GalacticMu

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The Very Definition of FAIL

Posted by Sunday on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Okay. Do you understand who this is?

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No?  Not yet?  How about like this:

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THE FUCKING KURGAN.  If for some strange reason you find this unimpressive (and honestly, if you find the presence of THE KURGAN unimpressive I suggest you have your everything examined by a licensed physician), perhaps you will find this more to your taste:

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I don’t mean to freak you out or anything, but that is Rawhide from Buckaroo motherfucking Bonzai.  No?  Still not feeling it?  Not even if I reminded you about Sgt. Zim?

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No, no, not Busey, the other one.  Oh yeah, and that television show everyone loves to bitch about not making any sense… what’s it called?  Gone?

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This pains me so much I can’t even type.  I’m having a genuinely hard time.  Today, as I was at work searching for something on the company database, I looked up and there he was.  Clancy Brown, THE KURGAN.  And, after a million different things I could say went through my mind, all I could squeak out was,

“Can I… can I help you find anything?”

“Nope.”

That was it.  Nothing else.  Over.  I didn’t say “Nuns.  No sense of humor.”  For this alone Halcyon will not speak to me for a week.

I’ll understand if my Nerd membership is now up for review.

7 Posted in Daily Space, Movies

California, My Dirty Whore

Posted by Sunday on Mar 31, 2009 at 7:36 pm

This is a sidetrack about what is now my 6th month of being an Angeleno, if you please.

A preface, because I want to be perfectly clear about something: I love Southern California.  I’m unclear on the machinations of how such a thing would be possible, but I feel a kind of genetic memory for Los Angeles; whether that genetic memory comes from my dad, who grew up here, or a science fictional solidarity borne from the fever dreams of Whedon, Dick, Bradbury, Huxley, Farmer, Heinlein and a half-thousand others, I cannot say.

Moreso than any other city I’ve experienced, Los Angeles feels like it’s holding itself together by a single grimy, necrotic strip of tissue.   The most oft-cited point of degredation, the traffic, is a perfect example of this: any traffic “laws” are purely ornamental.  Drivers adopt whatever method of traffic-navigation they choose, legal or otherwise, and with an aggressive edge.  I thought about this today as a white BMW cut me off in what could have been a nasty little accident – I slammed on my brakes and had to steer out of the way to keep from skidding into his driver’s side – only to flip me off when I then honked in outrage.  And this was no laissez-faire bird I was given, it was a pumping, rigid, infuriated FUCK YOU, pure hate-addled digust that I dare make a peep at his near-catastrophic driving.  And this is totally normal.  We are witnessing evolution in machine form: the herd-vehicles live in fear of the aggressive, faster predator vehicles.  The predator vehicles blanketly ignore all basic laws of safety and courtesy – driving in parking lanes, running red lights, blocking lanes of traffic, forcing pedestrians to leap to safety – in pursuit of their way of life.  The herd grumbles and sticks together, both protected and stifled by their lot.

The homeless in L.A. are financed by the recycling program.  Long ago, the state of California decided to tack a refundable tax onto each recyclable beverage container.  They called this clever plan the California Refund Value (CRV).  It goes a little something like this: you purchase a can of soda priced at 75¢, a CRV of 5¢ is added, you pay the cashier 80¢.  Theoretically, when you are done with the soda, you return the can to a handy recycling station and get your 5¢ back.  Of course, that’s not how it ends up working.  Twenty-three years later, recycling bins are behind every apartment building in Los Angeles, making it most convenient to just walk your cans out your back door and toss them in a bin rather than drive a sack of sticky cans to the recycling center once a week¹.  So what happens to that 5¢ deposit you gave?  Well, you can’t have it back, even though you recycled the can.  Like most Californians, Angelenos just accept that soda costs them 5¢ more than most people in America and get on with their day.  Except, apply this to every single bottle of water, can of Red Bull, large plastic jug of juice (which you pay a 10¢ deposit on), and before you know it you’re spending an extra couple bucks a month.  No big deal.  Except!  The homeless, those ingenious entrepreneurs of the street, figured out that a little hunting and gathering can yield them a few bucks a day, and thus, the roving Can Stealers were born.

