My thoughts on the Star Trek: Lower Decks Trailer

So the trailer for Star Trek: Lower Decks is finally here. I thought I’d share my thoughts on it:

Why would I bother watching this trailer? It’s got “Star Trek” in the title, and it’s being made by CBS in 2020. That’s all I need to know. All I would achieve by watching it is angering myself and wasting 90 seconds (or however long it is, I haven’t even looked) of my life.

Plus, they haven’t bothered getting back to me with billing information after I contacted them when they announced Strange New Worlds:
I Contacted them a few months ago. They never replied

So I’m just going to assume that they don’t want me to watch it, anyway. They clearly didn’t want me to watch Discovery or Picard.

I’m not even going to bother talking about why I’m not going to watch the trailer for Strange New Worlds when that comes out. If the trailer and the show comes out and I haven’t mentioned it at all, you can just assume CBS never got back to me with that billing information.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

RIP Star Trek
1966 – 2005

Grant

Aaw, damn, not Grant Imahara. It was way too early for him to go.

I choose to believe that his robots finally got him and that they just made it look like a brain aneurysm.

Or perhaps he uploaded himself into one of them.

An Ode To The Orville

I fucking love The Orville.

If you haven’t seen it, here be spoilers. You should prpbably just go watch it if you haven’t. But, on the other hand, this is a fairly episodic show. It’s not serialised like so many things are these days. So while there will be spoilers, I think it’s probably not such a huge deal for a show like this. Still, you have been warned.

I think perhaps my favourite moment in the entire show (so far) is in Season 2′s “All the World is a Birthday Cake”, when the captain says “attention everybody, prepare to initiate… First Contact”.

And all of the crew cheers.

It’s fucking glorious.

Oh, optimistic sci-fi, I’ve missed you! It’s been so long! It’s so rare these days that I really can’t even remember the last time I saw any. I suppose there are a few movies that might count: Arrival, Interstellar, The Martian. Perhaps. But they’re all movies rather than TV series. Perhaps Stargate, but it’s now been over a decade since that ended. What I’m really talking about is obviously Trek.

I don’t want to talk about the current dumpster fires with Trek stickers slapped onto the side of them as they gang-rape Roddenberry’s corpse. I’m not here for that. I’d rather not think about them. I think the best thing is if I just stick my fingers in my ears and pretend they don’t exist. As far as I’m concerned, they’re absolutely definitely non-canon. but I kind of have to talk about them at least in passing. The comparison is inevitable, because the Orville is more Trek than any of that trash will ever be. And there’s one simple reason:

This is a show written by somebody who actually likes Science Fiction.

And I mean REAL Science Fiction, not braindead action crap set in space. Not heroic stories about wizards with laser swords. Not another frankenstein “oooh scence bad!” story, or other hamfisted moralising (cough).

Now, real sci-fi doesn’t have to be optimistic. There’s lots and lots of great sci-fi that isn’t. Lexx is one of my favourite shows ever, and it oozes cynicism from every pore. Babylon 5 might be hoepful overall but it gets into some pretty dark territory, and I fucking adore it. But I think that probably the very best of it tends to be optimistic. Much of Asimov’s work (particularly the foundation and robot stories) springs immediately to mind. The Oddysey series. The Galactic Milieu series. All of these are favourites of mine. But the point isn’t that you can’t make good sci-fi that isn’t optimistic. The point is that there’s basically no optimistic sci-fi these days. Certainly not on TV or movie screens. It’s all gritty, edgy stuff where people are cunts. And that’s a huge shame, because it’s the very core of the greatest sci-fi TV/Movie franchise ever. And I’ve missed it. So when the Orville’s crew cheers at First Contact, with comments from the crew like “This is why we’re out here!”, it just about brings tears of joy to my eyes. And I’d like to think that maybe Roddenberry’s corpse is at least taking some comfort, while being gang-raped, in the fact that some people paid attention, even if those people have seemingly been banned from working on anything with a Trek license because the people in charge of trek obviously hate Trek.

I’m starting to think, and this is a big statement, that The Orville might have the potential to be better than Trek. All of it, not just the current dumpster fires.

Wait, don’t close the tab, hear me out.

Firstly, I’m not saying that it IS better. It’s got some pretty huge boots to fill if it wants to take the crown. That’s 50 years of some of the best TV sci-fi ever that you’re going up against. A little 2-or-3-season run isn’t going to allow you to come close. We won’t be able to really consider whether it IS better until it’s at season 10, or movie 5, or something like that. Seth MacFarlane is going to have to keep it up to the same (of higher) levels of great for a LONG time to truly compete with the king.

But I can see that it might have potential.

Firstly, the comedic aspect. The Orville doesn’t have to always take itself so seriously. They’ve leaned hard into the drama and sci-fi side, and I think that’s for the best (it’s one of the things I love about season 2, the comedy has been dialled back and it’s gone 95% sci-fi), but they could do a very comedy-heavy episode and the audience wouldn’t bat an eye if it was done well. Trek really struggled to do that kind of thing. Yes, there is the odd outlier like The Trouble With Tribbles, but even with episodes like those, Trek can’t really be self-referential or examine itself. It has to take it’s premise seriously. But the Orville doesn’t have that limitation. And that means that it has the potential to do something that we really don’t see enough of: The Orville is perfectly positioned to start examining sci-fi tropes. Oh how I’d love to see an episode that deals with the fact that sci-fi writers have no sense of scale. The comedic side of the show gives it the ability to do stuff like that, and I’d LOVE to see it. Deconstruct those tropes. Reconstruct them. Play them for laughs. Make the sci-fi fans chuckle. Reference classic stories and point out how absurd they are. Have somebody mention that we’re entering an asteroid belt, and have somebody say “all hands brace for impact!“, and somebody else say “What are you talking about? The average distance between asteroids is like a hundred thousand kilometers. The chance of hitting one is in the billions to one. We’ll be lucky if we come within visual range of anything larger than a grain of sand”.

Secondly, and this is going to be a bit contentious: Canon. Trek has 50 years of history sitting behind it, and there was no concept of “canon” when it started, it was just a sci-fi show. The idea of canon developed gradually over years. There’s really no canon to speak of in TOS: things tend to mostly be self-consistent, but the idea of canon didn’t really come about until TNG. So there are a bunch of things that are inconsistent, particularly in TOS. Hell, in the second (or first, depending on how you count) episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, at the very start of the episode, they talk about how they’re at the edge of the galaxy. According to later (and more consistent and realistic) canon, that’s a multi-decade journey. Similarly in Star Trek V they go into the galactic core, a similar distance. Another that springs to mind is that I recall a mention of travel at warp 13, but another episode establishes that warp 10 would be “infinite speed” and is basically impossible (if you travelled at infinite speed you would be at every point in the universe simultaneously). These are just two inconsistencies of many. Most of the time, they’re not a big deal, and we kind of just go with the one that makes the most sense and keeps things as internally consistent as possible.

But more than inconsistencies, this canon serves as a huge pile of restrictions for writers. If you want a trek story to feature regular travel to and from another galaxy, you’re probably going to have to explain that there’s been a huge leap forward in propulsion technology allowing travel literally millions of times faster than what we’ve previously seen. And it’s going to have huge implications for all future stories set in that universe, e.g the delta quadrant is now suddenly a day or two away rather than 70 years. It’s not impossible, but not exactly simple either. So, let’s come up with a totally ridiculous example: Say that I was a trek writer and I wanted to include some kind of, I don’t know, let’s say it’s a “spore drive” that allows instantaneous travel to pretty much anywhere in the galaxy via the power of magic mushrooms, or something. That would have all kinds of huge implications on the canon of the rest of the series. And if I was to put something stupid like that in, say, a prequel series set before other pre-existing shows, it’s going to be pretty unavoidable that I’m going to break canon pretty majorly, or I’m going to have to come up with some very contrived reason why the voyager crew doesn’t have knowledge of or access to any information about this ridiculous technology that could get them home in 15 minutes. And anyway, that’s a particularly absurd example because it doesn’t “feel” right for trek – it feels like magic, and trek has always been grounded in science. It would be similar to introducing magical powers into trek. Like, say, I don’t know, let’s go with the ability to telepathically communicate over interstellar distances. Something dumb like that would be very out of character for a trek show and only somebody with no understanding of and/or contempt for trek would contemplate adding something like that to the canon.

I’m not saying that canon is bad, or that there are no more interesting Trek stories to be written (I have like 5 different ideas). What I’m saying is that writing in the Trek universe is by definition fairly restrictive. You can’t, for example, suddenly declare that the Federation has become evil and… I don’t know, let’s go with something off-the-wall and totally absurd and say that they decide not to help an enemy when they’re in need due to some catastrophe, using it as an opportunity to start talking and potentially ushering in a new era of peace, like they did in Star Trek VI, because such an idea would be totally ridiculous and go against everything that Trek is about and destroy the very core of the concept.

Instead what I’m saying is that the canon is restrictive, and that it’s difficult to keep consistent with it. It makes the writer’s job harder. There’s a huge body of stuff that you need to know, and even somebody with the most encyclopaedic knowledge of Trek can make a mistake.

But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to just not try, or that it’s time for a reboot, or anything like that – if you want to set your story in the Trek universe, you’re taking on the responsibility to live by that canon. If you don’t like it, set your story in a separate canon and don’t slap a Trek label on it.

But The Orville doesn’t have that issue. They can make up their canon as they go. And because they have the benefit of Trek’s hindsight, they can stop and think about what they say before they say it, with an eye to future continuity. They can avoid doing things like saying “we’re at the edge of the galaxy” in an early episode. They can build a new canon, one which might be a bit more consistent.

I’ve heard that there are rumours that CBS has been thinking about selling it’s dumpster fire to Universal, and that they want to put Seth MacFarlane in charge. I don’t think they’re true. But even if they were, I say “why would he want that? He’s more free where he is, and he’s doing fucking brilliantly, thank you very much, and his property hasn’t been perhaps-irrevocably tarnished by people who hate science fiction”

To reiterate: All of this is speculative, and The Orville has got a LONG way to go before it can even reach for the crown. But I think I can see a potential there. There’s certainly a potential for a few classes of stories that Trek couldn’t do.

And we’ve already seen some of the best allegorical sci-fi in a long time come from The Orville: The arc about Bortis’ child is a very interesting meditation on some current trans and gender issues. Bortis’ porn addiction episode is a great bit of science fiction, and something that Trek would probably struggle to cover due to being so family-friendly (but that might also be a product of the times, There are some oblique references to various types of holosuite programs you can get from Quark in DS9, so perhaps a modern trek could do a story like that, it’s just a pity they’re not making any trek any more). Bortis seems to get a lot of the interesting stories. His race is almost purpose-built for a lot of great allegory about some pretty current stuff. But there are others. I really really loved “Majority Rule”, which discusses social media and mob mentality, and “All The World is a Birthday Cake” which is an hour-long indictment of astrology, and “Mad Idolatry” where time passes quickly on the planet and Kelly is their god (which reminds me a lot of a really great Voyager episode, “Blink of an Eye”). And the final two episodes of season two (“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” and “The Road Not Taken”) are a great time-travel story. And these are just the “real” sci-fi episodes which spring to mind. I also really liked the Kaylon arc in season 2, even though it was fairly standard stuff I thought it was well-executed. I think just about every single episode has been enjoyable, I certainly can’t think of one that sucked.

