You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

On True Blood:

Wow, so I’ve had lots of people banging on at me to get my hands on this show and join its legion of followers. Since having the show thrust into my hands I must admit I’ve not once come close to falling on my knees to bask in the almighty glory of the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse.

The show comes so very close, and yet falls so very short of being a truly capitivating television experience. It has a static social hierarchy and a gerontocratic political system for the vampire set, sure to please the Anne Rice and Vampire: the Masquerade fans out there. It’s dropped hints of a larger supernatural world – who knows what surprises await there? They’ve dropped several story threads which might be interesting to see how they play out. But there are some serious flaws here that I think will drag this show off the air once the ‘shiny’ factor of all the supernatural bits wears off.

If a show chooses to be the kind of show where one character is central to everything, that character must be compelling enough to carry that burden, and must have some trait that lets the viewers want to follow that character’s story. Take, for instance, the BBC’s Nighty Night – the sitcom revolves around a character who is mean and nothing more. I had no desire to watch more than one episode because the character was unidimensional, with no redeeming qualities. On the other hand, we have Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, who is every bit as vile as Jill from Nighty Night, yet his sharp tongue and quick wit make me want to follow his adventures – in fact, they’re a part of his meanness, and yet when conveyed with brilliance I end up being okay with liking Blackadder for being a dick.

So what does this have to do with Sookie Stackhouse? She, as written, comes across as a simpleton. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a future episode they reveal she used to ride the short bus to Bon Temps Elementary. Why on earth am I vaguely interested in following some doe-eyed halfwit bungle her way around the myriad of complex situations she doesn’t appear to understand? Oh, wait, I’m not. The only time she does something other than pout and ask stupid questions is when she’s throwing tantrums like a down syndrome kid.

Second, it’s hard for me as a viewer to become embroiled in the drama when none of the characters show any interest in said drama. Everyone in Bon Temps seems bored. Completely, totally and utterly bored. I can understand that for the fat lady who spends all day on her porch watching traffic go by, but we’ve got a bisexual drug peddler, a shapeshifter, and every other goddamned fuck-up in town, not one of whom seems concerned about anything other than who the next shag is. Yeah, they’re saying words that convey messages of concern, but there’s no feeling behind the speech. Maybe they’re trying to portray a small-town vibe, but I ain’t feeling it.

Oh, and, seriously… the shapeshifters and vampires managed to go undetected for thousands of years in this world? Come on. The lack of humanity of the nesting vampires sticks out like dogs’ balls. Sam couldn’t go a single season of the show without accidentally revealing his true nature, and yet it’s a big secret a whole species is hiding? Whaaaaaat? If you’re going to try and fit paranormal elements into the world I live in (or a world you’re trying to make look like the one I live in), do a bit of work to make them fit in* for the love of Jeebus.

Those are two flaws that True Blood needs to fix if it wants more than two seasons before it gets sent packing. Then again, worse shows have lasted longer.

* Mark my words, when Kings comes out in March – I have a very strong feeling that this show will do the alternate world thing right.

John Lennon’s your prophet. The man is poetic and wise all at once – and that’s what makes a proper prophet.

I Met the Walrus

Synopsis (from Youtube): In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries the terrifyingly genius pen work of James Braithwaite with masterful digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message.

So I’ve succumbed to (and since mostly recovered from) a Betelgeusian throat virus, which has kept me away from the comms panel for some while. Actually, since saving the first draft of this post, I’ve been suckerpunched by a bug brought home by the tiny mammal’s daycare, lengthening my sojourn.

Unlike most bloggers, being holed up for five days (or more, now – thanks, mystery bowel-emptying virus!) with a throat-crippling infection does not in me inspire the urge to write four articles a day.  In fact, I just sort of moped about silently, watching video-things, reading Neal Stephenson and painting a Berserker.

And now, some random thoughts on various things scientific, scifi, and music I observed during my respite.

Batman: The Dark Knight

I did it again – I have a terribly habit of waiting too long to see kickass movies and end up finding that all the hype has left me expecting something far in excess of what I receive.  Maybe it was the horrid burny-scratchy sensation in the back of my throat for five days, but I’m pretty sure it was just that nothing was going to match what everyone had told me The Dark Knight would be.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty solid film, but I liked the last one more. I suppose I was expecting Heath Ledger to be the second coming of Christ, and he was good, but not otherworldly. I think Speed Racer did a better job of providing comic-book villains – more on that later.

