Abramanations Multiply

It doesn’t matter if it premieres the resurrected Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, I won’t be going to see this film in a theater. This will be the first film in Star Trek history that I’m actually hostile about before I’ve even seen it, and one of three that I loathe ever having been created (FYI, it’s the last three) I cannot express the level of revulsion that I feel when I contemplate what kind of depraved acts will be enacted on the corpse of one my most cherished memories from another time. Better to just pretend it isn’t happening, I guess.

I did catch a “edited for television” version recently. It was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, and then some. Somehow the internet haters really failed to communicate just how ridiculous this farce of a film was. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it is. Magic blood. A Khan that isn’t South Asian. Starfleet officers engaging in conspiracies, taking the lives of their own people when they fail to submit to aggression.

That Khan failed to pervert the crew of the Enterprise in the TOS episode “Space Seed” because future man is no longer susceptible to terroristic threats of this kind is a philosophical achievement lost on the creators of nutrek and the Abramanator himself. 

The number of violations of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future are almost uncountable. They will remain uncounted by me. It was enough for me simply to confirm that the film was bad and not just bad Trek.

My apologies to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry for having witnessed this narrative of depravity.

My review for Star Trek: Into Darkness on Rotten Tomatoes

I give the film half a star on the Rotten Tomatoes 5 star rating system. I can’t rate it lower than that or I would. Having failed to keep up my end of the bargain and actually never watch the film as the first paragraph of the review goes into, I felt I had to come clean and admit to my transgression after having watched Abramation II. However, this article isn’t just about Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I haven’t been a Trek fan for quite a few years.  I quit following the show or hanging around with fans of Nutrek ages ago, not long after declaring Star Trek dead in 2009. I have no interest in being an internet hater.  I have even less interest in spending time in the presence of people who like things that I think are unforgivable violations of the intellectual property of a long-dead inspiration.

I am quite happy sitting here alone in my office. I am forced to revisit this subject because the abramanations continue, and the general movie-going population remains vacuously enamored of J.J. Abrams’ tripe. I sat down and watched Star Wars VII a few weeks ago with the Wife. We had planned on watching that film on the big screen and we missed it because it left theaters within a month of coming out, it left screens and moved to video release quicker than any other Star Wars film in history. I distinctly remember saying, when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would write and direct, that Given what George Lucas has done to Star Wars, I can hardly imagine how J.J. Abrams could fuck it up more than he has. Having now watched Star Wars VII I can honestly say I owe George Lucas an apology.

I owe George Lucas an apology because Star Wars VII is just Star Wars IV told even more poorly as a story, while millions upon millions more are spent on meaningless effects sequences.  It is a marvel to watch from an effects standpoint (much like Mad Max 4) while being almost incomprehensible from a plot and story perspective (also like Mad Max 4) And since George Lucas filmed Star Wars IV with less money and with no example to script by, I have to conclude that his is the superior intellect when contrasted with the abramanator.

It is nice to be proven wrong on occasion, even when the proof takes a few hours out of my life and a few yards out of my intestines due to the indigestion caused by stress.  Stress caused by having to watch bad filmmaking being rewarded so lavishly.

I blame LOST.

I never did do a post series write-up on that show, even though (as the link illustrates) I was quite the fan, following all the crumbs and clues and waiting for the next episode and the next season with breathless anticipation.  Until the story stopped making any sense at all, sometime during season four. I doggedly continued to catch every episode even then, and bought the DVD collections for each season, trusting that somehow it would all make sense in the end.

Except it really never did.  LOST is singularly the worst written story arc ever to be completed in a television show. It is the only show that, having gotten to the end, I really wanted all my invested time back. Not only does the story not make any sense, but the finale attempts to make every possible fan prediction about what the island was, and how the characters survived, be true simultaneously.  It is the series that best manifests the truism trying to make everyone happy is the surest way to piss everyone off.

Every season following the third season became harder and harder to watch.  Far from being the finale that ruined the show for me, it was the reliance on tropes and heuristics to ‘sort of’ move the show along to the conclusion that most of us saw coming years before the confirmatory finale; the finale which so deflated everyone’s expectations about the meaning of it all.