I was particularly struck by the first few episodes of season 2. I didn’t get around to watching season 2 until recently. I had just watched the first episode of a certain brand new dumpster fire that shits all over the core concepts of a certain 50-year old franchise, and needed to wash the taste of disgust out of my mouth, so season 2 of The Orville was particularly refreshing. I loved that the first episode was just a quiet little character study/drama thing. No explosions. No roundhouse kicks. Just a trip to Bortis’s homeworld so he can take a piss, and a couple of other little character things.

Nobody even fires a gun until episode 3. Though to be fair there is one isolated and ritualistic stabbing in episode 2.

It’s fucking glorious.

And then there are the references. And the guest cast. And the people behind the scenes. Brannon Braga, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Duncan McNeill. Robert Picardo. Marina Sirtis. Charlize Theron. Liam Neeson. Ted Danson.

It’s fucking glorious.

And then there’s the episodic nature of it. It’s not heavily serialised. If you miss an episode, it’s not the end of the world. If you just want to watch one episode in isolation, you can do that. You can jump in and watch a season 2 episode without having seen ten hours of backstory to understand what’s going on. Not that serialised stories are bad – I might have to write another ode one of these days for The Expanse. But there are definite advantages to smaller, self-contained, episodic stories.

Can I think of flaws? Sure, I guess, nothing’s perfect, but I don’t know that “flaws” is the right word, I think “finding its footing” might be more appropriate. It can be a bit derivative. Some of the episodes have strong flavours of certain episodes from other franchises. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll be hard-pressed if you want to write completely original sci-fi, or any kind story for that matter. And the show’s premise IS pretty derivative, that’s what it is intended to be: it’s not trying to be something totally new and unlike anything you’ve seen before. In fact it’s specifically NOT going for that. It’s trying to be like something great that you haven’t seen in 15 or 20 years, while also having its own feel. And I think it does a really great job at that. I think that the early episodes were a bit comedy-heavy and some of it didn’t really land for me. I’m glad that they seem to have shed that and gone for a mostly-serious tone with the odd joke thrown in. But on the other hand, Isaac cutting off Gordon’s leg was gold. I wouldn’t mind seeing perhaps the odd comedy episode.

“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.”
Isaac Asimov

As far as I’m concerned, season 2 cements The Orville in the pantheon of most worthy science fiction shows. I bought both seasons on DVD when I was mid way through season 2, I figured I should put my money where my mouth is. And I’ve got them sitting on the same shelf as my Trek box sets, where they belong. It was a nice feeling, I hadn’t added to that shelf in over a decade and didn’t think I’d be adding to it any time soon.

The Orville is fucking glorious. Go buy it. Let’s see if we can make it a big deal. Let’s see if we can get it to season 10.

Goodbye Marie

Fuck. Marie Fredriksson has died.

Fuck.

This one hurts. More than Bowie. More than Chris Cornell.

She was probably just about my first crush. I vividly remember seeing the film clip for “The Look” at my grandmother’s house. I must have been about 8. I already loved the song but I hadn’t seen the film clip:

I remember thinking she must be just about the most gorgeous woman on earth. That cool, short, unkempt, almost-white hair is what did it for me. I didn’t know it at the time but it was actually the tall blonde swedish girl thing. She really did have the look. That’s the moment that made me a Roxette fan, not just somebody who liked that song. It’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense, but give me a break, I was 8. Roxette were one of the first bands to ever get enough attention from me that I’d call myself a fan. Probably the only one who was earlier was Robert Palmer, who released Heavy Nova just a few months before Look Sharp!.

I lucked out when I decided that I was interested in this pretty girl. Not only was she gorgeous but she could really sing, too. Though you don’t really get much of a chance to hear it in that song because Per does most of the vocals, Marie only joins in for the chorus. It wasn’t until “Listen To Your Heart” and “Dressed For Success” hit the charts that we learned that she could really really sing.

There were a bunch of great singles on Look Sharp!. They got radio play. Roxette became a household name, everybody loved their songs.

Of course, I was 8, so I didn’t buy the album. Those were the days when getting a copy of an album was a really big deal which required much begging and cajoling of parents, and also a trip to the neighboring town where there was a record store, our town was too small. The only albums I remember getting (on cassette, this was pre-CD) as a kid were Heavy Nova by Robert Palmer (another album that still holds up, it’s magnificent, I appreciate it more as an adult), and the Ghostbusters soundtrack (I was a huge fan of the movie as a kid and particularly and loved the theme). So I didn’t own a copy of Look Sharp!, I had to tape my roxette songs off the radio.

And a few years went by. And then Joyride came out. And Roxette cemented themselves as A Big Deal. There were a bunch of huge hits on that album. They were everywhere, getting heaps of radio play and loved by everybody. I’m now perhaps 11 and poor so buying a CD isn’t an option. But I did go to the local library, borrow Joyride, and copy it.

I can’t explain just how huge they were around the Joyride era – everybody knew and loved Roxette. Their songs were (mostly) cool and fun and catchy and accessible. And the ones that weren’t were love Ballads. In other words their repertoire was everything you need to be a huge pop star. And they were. They filled huge stadiums all over the world and contributed to movie scores (Pretty Woman and Super Mario Bros are the two that spring to mind. “Almost Unreal” was the best thing about that godawful mario movie). They were massive.

I was a big fan, but I wasn’t a screaming, rabid Roxette fanboy. I listened to the radio mostly and couldn’t afford albums, so I only really knew the singles.

By 1994-1995 their star had faded a bit. Crash! Boom! Bang! didn’t do as well as their previous albums, and there was a bit of a break before their next real studio album. It seemed that they were pretty much done. This is all pre-widespread-internet, too, so it wasn’t like you could just go to their website and see what they were up to. Somewhere in there, probably ’94, I managed to finally buy Look Sharp! on CD, which I thought was a better album than Joyride

Another very significant thing happened in 1994, but it was probably 1995 before I discovered it: Superunknown. I discovered soundgarden. And Grunge. And Metal. And finally, Tool.

And another significant thing happened in 1994, too: The Spice Girls. Who I. Fucking. Hated. Hated with the white-hot burning passion of supergiant going supernova. My attitudes had changed dramatically, pop was all awful, synths were evil and shit, techno was trash, guitars were what it was all about. Throw in a bit of Satan and it was catnip. Pop music became passé and “Gay” and I loathed it all on principle. This was an extremist attitude which caused me to miss out on a bunch of awesome pop and especially techno music from around this era – I remember hating Daft Punk’s “Around The World”. Which today just seems nonsensical – how could I have ever hated such a great track?? But it’s what happens when things are packaged up into groups and genres like music seemed to be when I was young.

When I had no friends around, I’d still occasionally pop in my copy of Look Sharp!. I still loved Roxette, I just couldn’t tell any of my grunger friends, Roxette was totally not cool. They were my guilty pleasure.

That was the status quo for a long while, maybe even until 2000: grunge and metal and guitars and growls and Tool and Marilyn Manson and Rammstein and so many other great bands. And then I was “outed”. I was listening to Roxette one day when a friend dropped by, and I was forced to admit the most uncool thing ever, expecting to be ostracised from my group of friends – I was a big Roxette fan.

So was he.

That’s when I stopped caring about the rivalries between music genres. It didn’t change what I liked, at least not immediately, but it was the first crack that opened my mind up so that one day I’d also become a huge fan of acts like Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Vitalic, The Presets, The Faint, and a bunch more. And it enabled me to re-examine a lot of pop music that I never gave a chance in the late 90s and early 2000s. Sca

At some point, I bought Don’t Bore Us, Get To the Chorus (it was cheaper than buying all of the other 4 albums) and listened to it over and over for like a year. I especially loved the previously-unreleased track, “You Don’t Understand Me”. This was what took me from being a big Roxette fan to a huge Roxette fan.

I’ll never forget my excitement I was at work listening to the radio one day and and “Wish I Could Fly” came on, announced as “the new song from Roxette”. They hadn’t released a new album in about 5 years at that point (I still don’t think Baladas En Español really counts), and I’d assumed they were pretty much done. I ran straight to the shop and bought Have A Nice Day. My friend didn’t like it, it was “too techno-ey”. I was more open to it, I loved a couple of tracks, liked a few, and found the rest listenable if not amazing.

I grew up, and I discovered lots of other music, and I didn’t listen to Roxette all that often, but they were always there and I came back to it every now and then.

I just wish I’d seen them live. I had the opportunity a few years back but I think the show was on new years eve or something like that and I had other plans, and also the tickets were pretty expensive, so I gave it a miss, thinking to myself that there would be another chance. And, of course, that was really not very long (like a couple of months) before Marie’s doctor told her to stop touring. So I missed out on ever seeing them live.

Marie was also indirectly responsible for another revelation I had: Digitally sampled music on the Commodore 64. My C64 came with boxes of disks filled with all manner of wonderful pirated stuff, including this:

Which was the most amazing sounding thing I’d ever heard on a C64 – they’re not supposed to be able to do digitised sound, that’s a bug in the SID chip. This is one of the first demos I ever heard with digitised, sampled sound. And it sampled “Dance Away”, leading me to whip out the album and familiarise myself with that track, which wasn’t a single. And I still love it to this day.

Marie Fredriksson changed my life. She was directly responsible, and she did it more than once. First, she was my first crush and a very early parasocial relationship. Then, she was one of the first artists I was a fan of. Then, she was the catalyst to open up my mind and give up my prejudices against pop and electronic music, broadening my horizons hugely – I’m a much more well-rounded and less judgmental person because of her. And I can’t tell you how many times I came home sad about some girl and put on songs like “Spending My Time” or “Fading Like A Flower”. She brought me countless hours of joy, and just as importantly comfort when joy wasn’t on the cards.

The world is darker today because you’ve left us, Marie. I could never give you up. And I miss you terribly already. :’(

Rest In Peace.

Unpopular Opinions

This is my response to XKCD’s “Unpopular positive opinion challenge”:
Unpopular Opinions Challenge

This is interesting, challenge accepted! I’m sure I can come up with one pretty easily…

…but I initially found this a lot more difficult than I expected – hitting that “below 50%” criteria was difficult, particularly combined with the “came out since 2000″ criteria. I came close a few times.

The very first movie I thought of was Cloud Atlas, which I would list in my top 10 movies ever made and have recommended to literally everybody I know, but which apparently nobody saw or liked for some reason I can’t comprehend. But it has 66% for both critics and audiences.

My next thought was Bicentennial Man, a movie I really truly love, and the only faithful adaptation of an Asimov (A man I deeply love) story. I’ve written before about how the fact this got negative reviews reflects poorly on humanity. But it doesn’t quite meet XKCD’s criteria either, having a 58% audience score and coming out in 1999.

I looked at quite a few movies before I thought of one which would definitely meet the criteria. And as soon as I thought of one, another one came to me.

I came close a few times. I LOVE Hancock. It’s got Will Smith and Charlize Theron, and it’s a different take on the superhero genre a decare before we started seeing Brightburn or The Boys, But it has a 59% audience score.

