A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Friday, September 30, 2005

Can't Stop the Buzz

It's Serenity day! Wheee!

The Internet buzz on this film is the strongest I've seen in quite awhile ... which is precisely what creator Joss Whedon and company intended when they started their Can't Stop the Signal "viral advertising" campaign (ed. note: The Can't Stop the Signal web site now redirects visitors to the "Serenity" moive site; I have no idea if that's a temorary or permanent thing). I've collected some of what's being said below.

From around the blogosphere:

"I went to a sneak-preview of Serenity tonight. You know how you see the trailers for a movie, and think, "hey, that looks really cool", and anticipate seeing it, then when it finally comes out you go see it and are left feeling empty and disappointed? Well, enough about the Revenge of the Sith.

Serenity was nothing like that. Where Sith was fast food that left you feeling nothing but gas, Serenity was a seven-course meal. Serenity is shiny."

- robot guy, from "take me out into the black"

"Do I recommend this movie? Well, yeah. Will there be people who don't understand the appeal? Certainly. There are people who read Marcel Proust for fun, after all. If you've seen and loved the series Firefly, it's a definite yes. If you haven't seen the series, that's okay— I was watching carefully and Whedon laid the background well. You can go into it with no more idea than that the movie sounds good and understand everything. Even the one or two careful inside jokes that refer to things in the series can be taken two ways, both appropriate."

- booklore, from "Serenity II"

"Now you should understand that I've never watched a single episode of Firefly, nor am I someone who waited each week for every episode of Whedon's other TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I was able to walk into Serenity with a fresh set of eyes and a shortage of expectations.

Serenity is the best space opera film that I've seen since the original Star Wars came out over 25 years ago. It's bright, and funny, and upbeat, and occasionally deadly serious. There's plenty of action, but nothing that will overly traumatize your teenagers and nothing so revolting that you have to look away from the screen."

- Bill Roper, from "I Say it's Space Opera!"

And from the MSM:

"There are two sorts of people in the world: those who believe Joss Whedon is a genius and those who are wrong. And even if Whedon's first feature film Serenity doesn't quite match the dark, witty brilliance of his TV creations Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, it's still a lot more sweaty fun than the last three overhyped, sterile, for-dorks-only Star Wars cartoons."

- Connie Ogle, from "A Sci-Fi Tale for the Rest of Us"

"The result is "Serenity," a boisterous, semi-comic action thriller that more closely resembles a condensed season of a television drama than a three-act feature. But it is enriched by Whedon's typically bracing yet sensitive dialogue and appealing, misfit characters."

- Tom Keogh, from "'Serenity': TV's 'Firefly' takes wing"

"Serenity is the un-Star Trek: no aliens with prosthetic ears, no super-tidy spaceship filled with dedicated professionals, no ray guns and certainly no high-minded ideals like a Prime Directive. It's closer to Star Wars, with a twist of the Old West."

- Louis B. Parks, from "Dose of Serenity is easy to take"

And of course, in the interest of fair-mindedness, the obligitory bad review:

"It is based on the short-lived Fox TV show Firefly, which attracted a cult following, and writer/director Joss Whedon squeezes out a few clever moments. But the characters are generally uninteresting and one-dimensional, and the futuristic Western-style plot grows tedious."

- Claudia Puig, from "'Serenity' has moments, not much else"

I am being completely honest when I say that I had to sift through two dozen glowing reviews to find one that pooh-poohed Serenity. And Claudia can kiss my shiny white ass in any case; she's probably just mad at the world over having such a ridiculous last name. "Puig" sounds like something one does in a toilet the morning after drinking too much cheap tequila.

There is some discussion starting about the politics of the Firefly universe. My personal suspicion is that Whedon is trying to remain largely apolitical, even though his work has been overwhelmingly (and sometimes surprisingly) well-recieved among conservatives of all stripes. But if forced to expound on political undertones to his recent work, I'd guess that the man is libertarian-minded. The Alliance is a near-perfect similie for big government, and the reavers for unrelenting barbarism. Caught in the middle are the independents, who just want to be left alone and make an occasional buck. Anyway, I bet we're going to see more discussion along these lines as more bloggers see the film over the weekend.

Okay kids, our goal is an $80 million opening weekend. That means you must go see Serenity at least once. Yes, you!



Thursday, September 29, 2005

Easily Entertained

Ex-roommate and good friend Alec the Mad (more commonly known around here as Puppy Pincher) has started blogging. Go visit Easily Entertained for ideas both funnier and odder than mine. Leave a comment chastising him for his poor punctuation; he loves that.

Oh, and hat tip to Alec for linking the I Am Pro-Victory post over at A North American Patriot. Good work, my young blogwan.



Monday, September 26, 2005

Now That's Entertainment!

