Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday Linkblogging

Since I am going to be out drinking tonight and I have yet to do my deep-think about Cloverfield so I can write about it, I present some links for your enjoyment:

  • Steve Martin writes about being funny for the Smithsonian. Go read. (Thanks to Kevin Church.)
  • Read and learn about "The Rights of Conscience Inalienable" at
  • The alignment of TCM's Marketing Dept.? Dickish Good. (Also from Kevin Church.)
  • Does someone have $1000 they want to give me so I can go to this? If so thank you very much. My contact info can be found over there. --->
  • Along those lines I was getting caught up on Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, one of my favorite podcasts, yesterday I listened to the January 2 episode (titled "A Fly on James Burke's Wall") where he talks with James Burke. During the discussion they mention Burke's Knowledge Web. I think this will be an awesome resource once it is online and want to do some more thinking about it before I say why. At least check out the podcast. It is worth the time.
  • The one thought I will share about Cloverfield is in relation to this news item and can be boiled down to three words: Don't do it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Random Quotes

Went to see Cloverfield tonight and I need to do some deep-think about it before I can post my reactions, particularly in light of the TED talk given by J.J. Abrams. Until then I would like to share the following quote from Harlan Ellison:

I will use big words from time to time, the meanings of which I may only vaguely perceive, in the hopes such cupidity will send you scampering to your dictionary: I will call such behavior "public service."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

For Sale!


Monday, January 28, 2008

That Kind of Day

So on Saturday I posted the following email to a list of friends:

While I was writing tonight the iPod decided to throw out BNL's "War on Drugs" and these lyrics really hit the place I am right now and I thought I would share:

They say that Jesus and mental health
Are just for those who can help themselves
But what good is that when you live in hell on earth?

From the very fear that makes you want to die
Is just the same as what keeps you alive
It's way more trouble than some suicide is worth

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

Won't it be odd to be happy like we
Always thought we're supposed to feel
But never seem to be

Sometimes it is frustrating when you are trying to write down what is in your head and then you find that someone else has already done it for you and better than you could have done.

As I said I was down in the dumps, inevitably over a girl, and posted this. This created some consternation amongst my friends, to which I responded:

No Susan, right now I am not ok. I went and did a dumb thing and the none too surprising results are taking a huge emotional toll on me right now. I cried myself to sleep last night and have spent most of the day in the office fending off bouts of tears. (Thank god there is something going round the office so no one is wondering why I have the sniffles. As for the rest I just look hungover which is not out of the question for me.). Having said that you are right to see promise in the lyrics which is why they appeal to me as much as they do.

No matter how hard it can be at times I always cling to hope. Sometimes it is as simple as hoping to wake up in the morning and taking that small victory when the alarm goes off and I stumble in to the shower. Eventually these small victories, these little hopesn pile up and become something more than just a salve for a wound. Eventually I find my way back to the larger hopes and dreams.

Though right now where I am at it is hard to have even those little hopes and I am having trouble seeing my way forward. Part of this comes from the fact that I don't like to dump my shit on other people. I feel so petty whinging about my problems because in the final analysis they are nothing compared to everything else going on out there. I broke down in the office this morning while talking about this with Brian and part of me just felt so small and petty. I mean so fucking what if some girl doesn't feel the same way about me as I do about her. Whoop-de-fucking-doo and welcome to it pal. But this cat here? Still working on the tail end of a divorce. He shouldn't be stuck listening to my high school emoboy problems. But he does because he is a good friend.

On top of that I know that the hurt I feel right now will lessen over time even if I can't see that now. Right now I have to cling to the little victories. Waking up in the morning. Looking at the bottle of scotch on my desk and knowing I don't need it to go to sleep tonight. Even claiming victory after I break down crying and kicking and screaming because once I am done I get back up. It may take me a while but I always get back up. Then I can look the world in the eye and say, "Fuck you. Is that it? I am still here you son of a bitch and I will love just as deeply the next time." And then I can smile because that moment there? That's the big victory. Then comes hope.