Why season three?  Remember the season three cliff-hanger ending? (I despise cliff-hanger season endings. Loathe them. What happens if the stars die or back out of their contracts? Just pretend the viewers weren’t left hanging?) Charlie’s big sacrifice? Didn’t mean anything.  It might have meant something if the Oceanic 6 hadn’t then gone on to… What? Go home, become helpless invalids? Fail to raise children and then return to the island? Return to the island in the past (a past that the smart guy in their midst says can’t be changed) Return to the island and be blown up by a nuclear explosion (an event that historically didn’t happen) which traps them in a time bubble. For all eternity. With people they hate as well as the friends they love.

I hate to break it to this guy, but if you have to explain what the ending meant in order for people to get it, then it really wasn’t closure of any kind, much less a good ending for a series.  The only reason people still talk about LOST is because J.J. Abrams is Hollywood gold for some inexplicable reason, and so people feel obliged to say nice things about the series that launched him to success.

I watched in disbelieving horror when Damon Lindelof was paraded out a few years back on The Nerdist, which was airing on BBC America at the time.  Damon Lindelof paraded out and held up as some kind of authority on time travel stories, horrified as I watched him taking apart what were, in my estimation, more interesting stories that used the story-telling vehicle in question.

Damon Lindelof? An authority? An authority on time travel? An authority on time travel as a storytelling vehicle? An authority on stories about things which most scientists will tell you are theoretically implausible, which is about as close to impossible as you can get a scientist to go. The mind boggles.

Let me put it this way. My reading of time travel stories and watching time travel movies, my being obsessed with the concept of time travel for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Doctor Who in 1972 on a hotel television screen in Denver, Colorado (on a channel called PBS that I’d never heard of) makes my left testicle more of an authority on time travel than Damon Lindelof or J.J. Abrams himself.  They so screwed up time travel as a story vehicle in every episode of LOST and in the Abramanation, making the story vehicle a distraction from rather than the method of telling the story that I can’t even begin to explain how they might fix it other than to tell them to go talk to actual speculative fiction writers about what they did wrong.

Which brings me to the real reason I started this post. I ran across a clip on Youtube (see, I said it was bad news) advertising an HBO series that riffs off of another movie and story that I grew up on. That would be Westworld.

This is one of those rare films I was allowed to go see as a child. What is most interesting to me looking back at it is this; Westworld and Andromeda Strain mark the beginnings of my exposure to Michael Crichton, a lifelong dance which ended with his death in 2008 and the novel State of Fear, a novel which many people mistake for non-fiction. In the middle was Jurassic Park as a high note and the poorly adapted Congo as a low note (the novel was much better than the film) it seems that his imagination has served as punctuation marks along my journey through science and speculative fiction.

I liked the original film. It is quite campy now and probably barely watchable. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t rewatched it in at least thirty years.  What I do know is that J.J. Abrams is highly touted as having a hand in the HBO series.

Westworld promo trailer courtesy of Youtube and HBO

J.J. Abrams having a hand in the series creation spells doom for the series from the outset, in my less than humble opinion.  I doubt that most people will agree with me since most people think that Star Wars VII is a good film. However, I’ll stand by this equation,

The watchability of any media offering will be in direct inverse correlation to how much actual control J.J. Abrams has over it.

Westworld could be a good series, but I won’t be holding my breath.  I won’t be able to watch it anyway until it hits Netflix or some other third party site since I don’t pay for HBO any longer.  That is one fine trailer though. Gunshots and partial nudity. Deep bass vibrations in the music to amp up the fear. Lots of famous actor cameos. It hits all the marks that advertising executives require. Just like the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond. Haven’t seen that Star Trek either, but I might watch it. I might even pay to watch it. Someone else wrote and directed it, so it might be OK as an experience. Remember, an inverse relationship to Abramanator control. The Star Trek trailer sports the Bad Robot logo, though. Not a good sign.