So it ended up being a great weekend for entertainment here in Tampa; I didn't so much as turn on my computer until Sunday evening. That's kind of a big deal when you game, blog, post to several different forums, and get most of your news online. I usually spend half my weekend within five feet of my PC, but this time I totally forgot it existed. Which is a good thing.

Friday night I spent at my favorite Tampa dive bar, The Brass Mug. It's out near the university - the place has been a fixture there since at least the late 80s - and usually plays host to local punk, metal, and alternative bands. On Friday I went there with good friends Cartagia, Faust, and Jen, and we were lucky enough to catch a performance by Berwick.

Berwick rocks. Their sound is far more original that what I've come to expect from Tampa's music scene. If forced to draw a comparison I'd say that there might be some Sleater-Kinney influence there; frontwoman-songwriter Jaqui Midnight and bassist Dayna Titus have a strong, clean post-punk sound that made me think of The Hot Rock at least a couple times. Ben "The Chef" Danielle is an obviously skilled drummer and quite the stage personality ... he had everyone's hands in the air for a quick rendition of Eminem's Lose Yourself, which actually sounded pretty good played live on guitar and drums. Highlight of the evening (at least for this 80s kid): Their cover of The Outfield's Your Love. The oldest of the trio might have been about seven when that song was popular, so they've either researched their 80s music or they're fans of The Butchies. Cool either way.

Ben, Jaqui, Sandor, Jen, and Dayna at The Brass Mug Posted by Picasa

Later this week I’ll see if Jaqui can send me a schedule of their next few gigs, so you Tampa readers who like good rock & roll can come out and give them a listen. I’ll probably show up myself a couple times. Oh, and I’m sorry for the crappiness of this photo; Faust’s cell takes pictures about as well as my 35mm camera makes phone calls. But better than nuthin, as they say.

Moving right along, on Saturday my roommate and I watched some movies. I don’t expect much out of Hollywood these days, mostly because what they seem interested in giving us is a mildly toxic mixture of remakes, liberal propaganda, and style-over-substance effects films. So imagine my surprise when I got to see Paul Haggis’ Crash; 20 minutes into it I thought “This might well be the best movie I’ve seen since The Return of the King”. It was. I recommend films warily … I’ve given an unqualified “Go see it” to only three in the past decade or so (The Boondock Saints, The Sixth Sense, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Well, Crash makes four. Go rent it ASAP, and be prepared for some very uncomfortable moments that are worth every cringing second.

Finally, Sunday was football and my Bucs won. It looks like my fantasy football team did good too; unless Faust’s kicker plays an exceedingly stellar game tonight – like stellar to the point of singlehandedly racking up a 15-0 win – my Paris Capitulators should beat his Tallahassee Reavers. Here’s to having Tom Brady, Terrell Owens, Carnell Williams, and the entire Buccaneer Defense on the same team!

Happy Monday all. More Serenity stuff this week, you can bet on it.



Thursday, September 22, 2005

Serenity Press Pass!

Some of you might know I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan. Serenity, which is a big-screen continuation of the story he began telling in the canceled Firefly television series, opens next weekend. I caught a preview of it back in April; reader and good friend Cartagia managed to secure us tickets to a screening of the then-unfinished film by obsessively lurking around Whedon’s Can’t Stop the Signal web site.

Mal (Nathan Fillion) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin) Posted by Picasa

Well, other reader and good friend Puppy Pincher – never to be outdone by the likes of Cartagia – e-mailed me a townhall.com story announcing press passes for bloggers to the more-traditional media screening to take place a few days before release. I applied and managed to get on the list, so it looks like I’ll get to see (and review) the completed film next Wednesday. The last time I had press credentials I was in college, working for The St. Petersburg Times as a News Clerk; my job required it for access to events, government buildings, and our own oft-bomb threatened offices. I just can’t wait to breeze by a horde of you non-credentialed civillians again … no waiting in line like a sucker for me!

Anyway, me and my giant ego will still be going to see Serenity on opening night and at least once more (probably on its second weekend). I advise – nay, implore – all you fans of Firefly, Whedon, or just good sci-fi to do the same. It’s a great movie, but it will need some help to earn enough for Universal to greenlight the two sequals Joss has planned. Go once on opening weekend, and then go again the following weekend to help keep those numbers up.

I’ll be right there with you, even if I have to wait in line.



Monday, September 19, 2005

Into the Black

For me, NASA is like a collection of mean older siblings; they tease me relentlessly with promises of mankind’s bright future in space, then spitefully dash my wide-eyed hopes upon the rocks of bureaucracy and failure. Seriously, I’m starting to wonder when Administrator Michael Griffin is going to show up at my house to give me an atomic wedgie. But like a good little brother I’m gullible and I love them no matter what, so when they tell me we’re landing four astronauts on the moon by 2018 I believe them. Completely. Wholeheartedly. I’m 35 now, and I’ll be almost 50 when it happens, but I grin like a kid when I think about it. Astronauts back on the moon!