I quite liked the Ang Lee / Eric Bana Hulk movie from 2003. It’s an interesting early take on how to do a comic book movie, before the cookie cutter had been made, and it does some interesting stuff playing with comic book panels and wipes and whatnot. And I’m a sucker for Eric Banana, aka Poida. Audiences hated it for some reason, but it has 62% with the critics.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was really great, I like it much more than I like the original (which I’m not a big fan of). The kid in that movie is terrifying and fantastic. And like most Rob Zombie films the casting is great too, particularly Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif. But the real standout is the kid – Daeg Faerch (who I’ve just learned was also the bully in Hancock!). This is one of the best pieces of child acting I’ve ever seen. It’s what makes the movie great as far as I’m concerned. But apparently only 59% of audiences would agree with me. Close but no cigar.

OK, what about another Rob Zombie movie I adore – House of 1000 corpses? Or perhaps the sequel? 65% and 78% with audiences. The second one even has a critic score over 50%.

Hmmm. Riddick? The third one? Everybody hated that. We’re pushing it now because I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it wasn’t bad. But nope, 57%/56%.

And then it hit me.

There’s one movie that I really really love that everybody – EVERYBODY – hates.

A movie that came out in 2007.

A movie with a whopping 11% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 30%.One of the reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes says “In a word, repugnant.”

And I LOVE it. It’s fucking magnificent.

Alien vs Predator: Requiem is everything the first Alien vs Predator Movie wasn’t. It’s exciting, interesting, over-the-top gory and action-packed, and perhaps most of all it plays with the conventions of a movie like this and subverted my expectations in a wonderful way on a couple of occasions. But the real reason I love it is the same reason that everybody else hates it.

If you haven’t seen it, spoilers.

As far as I’m concerned, in a movie with “Alien vs Predator” in the title, the humans are fodder. I don’t want an interesting story where I want the humans to get out alive. I don’t want relatable characters who aren’t predators. I just want to watch Aliens and Predators kill each other, and hopefully a whole bunch of puny humans will get caught in the crossfire. If you can weave an interesting and compelling story around that, that’s a bonus. Or, you could just not have any humans and have a 2-hour, dialogue-less, action-packed extravaganza, but nobody would ever make that movie.

Ideally instead of making the two Alien vs Predator movies they made, they would have just filmed the excellent script written by Peter Briggs in the 90s. But for some reason that didn’t get filmed (I suspect probably budget, it would have been super expensive in the 90s or early 2000s), and we ended up with what we got.

So in an ideal world, there might be one or two human characters who work with the predators. This is the one thing that seems to have been carried over fromm the Peter Briggs script into the actual film. Except that they did it poorly and made the human weak and dependant on the predator. In Briggs’ script the human warrior chick is a total badass and stands on pretty-much equal ground with the predator. I’m pretty sure she even saves it’s life a couple of times (it’s been 20 years since I read that script so my memory is a bit hazy). At the end of the movie she goes off to live with the predators.

A bit of background: I was very much into the idea of AvP before the movies happened. I had read the Briggs script but none of the comics. I loved the arcade beat-em-up game where you can play as a human or a predator. I knew a bit of the lore around it (e.g I knew about the fact that the xenomorph takes on characteristics of its host, hence the 4-legged ‘dog’ alien in Alien 3, and I therefore knew about Predaliens. The Briggs script features six-legged Aliens because it’s set on an alien planet with six-legged wildlife). James Cameron has said that making an AvP movie de-legitimises the franchises – he had been talking/thinking about doing an alien 5 but dropped the idea because he heard they were going ahead with AvP. I see his point, but the way I see it it’s like Godzilla vs King Kong – it’s just awesome, silly, spectacular fun. It doesn’t take anything away from the other franchises, and it can either live separately from both or it can meld the two canons together wonderfully. But most of all it should be schlocky, violence-packed action. If you can also make a thoughtful sci-fi film (like Briggs wrote) then so much the better, but that’s optional. The important thing is action and violence. In summary, I was very very eager for the first AvP film, and I was pretty disappointed.

I don’t hate the first AvP, but it’s mediocre at best. It pointlessly mangles the canon of both franchises by trying to throw in needless and meaningless references and “fanservice”, and it gives us a boring story and characters that I don’t care about. At all. Perhaps the ur-example here is that Lance Henrikssen is in the film. Now don’t get me wrong – I love Lance Henrikssen – but he has no place in this movie. He’s Bishop, and he’s the guy who designed Bishop, a couple of hundred years in the future. He’s not “Charles Bishop Weyland”. That’s just stupid bullshit that is trying to be fanservice but fails because it’s nonsensical. I can appreciate what they were trying to do, but I think the biggest sin the first movie makes is that it’s just bland. Followed closely by the huge jumbled mess of canon it creates, and that’s followed closely by the lack of Aliens fighting Predators that I came to see in a movie called Alien vs Predator. It’s not nearly violent or action-packed enough. At some point somebody said “but it NEEDS to have a story!”. So they did their best and wrote this boring mess. AND to top that all off there’s no predalien in the movie until the closing scene, when it chest-bursts from the dead predator. That is literally the most exciting thing in the movie – the hook that we might get a sequel with a predalien.

And we sure did. The second movie is. Fucking. Awesome.

I LOVE that the characters are all cardboard cut-out and one-dimensional and not interesting. They’re all expendable. Their function is to deliver a bit of exposition here and there, and to die horribly and violently. And the writers knew it. I believe that’s what they were going for. The story is almost a parody of what you’d expect the story to be in a movie like this. It doesn’t matter whether they can act, as long as they can speak the lines they’ve been given so that I can understand what they’re saying. The most interesting thing about them is what creative and interesting patterns of red they’ll make when they go splat.

Take, for example, my favourite moment in the movie. The movie starts with the dorky underdog kid who likes the hot girl who is friendly to him. The hot girl’s jock boyfriend is a total dick and bullies the dorky kid. She breaks up with the jock and ends up in this life-or-death Aliens vs Predator situation with the dorky kid.

SO, this being a movie, we’re 15 minutes in I know exactly what’s going to happen: The dorky kid and the hot girl are the main characters, and they’ll be the last survivors, possibly with one or two others. The dorky kid will find strength within himself and will protect the girl and she’ll totally fall for him and he’ll get the girl in the end. Aaaaw. It’s so cliche it makes me want to vomit.

And then she gets suddenly and unceremoniously pinned to a wall by a predator shuriken.

It’s fucking awesome. My reaction was instant and ecstatic – “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!”. I actually had an audible reaction the first time I saw it. I think I might have even clapped. That’s a big achievement, I’m not the type who reacts like that. This is how you subvert expectations! I was instantly more engaged with the movie because now that you’ve killed her off, anything goes. It’s possible that nobody might get out of this alive. The stakes are instantly way higher and now I believe that anybody can die. It turns out that I don’t have any idea how this story is going to end – perhaps the aliens will win? Who knows.

And it doesn’t disappoint. As somebody who loves a dark movie (I love alien 3 for that reason), I loved the end, where the army actively lures the civilians into the center of town to be bait and then nukes the whole goddamn town. There are a handful of survivors out of who knows how many – thousands? tens of thousands? maybe even a hundred thousand? I don’t know how big the town was supposed to be, but this movie has a serious death-toll. It’s brilliant and dark and cynical and exactly what would really happen, and I fucking love it. And it has a bunch of cool, R-rated action with a predator hunting aliens and fighting a predalien. What’s not to love?

And seconds after I thought of AvP2 as my entry in the unpopular positive opinion challenge, I realised that I actually had two. I mean there are a bunch more, particularly if you loosen the criteria a bit – I adore Tango and Cash, for example – but there is a second entry which is just as great and equally as reviled and which I can’t not mention.

Postal.

It’s the only Uwe Boll movie I’ve seen. I know his reputation. I had the movie recommended to me by a friend. I was a big fan of the second postal game, with its very dark sense of humour and its early open-world gameplay, but I don’t think I even knew that there was a movie adaptation. And I certainly wouldn’t have been interested in seeing it. Particularly if I’d seen “Uwe Boll” in the credits. But a friend told me it was hilarious, describing the opening sequence, and I had to check it out based on that.

And it’s fucking hilarious. It’s exactly what a postal omvie should be.

And that’s about all I can say about it without spoiling it. If you like your humour super dark and politically incorrect, go watch it.

There’s so much to love here: The replacement of Gary Coleman with Verne Troyer and the prophecy about a tiny man being raped by a thousand monkeys. The cop wo keeps a homeless disabled guy in his garage at night so that he can wheel him out to beg for money from people during the day, which the cop then takes. The ending, with Osama and Dubya skipping off into the sunset hand-in-hand while mushroom clouds form.

But I particularly adore the entire sequence at “Little Germany”, with Vince Desi (helpfully subtitled as the game’s producer) fighting Uwe Boll, Uwe Boll admitting that he finances his films with Nazi Gold, and last but certainly not least, the gleeful focusing on a whole bunch of innocent children being accidentally shot in the crossfire. I laughed out loud. A LOT. For a good while.

There’s not much to this movie, really, and I don’t have a huge amount to say about it: It’s a stupid, over-the-top subversive comedy filled with humour as black as Saggitarius A*. And that’s why I love it. Even if nobody else does.

Both of these movies are silly. Both of them are hugely entertaining and exactly what they should be. Both of them are reviled. And i love them both dearly.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Do what I did: Go see it on faith – it’s a Quentin Tarantino film. I didn’t watch any previews or trailers, I didn’t watch or read any reviews. I went in knowing the basic outline and that’s it. I didn’t even need that, all I need these days is “directed by Quentin Tarantino”. But it sounded like an interesting premise, too.

I loved it. And I think I loved it more because I didn’t bother with trailers or reviews.

I don’t really think I can say anything else about it without potentially spoiling it. Except that you should go see it.

Maybe I’ll come back and write something about it in a while when it won’t be so spoileriffic.

Hellboy Review

So the new Hellboy movie is finally here. I figured I’d post some thoughts:

Fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Why would I watch a Hellboy reboot when you refused to conclude the already excellent trilogy?

Let’s just set aside the tired old “Gillermo Del Toro is the perfect director for Hellboy”, “Ron Perlman is the perfect actor to play Hellboy”, and “Mike Mignola was involved in the writing” arguments and just focus on one thing: Franchises.

Let’s assume that this new Hellboy reboot is amazing, better than what Del Toro, Mignola, and Perlman would have done (I know right, but let’s just assume a miracle). Lets assume that it’s a masterpiece and the greatest movie ever made, and not just a slapped-together incoherent cash-grab mess with no real interest in or respect for the subject matter like so many reboots are. What then?

Well, obviously, it becomes a franchise! Because that’s the done thing these days! There will be sequels! “Hellboy 2: The…uh…platinum? army” gets greenlit and goes into production. And takes a few years to make. The same team comes back. They set it up as the second chapter of an epic trilogy and it’s amazing.

But like the hollywood studio you are, some exec goes “OOH SHINY!” When someone comes along with a concept for yet another Hellboy reboot rendered in claymation. So you reboot it yet again rather than completing this new and even better trilogy. And now I’m left with two excellent, unfinished Hellboy stories.