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Luckily we have this stock photo of a Mexican going through your trash ².

On a weekly basis I watch a regular rotation of men with shopping carts violently root through our apartment’s bins, harvesting out everything recyclable before they trot off to the next house.  However, I bring this up because I’ve heard other Angelenos in more suburban areas describe a more fascinating event: the dreaded Scavengers.  Since most suburban dwellers keep their bins in private, inaccessible areas, the morning the bins are placed on the street is a free-for-all of industrious Can Stealers of the more professional sort:  they troll the streets in trucks, one driver hauling one or two can-pickers.  This of course raises whole new weird levels of classism and bigotry, since they have a tendency to be Mexican and many of the suburbs are white folks who want their hard-earned California Refund Values going to waste, not funding some dirty wetback’s bean-habit.  I’ve read blogs of otherwise friendly Angelenos who grouse about the “safety” issues of having Mexicans driving around their neighborhoods one morning each week (I’m guessing they aren’t home when all the gardeners arrive every day, or they’d think it was WWIII: The Enmexicaning).

Something L.A. does well and somehow differently from every other city is the preoccupation with self.  Los Angeles is obsessed with Los Angeles.  This should not be mistaken with pride – San Francisco and New York are both examples of American cities that religiously groom themselves, congratulate themselves and tell themselves they are beautiful in the mirror every morning.  Los Angeles has multiple personalities capable of surfacing at the same time, a critical, self-contradictory clusterfuck of weirdness.  There are whole bushels of stereotypes I was unfamiliar with until fervent Angelenos insistently told me they weren’t true.  But we have a rich history!   Wait, why wouldn’t I think L.A. had history? We do too have culture! Of course it does, it has the most foreign-born population of any city in AmericaWe need to be taken seriously! they shriek, while employers at entry-level office jobs request headshots³.

This is my last Los Angeles update.  Why?  Because after six months, you’re either in it or you aren’t.  I find I can no longer easily muster up a sense of perspective.  Last week was a rough one for me, with impacted wisdom teeth melting my brain followed by extractions the same week I started a new job.  In the middle of it, during a consultation to an oral surgeon, I was yelled at by an angry valet in the parking garage of a medical building.  You see, I hadn’t left them my keys.  Why would I leave you my keys, I asked?  It’s a parking garage.  I parked the car myself.  I was confused and in pain and perhaps shouldn’t have been driving myself around Beverly Hills, yes, but I still understand how parking garages work.  Except, not this one.  He finished it with a nasty, angry “You should know!  You should know!”

I think perhaps I shouldn’t, sir.  It’s Los Angeles.  No one should anything.

¹ Of course, this will more likely read as “(…) rather than drive a dozen sacks of maggoty, reeking, moldy cans to the recycling center two or three times a year.”

 ² How do we know he’s taking a bottle from the bin and not putting it in?  The mustache.

³ Totally.  True.  I sent a headshot along with more than one resume for a job that didn’t even interface with the public.

2 Posted in Daily Space

I Want More “Opiate-Themed” Medicine, Please

Posted by Sunday on Mar 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm

GalacticMu Away-Team member Quagmire pointed me towards an article he read the other day and made an interesting observation about it.  It is ostensibly about the popularity of science fiction movies lately, but does not call them science fiction.  It calls them “science-themed”.

To quote Quagmire’s email: WTFF?¹

For starters, it is immediately awkward that the body of the article avoids using the term “science fiction” or “sci-fi,”  an effort that becomes strained mighty quickly.   This leads to some hilarity, for example, this paragraph:

His favorite science movie is last year’s comic-book adaptation Iron Man, “because it has a long sequence of experiments and ideas not working out or blowing up in the hero’s face,” Carroll says.