Still not in a great place but I am getting better. Little by little. I am really glad I did not post the entire song as it deals with a girl committing suicide. Here are the entire lyrics:

"War On Drugs"

She likes to sleep with the radio on
So she can dream of her favorite song
The one that no one has ever sung since she was small

She'll never know that she made it up
She had a soul and we ate it up
Thrown away like a paper cup
The music falls

The only flaw in her detailed plan
Is where she wins back the love of her man
Everyone knows that he's never coming back

He took her heart and she took his name
He couldn't stand taking all the blame
He left her only with guilt and shame and then she cracked

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

In the dream I refuse to have
She falls asleep in a lukewarm bath
We're left to deal with the aftermath again

On behalf of humanity
I will fight for your sanity
How profound such profanity can be

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

Won't it be odd to be happy like we
Always thought we're supposed to feel
But never seem to be

Near where I live there's a viaduct
Where people jump when they're out of luck
Raining down on the cars and trucks below

They've put a net there to catch their fall
Like it'll stop anyone at all
What they don't know is when nature calls, you go

They say that Jesus and mental health
Are just for those who can help themselves
But what good is that when you live in hell on earth?

From the very fear that makes you want to die
Is just the same as what keeps you alive
It's way more trouble than some suicide is worth

Won't it be dull when we rid ourselves
Of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company

Won't it be odd to be happy like we
Always thought we're supposed to feel
But never seem to be

Hard to admit I fought the war on drugs
My hands were tied and the phone was bugged
Another died and the world just shrugged it off

Glad I didn't post all that. People would have gone round the bend.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

J. J. Abrams at TED

I promise to have some real content this week. Until then enjoy this TED Talk from J. J. Abrams. If you don't know who J. J. Abrams is then you should really stop reading this blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dispatches from the Abyss - Wednesday, Dec. 23rd

So it has been a long time since I have done just some generic, stream of consciousness typing at you cats so to ring in the New Year MLKJr Day I thought I would do just that. Also I have not finished another book to review for you guys and have spent the last couple of days in a really strange headspace and hope that writing about it might help me work through some of the issues. At least that was the plan until I looked at my crackberry and noticed that I had an email from the person in charge of the production assistants for this summer's Star Trek New Voyages shoot. Last week I submitted my application letter to them. I would love to go up to New York and spend my vacation working on the upcoming episode, "Rest & Retaliation" penned by recent online acquaintance Dave Galanter and his writing partner Greg Brodeur (whose Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Foreign Foes I just started reading last night) however as I have no real film or television experience to speak of I figured I would be rather far down on the list. Now I have a phone interview on Thursday. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Now on to my headspace issue. Starting sometime this weekend my head got really fucked up and I started going in and out of a real anti-social space. This was pretty challenging as I was on a camping trip with some friends and being sans car meant I could not make a break for it like I normally can when this happens. I managed to either grin and bear it or wander away from the group when the need to flee became almost overwhelming. I made it through the weekend okay and, as far as I know, without anyone the wiser.

Then Monday hit. Here in H-towne* the weather was absolute shit, which I imagine had Scott happier than the proverbial pig in shit but all it ended up doing for me is trapping me in the house with my mind for company. This ended up being a bad thing.

Argh! Can't fucking concentrate on writing tonight. Too stoked about the whole New Voyages thing and I am up right now rather than being down. Oh well. In light of these developments I offer a link to the "Assassination of Chicken Caesar."

"I come not to braise Caesar but to toss him."

Also as an added bonus tonight I would like to offer up the following picture of your humble author circa 1992 alongside his friend Mike Allen. Now why, you might ask, am I offering this picture for public mockery? Particularly with those hideous glasses. WTF was I thinking? My reasons are two-fold. First I wanted to remind myself that I have not always been fat. For some reason I had it stuck in my head that I have not gained that much weight since high school. This picture puts that falsehood to rest. The second is that I recently successfully Google-stalked Mike and am contemplating giving him a call. I have not seen or heard from him, good God, since right around the time I dropped out of college so in 1994 or thereabouts. So not quite 15 years. I meant to call tonight but got caught watching hockey and then screwing around and suddenly it was too late to give him a call. We shall see what happens. Have a good one, folks.

