Flash Gordon: An Insult to Fans and Viewers

Just watched the Sci Fi Channel’s version of Flash Gordon.

Dear sweet God in heaven that was bad.

I mean, would it have been that hard to track down some actors who could, you know, freakin’ ACT?  Or a director who could have brought any semblance of life to that travesty of a script?  Could they at least have avoided hiring the staff of writers who regularly pen the Sci Fi Channel’s weekly movies?

*shudder*

I’m generally pretty forgiving of cheese, and when the source material is even cheesier, I’m even more forgiving.  Flash Gordon, though, is one of the staples of science fiction, one of the original tropes that made the genre what it is today.  The Mike Hodges film of 1980 was cheese in every sense of the word, but it at least felt like they were trying to pay some sort of respect to the source material.  The Sci Fi Channel had no respect for the original source.  None.  This isn’t an homage or an honoring, it’s a wreck.  It’s an insult.  It’s to science fiction what the Dungeons and Dragons movie was to fantasy films: an insult to the fans.  An insult to the Sci Fi Channel’s viewers who enjoy Stargate, Eureka, and Battlestar: Galactica.  What in God’s name were they thinking?

To their credit, I notice that they very carefully omitted any possible mention of Dr. Zarkov’s name throughout the entire episode.  I can only imagine that they’re dreadfully ashamed of how they emasculated such a classically over the top character as Dr. Hans Zarkov and turned him into a squirrelly little nebbish who lives in an RV and who, while strangely knowledgeable about other dimensions and knows all the latest technobabble, can’t create a functioning weapon and is generally ineffective.  Dr. Zarkov is the ideal of the over-the-top super scientist, someone whose genius is only rivaled by his arrogance, who KNOWS he’s brilliant, and isn’t prone to making strangely-named weapons that don’t even WORK.

I was also frustrated with the show’s portrayal of the female characters.  While Dale Arden has never been the most effective female sci fi hero, in her past incarnations she was allowed to at least do something.  In this remake, Dale is supposedly a journalist, but shows very little inclination to do anything journalist-like; she takes no initiative, she reacts meekly to the events around her, and when she’s carted off to become Ming’s concubine, she doesn’t put up any fuss at all, even when the other concubines strip her of her almost practical outfit and replace it with a 12-year-old boy’s wet dream skimpy night dress.  Princess Aura seems to have no tools available to her whatsoever as an evil princess except a really awful attempt at seduction.  I can’t imagine that even Comic Book Guy would have been fooled by her.

And for God’s sake, why couldn’t they have hired an actress to play Flash’s mother who actually could have looked like an actual MOTHER?  Instead, they hired a woman just barely into her 30s, who’s really only three years older than the actor who plays Flash himself.  And her job, like the job of every other woman in the show, is to be manipulated by the bad guys; she gets no motivation, no actual story or plot, nothing, except to serve as an inconvenience to Flash himself.

I won’t be giving this series another chance.  It makes the Baby Jeebus cry.  Ordinarily I’d say that the level of disrespect to the fanbase and shoddy production values would make this show a valid reason to boycott the Sci Fi Channel and its parent network, NBC.  However, then we’d also have to avoid Battlestar Galactica and Eureka, two shows which at least have some good writing, good acting, and decently strong female characters.  But Flash Gordon almost makes me wonder if the trade-off wouldn’t be worth it.

Who Wants to be a Superhero (Season 2)? Week 3 Reaction

Who Wants to be a Superhero

If you are following this show, care about it, and haven’t seen tonight’s episode, beware of spoilers.

More beneath the fold…

Continue reading Who Wants to be a Superhero (Season 2)? Week 3 Reaction

The Latest Apocalypse

Mayan CalendarWatching a History Channel show about the Mayan prophecies about the end of the world, which apparently will happen in 2012.  On December 21, to be exact.  This will be the greatest and most horrific global apocalypse since the world ended on 5/5/05, 5/11/01, and 1/1/2000, and will certainly surpass the global catastrophe that destroyed civilization in 1843.  And that’s not even counting the Jupiter Effect of the 80’s, or the Harmonic Convergence.  And by my count, California sank into the sea at least three times in the late 1970’s.

But the biggest question I have about the Mayan prophecies that they’re recounting on this special as "confirmed" (for sufficiently loose definitions of the term "confirmed") is, why on Earth would ancient Mayan prophecies relate primarily to American political events?  Seriously.  Each one of the prophecies this special recounts relate to American events, such as the Civil War, or the assassination of JFK.  Why?  Here’s one such prophecy:

There is trouble in the land once again. This Katun ((A Katun, for what it’s worth, is a 20-year period of time within the Mayan cyclical calendar)) brings drought, famine, and is a time of foreign occupation, change, and sadness.

Now, if you’re going to move the goalposts to the point where these prophecies apply to a nation and culture that wasn’t even conceived of when it was written, then why not move them even further to the entire world?  But then you have to admit that such conditions are endemic the world over at all times; there has not been a time in human history when some culture was not facing drought, famine, invasion, and so on.  It’s just cold readings — the Barnum effect — applied to prophecy.

