Where’s Flash?

Here’s a prime example of a film that needs to be re-issued. Couldn’t even find it to rent:

The DVD is only available used, and only at twice the original sales price. On laserdisc format it’s available used at a third the original sales price. Obviously less demand there.

I’ve got part of the soundtrack as a Queen collection, and the children want to see the movie. I have to admit, I saw it once as a teenager, and I think I was too hard on it.

Surely it couldn’t have been that bad?


The film is actually available now on instant video from Amazon. We managed to get a DVD of it (UK region 2) a few years back (I think it was 5 bucks with shipping) Of course, the regionless DVD player has since crapped out necessitating a potential repurchase of films that I really don’t want to admit purchasing the first time. I guess we all have skeletons in our closets.

Star Trek is 40

I didn’t start watching Star Trek until it was in it’s third season, though. I remember being upset and telling my mom (I was 5 or 6 at the time) that my favorite show wasn’t on TV anymore. I turned on the set, changed the channel (we had two, being out in the boonies of Western Kansas at the time) and something else was on in it’s timeslot. She asked me which show it was, could I describe it?

“One of them has pointy ears and they fly around in a spaceship.”

I”m pretty sure she thought I was story-ing or hallucinating (she never watched TV with us) but I remember being quite devastated that I couldn’t watch the show anymore.

[As an aside, the animated series is out on DVD now. I remember those quite fondly from my Saturday morning cartoon childhood. I’m almost afraid to watch them now…]

It wasn’t until I met the wife, more than 20 years later, that I found out there were Trek fans all over the place, and that they were in part responsible for the Resurrection of Star Trek as a movie and then a series. To them and to Gene Roddenberry, I will be eternally grateful.

While the franchise owned by Paramount seems to have taken a turn for the worse of late (not to mention what the makeover will do to it) I still consider myself a trekkie. Here’s hoping the next movie salvages something instead of destroying what’s left of Star Trek.

Keeping the political colors straight

Getting dizzy listening to the major party politics these days?

Are you ready for the ramp up to election day, just a few short months away?

I don’t know about you, but the pointlessness of 9/10ths of all political arguments reminds me of a scene from an episode of Babylon 5 “Geometry of Shadows. The following is from a synopsis of it:

Ivanova is meeting with a representative group of Drazi. Five Drazi with purple kerchiefs sit in the gallery to her left, and five of the greens to the right. A leader stands in front of each group.

Ivanova: As you all know, we’re having a bit of a problem here right now — the aforementioned problem being that you keep trying to beat each other senseless with blunt instruments, banging up against the bulkhead, pounding, mugging, jumping, and generally carrying on cranky. Now, while some of the other species wouldn’t mind if you wiped each other out, even they would prefer that you did so quietly. But — this station is dedicated to the goal of finding peaceful solutions to our problems. And we would like to find one here. [This causes quite some murmuring among her audience.] Now you can start by helping me to understand the precise nature of the conflict between the two sides that you’ve set up.

The two leaders react with pained longsuffering expressions. They have to explain something that is so obvious it needs no explanation. They’re dealing with a complete moron.

Purple leader [gesturing at the Green leader]: Green!

Green leader [returning the compliment]: Purple!

Ivanova: No, I understand that there are two factions, but what is your point of contention? Where do you disagree with each other?

Green leader [pointing and speaking more emphatically]: Purple!

Purple leader: Green!

Ivanova: Yes, but who gets to wear the purple sash and who gets to wear the green sash? I mean, is it based on income, or caste, or rank, or…

Green leader: We put green and purple in great barrel! Equal to numbers of Drazi. Then we reach in, we take! Where there was one Drazi people, now there are two! The two fight until there are one!

Ivanova [open-mouthed in astonishment]: That’s it? It’s totally random? Arbitrary? Well then, how do you choose a leader for either side?

Purple leader: One purple and one green carries mark of leadership. He who takes leader cloth is leader. He who takes green is Green, and follows Green leader. He who takes purple is Purple, and follows Purple leader. [Ivanova catches on sufficiently to lip-sync most of the last sentence.]

Ivanova: Okay, so in other words —- [She steps between the leaders and points out the two nearest Purple and Green followers.] Would you two please step forward for a moment — please? [They’re a bit confused, but they comply.] Okay, so what you’re trying to tell me is that if I take this purple sash off of him, [she takes the sash — much to the consternation of the remaining Purples] and put it onto him, [she puts it onto the Green — agitating all the Drazi, but she’s a bit too wrapped up in her question to notice as she turns to face the leaders] that this one thing alone is enough to start a…

…Bedlam ensues.