* See how we're all fancy and shit now with a superfluous 'e'.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From the Hico News Review

I spent this past weekend with some friends outside the small town of Iredell, which apparently used to be called Snuff City. On Saturday a couple of them ran in to the local metropolis to do a little shopping and came back with the Thursday, January 17th edition of the Hico News Review. While flipping through the paper I found this advert:

I swear to God this is real.

Monday, January 21, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The End of America

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
Naomi Wolf
Chelsea Green, 2007
156 pages

This is an uncomfortable read. In this book, framed as a letter to a young friend, Wolf delineates the ten steps dictators take to turn an open society in to a closed society and shows us how these have been taking place in modern America. The ten steps are:

1. Invoke an external and internal threat
2. Establish secret prisons
3. Develop a paramilitary force
4. Surveil ordinary citizens
5. Infiltrate citizens' groups
6. Arbitrarily detain and release citizens
7. Target key individuals
8. Restrict the press
9. Cast criticism as "espionage" and dissent as "treason"
10. Subvert the rule of law

To be honest I am not sure how to discuss this book, which might be a problem as the point of the book is to engender discussion on the state of America and what the "average" citizen can do. I know this is not much of a review but I feel like so many points Wolf makes are self-evident that I do not know how to discuss them without just copying directly from the source. At a mere 156 pages I think it would be better for you to go and read the source and I HIGHLY recommend that you do just that. This book comes at a critical time for American democracy and is an essential read for anyone interested in the future of a free and thriving America.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dear Hockey: Part Two

I may be a defenseman but....damn. Well played Mr. Nash, well played.

Friday, January 18, 2008

When Vikings Attack!

Back in 1999 or 2000 I had this flash. A Norse hall full of Vikings back from a summer of raiding, their plunder heaped in piles about the hall. However sitting a top one pile is a statue of Col. Sanders from KFC. As this flash happened I also noticed that all of the Vikings were eating fried chicken rather than what one might expect them to eat. These images stuck with me and stuck with me and I would wonder where the hell the Vikings got the KFC swag. Clearly there were still Vikings in the world today. I talked about this with a couple of friends and before long we had a fifteen minute video, "When Vikings Attack!" complete with commercials. The reason I mention all this is that the videos are now up on YouTube. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The Happiest Days of Our Lives

The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Wil Wheaton
Monolith Press, 2007
136 pages

I would like to start out by saying that Wil Wheaton is a bastard. As I noted in my review of Just A Geek, Wheaton's tales of his journeys through life kick my ass and quite frankly I am tired of it. Just once I would like to be able to put down something he has written without completing the damn thing in one sitting. I want to savor his prose and take my time to allow his stories to refresh my memories of my own geek life. Shit, I would like to get to bed before 3 in the morning so I am not a complete ass at the office the next day. Simple enough requests, methinks, but apparently Wheaton has other plans for my night.

As you might have surmised I received my copy of Wheaton's newest book The Happiest Days of Our Lives yesterday and once again read through it in a marathon session. Here he continues to chronicle his life as a geek with stories ranging from the dark past of the '70s all the way through the present. They run the emotional gamut as well, from the tear-inducing "let go - a requiem for Felix the Bear" in which Wil documents the all-too short time a stray cat spent in his family's life to the uncomfortably familiar "a portrait of the artist as a young geek" in which Wil details his involvement with table-top RPGs and drops the line, "...we had D&D fever, and the only prescription was more polyhedral dice." Amen to that, brother.