I’m sorry, but, “His favorite science movie” is Iron Man?  I am not a huge fan of semantics and stuff, but if Iron Man is a “science movie” then I am a goddamn particle physicist.

And then, just to be a brat, I wonder: could this be a good thing?  If more people are going to Watchmen and Star Trek: Whatever because they are called “science movies” and not “scifi” – isn’t that good for our pocketbooks in the long run?   And by “our” I mean, the science fiction community, of course.

Nope, I can’t do it.  I can’t play devil’s advocate.  It’s like saying its okay to have sex with your sister because she’s “beloved” instead of “related”.  What a weird, unnecessary, vaguely insulting trend, this anti-scifi thing.  I mean, it seems like science fiction is more popular than ever (except in print, of course, but that’s because actually being smart is dead), why the sudden purge of phraseology?  I don’t get it.  I’m going to go take more Darvocet, see how I feel about it.

[Whole bizarre article, "Tv, films boldly go down scientific path" from USA Today]

¹What the fucking fuck, of course.

0 Posted in Daily Space

Stargate SG-1: Good for Wisdom Tooth Extractions

Posted by Sunday on Mar 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm

My relationship with SG-1 started as I imagine many have: I had no idea what was going on, so I ignored it.  Years passed.  I would find myself in hotel rooms or back home visiting parents — my only exposure to cable television – trying to watch the Stargate Channel Sci Fi Channel, wondering if they ever air anything but Stargate spinoffs.  It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine that I cannot watch a television show unless I watch it from the very first episode (and I despise skipping episodes) – I hate the feeling of tuning in for a single glimpse into what is probably a complex, varied and delicate storyline.  As you can imagine, broadcast television is difficult for me.

Somewhere in there I became convinced that the Stargates were terrible despite having never seen an entire episode.  Now I know the truth: yep, it’s not great.  As of today I am halfway through the first season of SG-1 (please, Jebus, tell me I can double up on these Darvocet) I can already tell you what every single episode is going to be like:

  • the team arrives on a planet of pre-industrial age people
  • of ethnicities that are similar too, but slightly evolved from, old Earth,
  • the team is mistaken for gods
  • (conversely, for demons),
  • there are minor hijinks due to cultural misunderstandings,
  • everyone learns a valuable lesson

I don’t have an issue with this set-up.  The concept of the Stargate itself is interesting in exactly the same way that Star Trek’s interplanetary travel is interesting: each week is a new chance for a totally new idea, a new set of risks and jokes, new costumes.  The longevity of any TV series is dependent on the writer’s ability to carry on – an ethereal skill that doesn’t have a set formula (Lost is stalling out and losing people while House, unchanged for five years, is better than ever).  According to my own logic, SG-1 should have something going for it.  I just can’t figure out what it is.

Maybe it’s the throbbing, swollen sockets talking, but I’m already bored with the show.  The acting is better than I expected, the special effects are fine, the writing has never devolved into abject idiocy (sometimes even Bones, another favorite of mine, is almost unforgivably absurd)  and every episode I watch I find myself checking my email, fiddling with CSS, editing photos.

One cause of my frustration is the shows tendency toward dropping plotlines into conversation that have zero exposition – I know, I know, I grouse about exposition all the time – with little-to-no follow-up.  I suspect this Story Bomb tactic of theirs is an attempt to avoid exposition, but they’ve swung too far the other direction.  In a weekly TV show, clumsy catch-up is a trade-off for time, one that viewers are generally willing to make.  An exceptional show can get around it (in a particular episode of House, for example, a character with the ability to accurately mimic every other character managed to advance the individual plotlines of each person through pure exposition without ever feeling like it), but most can’t.

Of course, I’m reserving my once-and-for-all judgement until I see Ben Browder and Claudia Black (of Farscape fame), not to mention Jewel Staite (of Firefly) and Robert Picardo (of Star Trek: Voyager) in the Stargate: Detroit Lilliput Atlantis series.  Because I’m a nerd and I get to have caveats like that.