Full synopsis
Lurker’s guide episode entry

So, when you hear people yelling about ‘war records’ or ‘tax cuts’ or anything else political (which involves most everything these days, what with the expansion of gov’t) Just remember: “Who takes green, is green, follows green leader.” It’s just that simple.

Universal is Having a Fire Sale; or it would be, except for DRM

Universal is going to offer it’s entire music catalog on Spiralfrog with ad supported free downloads. Free, except that the content will be protected with MicroSoft’s DRM regime. I only have one question; how long before the DRM stripper program shows up? It’s probably already being written, and then patched, and then re-written.

I’ve yet to figure out how a file is mine when I purchase it, if I can’t play it when and where I like. That’s the stumbling block for me signing on to any of these new sites that are being touted. Hell, I don’t even own an iPod, why would I pay for songs that only play on one?

Here’s some news for you, Universal; You should have signed on when MP3.com was the powerhouse it started out to be, instead of thumbing your noses at the upstart site that dared to exercise fair use, and offer streaming content for people who could prove they owned copies of the music. There might have been some significant ad revenue to compensate the artists then.

I know several independent artists that are still nostalgic for those bygone days when they actually received checks for song play at MP3.com. Nothing has come along since that even remotely compares to it.

Ad revenues being what they are these days on the Internet, can a new entry like Spiralfrog generate enough revenue to compensate artists for their work? Or will this be the usual corporate media arrangement, where only the suits in offices get paid?

There aren’t any sites that can compete with the traffic that MP3.com could generate, and now the corporate types finally get it. “Oh, it’s like radio!” Yeah, I think we said that a few years back.

What a waste.

Classic Trek Gets a Makeover

This could amount to sacrilege. They are updating the special effects for all 79 of the Classic Star Trek episodes, giving them all new computer generated effects shots.

I’m withholding judgment on this until I see the finished product. But I’m not holding my breath, either. The primitive effects are just fine with me. I don’t need my classic Enterprise to have ‘go fast’ stripes.

I’ve never seen the revised versions of the first two seasons of Red Dwarf. They went through a similar process of updating. Like Doctor Who and its ships on strings, there is something appropriate about old campy SciFi having visibly dated special effects, especially if there is an air of humor to the program.

On the other hand, I liked the revised versions of Star Wars, with the exception of the Whussification of Han Solo. So updated effects might be OK with me…

…and then there is the urge to tinker with the show. The episode “The Enterprise Incident” for example. Here’s a chance to finally put the Romulans in Romulan ships instead of the Klingon ships that were originally used. After all, why not? The Klingon Bird of Prey that is used for most of the movies and all of Next Gen owes it’s existence to the mythology that was built up around that one little slip up in Classic Trek. If the updates fix that problem, then why…?

Like I said, I’ll wait for the premiere. I’m just not holding my breath.


Read the interview over at Aint It Cool News with Mike Okuda and the rest of the crew that worked on the makeover. There’s also a Q&A over at Startrek.com and the original announcement from Paramount as well as images of the CGI models they will be using. I have to say, the ship does look gorgeous. But then, she always did.

From the announcement:

The most noticeable change will be redoing many of the special effects, created with 1960s technology, with 21st century computer-generated imagery (CGI). Upgrades include:

  • Space ship exteriors – The Enterprise, as well as other starships, will be replaced with state of the art CGI-created ships. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • Show opening – The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be redone, giving them depth and dimension for the first time.
  • Galaxy shots – All the graphics of the galaxy, so frequently seen through the viewscreen on the Enterprise’s bridge, will be redone.
  • Exteriors – The battle scenes, planets and ships from other cultures (notably the Romulan Bird of Prey and Klingon Battle Cruisers) will be updated.
  • Background scenes – Some of the iconic, yet flat, matte paintings used as backdrops for the strange, new worlds explored by the Enterprise crew will get a CGI face-lift, adding atmosphere and lighting.

The refurbished episodes also feature higher quality sound for the famous opening theme. The original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Alexander Courage, has been re-recorded in state-of-the-art digital stereo audio with an orchestra and a female singer belting out the famous vocals. A digitally remastered version of William Shatner’s classic original recording of the 38-word “Space, the final frontier…” monologue continues to open each episode.