One of the most enjoyable things about Wheaton's writing is how accessible his style makes his stories. While he is an accomplished wordsmith his writing is not distant. There is an intimacy to it which makes you feel as though he is telling you personally. While reading the book you might as well be sitting and sharing a Guinness with Wheaton and this heightens the impact of his stories.

Go buy this book. Do it right now. Usually I would complain about this thing setting me back twenty clams for only 136 pages of product (and some of those are blank) however this book is worth twice the price of admission. If my words can not convince you then perhaps comic book luminary Warren Ellis can when he says, "Wil Wheaton's made a new career out of doing well that which is in fact the hardest thing to do at all, he writes, brilliantly and simply and gloriously, about joy." Truer words and all that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - Spook Country

Spook Country
William Gibson
Putnam, 2007
371 pages

William Gibson: The Spy Novel. I do not think I could have been looking forward to this book any more if I actively tried. Gibson's early cyberpunk works came along right as I was getting in to more serious science fiction and they had a profound effect on how I perceive the science fiction genre. I must admit that I have yet to read Pattern Recognition and I thought both Virtual Light and All Tomorrow's Parties pale in comparison to his work in his first three novels and his early short stories. I saw Spook Country as an opportunity to see one of my favorite writers and a master of his craft working in one of my favorite genres.

In Spook Country Gibson engages in his familiar method of telling a tale by telling the stories of people who have no connections. In this case he begins with Hollis Henry, former musician, who is working on her second career as a freelance journalist. Currently she is working on a piece about locative art for the as-yet published magazine Node. Unlike most other magazines, Node is avoiding the pre-release buzz under the direction of its enigmatic publisher Hugo Bigend, who may be familiar to readers of Pattern Recognition. Hollis has been tasked with finding Bobby Chombo, the premiere producer in the locative art world with Howard Hughes like social issues. Then there is Tito. In his early twenties much of Tito's background is a mystery. We know his family hails from Cuba and is involved in some sort of business which may or may not be espionage. Finally we have Milgrim, a white-collar junkie whose knowledge of Russian is being used by the mysterious Brown in exchange for hits of Rize, a prescription anti-anxiety drug. Eventually their individual stories all being to intersect and build towards the conclusion.

As with all of Gibson's work Spook Country was an enjoyable and challenging read. Gibson creates and explores corners of the world that I could never imagine and for me these explorations are almost worth the price of admission. Add to that Gibson's economy of prose and I can highly recommend this book. I did have one issue with the book; I had forgotten how Gibson tells his stories. Therefore when I was a third of the way through the book and still not seeing anything more than tenuous connections between the plots which were developing I started to get a little frustrated. This frustration came back at the end when the climax to the story seemed to be a bit of a let down. The climax comes and goes and yet nothing seems to be changed. Except the characters and sometimes that has to be enough. In this case it is. You really should read this book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Something to ponder

I am reading Naomi Wolf's The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot and I came across this quote which I thought was worthy of sharing:

Those words [", liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."] at the time they were written were blazingly, electrifyingly subversive. If you understand them truly now, they still are. These men and the women who supported their work were walking further out into the unknown - betting on ordinary people's capacities - than anyone had ever walked in the history of the human race. You are not taught - and it is a disgrace that you aren't - that these men and women were radicals for liberty; that they had a vision of equality that was a slap in the face of what the rest of their world understood to be the unchanging, God-given order of nations; and that they were willing to die to make that desperate vision into a reality for people like us, whom they would never live to see.

Just something to think about. My review of Spook Country should be up by the end of the week quickly followed by my review of this book.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Recent Adventures in Television

I have had a slow few weeks at the office. A fact which I have celebrated by cleaning up my email folders and watching both seasons of Sports Night and the second, third, and forth seasons of Babylon 5. This was the first time I watched Sports Night however it is the third or fourth time I have watched Babylon 5. I am actually watching the fifth season as I sit here an type this. ("A View From the Gallery" if you're wondering.)

