom Reynolds, captain of the Firefly-class spaceship “Serenity” from Joss Whedon’s extremely short-lived TV series from a decade ago:

Well, after all, this is the University of Wisconsin, no matter which branch, and that meant that the chief of (thought) police, Lisa Walter, didn’t like it and took it down. She felt it implied a threat of killing. The professor, James Miller, argued his First Amendment rights were violated. So, he put this up instead:

Yep, she took that one down, too. But she did return his first poster, and apparently apologized. But…

Now Miller has to meet with the campus “threat assessment team” and with the Interim Dean of his college. I can hear it: “Now, Jim, you know you shouldn’t have done that, I know, it’s free speech and all, but you don’t want to get them all riled up, right?” You know, that kind of crap. Intelligently, Miller got the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education involved. And both Nathan Fillon (now the star of “Castle”), who played Mal Reynolds, and Adam Baldwin (now a co-star on “Chuck”), who played Jayne on the show and is very conservative and very cool, have lit up Twitter about this incident. It even has a name: Brownshirts vs. Browncoats. (You have to know “Firefly,” sorry.)

Poor college police chief lady. She didn’t know the Browncoats were such a tight group of folks, all across the intertubes, even a decade after the show was over. Fillon can make an oblique reference to the show on “Castle” knowing people will get it, or at least the right people will. And these folks will stir the pot. For once the lib college folks have met their match.

If she had only seen the movie Serenity, she would have known you can’t stop the signal, Mal.

story here

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Little stuff

September 26, 2011

Again, little bits of things I’ve thought of lately:

American Airlines – what’s the deal?

I flew to St. Louis over the weekend. I flew American Airlines. When I set up my flight there were three seats available, all inside seats in the groups of three on the old MD-80 they were using (2 seats on the left, 3 on the right). A day before I left, there were several window seats available – for an upcharge of $ 14.00! So, they were available all the time, but they were holding them back? What’s that about? On Sunday morning, when I came back, there was a first-class seat available for an upcharge of $ 45.00. It was in the front row, and I was having knee problems, so I went with it. It also meant I could check a bag (actually, 3) for free, so I did. I’m sure if I tried to get a first class ticket a month ahead it would have been a lot more – hell, if I had tried to do it a couple of days before it would have been really pricey! So what’s up with this? I guess that’s why I go with Southwest most of the time. Yeah, they aren’t as cheap or as easy to work with as they used to be, but they still don’t have scams quite like that.

“Heat Rises,” by Richard Castle

I just finished reading Heat Rises, the third book in the Nikki Heat series “written by Richard Castle” from the television show “Castle.” I don’t know who has really been writing them, but the first one was almost unreadable, the second was better, and this one is actually pretty good, with a few cute in-jokes along the way. It’s a short book, but it’s not a bad read. If you like the television show, you will like the book. I don’t know that I can recommend the first one to anybody but the most diehard Castle fans. This one ain’t James Patterson or Michael Connelly, but it’s better than most TV show tie-ins.

Terra Nova

I’m writing this while watching “Terra Nova.” I’m not sure about this one. I know it’s months late in getting on the air, and cost $ 20 million for the first two episodes, but I guess a lot of that is the town sets – apparently 250 sets were constructed overall. It’s pretty extensive. It took a long time to shoot in Australia, too. (Spielberg didn’t want it to look too much like Jurassic Park, so no filming in Hawaii.) The early part, in a seriously screwed-up 22nd century that looks like an uglier Blade Runner future, probably cost a pretty penny, too. But what about the dinosaurs?

Nope. Not so good. I mean, not SyFy Channel-cheap, but not ILM film quality either. Now, I’m not watching it on HD, but I can’t imagine the dinos look a lot better there. And, worst of all, when the pseudo-T-rex attacks, you can actually see its feet not match the ground level.

At $ 4 million an episode, they are only going to do 13, and blow them all by the end of December. At that point it will have cost over $ 60 million. I hope they will have something cool to show for it.

There’s a little subplot about dissidents out there in the bush, and another one about apparently some kind of ancient-astronaut deal or something – anyway, some kinds of geometric markings in the rock, but only the teenagers have seen them, and they ain’t tellin’ because they found them when the kids were outside of the fence without permission.

Brannon Braga is exec producing. Don’t get me started about that. Suffice it to say I don’t see that as a positive. On the other hand, Stephen Lang is a pretty good actor and is better in this part than in his hardass unreasonable crazy weasel character from Avatar. The rest of the cast is going to take some time to shake out.

Couldn’t we just have spent this $ 60 million on a couple of seasons more of “Firefly?

