The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dwelling in Shatner's World...

Last November, while at the annual music teacher's convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, I went to the Lied Center to take in a talk about teaching students to read rhythm better.  As I walked in the door, there was a large poster advertising that William Shatner would be doing his show, Shatner's World there.  Unfortunately, the box-office wasn't open at that moment.  When I arrived home from the convention, I wasn't in the house more than 15 minutes before I had gotten on-line and ordered my ticket.

Yesterday, I made my pilgrimage to Lincoln and joined the packed house to see the show.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but I thought it would be heavy on Star Trek.  It wasn't.  I was not disappointed though because it was a great show.  Shatner did talk about Trek from time to time during his hour and 50 minute talk that included video clips and still shots that were scattered throughout the show, but mostly he talked about his favorite subject: himself and his life as an actor as well as many other aspects that make up William Shatner.

William Shatner and his "Co-Chair"
I have to say that he moved around on the stage pretty well for a man of 80+ years.  His only props were two tables with pitchers of water, and his "co-chair," a heavy-duty office chair which he only used to facilitate the story, once lifting it over his head to illustrate a horse rearing.  He poked fun at himself mostly, and occasionally poked fun at others.  Early in the show, he showed a video of George Takei telling Shatner something that he wanted to say for a long time.  I will not repeat it here because, as anyone who knows the history between these two Trek icons, can imagine what Takei had to say and fill in the blanks for themselves.

Shatner talked about his relationship with his parents, fellow actors, directors, and execuitives.  He talked a great deal about his equestrian hobby and how it helped to shape who he is.  He also talked about love, music, comedy, and death.  In one video clip, an interview with Sir Patrick Stewart, he agreed with Stewart that if everything came to an end at that moment, and if all he were remembered for was his role on Star Trek, he would be okay with that.  Shatner's show was silly, funny, interesting, sad, sentimental, and extremely entertaining.  It was above and beyond my expectations.

Lincoln was the last stop on the latest tour, and I don't know if any other tours are planned.  Shatner is very active on Twitter, answering questions from fans with his usual wit.  If there is another tour planned (you can find out by clicking HERE), this is a show well worth the price of the ticket.  Clicking on the link will also give you access to video clips from the show.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Take on Two Very Strange Stories...

These past few days, I finished reading and watching two very strange and surrealistic stories.  The book I finished was Nicholas Eftimiades Edward of Planet Earth, and I finished my first complete viewing of The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan.  Both are amusing and often disturbing.

Edward of Planet Earth

This is the story about Edward, an extraordinarily and perfectly average person who gets into an outlandish situation of searching for the true nature of God on the behalf of artificially intelligent beings about 200 years in the future.  Edward gets caught up in this quest through no choice of his own.  He is a simple computer repairman who, while on the job, end up with the consciousness of Mega Brain, a very intelligent computer, uploaded into his brain.  This sends Edward, however involuntarily, around the globe and to the Moon on a precarious quest for the truth.  Edward is assisted by an attorney who becomes a close companion, Amanda, and by Mega Brain.

Now, one might expect that artificially intelligent beings of the future would be logical and completely in control of themselves helping humanity in the pursuit of improving themselves and their situation, right?  Sorry, this is not nearly the case in Eftimiades' vision of the future.  Being programmed by humans, the intelligences encountered by Edward and Amanda are all just reflections of humanity itself.  The artificial intelligences all have the same insecurities, hopes, misjudgements, and neuroses that their human counterparts have, but when the author embodies them in a machine, it only adds to the humorous situations.

Nicholas Eftimiades paints a view of the future based on his knowledge of current technology projected 200 years into the future.  The world hasn't been taken over by computers in the future, but many of the mundane tasks now performed by humans are relegated to artificial intelligence.  For instance, Edward is monitored constantly by Clarice, a "Motivational Model Home Management System."  Clarice's job is to monitor all aspects of Edward's life and make sure that he eats right, gets enough rest, and so on.  She does tend to get in the way of Edward's pursuit of pleasure.  In Michio Kaku's book, The Physics of the Future, Dr. Kaku also describes such a system and how it would perform, but Eftimaides' version is far more humorous than Kaku's.

This is a fun read with lots of humor, absurd situations, and unexpected turns and twists much in the same vein as Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide series.  As a matter of fact, in an interview with the Scifi Diner Podcast, Eftimiades discusses how Adams inspired his writing of Edward.  You may access that interview with the author by clicking HERE.  Not only does the author talk about this book, but he discusses other aspects of his life and work in the U.S. Government as well.  So how does the story end?  Well, I'm not going to spoil that here, I will say that I found it to be infuriatingly funny.  It is begging for a sequel, and I am anxiously awaiting the continuing story of Edward's involuntary quest for truth.