And the main thing that always bugs me about this sort of thing: if this civilization’s prophecies were so accurate, then how could they have been scooped by the European invaders?  Seriously.  It’s like the Psychic Friends Network going broke and declaring bankruptcy.  You’d think that they’d have foreseen that.  Or at least something like, "Hm, I can’t foresee us doing any predictions after this particular date; I wonder why that is?"

I just wonder sometimes how barking mad you have to be to seriously believe in this sort of thing.  Do such believers continually tell themselves, "Well, so-and-so was wrong about the world ending at Y2K, and 5/11/2001 passed without a blip, but surely these Mayan prophecies will justify my purchase of a bomb shelter and year’s worth of canned goods!"

Seriously.  If there weren’t figures in the upper echelons of our government who believed in the similarly ridiculous Dominionist idea of the Rapture — the right-wing Christian version of this same sort of doomsaying — I’d just find this tendency laughable.

My Stinky Backpack, and Other Woes

My backpackAt some point last night I put a container of yogurt into my backpack for consumption at some point later in the day.  Then I went and forgot about it completely.  Then at some point between them and yesterday afternoon, that container of yogurt burst open, spreading yogurt all over the inside of my backpack.  Fortunately, I had no books or papers or electronics in there to be ruined; but the vinyl inside my backpack was soaked through.

I know what you’re thinking.  Ew.

So upon discovering this mess, I started to clean it out.  First I cleaned out all of the mess, then wiped down the inside thoroughly with a damp cloth.  Then I sprayed bleach all over the inside.  I set it aside to dry, and hoped that would be the end of it.

Unfortunately, the stench of spoiled yogurt is, in a word, godawful.  And it lingers.  It smells something like filthy gym socks, with cheese.  And even with the bleach, the smell ended up lingering.  Today I tried to squelch it by wiping it down thoroughly with a wet towel all over again, and then, in a fit of… well, in a fit of something that probably wasn’t really inspiration but felt like it at the time, I spritzed it thoroughly with Febreze.  That helped for a few minutes. But now the stench is as bad as it was.

This is a nice backpack, and I’d hate for it to be ruined like this.  It’s a Swiss Gear backpack which normally goes for $90 but which I picked up for $25 because it just happened to be misshelved at Staples. Does anyone out there have any suggestions for how to de-stink a backpack like this in a really short period of time?

As for other woes… Well, I don’t really have any.  Other than my stinky backpack, life is pretty good.

Overcoming Fear

I’m sure that one of the factors that has been driving my perpetual mild depression over the years has been a perpetual, ongoing, permanent fear of risk, change, or growth.  My entire life, it sometimes seems to me, has been one long exercise in avoiding situations which make me nervous or where I could end up embarrassing myself or feeling at all uncomfortable.  It usually takes prodding on an epic scale to get me to undertake a large risk: if it hadn’t been for Jennifer’s skillful poking, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Ireland, for example.  Either time.  And I’d probably still be at that administrative assistant job I hated all that time ago.

So today I Googled “fear of risk”, and came across this little article: [LINK REDACTED PER THEIR REQUEST].  It looked a little Norman Peale for my tastes, but I read it over anyway, and found it pretty interesting.  The gist of the article is that the author discovered, from a book on acting techniques, that saying “Yes” to a situation key element in making any improvisational scene come to life.  Having done a wee bit of improvisational acting in my day (when I was working at the Renaissance Faire), I recognize this bit of advice.  The quickest way to kill an improv sketch is to reply “No” when your cohort comes up to you with an improbable situation.

The author of the article decided to apply that principle to his “real life”.  I like this idea, and I think it’s a good one.  I’d like to apply this principle to my own life: whenever confronted with a situation where I’d normally say “No” for fear of taking a risk or whatever, instead I’ll swallow my fears and say “Yes” (within reason, of course: nothing self injurious or that would hurt anyone else).

I should strike some sort of manly pose here, I think.

The problem that I’m having here, though, is that I feel like I’ve insulated myself for so long from anything that seems like a risk or an opportunity that I can’t see them when they show up.  So I’m looking for advice here: what suggestions do any of you have for finding new opportunities for risk and adventure in your life?  Or, similarly, how can I broaden my perceptions to see more of them in my own life?

Pleasant Afternoon

On days like today, where the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is rush to my nebulizer so that I can clear out the asthma, I generally prefer to work at home, just so I can be near my medication, just in case.  This afternoon I’m feeling much better but I’m afraid I’m in too steady a groove to want to head into the office, so instead I decided to move my workstation outside.  The area we live in now is quite nice, and it’s such a lovely day outside, I just couldn’t help it.

Beneath the fold, a picture of my front porch workstation.