9 Posted in TV

Who’s In Charge of Bumpersticker Production?

Posted by Sunday on Mar 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I would like this to put on my car STAT, okay?

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Crafted by GalacticMu’s very own Halcyon “Mike” Snow/Peterson/Ragnarök, aka The Rat, aka Many Names MacGuff.  If you don’t know what it means, I suggest you start by visiting the Space Bat Memorial and move on from there.

Almost two months ago, some teenagers from Spain launched a camera into space with a weather balloon.  Yeah, that’s right.  They recovered their camera, published the photos and are now dining at the long, laden dining table of Scientific Gluttony.  I’m painfully jealous, of course.

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Jordi Fanals (not a teenager), Gerard Marull, Martí Gasull, Jaume Puigmiguel, and Sergi Saballs rest easy in the knowledge that they’ll never have to dance for erlenmeyer flask money again.

One of my favorite websites, The Big Picture, has a selection of the kids’ photos up today, as well as a link to the kids’ Flickr set of of images should you want to peruse them.  I think the second comment on The Big Picture page captures the sentiment of the moment: “SCIENCE!”

[The Big Picture's "Scenes from 30,000 meters above"]

[The kids' Flickr page (all in Spanish, naturally)]

¹At my high school, attendance at football pep rallys was mandatory.  I found this to be unfathomably torturous, so I pretended I had principals and sat outside reading a book instead.  When I was caught, I announced I would stage protests until such time that the school found it prudent to hold science or art pep rallys in addition to the football ones.  I was sent to detention.  In the library.   Morons.

2 Posted in Daily Space, Techie

Mandatory Viewing

Posted by Sunday on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

It should come as no surprise that of the few soft areas left in my heart, one of them is for Carl Sagan.  If it’s been a long time or – don’t even tell me if this is the case, my rage glands will burst – if you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance: Sagan’s seminal Cosmos is now playing at Hulu, all 13 episodes of it.

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Carry on, Space Buddy.  Carry on.  <–Just to give you an idea of what a nerd I am, typing that just unexpectedly made me cry.

[Update: and Quantum Leap and Dark Shadows! The Dark Shadows remake!]

WyTyFySyFy?

Posted by Sunday on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I’m certain every jackass and their dog will weigh in on the Sci Fi/Syfy Channel reveal, so we here at GalacticMu of course got straight to it, though our dog is a slow typer and will take a little longer.

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Dead.

If you haven’t caught it yet, the Sci Fi Channel has rebranded themselves as just Syfy, a move that triggers extreme suspicion on our part.  In fact, I’m having such a hard time keeping my thoughts wrangled that I need to start a list.

1.
Rebranding is almost always a bad idea.  Rebranding often comes in the face of waning interest, an attempt to catch up with the public’s new tastes.  This is most often seen in a product that hasn’t grown with it’s audience, allowing itself to become dated.  However, the network claims to have had it’s best year ever and thus, it has decided that it needed the phrase that makes my eyes shoot ochre jelly, the dreaded “reboot”.  This leaves us to ask, what for?  The problem with encouraging viewer/customer loyalty is that you can’t just go switching it all around every time a focus group says “duh”.

2.
The resounding implication that science fiction is lame.  How else are we to take it?  Sci Fi Channel’s own press release repeatedly throws around the phrase “imagination-based entertainment,” a phrase, I’m disturbed to have to point out, that just means “fiction”.  There’s an argument they seem to hover around making that science fiction just isn’t enough, pointing out that they are opening themselves up for programming that contains “(…) fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure.”  That sounds fine.  Except these things are all, with the exception of “reality” which triggers a Jonesie-vs-Alien hiss in me, still capable of being science fiction.  In fact, what they are implying is that scifi can’t be mysterious, or that scifi can’t be adventurous — which is totally wrong; science fiction is almost by definition mysterious, and has a long, rich history of adventure, action, the supernatural and the fantasic.  I’ve read the press release over and over again and what I keep coming away with is “We don’t want to be seen with you nerds anymore.”