You see, by not completing the previous (excellent) trilogy with Del Toro and Perlman, you’ve undermined your credibility: Why would I get invested in Hellboy again when you’ve already shown that you don’t have the attention span to conclude the existing trilogy? Are you going to sign a written contract guaranteeing me that this time you’ll definitely let the director conclude his vision? I don’t think so. And even if you did sign that contract, then I’d have to re-open the issues set aside above. So I see no reason to be interested in the slightest. Which is disappointing for everyone really, I think an R-rating could really suit Hellboy. But given that I have to assume that the next movie in the series will be 2021′s Hellboy reboot with a new cast and director, followed by 2025′s Hellboy reboot with a new cast and director, I’m not able to be interested in this. Which brings me back to my original position: fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Mad props to my homie Ron Perlman for having principles and refusing to be involved without Del Toro.

Thoughts on Civilization: Beyond Earth

Recently the complete edition of Civilization: Beyond Earth went on sale. I think I paid about $10-15 for it. I’d been waiting for this to happen for a couple of years, since I insist on buying the whole game rather than buying it in 3 transactions (I want all the DLC, i.e the whole game), and because you’ll have to do something really special to make me think about spending $60 for a game.

Humble Store Link.

I’ve just finished my first playthrough, and here are my thoughts. They’re not easy to sum up in just 200 characters.

Let me start by saying it’s good. You’d expect it to be – they’ve done like 15 Civilization games so far, so they should have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. You’d expect anything under the Civilization banner these days to be super-polished and addictive. And it is, with the usual caveat that the AI isn’t particularly smart. But I’m willing to let that one slide since we don’t have general AI yet – it’s a complex game and building an AI for it is not going to be easy.

Weirdly, I found it both more and less complex than Civ V (the most recent one I’ve played, I have Civ 6 but have only put in maybe an hour so far). For instance, the diplomatic options seem very cut-down – you can’t e.g surround an enemy with a huge army and then demand a “gift”, or even have any customised dialogue – the options are limited to making trade agreements and setting a cooperation level (ranging from war to allied). That’s it. This seems to be a curious change for a Civ game, given that the diplomacy is such a big part of it. So it’s less complex, but at the same time there are a bunch of new mechanics that make it more complex, e.g orbital units, which I think are cool but didn’t strike me as particularly useful – I ignored them for most of the game.

I haven’t played Alpha Centauri in a couple of years, but I remember being really really impressed with it. I don’t think this is as good. And it’s not as good as Civ V, which might be the ultimate version of Civilization – it’s super-super-polished, faithful enough to the older games that I didn’t notice anything missing, and yet has enough new stuff that seemed to fit in well that I felt like it was more than just a rehash.

It pains me to say that any of these are better than the original, Civ 1, but objectively speaking I’d say that all of these probably are – I still play Civ 1 occasionally and compared with these games it feels kinda simple, and the graphics are antiquated. It is still hugely fun and massively addictive and it’s undoubtedly one of the most important games ever made, but if you’re new to Civ you probably want to start with Civ V.

Another pet-peeve I had with beyond earth is the technology / science system – I feel like the tech web idea (it’s a web rather than a tree) precludes a logical progression of science, because the dependencies for any given item aren’t particularly deep. So you could theoretically go to the end of a particular branch of the web by researching only 4 or 5 prerequisites, as opposed to the more conventional tech tree where railroads require steam engines, which require alloys, which requires steel, which requires metallurgy, which requires bronze, etc etc etc. Granted, the tech web is perhaps more realistic and reflects how you could change the focus of your research drastically and that research in computing is probably not going to impact biology very much, but I think the deeper tech tree with less choices at each branch is a better game mechanic.

The other problem I have with the tech tree/web in this game is that I felt like most of the technologies and unit names were just made up technobabble – I’m somebody who knows his sci-fi and futurism and I didn’t find myself saying “oh I know what that is”. And in a few cases I did know where something was, and was disappointed that the game didn’t really give me that. For example, there’s a mass driver. I said “ooooh cooool, mass driver!”. And then I got an improvement that gave my city better offensive capabilities, no mass driver graphic or animation to be seen, no weeapon I can target enemies with to throw meteors at them. In my book this should have been a devastating orbital unit, but nope. Note that this doesn’t apply to all of the technologies or units – some of them are logical hypothetical technologies and some of them do just what it says on the tin. But a lot of it is researching inverse phase polarity infusers, which give you a temporal gyreforge improvement that for some reason gives your city +3 production, or whatever. It’s been a while since I played Alpha Centauri, but I seem to recall that having a more logical tech tree, and the units/improvements you get from each tech make more sense with regard to what each technology is. But I might be wrong about that. Maybe it’s just that I’ve played regular Civilization more recently, and it has a very logical tech progression where you automatically know what everything is, as per my rail example above (which is just off the top of my head, but is probably fairly close to the actual progression).

I found several things in the UI unintuitive. For example I was about two-thirds of the way into the game before I figured out how to assign specialists, i.e where you assign a citizen as a scientist or engineer to get a science or production bonus. At first I assumed it didn’t have them, and then I figured out that you have to check the ‘show buildings’ checkbox, and certain buildings give you slots for specialists which you can click to assign. Another example of the unintuitive AI was that at a certain point I noticed that the colour of the aliens had changed. At first it was blue and then at a certain point I noticed it was orange. It was only when I destroyed a nest and the aliens changed from orange to red that I realised that they were getting more and more hostile. This despite me having all the advisors turned on, and it telling me every 3 turns that I can change my personality traits, and me screaming “yeah I’m happy with the ones I have, shut up!”.

Don’t take all these criticisms as me saying that the game isn’t great, though – it still has that addictive “one more turn” thing going on that you expect from a Civ game. But I don’t think it’s as good as Civ V or Alpha Centauri. If you’re looking for a purchasing recommendation, here’s mine: Buy Civilization V complete when it’s on sale ($80?!? seriously?), then buy Alpha Centauri on GOG (Listed at AU$8 at the time of writing including the expansion, a fair price), and then buy the complete edition of Beyond Earth when it’s on sale. If you can get the complete edition for $10-15 it’s worth it. If you don’t already own Civ V and Alpha Centauri then I’d recommend getting those first. I’m just going to assume you already own Civ 1. Which strangely doesn’t seem to be on GOG at the time of writing. Luckily, I own a boxed copy for the Amiga. </bragging>

Note that, of course, all these games support Linux. You might think that Alpha Centauri doesn’t, but loki games did a port back in the day. Apparently it can be difficult to get it running on modern systems, and that may or may not be true for the GOG version, but this installer works just fine on my xubuntu 16.04 laptop with my original Alpha Centauri CD. The only issue I have with Alpha Centauri is that it insists on running at 1024×768, which means it’s fairly small on my laptop screen, which won’t actually switch to that resolution. If you have a way to make it run at 1920×1080 (or 1680×1050), I’d love to hear it – the only info i could find was for the windows version. But it doesn’t make the game less awesome.

ARK: Survival Evolved – A Review

Apparently you have to own a game to review it on steam, and since I’ve been playing a friend’s copy of ARK via family sharing, my opinion is meaningless. The best part is that they let you spend time writing your review and then tell you that you can’t review the game when you press “post”. So here’s my review of ARK: Survival Evolved:

Hugely impressive and ambitious, but not finished. ARK has the potential to be a really excellent game, if all the bugs are ever ironed out. At first the bugs will just be annoyances, but once you’ve put some real time into this game they’ll come to rule your experience and you’ll find yourself increasingly frustrated.

Two particularly big ones are dinosaur AI and building structures. You’ll find your tame dinosaurs getting constantly stuck while they’re trying to follow you, to the point that you’ll have to turn around every minute or so to count how many dinosaurs are following you and go back and rescue stragglers. This isn’t such a big deal when you have 3 dinos following you a small distance, but it becomes incredibly tedious when you have 15 and you’re on an epic 20km journey. As for building structures, I hope you like grinding to collect resources, because you’ll spend 20 minutes collecting stuff to craft a piece of a structure, and then the game will refuse to place it where you want it, so you have to demolish something and go out to collect the necessary resources to rebuild in the esoteric order the game wants. Or the game will place it in the wrong place, or in the wrong direction, and you’ll be left with no choice but to demolish the structure and go out and collect more resources to rebuild.

If you search around a bit, you’ll find that both of these issues have been problems for YEARS, and that no fix seems to be forthoming. It seems that the devs are busy building DLC rather than finishing the game. See also the fiasco where the scorched earth DLC was released while the game was still in early access. Apparently the solution to that was to just remove the ‘early access’ tag, to hell with the bugs.

I’d really like to recommend ARK, there really is a fantastic game buried under all those bugs, and perhaps one day these issues will be addressed and I’ll re-visit this review, but as it stands this game is regrettably not worth the AAA price tag attached to it. If you can get it for less than $20 with all the DLC then I’d say it’s probably worth it.

Generic Action/Sci-fi show #48911

Well, it’s finally here. I’ve been waiting for over a decade.

And I’m still waiting.

This is not Star Trek.

I tried to give it a good chance. I saw the “Klingons” in the trailer. I figured they were some new alien race. Then I heard that they were Klingons, and I worried.

But I didn’t worry too much – they’ve changed the look of the Klingons before. Of course that change has now been explained in canon, and changing them in a show set 10 years before Kirk is problematic, but I suppose if you’ve got clever writers you can explain it.

Plus, the label on it says “Star Trek Discovery”. Discovery! it doesn’t get more trek than discovery! That’s what it’s all about!

So I watched the 2 hour JJ Abrams TrekWars (TM) movie that was the pilot. But it was clearly just a prelude movie. The actual pilot will come with episode 3. So I kept watching.

I saw a million issues. Violating the prime directive (which is now called “general order 1″ for some reason) in the first 5 minutes wasn’t a strong start. The “Klingons” who speak Klingon like someone who doesn’t speak Klingon reading Klingon off a page while wearing half a ton of latex which stops them from speaking properly wasn’t a good sign either. The idiot main character who does every. single. thing. wrong isn’t winning me over. Everything looking wrong wasn’t a good sign either. But I tried to be impartial and fair.

Episode 3 was… meh. Episode 4, very meh. But it wasn’t un-fixable. Maybe they were just trolling me, daring me to stop watching before they do something amazing to fix all this brokenness. Maybe this is the rogue starfleet ship where the captain is a cunt and has recruited a band of cunts to assist him in his mission of being the biggest cunt of the 23rd century, and soon we’ll see an actual starfleet ship come along and bring this renegade to justice. By the end of episode 4, this seemed unlikely, but I was willing to give it a chance.

And then you had to go and say fuck.