HBO is riding the crest of a wave that they hadn’t expected to be on.  Who would have thought that George R.R. Martin would hit it big on television, with HBO as a backer, creating the adaptation of his long running A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which only people who live in caves without the internet won’t recognize as Game of Thrones. I am now obliged to offer an apology to George R.R. Martin as well as George Lucas. Not just because I’ve first mentioned him in this article about the dreaded Abramanations; but also because, unlike the rest of the family and probably the rest of Austin if not the entire US, I haven’t seen, read or listened to his stories. I can’t name one title of his I’ve read even though I distinctly remember sharing a table with him at an Armadillocon somewhere in the murky past.  For that, and for mentioning you here, I truly am sorry George.

But HBO is the channel riding the wave now, as AMC was riding the wave of popularity following Breaking Bad and the first few season of The Walking Dead. We’ll just have to see if AMC continues to ride the wave with the next seasons of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which I like more than Breaking Bad, but my liking things is usually bad for their continued existence. Just a word of caution) After the lackluster reception for the cliffhanger ending season 6 of The Walking Dead, they’ll just have to keep their fingers crossed.

Since Westworld isn’t likely to include nuclear weapons or time travel, it is probably a safe bet to watch it. A safe bet for HBO to back it. I’d be on the lookout for the Abramanator to find some way to include those devices in the show, if I had money on the line. If he does, take your money, run and don’t look back.  You’ll thank me for it later.

My Shambala

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to a version of Shambala a bit ago.  I can (and do) appreciate his posts, but for me there is only one version of Shambala.

I say sorry Jim, because Three Dog Night’s Shambala was part of an 8track of hits that they played at the Wichita County swimming pool (Leoti, KS) in 1976 (had to be 76. Summer of the bicentennial. Cross-country bicyclers hanging in the city park. Crazy year) and I had just learned to swim a few summers previously.  Swimming was my first love, and I say that as someone who just celebrated his 25th year of marriage, to someone I’m still deeply in love with; but even so, swimming remains my first love, a communion with nature itself for me.

Spending a carefree afternoon at the pool, eating icees and listening to music that wasn’t played anywhere else, as far as I could tell, was as close to pure joy that child me ever experienced. We waited for the pool to open, and for the weather to get warm enough that you didn’t freeze, and then every single day that I could get away, I’d ride my spyder down to the pool (got a ten speed later. Bicycling was my second love) and stay all day if I could get away with it.

In rural Kansas the only radio stations you could pick up reliably were country stations.  I can listen to just about any kind of music, so Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Merl Haggard and of course Johnny Cash (who was a ‘bad boy’ in my mother’s eyes if I remember correctly) figured highly in rotations for the stations that my parents tuned when I was a child, and I didn’t mind.

But the pool was supervised by high school students (with maybe a school coach checking in now and again) so the sound system they rigged up only played their music. The intro riff to Shambala plays, and I can smell the steam coming off the concrete decking, taste the ice cream, remember what it was like to be carefree.

It’s a weird coincidence that I remember the song at all.  The other song that I remember them playing I rediscovered long ago; it had a catchy refrain about a shaker of salt, and while I couldn’t ever figure out what he wanted salt for (I was pretty sure at the time I was hearing it wrong, water in the ears or something) I did eventually discover the song was Margaritaville, and I have been a parrothead ever since.

The weird coincidence? I was watching LOST with the Wife. She had gotten me interested in the show, and it became a bit of a weekly ritual to catch each episode as it aired. It was a pretty good episode we were watching that night. Season 3, episode 11. You know the one, if you were a fan. The episode was largely focused on two of my favorite characters in the show, Charlie and Hurley.  Hurley was certain he was cursed, that the numbers he used to win the lottery, the numbers that were on the hatch, those numbers had been a curse that had followed him and doomed him to this quasi-life he was experiencing on the island. Here is the crucial scene of the episode;

Lost S03E11 – Van Jumpstart with Road to Shambala

The song comes up, and the memory hits me like a blow to the head.  THAT SONG! I remember that song! It was like a trip to the past, so powerful it brought tears to my eyes (it still can) mom and dad were still happy together, Gramma & Grampa still breathing and living just a few blocks away to save me if I needed saving. The world was bright and full of promise…

…That was my Shambala. That time when everything was perfect (even though it never could have been as perfect as you remember it) all of the people you knew caught like insects in amber and preserved to be revisited. Like a mid-season, mid-run episode for a series that ended up going nowhere, but damn it was good in those few seasons where there was still mystery to be explored.