Much like The West Wing I managed to miss Sports Night when it was on the air. Matt has been insisting I check this out for some time and knowing that it was an Aaron Sorkin show I was interested but some how I managed to put it off for a couple of years. I do not know why I finally borrowed the DVDs from Matt although I suspect it has something to do with procrastinating on a writing project, however I finally manned up and watched them. I have to say I really enjoyed the series however towards the end of the series it was plain to me that Sorkin really wanted to tell the sort of stories he was able to tell in The West Wing. (He got his wish the next season.) This growing desire to tell stories with explicit morals does not take away from Sports Night however it certainly moved the show from straight up comedy, laugh track included, to more nebulous ground somewhere between drama and comedy. (I hate the construction dramedy. It makes me think of some sort of a camel. On top of that any good drama will include moments of comedy and if they become too over the top then you have moved into the realm of the melodrama.) They also lost the laugh track which was a plus in my book. I HATE canned laughter with the fire of a thousand suns.*

Sports Night, in addition to the title of the show, is the title of a SportsCenter-esque show on the fictional Continental Sports Channel around which the show is centered. With Josh Charles as Dan Rydell and Peter Krause as Casey McCall anchoring the show and Felicity Huffman as Dana Whitaker as the executive producer of the show Sorkin once again used his trinity of two strong male leads with a strong female lead, a formula which he would refine through The West Wing and Studio 60. I am willing to bet it make an appearance in Charlie Wilson's War as well. In this case the casting was excellent throughout the show although I have to admit that Felicity Huffman in a comedic role was a bit of a shock after her recent roles in Transamerica and Desperate Housewives. (This is purely a perceptual issue on my part as I have not seen either of these shows.) Sabrina Lloyd as Natalie and Sorkin habitue Joshua Malina as Jeremy serve as Sports Night star-crossed lovers and Robert Guillaume as the show's father figure. With Sorkin at the helm the writing is excellent and the characters are far smarter than people have any right to be, and this is why I love Sorkin's writing. I can absolutely recommend this series to anyone who has enjoyed The West Wing or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and with the entire series being available for less than $50 on Amazon it is an excellent buy.

I have also been watching far too much Babylon 5 of late. I am not certain why Babylon 5 has been on my mind lately as I have a pile of other movies and TV shows to catch up on, but I think my viewing needed a shot of epic science fiction and Deep Space Nine was not going to cut the mustard this time. I started my viewing with "Chrysalis," the final episode of the first season as this really begins the arc of the second season and have subsequently plowed through the entire second, third, and fourth seasons. I had forgotten how well Babylon 5 deals with issues such as religion which in most pop science fiction tales are either ignored or very minor points in the story.

While watching the second season episode "Confessions and Lamentations" I noticed some parallels between that story and the forthcoming New Voyages episode "Blood and Fire." While I cannot be certain if Straczynski meant "Confessions and Lamentations" as an AIDs allegory, the parallels are too strong for it not to be. In the episode the Markab begin suffering from a disease which is 100% contagious and 100% fatal however the Markab are unwilling to discuss the disease as it is associated with a decadent and sinful lifestyle. In the end the Markab's unwillingness to talk about the illness ends up killing the entire race before anyone can assist them. I think the parallels between the early days of our experience with AIDs are fairly clear and as David Gerrold is on record as stating his original "Blood and Fire" script, as written for Star Trek TNG, was an AIDs allegory. While the specifics are going to be different I wonder if there is going to be any difference between the substance of the stories; the lesson.

I mentioned that I am watching "A View From the Gallery" in which five alien ships attack the Babylon 5 station. The station personnel know these ships are coming and have several flights of Starfury's and Thunderbolt's waiting for them. Here is what I am wondering. If you know the enemy is coming through and might be using your jumpgate would it not make sense to station some fighters where they can jump the ships coming out of the jumpgate?

In the fifth season episode "Strange Relations" the telepath Lyta Alexander, played by Patricia Tallman, makes a reference to popping a blood vessel in someone's mind, a "skill" which would come up again in JMS' comic series Rising Stars.