Edward of Planet Earth is available in all of the major e-reader formats and is very reasonably priced.  I got my copy from Amazon for $2.99.  Don't let the low price fool you, you'll get a quality product well worth reading.

The Prisoner

This is a 17 episode British television series that is absolutely bizarre and surreal.  The prisoner originally aired in the winter of 1967-68 in Great Britain and later in the U.S., usually very late at night and not at regular times.  I have never really had the chance to see the entire series until I bought the Blue Ray edition a few weeks ago.  The Prisoner stars Patrick McGoohan from Secret Agent fame, and this might be considered a continuation of his story.

We never learn what McGoohan's character's name is, he is only referred to as Number 6.  In the opening sequence we get the setup for what is to follow.  McGoohan charges into the office of some government official and has a rant.  Then he slams a letter of resignation down on the official's desk and charges out.  When he gets home, he is packing for a vacation, but before he can leave, he is knocked out by someone gassing him.  When he awakes, he is in a perfect duplication of his own apartment, but when he peers out of the window, he finds himself in The Village.  Here is the opening sequence and the basis of the entire story...

No. 6 is constantly trying to find ways to escape, and the leader of the government in The Village, No. 2, is tasked with getting information from No.2.  There are many ways that No.2 attempts to gain the information including psychological and physical torture, use of drugs, and extreme deception.  There are several times when No. 2 thinks he finds an ally, but he only finds out that even his most trusted allies are just part of the plot to get No. 2 to reveal his secret, mainly why he resigned from his job.  The reason for his resignation is never revealed during the series.

I think that the main message of the story is mostly allegorical.  As No. 2 says in the opening sequence, "I am not a number, I am a free man" followed by the sinister laugh by No. 2, it begs the question, are any of us truly free? 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Paying It Forward for Peter David...

As I am sure that everyone that is a sci-fi fan is aware by now, Peter David, "writer of stuff" suffered a stroke while on vacation in Florida.  He is now in rehabilitation and according to his wife, Kathleen, is making strides in his recovery.  He is working, walking, and getting along as well as anyone could who has suffered a brain injury.  This is all good news.  The bad news is that the medical bills will soon be coming due for Peter and his family.  While insurance will cover part of the costs, there will still be deductibles and co-pays that will no doubt amount to astronomical figures.  I feel the need to help.

A few days ago, I was visiting with someone who will remain unnamed about Peter and his plight, explaining that I really wanted to help out if I could.  I was asked why.  Do I know this person?  Is he a relative?  Is he a relative of a friend?  Well, no, I do not know Peter David beyond the many hours of enjoyment I have received from reading his work.  You can take note of the books in the list to on the right side of the page.

Kathleen David has been blogging about Peter's progress, at first on a daily basis, and now it has become more like every few days.  Reading her posts should be enough of a reason to see that help is needed.

So why do I want, no need, to help?  For me, it is a matter of "paying it forward."  If you don't know what this means, it is simply that when someone helps you, you don't pay them back for that, but rather you turn it around and help out someone else in need when you have the means.

My first year teaching, I became quite ill.  Without going into details, the doctors didn't expect me to live.  I had a family and was in desperate need of help.  Not with medical bills, but with normal everyday expenses.  In the six weeks I spent in the hospital, the cable was disconnected, as was the dial-up internet.  Thanks to my mother and dad, I at least had electricity and telephone.  I had lost my paycheck from one of the two schools that I was working at part-time, and it was only due to some creative accounting performed by the superintendent that I was working for at one school, that I had any income at all.

There were also a large number of people that were pulling for me in one way or another.  I was receiving get well cards from people I didn't know, people were praying for me in churches I had never attended.  Friends, as well as other I didn't know were bringing food and offering to keep the yard up for me.  I received funds from the Catholic Church to cover my rent for one month.  The same superintendent that did the creative accounting broke all of the rules and held my job open for me when he should have hired a teacher to take my place; there was no guarantee that I would be returning to work for him, but he did this anyway.  Well, suffice it to say, there was a small army there for me that I remain eternally thankful for.

So, it is time for me to pay it forward.  I am doing this in four ways:
  1. I am ordering ten PeterDavid Trek novels for my Kindle.
  2. I have purchased six Peter David audio books from Audible.
  3. I found a donate button on Peter's Blog and used it.
  4. I am helping to get the word out on this blog.
On Peter's blog, there are ways all of us can help.  If anyone you don't know has helped you in some way in the past, think about paying it forward.  It doesn't have to be a lot, but everything will help.

Here are a few links to follow if you are wanting to help:
I do need to add that I do have selfish motivations for this also.  I want Peter to keep working at banging out the Star Trek novels that I enjoy so much and maybe one day, I will make it to a con and shake Peter's hand and get him to autograph a book for me.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

I remain,



Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Blast from the Past...