Except you really can’t go back there, because it never really existed in the first place. The rot was already present, present from the time before I was even born. Rot just festering there, waiting to let everything tear apart. Now that I’ve started losing my hearing, even the song itself is a memory that I replay.  I can’t really hear it like I did then, echoing off the hot concrete I would rest my head on to make my barely functioning sinuses open up and drain.

But the memory of the song is like a siren…

“Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind, on the road to Shambala”

Three Dog Night, Shambala

Television Midseason Debuts

Got my SciFi update from About the other day, giving me the low-down on all the new shows coming out midseason. There seem to be a lot of them. I hope this trend continues, because I’m truly tired of the rerun hell that usually abounds on television after about February.

Top of the list is one I’m going to make a point to miss. The ads for Sarah Connor Chronicles have looked so lame that not even the appearance of Summer Glau in the series will be enough to get this Firefly fan to tune in. Not even for one episode. I actually don’t need to write anything else on the subject, because the new editor over at About SciFi pretty well sums it up with this:

Is there anything left to say about Sarah and John Connor? Apparently. Not only is a fourth movie coming, but now Sarah Connor, inserted after T2, with Sarah (British actress Lena Headey) and 15-year-old John (Thomas Dekker, from Heroes) on the run from both contemporary authorities and cyborgs from the future. Watch creator Josh Friedman try to create jeopardy for characters whose complete past and future we already know! Watch the urbane Headey evoke unslakable yearning for Linda Hamilton’s angry growl and big biceps! Watch a series designed to revive a moribund franchise turn out to be completely inessential!

Don’ t believe me about the ads? Here’s one. Wish I could find the one that set me off; it was full of action and explosions, just like this one, and ended with a comment about mom fixing dinner. Sorry, just can’t suspend disbelief that far; I don’t want to risk brain damage by hitting myself in the head that hard.

There’s a reason why none of the dystopia stories seems to translate well to series television (and even seems to break down in sequel films) and it has to do with maintaining tension in the story on a week to week basis, and keeping it believable at the same time. I predict that this series will be every bit as lame as the Planet of the Apes television series was, and just as short lived.

On the other hand, I see that Jericho is up for a second season, and now I’m kicking myself for not having taken the time to watch the first. Several friends (whose opinions I trust) told me I needed to check it out when it first aired. Now I’m on the fence about coming in mid-story. I might take the time.

I doubt it, though. What with Torchwood (which I watch just for the fun of it) Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who all coming out with new shows (not to mention Ghost Hunters, Ghost Whisperer and other shows that I follow with The Wife. The fact that we watch Ghost Whisperer, Moonlight and Numb3rs has us tuned in to CBS pretty much all night Friday. Thank goodness for the PVR or I wouldn’t get to watch Stargate Atlantis and 20/20 as well) There was so much to watch last year, that I started watching both Bionic Woman and Journeyman, and had to drop them for lack of time (not to mention I just couldn’t seem to get into the shows. That goes double for Chuck. I’m sorry Adam, I just can’t go there) I’m quite glad that Heroes seems to be done for the season; I was getting near to letting that one drop off my radar as well.

The About SciFi guide left LOST off the list (I guess it’s just not SciFi enough for them) That and Stargate Atlantis are the two shows I’m really looking forward to. I have no idea how they will maintain tension on LOST (which is sort of dystopic) either. After loosing their way in the second season, and going somewhere completely unexpected in the third, I don’t even want to hazard a guess about the rest of the series. I’m just hoping it ends as well as it began.

Nathon Fillion on Lost

Nathon Fillion (Mal on Firefly) will appear in the November 8th Episode of Lost, if rumors are to be believed.

I have to say that this season (third season) of Lost has definately got me more on edge early on than last season did. I’m wondering if they can keep up the tension. The only way I’ll find out is if I keep watching, I guess.