* Extra Credit. What movie am I referencing here? Show your work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

TPB REVIEW - The Final Flight

The Final Flight
Created and illustrated by Romain Hugault
Story and dialogs by Romain Hugault & Regis Hautiere
Editions Paquet, 2007
55 pages

I picked this up purely on the information that it was a comic book that involved WWII planes and the cover art was nice. This method of selecting comics leads to the purchase of some real crap and I should try to stop however from time to time you find a real gem like Hugault's "The Final Flight". In this rather slim volume are the stories of four combat pilots and the brief moments when their lives intersect.

Hugault starts in April, 1945 with "Cherry Blossom," the tale of kamikaze pilot Terou and the letter he writes his father before leaving on his mission. We then move to June of 1944 where in "Reprieve" we share Tom's, an American pilot, experiences as he is shot down behind enemy lines. The next story, "Iron Cross" moves us only one month further back, to March, where German ace Gunther leads a cadre of young men against a formation of American bombers. "Angel Drop", the final tale takes us to the Eastern front in November of 1943 where we meet Alain a young Frenchman who is flying for the Russians. Finally the epilogue brings us back to Tom and early in 1945 as he is deployed to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, bringing us full circle.

The common theme which links the four pilots is the futility of war and the desperate actions one will take in service of not their countries but their comrades and while Haugult beats the reader around the head with his moral, I did not find it distracting. Over all Hugault manages to pack a lot of story in to these 55 pages along with a TON of beautifully rendered airplanes. From Zeroes and Corsairs in the Pacific, to the Thunderbolts, Lightnings, Mustangs, Yaks, Focke Wulfs, and Messerschmitts which controlled the skies over Europe each plane is incredibly detailed and accurate. About the only complaint I have about Hugault's art is that at times his faces are not right and that can be distracting.

All in all I felt the $10 price of admission was well worth it and I am very much looking forward to seeing more of Hugault's work, either in English or his native French.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The List Just Keeps Growing

Last week I listed all of the books I currently own which are in the "To Be Read" pile as well as a few of the books I expect to be picking up along the way. Over the last few days this list has grown with the addition of Marc Acito's sophomore novel Attack of the Theater People which comes out on April 15th. I REALLY enjoyed his first novel, How I Paid For College, as you can see in this review I wrote back in 2005. In addition to this book I forgot to list Courage on Little Round Top by Thomas Eishen who I met at the Liendo Plantation Civil War Weekend this past November and the entire collection of Babylon 5 scripts written by J. Michael Straczynski. This is a 15-volume set which has been sporadically published since 2005. They are hoping to complete publishing them this year so I really need to get on the ball and start buying them however the $40 price tag for each volume is a little tough to swallow. I plan to start buying them at the rate of two per month so I can get caught up right about the time they are publishing the final volume. Phew that is a lot of reading to get done! All of this stacked on top of my desire to get back in to reading some serious science fiction this year means I should declare 2008 the year of the book.

Monday, January 07, 2008

In which our hero learns...

...Tupperware may not be microwave safe. For example:

Friday, January 04, 2008

Torchwood Season 2

As much as I have enjoyed the abbreviated seasons of Chuck and Life, I think my favorite new TV show of this season was Torchwood. This show has had me thinking about things and scribbling in notebooks. About the only complaint I have about the first season is that it was, as most British shows are, short, in this case thirteen episodes instead of the 20+ to which we are accustom. Except when a WGA strike curtails the season or a show is on Fox. Thus I was very happy to learn that the new season of Torchwood will begin airing on January 26th. This comes as a relief as there seems to be about a year delay between shows airing in the UK and the US, and vice versa. Below are two previews, a short one and then a longer preview.