However, when you read between the lines, there is some admission on the part of those involved in the process that there are some digital ‘fixes’ going into the regular scenes, not just the inserted FX scenes and bridge viewscreen images. Text ‘fixed’ on library screens, some of the aliens will be given ‘sparkle’…

…I’m still withholding judgement until I see it. Broadcast information can be found here. For Austin it will air on KNVA at 4:00 pm, Saturday, September 16th.

EUReKA

I’ve managed to catch most of the episodes of this new offering from SciFi so far. I’ve found it quite the most enjoyable bit of television viewing that I’ve stumbled across in a long time. It’s also one of the few shows that I feel comfortable letting the kids watch with me.

I liked the approach of the show introduced in the pilot, and they’ve stuck with it in the episodes I’ve watched. The lead character (Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson) is an average Joe who is presented with unbelievable events that he has to make sense of as the episode progresses. You see this never normal town of Eureka, inhabited by geniuses and inventors, through his eyes, allowing you to make the journey from disbelief to understanding with him. Colin Ferguson’s delivery as the straight man in a comedy sketch seems to work perfectly as his character attempts to make sense of the apparently chaotic mess that Eureka is always threatening to become.

Mixed in with the usual SciFi fare is the occasional tidbit of hard science and philosophy. I recommend it. In fact, I mention my interest in the show now, because SciFi will be re-airing the episodes that they’ve shown to date, next Wednesday starting at 4:00 pm. Just in case you want to catch up on the ones you’ve missed.


Additional: SciFi has been airing the episodes out of order. Check the episode numbers for the correct watching sequence. You’d think they’d learn from the mistakes of other networks (Fox and Firefly springs immediately to mind) but perhaps not.

Wrestling isn’t SciFi

All my life, I have had nothing but contempt for professional wrestling and the fans who watch it. Unlike the other pro sports, which have some semblance of realism and rules and are based on amatuer sports that have existed down through the ages, professional wrestling is a complete farce of a sport that takes nothing from the real sport of wrestling, and simply grandstands on the outrageousness of the actors who make thier living engaging in it.

From the implausibilty of appearing to crush someones windpipe, and not killing them, to the appearance of bashing your opponents with objects from outside the ring (a behavior that doesn’t disqualify the atheletes from continuing the exhibition) I find the entire realm of professional wrestling to be unbelievable. A surprising admission for a SciFi fan?

There is nothing scientific about professional wrestling. There is nothing futuristic about it. If anything there is more backwater ‘middle of last century’ stupidity involved in the sport than anything that might qualify it as ‘forward looking’.

So why is professional wrestling on the SciFi channel? Because SciFi was bought out by USA networks several years ago, and USA networks is convinced that everyone loves wrestling. I beg to differ. The only Star Trek series ever to be canceled, Enterprise, was scheduled with wrestling following it. Not only did the geniuses over at UPN schedule these two mismatched genres together, they actively promoted wrestling during the airing of Enterprise. If the show hadn’t have been so poorly conceived in the first place, the intellectually insulting ads for wrestling would have been sure to drive off most viewers.

…As the ads for ECW wrestling, and it’s adjacent scheduling on SciFi with Eureka is probably hurting viewership of that show. Which is too bad. I hate to see a good program like Eureka damaged by programming geniuses at USA who just don’t get it. Don’t get that Science Fiction is an intellectual pursuit (or should be) while Professional Wrestling is anti-intellectual.

UPN’s fascination with teenage boys and their boob babes spelled the end of Enterprise. Here’s hoping that SciFi has some better brains behind it.

The Roasting Of Bill Shatner

While the trivia on the Comedy Central site was fun…

When it comes to the roast itself, I have to say, I think I’ve been out of circulation too long. I remember roasts back when they were on ‘regular’ television. I don’t remember the raunch level being that high. Actually, it couldn’t have been. The censors would never have let it on the air. Why they bothered to bleep out the little they did is a wonder to me.

Editing for content is generally a mystery to me anyway. If I tune in to watch The Terminator, I’m expecting to watch The Terminator, not some whitewashed film in which the killing machine doesn’t unload a full clip into his victims just to make sure they are dead. A film in which the (low) classic line “Fuck you, Asshole!” gets bleeped or changed. What’s the point in watching a film that has been modified like that? If you’re a bible thumper who gets upset at that kind of language and graphic violence, I daresay that a nicer version of the killing machine is not going to win you over. Why would they even tune in at all, other than to make sure the rest of us aren’t watching the filth that they object to?