Earth 2

I recently re-watched an old attempt at sci-fi television called Earth 2.  It aired for only one season from November 1994 until June 1995.  I remember watching this show during its original run and discovered that it the entire series was available on Amazon for a reasonable price, so I got it.  It was a fun watch, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on this unfortunately unsuccessful series.

The premise of Earth 2 is that the Earth was rapidly becoming uninhabitable , and most of the people of the planet had moved onto space stations in orbit.  It was a goal of the population to find other habitable planets to move to, and one had been found some 22 light years away, called G889.

Billionaire Devon Adair puts together an advance group to attempt to settle G889 as a new home for humans.  Her main motivation for this though is an attempt to save her son, 9-year-old Ulysses, who has contracted a disease caused by life on the space stations.  Specifics on this disease aren't made clear in the series, but suffice it to say that it is a degenerative and fatal disease that strikes children living on the station.

Devon's mission does not have governmental support and an attempt to sabotage her ship with a bomb, which is discovered and jettisoned.  The crew goes into cryogenic sleep for the trip to G889, and arrives at their destination 22 years later.  The ship has more problems and the entire crew and colonists are forced to abandon, and the group winds up scattered all over the planet's surface.  Devon and her group salvage what equipment and technology they can and start out for New Pacifica, where the first colony is supposed to settle.

Along the way, the group encounters many unknown dangers and situations.  One discovery made is of a race of people that populate the planet called Terrians, a race of subterranean dwellers that can only communicate with the humans through a dreamscape that only a few, including young Ulysses, can understand.  The Terrians have a symbiotic relationship with the planet, in other words, if the Terrians become extinct, the planet will also become uninhabitable.  The Terrians take an interest in Ulysses and cure his disease.

The cast on Earth 2 was very good.  My favorite character in the show was John Danziger played by Clancy Brown.  A very fine actor who doesn't get his due as far as I am concerned.  His role as Danziger is to keep the equipment running and he becomes the protector of the group.

Debrah Farentino plays Devon, the leader of the group who successfully, or unsuccessfully maintains balance in the group.  Yale is played by Sullivan Walker (another favorite), a former convict who has cybernetic implants that allows him to act as a library computer, as well as a trusted adviser to Devon.  Dr. Jessica Steen plays Dr. Julia Heller, a bit of a mysterious person who not only is the group's medical aid, but is also found out to be working for the Council (the government) as a spy.  The beautiful Rebecca Gayheart stars as Bess Martin, wife of Morgan and played by John Gegenhuber.  This is an interesting couple; while Morgan is constantly getting himself into trouble, Bess spends most of her time getting him out of it.  Morgan is a minor government official who is basically scared of his own shadow and quite greedy, always trying to profit from the group's situation.  Antonio Sabato Jr. is Alanzo Solace, a hotshot pilot who has problems coping with being grounded.  He also is the most adept with communicating with the Terrians.  True Danziger is played by J. Madison Wright; she is the daughter of John and seems to be also quite good at assisting with equipment maintenance.

Adair, Danziger, Alonzo, Julia, Morgan, Bess, Yale, True, and Ulysses
 There was some heavy duty star appeal with two guest stars.  One was Tim Curry who was Gaal, a person sent to G889 as a prisoner while the planet was being used as a penal colony by the Council.  He was accepted by the group as someone who could help the colonists survive until he was discovered to me manipulating True to fulfill his own agenda of enslaving the Terrians.  Terry O'Quinn is Reilly, thought to be a member of the council until he was discovered to be a computer program that tried to gather information on the colonists.  Anytime Terry O'Quinn shows up on a television show, trouble is never far behind.  Reilly tries to control Julia and get information from her about the whereabouts of the colonists as they traveled across the planet.  He was unsuccessful though as Julia appeared to cooperate, but never really revealed any important information.

Gaal and Reilly

While Earth 2 had no lack of star appeal with a good cast and some great guest stars, I tink it was severely lacking in the writing department.  The story-arc was good with the colonists working toward finding New Pacifica, and the individual stories were interesting, but the characters themselves were shallow.  There wasn't enough back-story on the characters to give viewers a chance to invest in them.  In my experience, the characters in sci-fi become people that we can care about, or become people that we love to hate.  Characters that have no depth are always an indicator of success for a sci-fi franchise.  Even the best actors on Earth 2 were under-used and never really became real because they were just thrown into situations as objects to advance the story; they should have been the story, especially in the first season of the show.

Article Review

It is funny to me that at the same time I am watching a show about colonizing other worlds, the science teacher I work with would just happen to find an article in Scientific American magazine that discusses the same subject.