Now if only I could get the fifth and sixth seasons of MI-5, aka Spooks, over here life would be good. Of course the fifth season comes out on DVD on Tuesday, so there it is.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

REVIEW - Star Trek: Of Gods and Men

I do not think it is too much of a stretch to say Star Trek: Of Gods and Men is the most eagerly anticipated fan film release of the last few years. When you consider the level of Hollywood involvement, which ranged from Star Trek luminaries such as Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, to lesser-known Star Trek alumni such as Crystal Allen and Lawrence Montaigne, the direction of fellow Star Trek alumnus Tim Russ, and the chatter about not being a fan film coming out of the OGAM camp this level of anticipation was certainly to be expected. The expectations grew throughout 2006 and 2007 as the release date was pushed back several times. Finally on December 22nd of this past year the first thirty-minute episode was released and fandom heaved a great sigh of relief as they scrambled to their computers to view the episode. So many scrambled, in fact they managed to take down the OGAM website which lead to delays in some fans being able to view the episode. In my case I was about as far removed as one can get from high speed internet access over the Christmas weekend which means by the time I was able to view the episode most of the bandwidth issues had been resolved.

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men begins on a run down station, which seems more appropriate for the Firefly universe than Star Fleet, manned by Ethan Phillips. Phillips is confronted by a mysterious stranger who only wants to know about James Kirk and quickly leaves, taking the entire station with him, when he learns that Kirk had passed away twelve years earlier. We then move to the newly built replica of the original Enterprise (Kirk's Enterprise not the one captained by Count Bakula) intended to be a museum under the command of Peter Kirk (played by New Voyages' own James Cawley). Uhura, Chekov and Captain John Harriman, who was last seen being a complete yutz in Generations, are all on hand for a dedication ceremony when they receive a message from an automated beacon and, as they are the only ship in the sector, the must rush off to investigate. They arrive at the planet and are confronted by the mysterious stranger who then goes through the Guardian of Forever and makes some change to the timeline which thrusts our three main characters into completely different roles. Harriman is a captain of a starship serving the Galactic Order. Uhura is married and living on Vulcan where she seems to be an anti-Galactic Order activist while Chekov is cast a terrorist fighting against the Galactic Order.

So how did OGAM measure up to the eighteen-plus months of fan boy anticipation?

Not very well, it saddens me to say. Of course I have only seen the first third of the story, however I just cannot get over a couple of the issues I have with the piece, most of which are technical or execution related rather than story related. I will be the first to admit that some of these issues reach a level of fan-boy wankery to which I am almost uncomfortable admitting however in fan films I feel as much attention must be paid to the mechanics of the universe as the other aspects of the production. My biggest fan-boy complaint, and the only one I intend to address in this review, is how they deal with the mechanics of the Guardian of Forever. In the original episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever*," the landing party is unaffected by the changes McCoy makes to the timeline. In OGAM the landing party is directly and immediately affected by the changes Charlie has made to the past. Not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things but it was enough to bug me and put me in the wrong frame of mind.

On a more general note I thought that many of the special effects, particularly those of planetary surfaces, were not on the same level as delivered by other prominent fan films and compared poorly with those from Babylon 5, which is over a decade old at this point. There also seemed to be a desire to put in effects for the effects sake. The two most glaring instances of this are the birds on Vulcan and the omega weapon sequence. The birds on Vulcan were a nice touch that did not add anything to the scene. The time spent designing and animating them could have been better spent on other effects shots. The greater sin lies with the sequence which runs from the firing of the Omega weapon through the impact on the target. The entire sequence takes just about 40 seconds, most of which is spent watching the Omega weapon move through space and while 40 seconds does not sound like much time, the sequence really felt like it dragged on too long. Now even though the amount of time wasted watching this sequence bothered me, my biggest problem with the sequence was the number of changes the weapon underwent during the time from when it was fired until impact. This bothered me on a purely physics nerd level and is edging into the uncomfortable fan-boy wank moments I mentioned earlier. In the case of this weapon I think it is fair to assume that any energy which is converted to light is energy that is being wasted. Therefore the more light this weapon produces the less energy it will be able to deliver on impact or during its subsequent detonation. Transforming from one display of light to another, while indicating a state change in the weapon, is additional energy loss. Therefore all the transformations the weapon goes through during its travel time represent wasted energy, something I would think you would try to reduce in a weapon. Of course this is probably my mind just trying to come up with some excuse for not liking the sequence which did nothing to build tension and ends up just being a minute of rasterbation on the part of the CGI artists.