 

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Finally, my thoughts on “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

September 26, 2011


I know, I’m the last person to see this movie. I was planning to see it in the summer, but got busy or something and never got to it. We finally saw it in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.¬† (At a very nice multiplex at the South Point Hotel and Casino, by the way. Good digital projection, good popcorn.)

This movie had a lot of good things going for it. The WETA CGI folks were outstanding…with poorer effects work it would have been completely silly. The plot point that James Franco’s character was driven to create the gene therapy to cure Altzheimer’s because his own father was suffering from it added just the right amount of human emotion. I’m not James Franco’s biggest fan, but he was adequate here, and John Lithgow was excellent as his father.

Andy Serkis and friend

I don’t pay a lot of attention to entertainment buzz, but I’ve seen that Andy Serkis gets a lot of credit for making Caesar such a great character. I don’t doubt that for a minute – he did a wonderful job as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and that was not only because of his facial expressions, translated by WETA into the character, but his body language as well. The question is how to determine¬† what is Andy and what is WETA – I know there has been some talk about an Oscar nomination for him. That question is going to come up, and I wonder if some “members of the Academy” are going to be unhappy just because of the CGI component.

The sequences where Caesar is growing up and developing are delightful. He’s Curious George on speed. Absolutely beautifully done, and they makes you smile. Tom Felton is mean and you love to hate him…but I hope he doesn’t get typecast with such things. He’s great at being a punk. I wonder if he has more range. Most of the rest of the cast is OK, but doesn’t really stand out that much, even Freida Pinto, as Falco’s girlfriend. The apes are the best characters, really, and many of them stand out quite well.

Of course, humans treat them badly – it had to be that way, right? So they have good reason to retaliate. That turns out to have very far-ranging consequences, though. What I thought was interesting was that the plot was actually tied up during the credits of the film…that was unexpected. It also showed how the film reboots the franchise, and hopefully in a better way than the Mark Wahlberg 2001 Planet of the Apes film. I didn’t think it was as bad as people thought, except for the silly circular logic of the plot. the middle of it was pretty OK.

So, overall, it was a very satisfying movie. I thought it was well done, both technically and script-wise. The only really weak area is that most of the characters were kind of cardboard, but as I said, the apes are the real stars, so no big deal…the humans were what they needed to be. And, just maybe, that was part of the point.

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SLS Cargo Version and selling space flight

September 23, 2011

This is an elusive little image. I had to do a lot of searching to find one of the proposed cargo variant of the Space Launch System heavy-lifter. It was pulled from a NASA CGI video clip that pans around it, then goes to the better-known manned version that looks so much like a Saturn V with SRBs, and uses the manned one for the launch video. This is a proposed vehicle, of course; I don’t know how much actual design has been done. It looks like it’s probably close to 400 feet tall, though! (I’ve not scaled it out.) The point of the SLS, of course, is to lift a whole lot of stuff into orbit, and this image certainly demonstrates that.

I know that most people are more interested in manned flight than how big a cargo something can lift, unless you fill the cargo compartment with school buses or something to give them a reference point. But the fact that the Orion capsule (I hate to call it that; it harkens back to Mercury for me) is significantly larger than Apollo is lost in the manned vehicle image. I think it’s hard to imagine that it’s bigger than the Saturn V because the Orion looks a lot like the Apollo in proportion to the launch vehicle.

I may just be blowing smoke here. It may not matter to anybody. Still, to get this thing paid for NASA will need congressional support, and that means the congresscritters need popular support, and that only happens if people thing spaceflight is cool. Sorry, but that’s about all there is to motivate the electorate. There’s no real motivation to “beat the Russians” or “beat the Chinese,” and we’re having a hard time selling American exceptionalism right now. (But that’s another story.)

I hope they get more CGI animations out, showing vehicles in orbit, building stuff, going to the moon, going to Mars. Can they spend a few bucks getting a heavy-duty Hollywood EFX house to do this so they look really good, and could be distributed on Blu-Ray? The Disney “Mission to Mars” film a few years back supposedly had some help from NASA, but it kind of veered off into the ancient aliens stuff. How can we make this exciting for people? They seem to love big-budget science fiction movies – can somebody like James Cameron do something without blue aliens or superheroes and make it sell?

 

 

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Dang! Worf is a psychiatrist!

September 22, 2011

Just saw the season premiere of “Castle” – grittier than usual, with the followup on Kate’s shooting. But at the end, she goes back to see the police psychiatrist after she’s been cleared for duty, because she still has “issues” – and it’s Michael Dorn.

Tell your problems to the Klingon. That’s the way. Actually, with the way Kate Beckett usually acts on the show, as the hard as nails cop, maybe a Klingon is the best choice to tell your problems to…