Saturday, November 30, 2013

Play the Critic Game!

As some of you have guessed by now, one of my favorite posts is "Why Is That So Good?" I take a favorite scene - usually in a book, but occasionally from a movie, play, what have you - and try to understand exactly why it sticks in my mind.

But here's the good news - I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DO THIS. In fact, I invite you all to try it yourselves. Here's how:

  • Sit down and close your eyes. (This is optional, but it can help.)
  • Think of your favorite scene - the one whose lines you keep repeating; the one you can hear or see in your mind.
  • Ask yourself, seriously - "Why is that so good?" 
    • Is it something in the scene itself? Maybe it's contextual - the scene is the culmination of an arc in the story, or a running gag. ("Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue!")
    • Maybe it's about character. Remember Lawrence of Arabia, with Anthony Quinn shouting "But I am poor, because I am a river to my people!"
    • Maybe it's entirely about the writing. ("But look around you. Death and Light are everywhere, and they begin, end, strive, attend, into and upon the dream of the Nameless that is the world, burning words within Samsara, perhaps to create a thing of beauty...")
    • Maybe it's a twist, or a red herring.
    • Maybe it's planting and payoff.
    • Maybe - most likely - it's none of these but something entirely different.
Whatever it is, YOU get to decide. Think about it. Figure it out. And then drop me a line and let me know!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Almost Human

Just saw my first episode. "Did I like it?" you ask. Well-


Of course, I firmly believe that Isaac Asimov should be acknowledged in the credits as the author of Caves of Steel, but since it is impossible to copyright a "mere idea," I'll move on from that. I will say that although Karl Urban is getting the leading man buzz and the fan-girl swoonage, the real star to me seems to be Michael Ealy, who plays the android Dorian.

Aside from that - the story wasn't remarkable, but the show was tightly put together, and there weren't too many glaring gaps of logic and characterization >cough<Defiance>cough<. Also, they have the terrific Lili Taylor as the captain, and I could watch her read the phone book (which is a little more dramatic than what they've given her in this episode).

So - not mind-blowing, but worth following for a while to see where it goes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Some Tired Thoughts on a Beloved President

John F. Kennedy died before I was born. He was president for three years. His presidency included one profound win (the Cuban Missile Crisis), one inspiring side show (the Space Race) one disaster (the Bay of Pigs, which arguably precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis) and the start of US involvement in Vietnam. And now I'm tired.

Tired of the relentless coverage of every aspect of the Kennedy family. Tired of the annual chewing and re-chewing of his life and times. Tired of the Kennedy veneration; tired of the Kennedy hatred. Tired of the assumption that this was in some way the most important event of the 20th century. Tired of the conspiracy theories. Tired of the leering docudramas about JFK and Marilyn Monroe, JFK and Marlene Dietrich, "Camelot," Bobby, Jack, Jackie, Teddy, Ted, the Kennedy curse, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam. It's done. If there was a conspiracy, good luck, you've had 50 years to prove it and it hasn't happened yet. The women he slept with are now dust. His policies have all played out in full, in some cases well, in others poorly.

Mr. & Mrs. Baby Boomer, please let him go.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mentat Morning Mantra

It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of the bean that thoughts acquire speed, the teeth acquire stain, the stain becomes a turn-off.
It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.

Frank Herbert, fellow coffee drinker.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My brother just told me that-

-my blog sounds like I'm an old man muttering "Get off my lawn, you kids!"

I'm at peace with that.


Monday, November 18, 2013

AoS - It Is Finished

Well, gang - I've finished watching the "The Hub," the most recent episode of Agents of Shield. So I've seen five episodes. And unfortunately, I think that's about it. The problems haven't been fixed.  

If it had been anyone else's name on the show, I would probably have given it a pass from the start. But because it was Joss Whedon, I stuck with it. And now I'm a little disappointed. Ah, well. It can't all be Buffy, I guess.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prank Abercrombie & Fitch? Hell, Yes

If you're reading this blog, the odds are better than 50% that at some point in your childhood, you were the one on the outside looking in - nerd, dork, geek, loner, chubster, etc. etc. If that's the case, then Abercrombie & Fitch doesn't want you wearing their clothes. The company has made some amazingly condescending statements, and one fellow got fed up with it.

Watch his response here, and consider it for yourself.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Franz Boas, Badass

Franz Boas is kind of a hero. He's "the father of American anthropology," even though he was born and raised in Germany. When he began studying, the field was filled with grandiose, unscientific theories that mostly promoted the idea that European Man was the pinnacle of human evolution. Boas demanded an empirical approach, free of value judgments promoting one culture over another, and fought his entire life against racism - especially the "scientific racism" that helped promote Nazism. He pioneered research techniques like extended residence with subjects and developing social connections with them, including learning their languages. If you've ever visited the Hall of the Northwest Coast Indians at the American Museum of Natural History, you've seen his work - a series of exhibits devoted to those tribes, without any implication there is a progression from them to a "more evolved" White Man.

He was also kind of a badass, who endured nightmare conditions in Greenland, trekked to the Pacific Northwest to hang with the Kwakiutl, and openly opposed Fascism and Nazism until his death at 84, in 1942.

In nerd F/SF terms, he embodies the kind of empirical, detail-based attitude we should have when portraying alien cultures. But my affection is based on this photo of a serious Berlin-trained scholar working to get a museum exhibit on initiation dances just right.

Excellent Travel Posters

What can I say?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interstellar trade, Paul Krugman, Caleb Scharf

There's a hoary old trope in space opera - the great galactic merchant family. Their treasure ships sail from world to world, laden with water, oxygen, precious ores and gems. It's a setting that's always bugged me. Let's face it, if you want water, you'll find it in your own star system a thousand times more cheaply than important across light years from somewhere else. Ditto for gold, gems, rare earths, uranium, plutonium, thorium, platinum, etc. etc. etc.

So what would be worth transporting? And how would that be affected by different transport technologies? Well, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and astronomer Caleb Scharf have both considered this very SF problem. Check them out.

Back from surgery

So, if you were wondering about the hiatus, I had a teeny tiny operation. But I'm back (as in flat on my) and you may anticipate some more posts relatively soon…assuming that you want them.