In the January 2013 edition of Scientific American, Dr. Cameron M Smith of the Portland State University discusses the future of space colonization.  According to Dr. Smith, there are many obstacles to be overcome that go beyond technological problems.  He explains that as humans move out into space problems of biology and culture will need to be addressed.

Unlike what Sci-Fi would have us believe, the people who will venture into space will not just be Captain Picards, but rather these new space-going populations will consist of ordinary people in family and community configurations.  But how will these new populations be chosen?  Well, according to Smith, genetic testing will need to be done to choose those that are most suited for life beyond Earth.  While travel beyond will probably have to consist of small populations, that alone would mean that any pandemic infection could wipe out an entire population.

Space going cultures might become vastly different than out Earth-based in several ways, including belief systems, language, performing arts, and in the way we even measure time.

Long term genetic changes must be anticipated, not only in the people that leave our biosphere, but the animals and plants that must be taken along to sustain populations.

In view of today's technology, Dr. Smith's arguments are all very plausible.  This is an interesting article with many ideas that are not commonly addressed in discussions of space colonization in sci-fi, nor are addressed in much of science fact.

Podcast and Blog News

The Scifi Diner released a Conversations episode that discusses Going to see the Hobbit to see the Star Trek: Into Darkness footage in Imax Theaters, problems with Kahn, and , Dr. Who, and more.  I did record some remarks about my own sci-fi activities and you can hear them on this show.  You can also hear recorded remarks from Renee, a fellow listener and follower on Twitter.

Colin released and episode of Trek News and Views that is mostly an all news show.  He covers many not commonly known topics in this episode and includes some very interesting remarks from JJ Abrams on why he guards Trek secrets as he does.  I recorded remarks on the previous show that dealt with the Star Trek Original Series episode, Turnabout Intruder.

Go to the Subspace Communique blog to see a neat video of the original test footage of Star Trek: Next Generation characters.  Chris speculates on whether the show would have been as successful if some of the things that were tested were used in the show.  I watched this video and found that some of the hair styles that they were considering for Counselor Troi were absolutely frightening.

Well, there it is...

I remain, Kahless!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Activity Update...

There have been a couple of pocasts released that I have listened to and enjoyed since the last time I wrote on this blog.  Scott and Miles of the Scifi Diner Podcast released a Scifi Rewind of the movie, Galaxy Quest.  Scott describes this movie as a parody of Star Trek as opposed to being a satyr.  I did watch this film and sent in a comment.  At first, I thought that I wouldn't care for Galaxy Quest but ended up enjoying it.

If you haven't seen it, Galaxy quest is about a group of actors that starred in a television series that had been off the air for twenty years.  The actors were never really cast into new roles because they were stuck with the personas that they achieved while on that show.  So they were relegated to continually attending conventions to appease the cult following that their show created for them.  While at a convention, the "captain" of the cast, played by Tim Allen, was approached by what he thought were fans, but were actually members of an alien race who needed help in defeating an enemy.  The aliens had seen the broadcasts as they received them in their star system thinking they were actually historical accounts of factual events.  Before you know it, the entire cast is taken into space and do help the aliens defeat their nemesis.

Brea Grant
It really is a good movie and the Rewind is very good.  Scott and Miles are also joined for this Rewind by Colin of the Trek News and Views Podcast.  It is a great episode.

The Scifi Diner also released a Scifi Diner Classic episode which was their interview with Brea Grant of Dexter, Halloween II, Heroes, and We Will Bury You.  This is a great interview with and Grant is a good guest.

Speaking of Trek News and Views Colin is joined by Charlynn, Lorries, and Gwen in a review of the last episode of Star Trek the Original Series, Turnabout Intruder.  This is an episode where Kirk's personality is forcibly interchanged with a guest star who wants to be a Starfleet captain.  This is a very hilarious episode and I laughed all the way through it.  A fun listen.

Colin has also released another episode of Trek News that I haven't had a chance to listen to yet, and it is on the movie Star Trek: The Wrath Of Kahn.  Scott and Miles join him for this look at the iconic trek film.

Books and Television:
After Eleuthera, I went back to the ST: New Frontier series and read Missing in Action, the 16th book in the series by Peter David.and have since picked up with reading Edward of Planet Earth by Nicholas Eftimiades.  I am up to chapter five and have found this book quite amusing so far.  I will report back when I finish with this one.

I have also made it through about half of the old television series Earth 2, and continue to watch a second season episode of Fringe when I have a chance.

Well, that's about it for today.  In light of the Turnabout Intruder episode, a Twitter friend and fellow contributor to Colin's podcast, Renee,  pointed me to this video. It is from a 1991 short-lived Carol Burnette show and I have been laughing over this for a while.  Enjoy