Is it 2018 yet?


Okay, how about now?

Maybe I’ll just sit in the back of Dr. Griffin’s car for the next 13 years and go “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” If I’m going to get teased like a little brother, I might as well be annoying.

Anyway, that is NASA's plan: Finish building an abbreviated version of the International Space Station by 2010, at which time we’ll retire the shuttles. Construct a new launch system and new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) to begin testing by 2012 … manned flights by 2014. 2018 we go to the moon. Ten or fifteen years after that, Mars. I believe them. I have to. It’s what little brothers do.

Of course we have the usual collection of luddites and skinflints who think $100 billion spent over a dozen years is too high a price to begin the human colonization of space; amazing how the very same people never oppose the gigadollars given by the federal government to fund pork-barrel projects in their home states. And then there’s my favorite: The “We Should Learn to Live Peacefully Here On Earth Before We Venture Into Space” crowd. Yes, so true, because 8 billion, then 12 billion, then 20 billion of us all competing for the same limited resources is going to make humanity more peaceful in the coming centuries.

*Rolls eyes*

Actually, Dr. Griffin had something interesting to say on that general subject:

The announcement comes as NASA works to resume operations at vital shuttle facilities affected by Hurricane Katrina, as well as solve external tank foam shedding problems to increase launch safety. But those problems are short-term compared to NASA’s exploration plan, Griffin said.

He said the costs of reconstruction in Katrina's wake should not derail the 13-year plan.

“The space program is a long-term investment in our future,” Griffin said. “We must deal with our short-term problems while not sacrificing our long-term investments. When we have a hurricane, we don’t cancel the Air Force. We don’t cancel the Navy. And we’re not going to cancel NASA.”

The cost of science is often high. But the cost of no science is much, much higher; just ask the dinosaurs.

And on a related note, it’s looking like there are by-God shorelines on Saturn’s moon Titan:

Titan Shoreline Posted by Picasa

Of course the temperature is -270 degrees, the sand and rocks are mostly ice, and the ocean is an oily mixture of ethane, methane, and gooey hydrocarbons. It’s still the only body in the solar system besides Earth that shows the kind of weathering we see here: Bays, shores, deltas, rivers, and tributaries. There might even be volcanoes that erupt a syrupy mixture of ammonia and water that flows like lava and builds topography. Chemistry almost certainly happens too slowly in such an environment for life to ever evolve, but still … a world where the geology is based on ice and the oceans are made of something that closely resembles automobile fuel has got to be worth studying.

Lastly, I’m hoping to get the rest of the DragonCon pictures from certain individuals this week. If I do I should have my second annual DragonCon photo essay up by Friday.

Peace y’all.



Thursday, September 08, 2005

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated. Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.

BPCP Graph for August 2005 Posted by Picasa

New to the BPCP in August 2005:

257 TJ of NIF (5.3, 3.4)
258 Cranky of Balance Sheet (4, 4.1)
259 Merri of Merri Musings (5.4, 3.2)
260 David Farrar of David Farrar (10, -6.2)
261 Pierre Legrand of The Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill (9.8, -1)
262 rightwingprof of RightWingNation (8.1, 1.7)
263 Kevin W. of The Kevin Show (1.8, 2.2)
264 Michael Holtum of Raven's Realm News Feed (2.4, 4.4)
265 Funky Dung of Ales Rarus (-4.8, -1.4)
266 DLW of The Anti-Manicheist (-5.5, -2.9)
267 Rob Carr of Unspace (-2.8, -5.4)
268 George Dienhart of The Catholic Conservative (6.3, 3.7)
269 Fitch of Fitch is Always Right (5.1, -1)
270 DJ Waletzky of Casual Asides (-9.4, -6.9)
271 David of DavidAndLara (2.5, 3.1)

And an item of interest: David Farrar (linked above) pointed me to a New Zealand version of the BPCP, strictly for NZ bloggers. New Zealand, for those of you who are not sci-fi / fantasy geeks, is actually Middle Earth. It is populated by hobbits and elves and orcs, regardless of what New Zealand Telecom says when you call and ask them to connect you with Arwen Evenstar of Rivendell.



That Darned Rumor-Mill

See Sandor. See Sandor with egg on his face.

It turns out that my post concerning the "To Kill an American" piece was somewhat innaccurate; it was not written by an Australian dentist. Reader Tracy was kind enough to send me links to the correct information: It was written by Peter Ferrara, an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law. He is an American, and his original essay ran on NRO back in 2001.

Here is the snopes article that I somehow missed. Guess I should have done a more complete search ... or maybe I should have never trusted that evil Jim Hake in the first place!

*Shakes fist in Jim Hake's general direction*

Anyway, I admit to my shoddy research on this one; put me in the stocks next to Dan Rather and throw a few tomatoes. I deserve it.

BPCP update later today.