I was already completely disgusted by the time you said fuck, that was just the final nail in the coffin. Let’s go through some of the issues I had before you got to the “oooh, let’s be edgy by saying fuck!” moment:

  1. Starfleet has zero concern over using creatures for it’s new propulsion system – their only concern is where to get more creatures. That is not Starfleet.
  2. A Captain telling an admiral “my ship, my way”. Lol. Not even Kirk would be so ballsy. If Kirk had tried that at the height of his career (and let’s be clear: he’s the most decorated officer in starfleet history, having saved the planet many times) the admiral would have blinked, removed him from command, and had him institutionalised because he’s clearly lost his mind.
  3. Crewmember: “I think we’re hurting this creature when we do this thing”
    (acting) Starfleet captain: “Shut the fuck up!”
    Note: Saru – the least cunty person on the ship – says this. This is just how starfleet is now – everyone is a cunt, principles don’t exist. So we go from an immature but well-intentioned humanity in Enterprise, to 90 years later and everybody is a cunt, to 10 years after that and it’s utopia. Riiiiiiiight.
  4. What the fuck is Harry Mudd doing on a klingon ship? Why is it Harry Mudd? There is absolutely no reason for him to be there. Apart from “fanservice”, I mean.
  5. Speaking of fanservice, why bother with fanservice when it’s very very abundantly clear that you hate your core audience? Here’s a tip: Star Trek fans want Star Trek, not “Generic Action/Sci-Fi/Drama #48911″. So when you remove everything that makes it Star Trek, it’s not going to go well. Adding a bunch of little fanservice references (almost all of which either break canon or severely bend it) is not helping, the problem is at the core of what this awful, awful shit is. When I see these little fanservice references I think of Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson inserting their fanfic characters into the main Dune universe to try to legitimise themselves.
  6. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there were no female Klingon captains at this time. The Duras sisters are unusual in TNG/DS9 canon. I seem to recall an episode of Deep Space Nine where Quark enters into a sham marriage because Klingon women can’t lead their house. The Klingons are obviously not as progressive as the humans are in this universe. It really seems like you are going for SJW-trek. Which is a pity, because Star Trek doesn’t need that! It was already diverse! The original series didn’t have to bother with the whole “look at how diverse we are!” thing, it just was diverse. That wasn’t worthy of comment in-universe, because it was unremarkable to have a russian or a black woman on the bridge. You’re actually taking a step backwards by screaming at the top of your lungs about how progressive you are. If you want to see a great way to deal with gender politics and to be progressive, go look at Quark’s mother’s arc in Deep Space Nine. Real Trek has already dealt with all this stuff, and done it in a much less hamfisted way.

…And then came the straw that broke the camel’s back: Starfleet officers say fuck now? The phrase “fucking cool” is about the least Star Trek thing a person can possibly say. Yes, there have been precedents, like the ill-advised time Data said “oh shit” in one of the movies. But that was a horrible moment we’d all prefer to forget. You’re not being edgy by saying it, you’re just making it even less Trek than it already was.

And just in case my bile hadn’t already risen:

  1. The captain leaves Harry Mudd as a prisoner on a Klingon ship! Have I mentioned that this is not Star Trek?
  2. OMG you have gay characters! The cunty doctor and the cunty scientist are a couple! A gay couple! An INTERRACIAL GAY couple! How amazingly progressive of you! It’s a pity you seem to think that gay men don’t hug or show real affection beyond ruffling each others hair while talking about how they were worried because the other was in danger. And with the huge budget you have, couldn’t you have found a couple of actors who have some chemistry together?

There are probably other things, but I’d have to watch this godawful dreck again to list all the issues. And there’s no way I’m doing that to myself.

In conclusion, fuck you. This is not Star Trek.

Maybe, if the Internet is swept with comments like “OMG these guys are geniuses! This IS Star Trek!” in 10 weeks, then maybe I’ll think about watching the rest of them. But we all know that’s not going to happen, because you don’t give a shit. You wanted to make Generic Action/Sci-Fi show #48911, not Star Trek.

The funniest thing about this is that if you had given this show any other name, I’d be all over it. I love me some dark sci-fi. I’d love to see an adult sci-fi show with tons of drama and heaps of conflict between cunty characters. But not in a Star Trek Show. You would literally have been better off calling it “Generic Action Sci-Fi show #48911″. I’d watch that, and I’d probably enjoy it. But because you’ve slapped a Star Trek label on it, I spend the whole time just thinking about how apparently everyone in Starfleet was a cunt 10 years before Kirk came along, and how every single thing is broken, and how Gene Roddenberry is turning over in his grave.

Dear Jason Isaacs: You dared me to not watch it? Challenge accepted!

There is a positive here: Next time I watch Enterprise, I’m gonna be all like “OMG this is amazing! They put in so much effort!”. In a strange way, by not giving me a new Star Trek series, they’ve given me a new Star Trek series – I’ll have to go and re-watch Enterprise, because it’s gonna seem awesome compared to this.

And there’s another positive: William Shatner is no longer the cuntiest Trek person! Say hello to your new cunty overlord – Jason Isaacs!

And there’s yet another positive: maybe after this horror show is over, Star Trek will finally be dead. With a little bit of luck this will manage to de-value the entire franchise, and it’ll go to its grave for another 20 years or so. And in that time, since the franchise won’t be worth anything, maybe we’ll get some good, real Star Trek in the form of the fan films you’ve done your best to ban.

I think I’ll go watch some real Star Trek to wash this taste out of my mouth.

Suck shit, valve!

Australian Courts open up a can of whoop-ass on Valve for their violation of Australian consumer protection laws

And all they had to do was refund my $2.49. They tried to tell me they were above the law. I told them they weren’t. Seems like the courts agree with me.

So in addition to not ever getting another cent from me, Valve got dragged through our courts and will now be fined. And they refunded my $2.49 plus fees (I did a chargeback).

It’s always nice when justice actually happens.

Goodbye Spaceboy

Sad Face.

RIP David Bowie.

Thanks so much for visiting, spaceboy, you brightened this little world. We’ll miss you.

Space boy, you’re sleepy now
Your silhouette is so stationary
You’re released but your custody calls
And I wanna be free

Don’t you wanna be free?
Do you like girls or boys?
It’s confusing these days
But moon dust will cover you
Cover you

This chaos is killing me

So bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love
Bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love

This chaos is killing me

Hallo space boy, you’re sleepy now
You’re silhouette, so stationary
You’re released but your custody calls
And I wanna be free

Don’t you wanna be free?
Do you like girls or boys?
It’s confusing these days
But moon dust will cover you
Cover you

And the chaos is killing me

Yeah bye, bye love
So bye, bye love
Yeah bye, bye love
So bye, bye love

This chaos is killing me
This chaos is killing me

Yeah bye, bye love
Bye, bye love
Eternal
Sweet, sweet love
Bye bye space boy
Bye, bye love

Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you
Moon dust will cover you

BTTF Day!

October 21 2015, the day “30 years in the future” Marty and Doc travel to. 4:29pm to be precise.

Technically the time will be 9:29am on Oct 22nd for me since they’re on californian time, but I’m watching the trilogy on Oct 21 Australian time. Close enough.

I’m disappointed that Nike hasn’t released power laces yet. Maybe they’ll announce them tomorrow. I’ll buy that shit.

Update: Yep! Awesome!. I wonder how ridiculously expensive they’re going to be.

Fury Road

The new Mad Max film is finally out. George Miller has been trying to make it for about 25 years now. But don’t be fooled – he hasn’t spent 25 years working on it. Instead, he’s been paying close attention to what hollywood has been doing lately (being braindead), and religiously updating the Mad Max script so that it apes the latest conventions.

I was really excited for it – decades later, I still consider Mad Max 2 to be the greatest Australian film ever made. The trailers made me both more excited, and nervous – That’s the pursuit special! That must mean that this movie is set between the first and second films, right? But the second trailer showed me the flame-throwing guitar, which made me nervous, fearing style over substance.

Still, style over substance isn’t in itself a bad thing – films like Shoot Em Up (which is awesome) are all style, and a balls-to-the-wall, all-style Mad Max film could work, so perhaps it will be great.

It came out, and the reviews started coming in – near-universal acclaim! Wow, maybe it’s actually good.

There’s been some debate over whether it’s a sequel or a reboot. Anyone who thinks it’s a sequel hasn’t been paying attention. But I think that’s the idea – this is a movie for people who don’t pay attention. It’s not a sequel or an interquel which goes inbetween the first and second movies – the pursuit special was destroyed in Mad Max 2. But it’s also destroyed here, meaning that it’s a reboot. I read one argument that it had to be a sequel, because there are flashbacks to the previous films. Whoever said that hasn’t seen the previous films in a long time – none of the flashbacks are from previous films, they’re just miscellaneous flashbacks showing us how haunted Max is. Not that it matters, since he’s not the main character anymore.

Sure, it has lots of spectacular things. And lots of cool things. The vehicles are awesome, and the world is very cool. It looks great. I can’t think that the musical war-rig with its guitarist is anything other than goddamn awesome. But none of it makes any sense – it’s cool for the sake of looking cool, logic be damned.

For instance, if water is precious, why do you hand it out it by pouring ten thousand litres out in the space of 30 seconds? Ninety percent of it is wasted. Wouldn’t handing it out in bottles be much more efficient and less wasteful? Answer: because it looks cool.

If you use human power to raise and lower your war-rigs to the desert floor, how do you pump ten thousand litres of water at such a rate? Answer: because it wouldn’t look cool if you didn’t.

Why are there weird people walking around on four stilts in a swamp? Answer: because it looks cool. Or maybe Miller is just a big Dark Crystal fan.

Why is the war rig loaded with enough water to keep a whole village alive for weeks? Wasn’t it being sent to collect fuel from Gas Town, which is close enough to be visible on the horizon and at worst a couple of hours’ drive away? Answer: because Miller wanted a scene where the wives were hosing each other down, because that would look cool.

How do you keep “mothers milk” from spoiling out in the hot desert for a couple of days? Is the war-rig’s tanker also refrigerated, in addition to having massive water and milk tanks? Is any of that tanker space actually used for the stated purpose of storing and transporting fuel? Why do you even need “mothers milk” for a 2-hour drive?

Why is the fuel pod filled with fuel? Is your war-rig so thirsty that it needs thousands of litres of fuel to get to a place that’s perhaps 15-20km away? apparently not, since I don’t recall them refuelling at any stage of their 3-day high-speed journey. Answer: furiosa had struck a bargain to exchange the full fuel pod for passage through the valley. So I guess she just…uh… stole thousands of litres of fuel from a place where fuel is scarce and precious, and nobody noticed?

Why are there so many american accents in post-apocalyptic Australia? Answer: because it doesn’t matter – you can’t see sound, so it doesn’t not look cool.

And at the end of the movie, they take over the citadel and turn on the pumps so that everybody can drink their fill of water. Aaaw. My reaction: “And they all lived happily ever after for the next 6 months, when they discovered that they’d emptied the aquifer at an unprecedented rate with an unprecedented amount of waste, and everyone died 3 days later.”

Max Rockatansky is now an incidental character in a movie which bears his name. He’s gone from being the ultimate badass anti-hero to being just some savage who is easily captured, communicates in little more than grunts (and when he’s not grunting, he’s talking in a really weird accent) and is just along for the ride.

During the making of this film, the phrase “wouldn’t it be cool if…” was uttered many, many times.

Mad Max 3 wasn’t brilliant, sure, but at least it had something to say – there was some substance there, and genuine world-building. This film has no substance at all, and the world-building is nonsensical – everything is secondary to looking cool, with the possible exception of beating us repeatedly with the “men are bad” sledgehammer.

This movie kind of reminds me of Shoot Em Up, only with less sense, plot and style. If you completely disengage your brain and you have no interest in or memory of the previous films, then you might like this movie.