The Hanso Foundation

The Wife and I are movie weirdos. Long after the rest of the theatre is empty, after everyone else who was in the theatre is already in the parking lot trying to get into their cars and beat the traffic home, we’re still sitting there watching the rest of the film. The credits, that is. We’ve gotten into arguments with overly enthusiastic maintenance people many times over the years (‘scuse me, the film is STILL RUNNING!) but occasionally it pays off with a closing sequence or a recognized name. (The monkey at the end of Pirates, and the cat at the end of Slither) The latest time this happened was when we were watching the credits for MI-III. Apparently The Hanso Foundation invests in certain films as well as mucking with the space-time continuum (or whatever it is they are doing on LOST) Right there at the end of the credits, a thank you to the Hanso Foundation.

They’ve been running ads on LOST during the commercial breaks as well, kind of like the ads for “Oceanic Airlines” (found three sites for Oceanic, there was just this one. Now there is an 815 site and this one) in the first season episodes. Try calling Hanso’s number, or visiting the website(s). Excellent time wasters.

Still don’t have any clue what will happen next week. The series has already gone places I hadn’t expected (We watched the “tailies” for what reason now?) I hate to imagine what the teaser promise of “changes everything” and “what happens when the counter stops” means. I can imagine, but I’ll wait for the episode. And then wait for the fall sweeps for the other shoe to drop, just like always.

If this was survivor (which I’ll freely confess to never have watched) I know one LOSTaway that I’d like to see voted off the island right now…

I’ll just echo the Dharma Orientation film and say, “namaste and good luck”

LOST Map?

Another screen cap worth sharing. This one is not too clear, though. No matter how many times I tried to get a clear image, I just couldn’t pull it off. ( I need a better capture card, obviously) Never fear, there are others out there with access to better equipment (or they just took pictures of the actual props, who knows) Anyway, if you click on over to “The Tail Section” they have a diagram and an enhanced image that get into most of the details of the map. There are also a lot of places on the site that deal with spoilers and potential spoilers. This constitutes fair warning, once again.

I remember the promo for this episode, “Lockdown” saying 5 things would be revealed. I only counted 3. Obviously what is being revealed isn’t of clear importance… yet.

One of the best episodes so far this season.

LOST – What’s in a Name?

OK. I have to admit this up front. I had not been following this show until O.S. Card threw down the gauntlet last year concerning the worthlessness of Trek (Enterprise was worthless. It also wasn’t Trek. Well maybe Ber-Trek) and the praiseworthiness of ‘Lost’ (and ‘Smallville’. Don’t care what he says about that. His original comments can be found here) I accepted the challenge and took up watching ‘Lost’ just to see what the buzz was about.

Anyway… Trek bashing (by one of the better SF authors that I’ve read to date) aside, I’ve gotten hooked on Lost. It’s a pretty good show (still don’t know if I’d call it SciFi) the episodes are character and plot driven, and they are cut in such a way as to keep you interested in the show, even if you haven’t seen the beginning of the series. I started watching about 4 episodes before the season one finale, and kept right on watching as the repeats started airing. I found myself going “Oh, that explains the scene in the finale where…” and have to shut up, because no one else in the house was watching the finale when it aired previously and I didn’t want to give it away…

I’ve stumbled across more sites for this show than any other show I’ve watched. Example?

…and that’s an old list.

The obsession with names that the fans have (as illustrated here, and several other places) has been earned. Taking into account the meaning of the name “Desmond” (where did he go, anyway?) the symbology behind the Dharma logo, the Bagua (anyone else notice the black/white “swan” looks remarkably like a yin-yang?) and the meaning of the name “Dharma“. How about “Jack” and “John”, the two leaders who have the same first name, but couldn’t be more different.? Aaron, Claire’s child? Mr. Ecko? It seems that the writers are choosing names just to pique our interest. It’s not surprising, and has been done in SF series for years. But it still leads you to wonder…

…Which takes you to questioning where this is all going. Reading through the ideas presented at this link (WARNING, SPOILERS) might give you an idea.

But then maybe he, as well as the writers, don’t know where this is going. I’m still watching.