Performance wise I do not have too much to say. OGAM has a stellar cast of Hollywood and Star Trek talent and they all performed as well as one could expect. There were moments that felt flat but that is going to happen from time to time. Overall the performances were good considering what the actors had to work with.

Now that was a whole bunch of negativity that has left you wondering if they did anything right in OGAM and why James is so full of hate. There are Alan Ruck's performance as Capt. John Harriman, Cirroc Lofton's performance as Sevar, and J. G. Hertzler's performance as the Klingon Koval. I very much enjoyed each one. Of particular note for the inner fanboy is the redemption of Ruck's Capt. Harriman. One of the big complaints about Generations was the character of Capt. Harriman and how he came off as indecisive and a poor choice to captain the flagship of the Federation, the Enterprise-B. In OGAM Harriman appears to be more of a character and less of a poorly conceived foil for Kirk. Plus in the alternate universe he has the high-noon inducing Chase Masterson as his Orion slave girl Xela and you have got to give him mad props for that if nothing else. As for J. G. Hertzler it is always fun to watch him chewing up the scenery as a Klingon.

Aside from the performances Star Trek: Of Gods and Men feels no more accomplished than some of the high quality fan films that are being released these days despite their protestations that they are not a fan film.** While I spent most of this review bitching about what was wrong with OGAM I did not feel I wasted time by watching it and I will watch the forthcoming episodes, however my expectations have been lowered and I think there is better work coming out of the Areakt Pictures (Hidden Frontier, Odyssey, and Helena Chronicles), Intrepid, Farragut, and New Voyages crews.

* If you have not read The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison you are missing out on both excellent prose and an interesting look at Star Trek history. If you are a fan of the show I HIGHLY recommend this book. Also as a contrast to this book you should read David Gerrold's The Trouble With Tribbles. It gives a very different take on the birth of a Star Trek episode.

** This is purely hearsay however as I understand it after the premiere of To Serve All My Days at the Star Trek 40th Anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA one of the producers for OGAM said something to the effect of, "Unlike what you just saw we are not a fan film." I have seen this report repeated in a couple of places and have never seen anyone dispute the accuracy so I am accepting this as the truth. To a certain extent this quote informed my viewing of OGAM and ultimately this review. If you are going to say things like this then you sure as heck had better deliver the goods and in my final analysis OGAM did not. The latest episode of New Voyages is better on all counts and I think the latest episode of Starship Farragut shows more promise. Aside from setting up OGAM for The Jinx, this sort of statement illustrates one of the problems that bothers me about fandom. There seems to be quite a bit of fractiousness amongst the fans and this is good for absolutely no one. Right now I am talking specifically about Star Trek fandom and ignoring the larger divisions which seem to define sci fi at large. You know what? I have more to say on this subject but it is probably worthy of a post all on its own.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reading in the New Year

On the heels of yesterday's massive book review post I thought it might be fitting to share with you guys the list of books I have to read in 2008. Lets start with the books I have already started reading:
And here are to books on the to be read shelf:
And now we will finish up this list with the books I received for Christmas:
Of course throughout the year other books will join these. I know both Barry Eisler and Alan Furst have novels coming out in 2008. Recent acquaintance Glenn E. Smith's first novel The Call of Duty is on the must read very soon list as is Wil Wheaton's The Happiest Days of Our Lives and a couple of Star Trek: S.C.E. omnibus editions which include stories by another recent acquaintance and Star Trek New Voyages screenwriter Dave Galanter.