Oh, wait, I just described most of the population of this planet, so: near-universal acclaim! Expect sequels. Meanwhile I’m going to pray for a porkyclipse.

Bicentennial Man

Apparently, some people don’t like Bicentennial Man. I’ve even heard Robin Williams reference it in a stand-up routine.

IMHO, this is just another example that people are idiots – Bicentennial man is goddamn awesome.

I was really excited when I heard about this movie – I had wanted to see an Asimov movie since I read the books. At the time, there had been talk of adapting I, Robot to the screen for a while – it was in development hell for a long time, and the less said about the outcome, the better.

But Bicentennial man beat I, Robot to the screen by about 5 years and became the first movie based on an Asimov book. Ironically, there wasn’t ever any competition with I, Robot, because it wasn’t “based on” an asimov book – they invented a new credit for I, Robot – “Inspired by”, which basically means “We couldn’t be bothered doing a proper adaptation, so we bastardised it so much that they wouldn’t let us use the ‘based on’ credit”.

And, so far, to my great disappointment, Bicentennial man remains the only movie based on an Asimov book.

And it’s so spot on that Isaac would have wept if he’d seen it.

One review I read mentioned that it’s “faithful to the ideals of golden-age sci-fi”, as if that was a bad thing and as if the story needed to be updated to be more contemporary – there are no explosions in Bicentennial Man – things don’t explode very often at all in Asimov’s books.

This is because Asimov wrote a different type of sci-fi from anything you’ve ever seen on screen – Asimov’s storys rarely have “bad guys”. And that’s what makes Asimov’s work so awesome.

It’s the very fact that this movie is faithful to the ideals of golden age sci-fi that makes it so goddamn awesome. That, and Robin Williams doing some actual acting.

This was also the movie that, for me, turned Robin Williams from “that guy who does all those stupid movies” into a serious actor. The scene where Robin Williams first appears sans robot costume, when he first sees himself after his “upgrade” and simply stares into the mirror and says “thank you” is a seriously brilliant and moving piece of cinema.

I’m also a fan of Sam Neill, and he’s also in Bicentennial man, so there’s that.

There are a couple of things which I thought were missing from the screen adaptation which I think would have made it a stronger film. For example, in the book, it’s not Andrew who starts the crusade for Robotic rights, it’s one of his human friends. This happens after Andrew is harassed by a couple of teenagers, who order him to strip off his clothes and threaten to take him apart – the three laws of robotics make Andrew helpless to protect himself against this assault, and I think it could have been a really powerful scene in the movie, if a little darker in tone and less kid-friendly than the rest of the film.

But on the whole, Bicentennial Man is a faithful adaptation of an excellent story by one of the masters of science fiction, and I’d give it at least 90%. It remains one of my favourite films to this day.

It holds on to the ideals of golden age sci-fi brilliantly, and that’s why asimov would have wept had he lived to see it – they would have been tears of joy at seeing his story adapted so faithfully and with such heart.

But, no explosions or tits, so a crappy rating. Humanity sucks.

Asimov’s Robots are better than us in every way. Maybe that’s part of the reason why this movie isn’t more popular – people don’t like to see their betters. Asimov’s robots, being more intelligent than man, are also more ethical – they help us because they want to. The epitome of this is Asimov’s “Robot Takeover” story – The Evitable Conflict. Go read it if you haven’t already – I’m not going to spoil it. It’s ironic that this story is turned into your usual everyday “evil robots take over” story in the film adaptation of I, Robot. But I’d rather not get started on that film, Maddox already did that.

Moby Dick-Head, King of the Hipster Douchebags

On last week’s episode of King Of The Nerds (S03E04), one of the judges for annual “Nerd Song” competition is Moby.

Moby takes issue with some of the lyrical content of one of the songs, saying:
“I took issue with ‘Like newton’s laws of motion we don’t hypothesize’, because I feel like in a quantum world, most of newtonian physics has sort of been cast aside.

Groan.

Moby, you’re such a dick!

Now, I’m no string theorist – I don’t even know one of Newton’s equations from memory, but even I can tell you quite definitively that newtonian physics has not been “cast aside”.

OK, sure, so Quantum Mechanics does have some bearing on Newton’s work, but Newton’s laws are still valid in the vast majority of everyday circumstances. If you were to say that Newtonian physics has been refined, then you’d be spot on – Relativity and Quantum mechanics have both refined newtonian physics immensely, but that doesn’t mean that newtonian physics have been “cast aside” – not by a long shot – Newton’s equations are still very valid if you want a simple-to-calculate, approximate solution to many, many, many problems – they only become inadequate in certain circumstances, such as calculating the precession of Mercury’s perihelion, working with subatomic particles, or dealing with relativistic speeds and/or very curved regions of spacetime (big gravity wells).

The Apollo Missions, for example, didn’t need to use relativistic or quantum equations. If they had, the moon landings never would have happened – an astronaut can plug the numbers into newton’s equations and work them out with a slide-rule or maybe even in his head. If he had to do quantum mechanics or relativistic equations to figure out a descent or rendezevous burn, it would never have happened before the microprocessor was invented – we just didn’t have the computing power back in 1969. Missing the CSM by a couple of hundred metres on the way back up or slamming into the lunar surface because you’re busy trying to do quantum mechanics but struggle with the math would probably not be considered a particularly successful mission. The Saturn V rocket is the ultimate embodiment (so far) of Newton’s Third law of motion, and it sure seemed to work. I’d also note that 1969 was a good 40-or-so years after the establishment and general acceptance of Quantum Mechanics – it’s not like they didn’t know all about quantum theory and got lucky – they knew all about it, and they knew they could ignore it.

So, Moby, to summarize: I don’t think “Quantum Theory” means what you think it means.

Moby then goes on to criticise one of them for claiming in the song that he read Hamlet in the Original Klingon, asking “did you really read Hamlet in Klingon?”.

Now, In Moby’s Song Run On, he states:

Michael spoke and he sound so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of angels’ feet
He put one hand upon my head
Great God Almighty let me tell you what he said

Saying quite specifically that the Archangel Michael has personally spoken to (and physically touched) him. I kinda doubt this, what with the whole “fictional character” bit. But I suppose Moby might not actually be lying – he could simply be delusional. Incidentally, the same song also implies that he’s met jeebus, something I’m also doubtful of.

Setting aside how incredibly petty it is to criticise someone because what they say in a song isn’t literal truth (it’s called “metaphor”, “simile”, or “A direct reference to Star Trek VI”, look it up), I think that this is a somewhat hypocritical stance for Moby to take given the lyrics to just this one song (Note: this was the first moby song I thought of and looked up the lyrics for, I’m sure his whole body of work is rife with this kind of stuff, as is the work of just about every songwriter ever – I don’t think that Bonnie Tyler literally falls apart every now and then – that would be a strange medical condition, and I don’t actually want to hunt and torture stupid people, because I’m not actually a psychopath)

One of the members of the other team didn’t think so though – she thought it was cool to see moby dissing the other team for no real reason, and chimed in with something to the effect of “Um, I don’t even think Hamlet has been translated to Klingon – there’s not enough vocabulary for it!”

This immediately caught my attention, since being a Star Trek fan I know how mental some of us get, so my immediate reaction to that was “Yeah, I wouldn’t be so sure about that”, with visions of committees of nerds arguing over usenet as to what was an appropriate klingon word to use for “cutlass” (in fact, that’s probably an easy one which didn’t cause much debate – it’s a weapon, so there was probably already a Klingon word for it)…

…So, tonight, I do a search, and Lo and behold!

I was talking to a friend about this, and he put it elegantly:
“You’re suprised by Moby being a pretentious hipster douchebag? Didn’t you know that Moby invented ‘hipster douchebag’?”

Well, yeah, I did. But at least I thought he’d bother to be correct. Apparently not.

(BTW: I’m actually rooting for the other team which Moby didn’t criticise as much – specifically for Kaitlin, because she’s awesome, and I think that in the end Moby and the other judges did make the correct decision – the other song was better. But I do take issue with moby being such a dick, and I think that his criticisms were totally unfair)

As Usual, TISM turn out to be prophets – De Rigeurmortis – Track 10:

Lyrics:

Dear Moby,
Having read you liner notes, I now violently oppose pain, death, famine, disease, slaughter, war, youth suicide, pollution, hitting your finger with the hammer, parking in disabled car parks, the industrial military complex, the death of innocent third world people, especially the children, by the way, I’d like to thank Mohammed and the Dalai Lama, safari suits and stating the fucking obvious.

You’re hurting my brain

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Gear_controversies#Series_20:

Top Gear was accused of faking a scene in which riverbank diners have their meal interrupted by a deluge of water from a passing hovervan, which the three presenters had built to show what can be done to help flood prone areas. The accusations were started after Michael Bott said on his blog that he’d been hired by Top Gear to pose as one of the diners.

Just so we’re clear: The people complaining about this are complaining that it’s disingenuous for Top Gear to stage things like this.

So, what they’re saying is that Clarkson, Hammond, and May should have actually really driven the hovervan past a real riverside restaurant where real, unsususpecting members of the public were dining in peace, and sprayed them all with water.

I’m sure nobody would have complained about that.

BTW, that was a joke you’re too stupid to get (or: how to kill a parody)

Strangely enough, contemporary references in a written work will age with the work.

For example, Science fiction works which were “hard” when they were written will tend to “soften” over the years as science marches on. Go read Asimov’s work from the 50s – it’s based on a 1950s understanding of physics. Asimov doesn’t talk about string theory or dark energy. Because they hadn’t been discovered yet. Asimov’s work has a hyperdrive, which automatically tends to push you towards the softer end of the scale these days, but in the 1950s a hyperdrive wasn’t quite so implausible, so you could talk about hyperspace jumps and still be a fairly hard piece of sci-fi.

Similarly, if you read a work written in the late 1960s which makes many contemporary references, you’ll be reading about things which no longer exist – products which have since been discontinued or radically changed, companies that don’t exist any more, and people who have since died. You get a similar effect when a story is written for a particular audience or makes cultural assumptions – a book written for British readers will talk about pounds, while the American equivalent will talk about dollars.

I’m stating the obvious, right? Yup.

Enter “Bored Of The Rings”, a classic and brilliant parody of Lord Of the Rings, first published in 1969. It contains a bunch of contemporary references and talks about brands that no longer exist or are no longer popular, and a bunch of things which are American-centric, since it was written by Americans. But this in no way detracts from it’s awesomeness.

I was pretty close to the end of my first read-through when I realised what “Legolam” was, other than a misspelling of “Legolas”. It made me feel kinda stupid for not picking it up earlier. But at the same time, I felt kinda smart for figuring it out by myself (I was about 12, go easy). And the next time I read it, there were probably contextual jokes around the “Legolam” name which I didn’t get on the first read-through but did get on subsequent reads. It wasn’t until a reading during the internet age that I was able to find out what “Serutan” was. Another example from a different media: I got about 40% through my second viewing of the TV series “Veep” before I realised that “potus” wasn’t just a weird name or a nickname.