Editing for content pretty much sums up why I don’t watch films on ‘regular’ television in the first place. Time was, I could watch movies and shows on cable channels and see them unedited; well, at least unedited except for the asinine pan and scan process, that is. But at least the content wasn’t modified to suit the squeamish. Highlander chops off heads, Terminator uses full clips, the horror films are in full gore mode, and people talk like average people rather than the cardboard cutouts in Mayberry. Apparently, this is no longer the case.

So I’m sitting there last night, watching without a doubt the raunchiest roast I’ve ever seen, and they’re bleeping the fucks and shits and whatever. Betty White can tell a joke about a cock ring (Not her best bit. When I watched the show through a second time I would have sworn that she was consciously imitating Don Rickles and Phyllis Diller, or Perhaps Ruth Buzzi, at different points in her routine, as sort of a salute to the old Dean Martin Roasts. Pretty funny) but she can’t say the word ‘cock’, you have to bleep it? On Comedy Central, a cable channel I have to pay for, part of a service I requested? After midnight, no less? I don’t get it.

I hate to break it to you people, I’m a pretty good lip reader these days. Partial deafness forces that on you (a condition Bill and I share) I saw her say the word. If I wanted to get offended, the joke itself would have been offensive, hearing the word would have made no difference. As it is, the fact that the content was edited at all is offensive to me.

Here’s the point I’m getting at. If something offends me, I don’t turn it on. I generally don’t watch Comedy Central because the raunch level is too high. Nothing at all to do with the amount of ‘cursing’ that goes on, and everything to do with the continuous blatant sexual references. I have a pre-teen in the house, he doesn’t need that kind of exposure, so I don’t watch it (the daughter stumbled in on The Succubus episode of South Park when she was about the son’s age now. She had nightmares about it afterwards. I’ve just steered clear of the channel since) I also don’t watch many of my favorite films with the kids in the room, and for much the same reason.

[The children generally don’t want to watch what I watch anyway (Discovery Channels, mostly) They want to watch Cartoon Network, which I have to turn off after Adult Swim starts. Something else I don’t get. A network that caters to children, that has pretty graphic adult content after 10 pm. Futurama is great. Family Guy, I just don’t get. It just gets lamer from that point on, until you hit the Anime at two in the morning. What’s with that? Why all on the same channel?]

I tuned in to Comedy Central after putting the kids to bed, because I suspected what I was going to be watching would be off the charts on the raunch scale. It was. I don’t even know if the wife will be able to sit through it. I don’t know why I bothered. The lame-ass ‘bleeping’ every few minutes in the middle of jokes that wouldn’t make the uncensored list in the first place just ruins the whole effect. What a waste.

Periodically, when watching network television, I catch the occasional promo for “the Network Premiere of (insert sex and gore fest film name here)” and I turn to the wife and say, “How are they going to make that film conform to network censor standards?” I never find out, because I either have the film on disk, or I can rent it. When it comes to Comedy Central’s offerings, I’ll probably never see the uncensored versions. I paid for it once already, and they shafted me on content. Why would I bother to pay for it again?

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Sort of a follow on to The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. (and, apparently, I’m still trying to teach people to think) If, in fact, your actions amount to more than (feel) good intent, there’s bound to be some whiner out there who isn’t happy about it. Rest assured, they’ll do everything they can to make sure that you never try that again.

So, today I get a private message from the Austin_Browncoats moderator about my negative wit, as currently displayed on her list, and a reference to a total buffoon that picked a fight with me a year ago on the list because I dared to suggest that Firefly was dead.

It is dead. The show was cancelled. It might be revived, but it won’t be the same show. Star Trek never came back from it’s cancellation. Oh, they made movies, and they made spin off series, but the Original Series (TOS, for the Trekkers out there) remains as the same 79 episodes. It effectively died when NBC pulled the plug in 1969. For the fans it ‘lives on’, but considering what they’ve done to the Star Trek universe of late, it looks more undead than alive. Perhaps 14 episodes and a movie, coda (fade out) would be a kinder fate for Firefly than the fate that befell Star Trek.