Continue reading Pleasant Afternoon

Daikaijuzine Update

Shortly before the move, my main desktop computer crashed.  It didn’t crash in a major way; the filesystem is, as far as I can tell, mostly intact, but the executables which drive KDE are hosed, so the computer now refuses to boot into a GUI.  And, unfortunately, almost all of my email related to Daikaijuzine resides on that computer.  This shouldn’t have been a problem, since I should have been able to simply boot that computer, then SSH into it and use Pine to get at the mail, but since I’d been using KMail, the mail was being stored in a format which Pine couldn’t understand.

Finally, last week I figured out how to import the old Daikaijuzine messages from that computer onto my laptop so I can begin the process of catching up on submissions I need to review and also — ahem — sending out payments for published stories.  This is good.  However, all of the messages that I imported onto my laptop were saved as unread, new messages.  This is confusing, and now I need to go through them and see which ones I need to retain and which ones I can safely dump.

Oy.  This is a job for Godzilla.

Hopefully, soon I’ll have this complete and the September (and one year anniversary) issue of Daikaijuzine will be published as planned.

Latest House Discovery

Last night, Jennifer’s boss came by and picked her up to take her off to a day-long meeting in Yosemite (apparently she isn’t to be envied; she tells me the day-long meeting will be held in a room without windows, but I think she’s just saying that to make me feel better; I bet their meeting is right at the base of El Capitan along with deer and a bunch of other wildlife — but I digress).  Her boss is not exactly an architect, but he works in the construction industry and he knows old buildings and he knows a lot about architecture.  He took one look at our windows and asked, "Are they double hung?"  We looked at him and said, "Huh?"

More, including pictures, below the fold.

Continue reading Latest House Discovery

No Progress

I have no good excuses; at this point, I’m about one full NaNoWriMo ((That is to say, about 50,000 words)) behind in Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  As always when I start to fall dangerously behind in a project like this, I begin to wonder if it’s even worth continuing.  But, then, as I start poking around in the lives of Jenny, Hector, Hank, and Fred (not to mention Doctor Nefario, Hastur, and Cthulhu, of course), I find that I’m drawn in all over again.

I just don’t think I’m going to have this draft completed by the end of August.  I hope I can have it done by the end of September; I’ll have to recalculate my daily word quota.  I’d like to have October project free so I can review The Return of Deacon Dread and get ready to write that sequel for NaNoWriMo this year.

We shall see.  Wish me luck.

Lawn Circle Mystery: Solved?

Today Jennifer had the brilliant idea of looking up our new home in Google Maps and getting a satellite view of it.  The image it showed was pretty interesting:

Mystery Solved?

The yellow arrow points to what appears to be a small swimming pool in our back yard, in just about the exact location as the mysterious lawn circle which I’ve described elsewhere in my blog.

Perhaps this is the true explanation, but there are still unsolved mysteries.  Why is it a ring, for example, and not an entire circle of flattened, dead grass?  This makes me think that Google Maps, perhaps in cahoots with the US government, is hiding something decidedly sinister.  Why else alter the satellite images?  I’m still thinking extraterrestrials, or perhaps fairies.

In other news, we went to the Sacramento Archives yesterday and did a little research into the history of our house.  There wasn’t much, but the archives had tax ledgers for our section of the town (which was annexed by the city of Sacramento in 1911, apparently) for several years; based on the sudden upsurge in property value and skyrocketing property taxes (from $2.76 in 1912 to $18.25 in 1913!), we are pretty sure our house was built in 1913.

The archives also had a number of city directories from 1929 through 1960; in these books, which used to be quite common (until privacy laws became popular), you could look up an address to get the names of the people who lived there, and then find out what they did for a living (assuming they filled out a card and sent it in to the publisher).  From these books we discovered that the builder of our house was Robert Lincoln Motz, who seems to have worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, which used to run just north of where we live now (until Highway 50 replaced it).  He seems to have lived with his two daughters, one of whom had the delightful name "Orpha Norine Wallace" (we have decided that if we get a pair of female cats in the future, one will be named "Orpha" and one will be named "Norine" in this poor woman’s honor).  Orpha and Etta (the other daughter) both worked as stenographers for the same railroad.  It appears that Mr. Motz sold his home at some point in the 1920’s and moved to Spokane, WA, where he died in 1931; the probate documents showed that he left behind a number of shares in various companies, as well as a rocker.

We were also able to track down some limited record of various building permits related to our house.  The small building in the back yard, which we’ve been calling a carriage house, was apparently built in 1920 as a "chicken house".  Jennifer argues that it’s much too big to be a chicken house; I argue that they were stately chickens who deserved a chicken manor, and that this explains the presence of chicken wire in the inner casings of the boarded up windows.

We will continue to investigate our house’s past, and go to the county’s records clerk and do a reverse title lookup to see exactly who owned the house when and hopefully get more detailed records of building permits related to the house.

And so far, nothing we’ve found suggests anything having to do with aliens, government cover ups, or fairies.  I remain hopeful, though.  The truth is out there.