Figuring these little jokes and references out for myself is half the fun of it. This is what makes movies like Spaceballs such genius. It’s what’s awesome about Futurama. Any person who is able to watch Spaceballs through for the first time and list every single reference or parody has no life, and hasn’t enjoyed the movie at all because they were in ‘analysis’ mode – they probably couldn’t tell you what spaceballs was about because they were too busy making notes. This is why spaceballs is infinitely rewatchable – I will never know whether I have every single reference and in-joke. You’d be suprised how often I find new ones in this single example. My ability to find them and laugh at them expands as my knowledge expands – you won’t get the planet of the apes references unless you’ve seen planet of the apes. This is part of the joy of the film.

And Spaceballs isn’t the only example, it’s just one of many. It’s one of the roads to comedic genius – pack it tightly with references and in-jokes. Bored of the Rings is another great example.

But with bored of the rings, if you were born…say…after 1980, and especially if you’re also not American, you might struggle – there are lots of anachronistic or obscure references in that book.

So, helpfully, somebody has decided to update the book. I don’t know whether it’s only in the audiobook and therefore audible who are at fault or whether it was the genius idea of some editor while doing a revised edition, but it almost completely ruins the book.

What I’m talking about is this – the narrator of the audiobook will be reading along, and get to a reference, and then say “NOTE” and explain it for you, because apparently you’re such a fucking idiot that you’re completely incapable of using either google or wikipedia to look up things you don’t get.

So the audiobook goes like this:
“Spam Gangree, who was presently celebrating his suspended sentence for
the performing of an unnatural act with an underage female dragon of the opposite
sex. NOTE: ‘spam’ is a tinned ham product, and ‘gangree’ is a play on words for ‘gangreene’, a disease spam gives you.”

Oh, ha ha – the explanations are trying to be funny, too. Because spam gives you gangreene, you see.

One thing that really gets me about these explanations is that they’re very inconsistent – for example, I don’t think that “spam” requires an explanation – is there anyone who doesn’t know what it is? But these new added notes strangely omit explanations for the name “Dildo Bugger”. So I guess I’ll never find out what that one means.

The book has many saving graces – it’s still damn funny, even if you don’t understand any of the references – I understood few of them when I first read it. You don’t need these explanations for it to be funny, and in fact having the explanations sucks all the humour out of the joke, and destroys the re-readability of the book – if you already get all the jokes, there’s less in it for you to re-read it.

But at least there’s nobody out there confused about what spam is. That would be terrible.

If you want to read a great parody, go pick up a vopy of Bored Of the Rings. If you like Tolkien and have a sense of humour then you’ll be hooked by the time you get to the prologue. It’s far far better than both “The Soddit” and “The Sillymarillion”, books written decades later to cash-in on Peter Jackson.

For the record, wher I imply that I’m listening to an Audible Audio Book, I’m actually listening to a pirated copy in mp3 format, since Audible refuse to sell me a copy of the audiobook without DRM. I tried to give them money but they weren’t interested. Don’t buy things from Audible.

Excerpt from the prologue:

In the end Dildo won the game. Stumped at last for a riddle to ask, he cried out, as his hand fell on his snub-nosed .38, “What have I got in my pocket?” This Goddam failed to answer, and growing impatient, he paddled up to Dildo, whining, “Let me see, let me see.” Dildo obliged by pulling out the pistol and emptying it in Goddam’s direction. The dark spoiled his aim, and he managed only to deflate the rubber float, leaving Goddam to flounder. Goddam, who couldn’t swim, reached out his hand to Dildo and begged him to pull him out, and as he did, Dildo noticed an interesting-looking ring on his finger and pulled it off. He would have finished Goddam off then and there, but pity stayed his hand. It’s a pity I’ve run out of bullets, he thought, as he went back up the tunnel, pursued by Goddam’s cries of rage.

Pet

Don’t fret precious, I’m here
Step away from the window
Go back to sleep

Lay your head down child
I won’t let the boogeyman come
Counting bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble
Pay no mind to the rabble
Head down, go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

Pay no mind what other voices say
They don’t care about you
Like I do
Safe from pain and truth and choice and other poison devils
See, they don’t give a fuck about you
Like I do

Just stay with me
Safe and ignorant
Go back to sleep
Go back to sleep

Lay your head down child
I won’t let the boogeyman come
Count the bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
Pay no mind to the rabble
Pay no mind to the rabble
Head down, go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

I’ll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and all your demons
I’ll be the one to protect you from
A will to survive and a voice of reason
I’ll be the one to protect you from
Your enemies and your choices son
They’re one and the same I must isolate you
Isolate and save you from yourself

Swinging to the rhythm of the new world order and
Counting bodies like sheep
To the rhythm of the war drums
The boogeymen are coming
The boogeymen are coming
Keep your head down go to sleep
To the rhythm of the war drums

Stay with me
Safe and ignorant
Just stay with me
Hold you and protect you from the other ones
The evil ones
Don’t love you son
Go back to sleep

Trilogification and cynicism

When it first came out, I wasn’t a big fan of Back To The Future III.

It’s one of – if not the first thing I ever saw at the cinema. I was 9. I had seen the first two on video and loved them.

When I say “at the cinema”, I’m not being precise. “At the theater” might be more appropriate. It was actually a projector set up at the local community centre in the small country town I lived in. Usually, it was for shows or exhibitions – playing movies was a new thing.

As a kid, I was dissapointed that it was set almost entirely in the old west, and that there wasn’t any futuristic stuff or even any time travelling – the only time travel is from 1955 to 1885, and then the rest of the movie is spent trying to get back to 1985. I was also really disappointed at the destruction of the delorean.

But now, I think it’s a marvellous conclusion to the trilogy.

Yes, it’s a change of pace from parts 1 and 2, which are full of adventure and chases while doc and marty labour to fix the timeline and not destroy the universe in the process. Part 3 consists of the effort to get the time machine working in 1885 – it doesn’t have the same sense of adventure.

Instead, it provides a catharsis and it serves to analyse and evolve the two central characters – doc in his meeting clara, and marty in overcoming his problem with being called chicken. I think that as a kid I didn’t appreciate this, but now, I see it’s the perfect direction to take. Part 3 is where all the poingiant character moments take place, and it has some great ones – Marty choosing not to race needles, seeing Doc’s family. It also has lots of clever little jokes and references. Perhaps my favourite piece of dialogue is when marty says “great scott!”, and doc replies “I know, this is heavy” – it always makes me chuckle.

Parts 2 and 3 also serve as an excellent example of turning a story into the first part of a trilogy – the second part expands on the adventure of the first and sets up some plot points for the third, and the third provides character arcs and a satisfying, final conclusion – at much as I’d love to see Doc and Marty have one more adventure, the story is over. It even goes so far as to proclaim “The End”. There should never be a Back to the future 4.

Further, it expands the mythology of the entire series by showing the history of hill valley and its inhabitants – you get to see the first mcfly born in america, where the stricklan family’s love for discipline comes from, and another tannen. There are also more subtle indicators – the manure cart Mad Dog Tannen is punched into is “A Jones” manure, where the manure truck in 1955 is labelled with “D Jones”.

This brings me to another point about the magnificence of the storytelling in the back to the future trilogy as a whole – attention to detail. It seems to me that screenwriters and directors aren’t paying nearly as much attention to detail these days. For instance, the first scene of part 1 – doc’s lab – contains many subtle foreshadowings, such as the plutonium case / news report, and the article talking about the Brown Mansion, which you’ll see later in the film, burning down and Doc having to sell the family estate. These are tiny subtle details which you might not have noticed when you watched. (Mr Plinkett voice) But your brain did. It serves to make the fictional world more realistic and “full”.

Another part of this is consistency. I was watching part 3 and noticed when they start pushing the delorean along the train tracks that they have a wooden brace filled with tyres to dampen the impact. I thought I had spotted a continuity problem, and I said to myself “It’s 1885! where did they get tyres from?!?”. Then I remembered that they had removed the tyres from the delorean so it could run on train tracks. And on inspection, indeed, there were four tyres, and they were 1955-style whitewall tyres – exactly like the delorean had after its 1955 repairs.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s that filmmakers these days are paying less attention, or that I’m more cynical in my old age. I’m sure it’s a bit of both, but I don’t think there’s really very much cynicism there – there have been some truly great movies produced recently. Cloud Atlas springs immediately to mind – this instantly became one of my all-time favourite movies. So I’m not totally cynical.

I could offer many theories to explain why we don’t seem to be getting the same level of attention to detail any more.

Perhaps it’s that more and more things are done digitally, so the director / screenwriter isn’t dealing with real-world objects and locations anymore, so they’re not able to spot these small details early enough – a director on location dealing with props is perhaps more likely to spot these issues, and it’s definitely easier to add that one line of explanatory dialogue when you’re filming the scene, as opposed to fixing it in post with pickups or ADR, both of which require much more in both time and resources.

Maybe it’s the “George Lucas Effect” – it does seem to be that the bigger names are the ones pushing out duds. Given James Cameron’s record, avatar was sub-par. So was Indy 4. And don’t get me started on prometheus. Maybe it’s that these big names are surrounding themselves with “yes men” who are afraid to point out these inconsistensies. Perhaps it’s the hollywood process – appealing to the lowest common denominator – perhaps even these big names are being subjected to executive or studio meddling.

Perhaps the problem is the properties themselves – it’s always the great franchises that are sequeled into horribleness. Perhaps the problem is that Alien got too big. When that happened, the budget increased. But because of the increased budget the studio wants to sell more tickets. So this classic series which everybody knows and loves, which we’re sequelling because we know it has a huge established fanbase, needs more “mainstream appeal”

There are exceptions – great films still get made – look at primer – those guys paid attention. But I wonder if there’s anything that has been made in the last decade which I will look at with the same fondness in 20 years as I now look at something like BTTF, Spaceballs, or Terminator. There surely will be, but i suspect that the 2000s won’t live up to the 80s and 90s. And Back to the Future is surely a pinnacle of 80s filmmaking.

Spaceballs is the greatest movie ever made

I’ve been saying it for a long time now.

Spaceballs is the greatest movie ever made.

Yes, Really.

There are over 50,000 reasons why – there must be at least one reason per frame. One day I think physicists will discover that if one charts every single reference to other works alongside all the little pauses and glances and things that may or may not be mistakes in spaceballs in a particular way in a twenty-six-dimensional space, it spells out the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything.

Here are just a couple of examples (I’ll edit this list as I think of more):
* When Dark Helmet discovers that the radar has been jammed, and is saying “there’s only one man who would dare give me the raspberry”, keep your eyes on Colonel Sandurz – He’s been involved in the scene until now, interacting with and watching helmet, and as the camera approaches for a close-up on Helmet as he says “LONE STAR!”, Sandurz looks at the camera, raises his eyebrow, and steps back – his body language says “Oh, you’re coming in for a close-up? Let me get out of your way…” Gold.
* “Nice Dissolve”

Hail Skroob!

Predestination

I recently saw Predestination, a new Australian Sci-fi based on a short story by Heinlein.

It’s awesome – it’s the best time-travel movie in a good while. I watched it, and was then immediately compelled to watch it again – my brain wouldn’t stop, I needed to make sure that everything fit into place and that I hadn’t missed any obvious brokenness in my enthusiasm. And it was just as good on the second viewing – there are no glaring inconsistencies that I can see, and on the second viewing you pick up a lot of subtle stuff.