Back to the buffoon. She ranted and raved for a few days, then packed up and left the list in a huff because “she had better things to do elsewhere”. Fine by me. Hadn’t heard anything of significance from her before the meltdown, didn’t see that it was much of a loss. I made my apologies to the list, and went on.

Only to have it thrown back in my face today. Well, that’s just fine and dandy. Yes, I tend to speak my mind, and I don’t generally give much thought to the impact this might have. I try to be concise and to the point, colorful yet clear, but I don’t really care if it ruffles feathers. It’s the way I talk (when I say anything at all) and it’s the way I write. Honesty is the best policy, and I follow that policy to the letter.

Like the latest dust up. Someone who probably should know better forwards that old Cough CPR post to the list. Now, most lists (including mine) have notices about forwarding this type of junk to the list. It generally amounts to “don’t”. Being aware that this is a bogus bit of netlore that could be potentially fatal, I immediately zipped off a rebuttal. Very shortly afterward, I get a response from the original author defending her post as being sent with “the best of intentions” along with some companion sympathy shoulder rubbing posts from another member.

So here’s another tempest in a teapot starting to boil. And who’s fault is it? Mine!

Yepper. How dare I speak in such a condescending fashion. Well, excuse me for trying to keep people from killing themselves with CPR tips that won’t work as advertised, and hurting someone else’s feelings in the process. I should remember the good intentions the post was sent with and not worry about those people who might actually kill themselves with the advice contained in the post.

However, the tempest never gets to a full boil. Why? Not because the moderator put a lid on it, deleting posts on the subject (Attn: Ms. moderator. Firefly fans should have more balls than to go whining to the authorities when the other kids in the sandbox don’t play nice. It just seems a bit counter to the whole “livin’ on the raggedy edge” kind of mindset) no, it never came to a boil because I resisted saying the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The last post in the thread shows up, tearing at the hair and bewailing my lack of common decency for daring to take this poor woman to task for something she posted with the best of intentions…

…and I let it slide.

So, in the For What It’s Worth department I have this response:

No. Good intentions are not required as a prerequisite for doing good. Knowing the difference between the good and the bad is. Good intentions that yield bad results might as well be bad intentions. Common decency compelled me to set the record straight in the first place. Otherwise I’d have been more than happy to let the boat float along undisturbed, just like the rest of the sheep who can watch someone being mugged in an alleyway and do nothing about it.

You can feel good about the fact that my good deed has not gone unpunished.

Codes and Jesus the Superstar

I was reading a review of the Da Vinci Code movie over at the Atlasphere (The Da Vinci Code: Fighting Faith and Force) the other day, and noticed one of the links at the bottom of the page labeled the U.S. Catholic Bishops Brown-bashing site” I found the link intriguing, so I clicked on it.

The actual title of the page was the funny part. “Jesus decoded“, it proclaims.

That’s a great idea. Maybe they can explain the trick with the fishes and the loaves of bread, or perhaps the walking on water. That would be good to know. The most important trick, of course, would be the changing of water into wine. Very popular at parties, I would imagine.

Too bad this sort of insight wasn’t available to Judas ‘back in the day’. Might have saved him a lot of missteps. “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?” One of the most memorable lines of lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas, as one of the disciples, should have known how to ‘decode’ Jesus. Obviously it isn’t as easy as the Catholic Bishops would have us believe.

A fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the few things that remains constant from my days as a ‘born again’ to my current ascribed atheism. I picked up the DVD recently and watched the movie for the first time. Alamo Drafthouse aired snippets of the movie between showings of The Da Vinci Code (I have written about the movie and the book before) and it intrigued me. I’ve listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack since the early eighties, but I’ve never had the occasion to watch the film made from the play. Little did I know that the soundtrack was in fact the original version, created before the play even took shape.

That makes it all the more interesting to me that they chose to alter some of the lyrics from the soundtrack in making the play and the film. One of the most telling lines, for me, has always been Jesus’ despairing declaration to the lepers “Heal yourselves!” which is the last line in that song on the soundtrack. The movie uses a much more ambiguous “Leave me alone!” to end the song.

I prefer the more empowering declaration, myself. More fitting in describing what is wrong in the world today. The vast majority of people seem to think that what they need to fix themselves is external to their selves; when, obviously, the answers lie within.

Judas fails to comprehend were the answers lie as well. The movie, album, etc. ends with Judas still asking questions of Jesus (which still plays quite well) when the real question is why Judas would turn in the man he professes to love. Jesus Decoded, indeed.