3.
The Sci Fi Channel has pulled this shit before.  Remember, these are the people that canceled the popular and award-winning Farscape out of a grudge match and just last year announced that the whole channel needed to be “human, warmer, friendlier” in order to attract more female viewers.  (Meanwhile, Ghost Hunters, a profound piece of shit of a show, has been greenlit for a 6th season.)  On one hand they offer actual money for science fiction TV to be made (Jane Espenson [Buffy, BSG] and Rockne O’Bannon [Farscape] are teaming up this year on Warehouse 13, for nerd-boner example) but they don’t actually have a personal interest.  The idea is to have a hit, however they can aquire one.  There’s nothing stopping them from making a reality dating show, and I’m sure it’s a matter of months before that’s actually the case.

4.
Syfy?  I just don’t know, guys.   As friends of mine know, this is eerily close to my personal email address (sort of), but I wasn’t planning on launching a TV network with it.  I wish I could say I expected better of you, but I’d be lying.  Perhaps even worse is the new tagline, “Imagine Greater.”  First off, “greater” is a weird fucking word and no one wants to see it.  Secondly, imagine greater what?  Programming?  You guys are digging your own hole here.

Ultimately, I just don’t see these guys living this down any time soon.  Every time someone says the word Syfy they are going to draw it out in consonant-embarrassment, syeee-fyeee.  But I guess this is what happens when we let our shameful geek-habits out of the basement.

9 Posted in TV

This pleases me deeply.

5 Posted in Movies

Things On My Mind: Good People, Good Times Edition

Posted by Sunday on Feb 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm
  • So… remember all that smack I talked about Dollhouse?  Yeah.  I take it all back.  Episode 2: The Target, was excellent and really felt as though it were intended to be the real pilot.  It was grim, sad, gruesome, violent (man, no one has faked tired and terrified as well as Dushku since Veronica Cartwright’s Lambert) and surprised me by creating a strong seed of compassion between Echo and her handler, Langdon – I went from not giving a shit about any of them to really wanting to see how the Buffy/Giles Echo/Langdon relationship pans out.
  • Did you miss seeing Blindness?  You shouldn’t have.  While good writing can put a reader into any headspace, seeing the frenetic, identity-killing effects of mass blindness creates a tension that is unparalleled.  A bit of trivia: the actors often wore contact lenses that literally blinded them, making their frustrated, hesitant bumblings genuine.
  • After reading an interview by Elizabeth Hand expressing approval of the James Tiptree Jr. biography, I checked it out from the library and haven’t been able to put it down since.  It had been enough for me to know that Tiptree was really a woman posing, successfully and famously, as a man in order to publish her science fiction, but to no one’s surprise but my own there’s a hell of a lot more to the story.  The woman behind Tiptree, Alli Sheldon, was a fascinating, strange, broken, brilliant creature with one of the more bizarre life stories I’ve ever read about. Highly recommended, even with the increasingly pedantic musings on Sheldon’s sexuality.
  • Quagmire, our resident space-hobo, gleefully pointed out the hilarity of the military realization that programming robots to kill some humans and not others is harder than it sounds.  Instead of Asimov’s three laws, which prohibit harm to come to a human being, the military has whined for the need of a very Sun Tzu-sounding “warrior code”- one which would allow robots to kill people, but according to certain ethical standards.  The best part?  You can read the 112-page military report yourself!  Really, truly excellent reading, including the discussion of what they’ve termed “rampancy” — robots gone wild!  Oh, the entertainment value!  Seriously, print this thing out, take a drink of bourbon every time you LOL while reading and you’ll be drunk in 5 pages flat (the phrase “a robot’s lack of true Kantian autonomy” made me blow tea out my nose).
2 Posted in Daily Space