It started strong, and then got better. I was particularly impressed with the way it kept me thinking and guessing, and then thinking more and second-guessing my guesses – I found it constantly teasing my expectations of a time-travel movie called “predestination”, it’s like the filmmakers are daring you to name the tropes you think they’re going to use, so that they can avoid them or mess with your expectations of them.

In addition to being a fantastic science fiction film (and IMHO good, serious time-travel films are few and far between, so this is worthy of praise in its own right), I also found it to be a really compelling character drama with a lot of heart.

One other thing which I think deserves particular mention: I love that it’s not set in our universe. It’s set in the past on some alternate earth as envisioned by Heinlein in 1959. This is awesome, and really unusual – usually these types of golden-age story are contemporised – a terrible, terrible example of this being I, Robot. Eeew. It feels like they have constructed a world, even though it’s mostly the same as ours, and the differences are taken for granted in-world – e.g no heavy exposition on exactly what “space corp” does – tourism? mining? exploration? who knows, it’s not relevant. Awesome.

I think it’s probably the best time-travel film since 12 Monkeys. It’s not quite as good as 12 Monkeys, but then 12 Monkeys has Terry Gilliam’s style and amazing performances from both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt – we’re talking big-league stuff here. And I’d put predestionation in the same league.

I’d love to hear suggestions for other great time-travel films for comparison. Here’s my “time travel movie showdown” table:

Predestination vs: Winrar
12 Monkeys 12 Monkeys
The Butterfly effect Predestination (by a slim margin)
Primer Predestination (Again, by a slim margin)
Looper Predestination
Donnie Darko Predestination (darko disqualified for being too ambiguous about whether it’s a time-travel movie or not)
The Time Machine (either version) Predestination
Back To The Future Tie (contenders refused to compete)

Give up for australia

May all our young Aussie swimmers
Be resigned to failure
May our nation’s state
Be always second rate!

May Timorese fisherman
Evade the Aussie sailor
Do as history teaches
Die on Middle Eastern beaches!

We produce a Norman May
Not a Norman Mailer
May our land’s vast distance
Always treat us with indifference!

Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!
Give up for Australia!

-TISM

Poney


Babe those sexy curves drive me wild
I wanna mount you, ride you, as hard as I can
I’ll ride you like a pony, babe

I love the way you move between my legs
and the way you squirm when I squeeze
and the way you grip when you get warmed up
Babe you sure know how to please

And I wanna take you everywhere I go
and I wanna show you to everyone I know
Show you off like some trophy wife
you and me babe, this is the life

Glide with me, my baby
Fly with me, my baby
Ride with me, my baby
Be one with me, my love.

It seems like this has just begun
but I know I’ve already won
The two of us have endless fun
moving together in unison
And when I’m with you I get nothing but action
One flick of my finger and you’re having contractions
I feel your vibrations all the way to my feet
When we’re together, babe, you make me complete

Babe you know you’re the only one
I wanna mount you, ride you, as fast as I can
I’ll ride you like a pony baby
And the way you purr when your motor’s running
and the way you scream when you get revved up
and the way you react to my every move
and the way you never come unstuck
make me wanna shout your name from the rooftops
make me wanna sing your praises till the message groks
makes me insecure when I’m not with you
makes me care about nothing, except us two

Glide with me, my baby
Fly with me, my baby
Ride with me, my baby
Be one with me, my love.

PROTIP

NEWSFLASH:

Top Gear is not a serious programme, it’s a comedy programme. It’s not real.

When Jeremy Clarkson says “literally” on Top Gear, he doesn’t literally mean “literally”, he means “figuratively”. This is what’s known as a comedic device – those who are in on the joke of Top Gear realise that he knows that when he says “literally” he means “figuratively”, and that he knows that they know. It’s part of the joke.

Asking Jeremy Clarkson “is it real?” is more disingenuous than him responding that it is, in fact, literally 100% real.

Oh, yeah, and the preceding blog post may have contained spoilers, so spoiler alert.

the final frontier

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds where things explode, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and watch while they explode. to boldly go where no man has gone before, and blow shit up.

Teeworlds

In today’s installment of “Awesome Open-Source Software”, I’m going to talk about Teeworlds.

A screenshot:

This game is a brilliantly playable, amazingly addictive, and hugely fun blend of a 2D platformer (a-la Mario) and a multiplayer FPS (a-la Quake3 or Unreal Tournament).

It’s not complicated: It’s multiplayer only, there are only 5 weapons, and the levels aren’t big or expansive – you won’t spend long looking for your enemy, you’ll spend more time lobbing grenades at him, and then running away frantically because you’re out of ammo and/or low on health.

That’s if you’re playing with only a few others. If there are lots of people in the game, it’ll just be frantic carnage, like any good deathmatch.

It takes its cues from “proper” deathmatch games – the old run-and-gun style: cover systems and regenerating health are for sissies; precision aiming is for people who don’t know about splash damage. Standing still is a VERY BAD IDEA. None of this “modern FPS” crap. This is evidenced most starkly in the fact that you can double-jump, and, perhaps coolest of all, you have a grapping hook, which you can use to climb and to swing yourself to/from places very quickly. If you play in a busy CTF server, you’ll see just how effective the grappling hook can be – these guys are SO FAST!

And it’s gorgeous and has a great atmosphere: cartoonish graphics and sounds. The sounds really do it for me: the cutesy scream your tee will make when he’s hit in the face with a grenade makes it fun to die, the maniacal yet cartoonish laugh your character will emit when your opponent cops a grenade to the face. It’s a really really fun atmosphere.

And I mean that: this is one of those games which is so much fun that you rarely feel like ragequitting, even when you’re losing badly: you will get killed mercilessly and repeatedly, but you’ll have a big smile on your face during the shootout, and when you die you’ll laugh.

And it’s quite well-balanced: none of the weapons are over-powerful or ridiculously weak. This is probably helped by the fact that the weapons have (very) limited ammo, even though running out of ammo sometimes annoys me slightly.

Downsides:

  • There aren’t enough teeworlds players in Australia, so I find myself playing on servers where I have a ping of 300 or more. This means you sometimes have a laggy experience.
  • You’ll come across killer bots sometimes. These bots are inhumanly good and can drain the fun out of being repeatedly stomped on, but the game has a voting system which allows you to vote on kicking players, so these bots are rarely a nuisance for long.
  • It has an ‘auto-switch weapons’ feature which switches when you pick up a new weapon, but it lacks a ‘weapon preference’ order a-la Unreal Tournament, and it does not switch weapons automatically when you run out of ammo. This is sometimes frustrating because you’re firing at your opponent but you only get an ‘out of ammo’ click, and while you’re trying to switch weapons your opponent kills you. But it’s one of those things you learn and it also serves to add tactics to the game – you’re always keeping an eye on how much ammo you have.

TL;DR: Teeworlds is a really really fun and addictive game which cleverly combines cutesy graphics and 2d-platformer gameplay with the frantic action of a golden-age FPS. It’s one of the better open-source games out there. Go and buy it now! ;)

[EDIT: antisol.org now runs a Teeworlds Deathmatch server! :) ]

The Walt, The



Dear Walter White,

You are such a fucking cunt. I hate you and I want you dead.

Regards,
-AntiSol


I require two things from the end of Breaking Bad:

  • Walter needs to die. If I got my way this would be slow and painful.
  • Jessie needs to be rich, free, and happy.

I also have preferences – things which I’d like to see but don’t require:

  • Saul should live and get away, because Saul is awesome.
  • I don’t much care about other characters – that bitch Skylar and her annoying family can live or die, meh.

Predictions:

  1. Hank is going to really start putting things together (2nd cell, fugue state, moving out, carwash, etc), and he’ll talk to Skylar now that he knows who heisenberg is, but Skylar is going to be too scared/indecisive/fucking retarded to talk to him. She might let “Vamonous” slip, intentionally or otherwise.
  2. Walt will kill Saul, or at least get him killed through idiocy. I say this based on nothing other than the fact that Walt is a complete cunt and that this development would be shocking to the audience, and a complete cunt-act.

In case it’s not really obvious, I’ve been re-watching season 5 of Breaking Bad today. IMHO this is one of the best shows ever made… but that’s a separate post, or a 100,000 word essay.

And Yet It Moves / Braid

No, this is not an Ad. Brokenrules are not paying me!

Everybody raves about Braid. It’s clever, with unique game mechanics, and very pretty.

But it’s too short – by the time you wrap your head around a concept, you’re not using that concept any more.

I’ve read reviews praising this, saying that there’s no repetition and not a single “wasted” puzzle.

But you know what? For all my complaints in the past about games being too repetitive, I can handle doing a couple of variations on the same puzzle if it means it’s going to take more than a couple of hours to get through the game.

Don’t get me wrong – Braid is a brilliant game, and the people who came up with those game mechanics are really clever, and the art style is very pretty… but it’s too short – it needs more levels or some different playmodes. It has near-zero replayability.

And Yet It Moves is a much, much better game – easily the most original and fun game I’ve played in years.

This game is fucking awesome in every respect – the game mechanic is deceptively simple – rotating the world, but it gets progressively more challenging and clever about how it uses it.

The game is a good length – it took me longer than Braid did. And it has different playmodes and an “epilogue” set of levels which you can play after you’ve finished the main game which will keep you interested. And achievements are always fun.

And it’s absolutely gorgeous. The “paper” art style is magnificent, and goes through enough variations to always be interesting.

And the music is fantastic – very distinctive and unusual. There’s one particular piece of music which usually plays in-game (usually when you’re jumping onto disappearing platforms) which is especially awesome.

Linux is supported. Steam for Linux is supported. I got it as part of one of the Humble Bundles. It’s going for $10 on Steam right now. You should buy it.

I’m trying to think back to the last time I loved a game this much. It was a long time ago – I’ve been bored with games for a long time. I think that probably the last time I was this impressed with a game was the first time I played Portal.

Here, watch the trailer:

Go and buy this game right now. You want it, you just don’t know it yet (or maybe now you do!). It’s cheap. And it’s a seriously awesome, awesome game.

Perfect

Sometimes
is never quite enough:
If you’re flawless,
then you’ll win my love…

Don’t forget to win first place,
Don’t forget to keep that
smile on your face.

Be a good boy,
Try a little harder:
You’ve got to measure up,
make me prouder.

How long
before you screw it up?

How many times do I have to tell you
to hurry up?

With everything I do
for you,
The least you can do
is keep quiet.

Be a good girl
You’ve gotta try a little harder,
That simply wasn’t good enough
To make us proud.

I’ll live for you,
I’ll make you what I never was,
If you’re the best,
then maybe so am I,
Compared to him
compared to her,
I’m doing this for your own damn good,
You’ll make up for what I blew,
What’s the problem?
why are you crying?

Be a good boy,
Push a little farther now:
That wasn’t fast enough
To make us happy.

We’ll love you
just the way you are…
…if you’re perfect.

-Alanis Morrisette

I fucking love this song. It’s so subtle and beautiful. I wonder what percentage of the millions who bought this album knows what it’s about? and what percentage skips it because it’s soft and slow?

They’re missing out, bigtime…

(originally posted on myspace on 19 Oct 2006)