I rather did like the f/x for Two-Face, though.

People Who Cry When Told to Go Home From Idol / So You Think You Can Dance Auditions

Oh, poor you!  You’ll have to go to an arts academy or go to university or, you know, like, work to get to where you want to be. Boo-hoo!

Here’s a life plan for you: go to the hardware store, buy some quick-set cement, and harden the fuck up.

Odyssey 5

Okay, so I leave Canada, and then no-one back home tells me that we somehow made a science fiction show that doesn’t suck the year after I move? Thanks, guys.

Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver

Neal Stephenson is a literary genius. Quicksilver, book one of his Baroque Cycle, is set against the backdrop of the birth of modern science. The story weaves in and around the historical events and characters of the 17th century, and Stephenson makes it all retardedly interesting. Not only do you get a hell of a ride with the story, but he’s splattered language into both the narrative and the dialogue that’s since phased of out usage in its original form or been stolen from other languages – a must read for any etymology nerds.

I can’t do the book justice. I think you can read an excerpt at his website. Go do that.

Space Tourism

Russia’s said no more space tourists after 2009. Well, fuck. I guess I’m screwed, then.

Speed Racer

I’m not entirely certain why this film copped such a bad rap. It’s very clearly a movie for young adults and if you try to judge it as something other than that of course you’re going to say it suffers from an attention-deficit problem.

Speed Racer is a lot like a young-adult science fiction novel – it takes something ordinary (car racing) and takes it to a ‘what if?’ extreme. It stuck to a very simple core theme of family / good vs corporate / evil, and ran with it. What’s wrong with that? Not everything has to be complicated. Plus, it was really pretty, even on my shitty standard-def TV.

There were nods to the older kids (me) in the audience – when Royalton talks about his youth spent programming on a Commodore 64, it creates a link between the world of the film and the world we live in now. Suddenly, this film might be an alternate-future film instead of set in some nebulous and ill-defined fictional universe – barring the liberties taken with the laws of physics, that is (but they were such AWESOME liberties, so that’s okay, too).

Also, the villains were styled incredibly well. They were meant to be cartoony pop figures, like walking-talking action toys. The snakeskin dude, the negroviking, the geishapunks – them and all the other bad guys were exceedingly groovy full-colour action villains.

Here’s one for my fellow blogonaut Cenobyte, the fleet’s highest-ranked archivist of  typographic analog storage media (or what your great-great-grandparents would have called books).

The CBC is reporting that the Canadian Light Source ( a bigass synchotron – although a minnow of a synchotron compared to the Large Hadron Collider considering their respective power ratings of 2.9 GeV to 7000 GeV) will have a writer-in-residence for two months in 2009.

Richard Sawyer, who’s won Hugo and Nebula awards for his writing, will hang out and soak up the science in action to get a feel for the every day adventure of working in a science facility. In addition, he’l be on hand for burgeoning authors to pester him for advice. Cool.

Solvent – An Introduction to Science

Don’t break it!

Well, it’s time of year again for the world’s largest music poll: the Triple J Hottest 100.  Since 1993, it’s been run annually in its current format of voting only on songs released during that calendar year (before then, it was a poll of any songs regardless of year released, so each year Joy Division cleaned up). It’s pretty simple – hit the website, vote, and then get pissed on Australia Day (January 26th) and listen to Triple J play the top 100 vote-getters back to back (optionally, skull every time a song you voted for turns up).

The competition is open to anyone, regardless of what country you’re in. Mind you, one random voter wins tickets to pretty much every damn festival run in Australia during 2009, so you might miss out there if you send in an entry from Canada. Fellow blogonauts, feel free to post your lists as well!

I had thought this had been a fairly dry year, musically, but I ended up with a shortlist over 20 songs long and found it fairly difficult to pare it back to ten. I persevered, however, and through a herculean effort threw together my ‘best of’ list for 2008.

Viper Pilot’s final ten, in no particular order:

Beck – Gamma Ray
Utah Saints – Something Good ’08 (Van She Tech Remix)
Cut Copy – Lights and Music
Eagles of Death Metal – Wannabe In L.A.
Dizzy Rascal – Flex
The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
Weezer – Pork & Beans
Flight Of The Conchords – Business Time
The Presets – Talk Like That
Roots Manuva – Let the Spirit

If you’re curious to see what the results of previous years’ polls, Wikipedia (who else?) has a comprehensive history of the Hottest 100.

…to kick off the new year.

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